Home to sandy beaches, ancient temples, active volcanoes and spiritual retreats, this small Indonesian island contains multitudes.
Tropical paradise. Spa Capital of Asia. Island of the Gods – Bali’s numerous names are a testament to its exceptionally rich and diverse culture. From its sprawling jungles to picturesque rice fields, to sandy beaches and roaring nightlife, to temples galore, whatever you’re looking for when you travel, you can be sure you’ll find it here.
Home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu population, one of the most distinctive features of this island are the exquisite ‘Canang Sari’ or small baskets of flowers strewn everywhere – in temples, houses, outside shops, sidewalks, on the ground – as a ritual of giving back to the gods.
A popular travel destination, Bali is best visited in the shoulder season (May, June and September) when the weather is slightly drier and the island is less crowded. Here are some top ways to enjoy this glorious island.
Spend a day at the beach
You can’t go to Bali without hitting up a beach. The largest and most popular beach is Kuta beach, renowned for its white sands and surfing. It’s also a major hub for restaurants, pubs and nightlife. In fact, the majority of the hotels and resorts are located along this five-kilometer stretch. If you fancy picking up a handicraft or two, you’ll find some great shopping here as well at Kuta Square.
Visit a Balinese temple or two
There are over 10,000 temples in Bali, each more unique than the other. The most iconic is probably Pura Tanah Lot Temple. Perched on an outcrop of rock, amidst crashing waves and a stunning backdrop, it’s no wonder that this is Bali’s most photographed temple. This sea temple is extremely important in Balinese culture and the best time to view it is during high tide – when the temple is completely surrounded by the sea. At low tide, you can actually walk towards the temple, although tourists are not permitted to enter.
Another stunning temple complex is Besakih Temple, located on the slopes of a mountain with stunning views of the islands rich fields. One of the biggest and most important temples on the island, Besakih comprises of over 23 separate temples that can be explored. Visitors must rent a sarong and sash at the entrance.
Soak up culture in Ubud
Made even more popular by the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, Ubud is the place to go for a glimpse of Bali’s cultural heart. Located up in the mountains, this town is renowned for art and culture. You could visit Ubud Palace, residence of the local royal family and explore the ornately carved buildings.
As a thriving arts hub, be sure to check out an art gallery or two as well. Ketut Rudi Gallery has a fine collection of over 50 local artists while the Neka Art Museum is the place to go for a visual overview of Balinese art. Finally, round up your visit to Ubud with a trip to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, or ‘Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana’. This forest sanctuary, which houses three holy temples, is inhabited by Balinese macaques, and is well worth the visit. Just remember not to feed the monkeys!
Enjoy the local cuisine
Expect a lot of rich spices and flavourful herbs in local Balinese fare. Also expect to find some of the best local food from the small food stalls or ‘warungs’! Head to Jimbaran Seafood Cafes for some local seafood for dinner. Located on Muaya beach, clusters of restaurants and café are lined up to serve the freshest grilled seafood from prawns, crabs, calamari to lobsters, topped with sambal – a hot and spicy sauce.
Visit Warung Eny on Jalan Petitenget for some delicious nasi campur – white rice served alongside Balinese vegetables, meats and fried-shrimp crackers. For a true taste of Bali, stop by Warung Rujak Gula at Jalan Merdeka, to try ‘rujak’, a traditional fruit salad that’s slightly spicy! You can also get a taste of Balinese desserts here like ‘bubur sumsum’ – a rice pudding and ‘kolak’ – a heavenly concoction of bananas, coconut milk and sugar.
Have a relaxing day at the spa
As a worldwide spa destination, be sure to indulge yourself at one of the many luxury spas in Bali. A popular choice is Jamu Spa, at the AlamKulKul Boutique Resort where all spa treatments are carried out with products made from age-old recipes and locally-sourced natural ingredients such as herbs, flowers, honey and essential oils. Bodyworks is another popular spa, which offers traditional Balinese massage, among its many treatments!
Go shopping for Balinese handicrafts
Balinese handicrafts, with their intricate hand carvings, are a great way to remember your trip by! Pay a visit to Sukawati Art Market, where you’ll find a range of artisanal crafts from wooden figurines, paintings, wall carvings as well as batik-style bags and clothes. Haggling is allowed at this market, so spend some time comparing prices between different stalls before making a purchase.