The world needs more love, and Bali has a lot of it to offer. The Balinese Hinduism culture is one that revolves around love, respect for others and everyday spirituality. They embrace tourists like they’re part of the family and welcome you with open arms. With over 20,000 temples, blinding coral reefs, incredible shopping, epic volcanoes, perfect waves, exotic cuisine and the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak – Bali has so much to offer that you’ll have a hard time figuring out where to start. She’s a favourite out of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands, and Bali’s intrigue and allure have captured the hearts of all sorts of travellers – from modern millionaires, 80’s backpackers, artists from the 1800s and surfers from today. And there’s a reason that there has been a constant flow of inquisitive travellers to Bali for hundreds of years, it’s because Bali is pure magic. So hold up your compass and see where it takes you.
Central Bali is the most mountainous area and it’s where you’ll find the more isolated and traditional side of island life. It enchants with its rural villages, expansive rice fields (do the Campuhan Ridge Walk if walking through rice fields appeals to you), sparkling shrines and traditional dancing. The village of Ubud (considered the cultural hub of Bali and often referred to as the “city of ceremonies”) is one of the country’s oldest civilizations and is also known as the “village of painters” after the Puri (Royal Family) encouraged foreign artists to this area many decades ago. The middle of Bali offers history, dramatic landscapes, wonderful walking trails, white-water rafting, ancient traditions, forests to explore, incredible architecture and certainly gives tourists a peek back in time. Feed your stomach on traditional Nasi Goreng, and your cultural side with galleries of Balinese woodcarvings, gamelan music floating out onto the street and traditional Balinese dancing around every corner (it’s quite normal here to come across a parade of locals in the streets celebrating something in accordance to their particular religion or beliefs).
At almost 3000m, the active volcano of Gunung Agung not only dominates the landscape but it also devastated the area in the 60’s. On the slopes of this auspicious volcano at 1000m up, lies Besakih, one of the most important temples in the whole of Bali. Known as the Mother Temple, the views overlook the expansive sea and it lies amid sweeping rice paddies, mountains, hills and streams. Tamam Gili (moated garden), also in the East, is what remains of Klungkung’s royal palace which was mostly destroyed by the Dutch in their 1908 conquest. Also in 1908, 200 members of Klungkungs Royal Court committed ritual suicide and legend has it that the massive wooden doors at the south side of Tamam Gili have remained closed and stuck together ever since that day. The East of Bali is not only full of stories and legends, but also beaches and textiles. The East is known for a type of double ikat weave called Geringsing, produced only in the Bali Aga village of Tengana. The coastal fishing villages of the Ahmed attract scuba divers from all over the world and the famous Water Palace of Ujung is also a must-see when heading East.
North & West Bali
These parts of Bali has been influenced by more of the Javanese culture and the Dutch colonial presence of yesteryear. The natural beauty of West Bali is a treat, with it’s sprawling coconut & rice plantations and black-sandy beaches. Pura Tanah Lot is a temple situated on a tiny island a few metres off the coast. It can be accessed at low tide and at sunset it seems to glow – thus further attracting people from all over the globe. The village of Pejaten is famous for producing rich, red terracotta items still made in the traditional way. In the villages of Angsri, Banjar and Yeh Panas you’ll find soothing natural hot springs, and Medewi Beach on the West coast is a surfers’ paradise with often massive waves rolling in. Only travel by foot is allowed in the West Bali National Park and you’ll also need a permit. This protected wildlife reserve is home to rare and endangered species like the Bali Starling and the Sambar Deer. Driving past rice barns and through coffee plantations in the spice-growing region of Pupuan is also a great place to explore. As too is the beautiful Lake Bratan where all sorts of water sports can be enjoyed. If you want to go off the beaten track, head to Lovina – a quaint fishing village with not much happening. That said, a bike ride to Sekumpul Falls is highly recommended. Generally known only among locals, Musi Village (otherwise known as Desa Musi) is a refreshing escape for those searching for an authentic experience in a simple Balinese village. There is a cliff area where a powerful waterfall crashes into a natural pool but it’s very hidden and off the beaten track, so best to ask a local for directions.
This is where most tourists come to. Beach towns like Seminyak in Kuta, with its incredible restaurants like La Favela, and long, clean beaches, make for a good old fashioned, great beach holiday. Because it is touristy, it’s a bit more expensive here but well worth it. Some of the stunning beaches to visit include Green Bowl Beach, Balangan Beach and Suluban Beach. And for your own piece of paradise, head on over to the island of Nusa Lembongan. Here you can walk around the entire island in 3 hours. It’s quiet, laidback and (of course) easy to get around. Think coconuts, palm trees, teal water, colourful sunsets and fresh seafood. Sandy Bay Beach Club is also top on our list. This relaxed pub along the water has plenty of local and international dishes to choose from, and afterwards, take a 5-minute scooter ride over to the very special Mushroom Bay for a bit of stand up paddleboarding.
Because the Balinese culture is all about wholesomeness and happiness, try a healing Balinese massage while you’re there. Their special touch and beliefs flow so naturally through their traditional healing methods. And if you’re feeling flush, the spa at Ayana, the former Ritz-Carlton, is repeatedly voted as one of the world’s best. Sounds like a worthy splurge.