As the most visited island in Indonesia, Bali is absolutely striking. In fact, its natural beauty is the reason it is commonly referred to as the “Island of the Gods".
Because the entire area is surrounded by water, Bali is a true haven for water sports. Whether you are a pro at things like scuba diving, surfing, jet skiing, or white-water rafting – or you simply want to try them for the first time – Bali offers world-class water sports that can be a great indulgence for your athletic side.
One popular way to see the island is by boat. Several cruises operate along the coastline, usually travelling across the Badung Strait to Lembongan Island, located about 11km south-east of the mainland. You can simply relax and enjoy the ride or disembark for water sports like diving, parasailing, and snorkelling.
Komang Dodik is highly recommended for their guided hikes through the hill country along the northern coast of the island. Trips are reasonably priced and can last from three to seven hours. The highlight by far is the stunning series of waterfalls set in a jungle grotto, but you can also tour vanilla and coffee plantations along certain routes.
1. If you really want to get a true taste of Bali’s culture, head to Pura Tirta Empu – a famous religious site. While you’re there, you can see the locals bathing in holy water and praying in the holy springs. If you want, you are welcome to join them and experience all of the city’s religious ceremonies for yourself.
2. But if you would rather spend your time relaxing, Bali is also chock-full of luxurious spas. You can get a world-class massage at Jari Menari, or you can get fully-pampered at the Green Garden Spa.
3. Experience village life at Nusa Lembongan, a deliciously laid-back tourist spot free of traffic and noise. The local population is small, but the hospitality is warm and authentic. Jungutbatu and Lembongan are the two main villages.
4. The Museum Le Mayeur was once the home of Belgian artist Adrien Jean Le Mayeur and his Legong bride. Located in the village of Sanur, the museum houses some of Le Mayeur’s best works and is a lovely example of traditional Balinese architecture.
5. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a significant Hindu-Buddhist temple dedicated to Dewi Danu, goddess of the waters. The shrine was built in the 17th century on a series of small islands, which means it’s completely surrounded by the lake on which it sits. Regular pilgrimages and ceremonies are conducted here to pray for a constant supply of water to Bali’s farmers.
Part of the fun of visiting Bali is getting out and about in some of the island’s many villages and precincts.
Amed and the Far East Coast is a mostly arid stretch of land offering amazing views of Lombok and Gunung Agung. There are plenty of hotels, restaurants, dive charters, and other amenities catering to visitors who come for the breathtaking scenery, laid-back atmosphere, and world-class snorkelling and scuba diving.
Much less hectic than the South Bali tourist hub, Candidasa is the perfect base from which to explore the eastern end of the island. There are some great restaurants here, as well as good diving and snorkelling, and a beautiful lagoon brimming with lotus blossoms.
Hikers gravitate to the Danau Bratan area, which is a cool mountainous region ideal for relaxing or exploring the lakes and nearby hills.
Denpasar is the capital of Bali and has been the focus of most of the island’s growth and development efforts over the last two decades. Here you’ll find a museum, an arts centre, and plenty of shops. The main market, Pasar Badung, is located in Denpasar—the biggest and noisiest market in Bali. Expect lots of hustle and bustle.
For Bali on a budget, head to Kuta, the infamous holiday destination dedicated to sun and loads of fun. The village is comprised of a lively network of narrow streets lined with bars, budget hotels, and street vendors selling everything from bootleg DVDs to surf wear designer copies. It can be difficult to navigate the crush of shopkeepers and hawkers, but that’s part of the fun.
Ubud is where visitors go to sample a more authentic Balinese experience. Culture is king here on the city perched atop gently rolling foothills. You’ll find some of the best food on the island in Ubud, and there is a wide range of accommodation, from world-class resorts to quaint family-owned inns. Indulge in a spa treatment or explore the myriad temples, shrines, gardens, or watch the traditional performances.
Bali’s most popular annual event is the Lunar New Year celebration, held according to the Balinese saka calendar. It falls on the first new moon after mid-March.
Unlike other New Year’s festivals, Bali’s celebration is decidedly low-key. Preparations begin a few days before, as statues of gods and goddesses are removed from the temples and transported to the rivers, where they are washed. The day before the celebration, known as Tawur Agung Kesanga, is when most of the action happens. Ceremonies are held in every town and village, and natives gather in the afternoon at the town square to play music and make offerings to the ogoh-ogoh, huge monsters with bulging eyes, menacing claws, and terrifying faces. Then it’s time for the ngrupuk, a splendid procession during which the monsters are lifted on poles and paraded through the streets to frighten away evil spirits. Music, prayers, and speeches follow, and then the effigies are burned in a final symbolic gesture. A grand party follows into the night. You’ll have plenty of time to recover, though, as Nyepi - New Year’s Day - is an official day of rest and complete inactivity. Everything is closed, and no one is allowed to venture out of their homes or hotels.
Eating in Bali is best done authentically. Local dishes and delicacies are cheap and flavourful, and it’s easy to find tempting native specialties on nearly every street corner. Classic warungs - casual local eateries - offer their entire menu right on the counter, bursting with fresh ingredients and aromatic spices. The food is unpretentious and super-cheap, and each one serves up something different.
Be sure to try local dishes like babi guling, roast suckling pig that’s marinated for hours in a concoction of spices. Seafood is also delicious in Bali; favourites include huge fresh prawns marinated in garlic and lime, grilled over fresh coconut husks, or platters of the day’s catch grilled beachside.
Some of the best traditional Balinese food can be found at the cafes in Denpasar, though Ubud is also known as the island’s culinary capital, and you’ll find a number of fantastic restaurants there.
Because the city is on such a small island, it’s easy to find hotels in Bali that have a magnificent view of the water. And, since those waterfront views are so plentiful, you don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to get them!
However, if you’re trying to visit Bali on a budget, you can find very cheap Bali hotels in Ubud – an area in the central part of the island that is a perfect pick for families and couples alike.