Travel Guide to Bali and its Beaches

 

For many visitors, Bali is the ultimate tropical destination with idyllic beaches, lush green forests, and fragrant rice fields that seem to cascade down the hills. Yet there is more to Bali than its natural attractions. The warm hospitality of the people and the rich cultural diversity of this beautiful island of Indonesia greatly add to its exotic appeal.

Denpasar is the largest city on the island of Bali.

Denpasar is the largest city on the island of Bali.

Surrounded by the Indian Ocean in the south and the Bali Sea in the north, Bali is blessed with exquisite beaches, which are perfect to soak up the sun and indulge in water sports during the day or take in the beauty of the setting sun in the evening.

Bali is also a haven for adventure enthusiasts. Take up the challenge of misty treks amidst active volcanoes or snorkel and dive the crystal clear waters of the northern coast from Amed to Pemuteran. Walk through the tranquil valley of Gunung Kawi to see some of Bali’s most ancient monuments or simply laze away the days doing nothing in Lovina without noticing the time slipping away.

The Ulun Danau Temple on Lake Batur in Bali.

The Ulun Danau Temple on Lake Batur in Bali.

Often referred to as the ‘Island with the thousand gods’, Bali charms visitors with its mystical temple ceremonies marked with traditional dance and drama that throw light on the Balinese culture and beliefs. Centuries old shrines set amidst the deep dark forests invite you to seek nature’s serenity and experience its healing touch. Rituals and prayers are an integral part of Balinese life and you can witness these during the mesmerizing temple ceremonies that take place through out the year.

These are some of the most obvious qualities of Bali. A visit to this most friendly island in Indonesia means that you can treat the body and senses to hedonistic massages, indulge your taste buds to a sumptuous cuisine and dance away the hours on starlit beaches. Visit Bali and discover why this small island—you can drive around the entire coast in one day— has such a towering reputation for being one of the world’s most amazing tourist destinations.

Bali is a tropical paradise made even more relaxing by massages.

Bali is a tropical paradise made even more relaxing by massages.

Natural Attractions

Bali holds true to its reputation for being the ‘last paradise on earth.’ Resplendent with spectacular natural attractions, wildlife parks, scintillating waterfalls, and beautiful temples, Bali promises adventure both on water and land, immense shopping opportunities, and an exciting nightlife. The warm all-encompassing culture and the gracious people make the stay all the more pleasant.

Gitgit Waterfall: This spectacular waterfall, near Singaraja town, is a major picnic spot in Bali. See the water gush down the 40 meters high Gitgit Waterfall and take a dip in its crystal clear pool.

The 40 meter tall Gitgit Waterfall is a popular swimming spot.

The 40 meter tall Gitgit Waterfall is a popular swimming spot.

Banjar Hot Springs: These hot water springs in Banjar are believed to have healing powers. The curative powers may be subject to debate but one thing is for sure – these springs in their beautiful surroundings are sure to rejuvenate and refresh the mind.

Gunung Agung: The trek up the mountain is a must for the adventurous. The climb is challenging but the spectacular views are worth each step you take. You can also opt for a leisurely walk along the woods through the shortest route from Selat or Muncan up to Gunung Agung Mountain. April through October is the best time to take up this challenge.

The Gunung Agung Volcano is the highest peak on Bali at over 10,000 ft.

The Gunung Agung Volcano is the highest peak on Bali at over 10,000 ft.

Wildlife Parks: The Bali Bird Park houses not only birds from Bali and Indonesia but also from far off places such as Latin and South America. Besides, if you are lucky you could spot the Bali Starling, the world’s rarest bird. Then there is the Butterfly Park where you can admire a vast variety of brilliantly colored butterflies fluttering around intricately landscaped gardens. The Rimba Reptile Park is also is well worth a visit.

Temples

The Bali word for temple is pura. Though most temples in Bali are dedicated to Hindu gods, there are many in deference to the spirits that are an integral part of Bali’s religious beliefs. Some of the temples and buildings in Bali date back to the 11th century. The intricate wooden carvings and sculptures are a treat to the senses. Temple celebrations are an integral feature of the Balinese life and are marked with much gaiety, dance and dramas with religion and Bali mythology as the central themes.

Besakih Temple: Also known as the “Mother Temple of Bali”, the Besakih temple is considered to be the holiest of all Hindu temples in Bali. Perched on the lofty slopes of Mount Agung, at a height of 1,000 meters (3,000 feet) the temple has eighteen separate sanctuaries around the three main temples, which are dedicated to the Hindu Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The history of the temple dates back to megalithic times. To admire the scenic surroundings in silence, it is best to visit the temple before 9 am in the morning for after that the tourist buses begin to arrive.

Pura Luhur (Uluwatu) Temple: Located on the south westernmost precinct of Bali, the Pura Luhur Uluwatu is dedicated to the spirits of the sea. This architectural wonder is crafted in black coral rock and stands high on a cliff top at the edge of a plateau, 250 feet above the Indian Ocean. There is a traditional Balinese dance, the Kecak dance which is held every evening.

The Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple is on a cliff 250 ft above the sea.

The Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple is on a cliff 250 ft above the sea.

Tanah Lot Temple: Built in the 16th century, the royal Taman Ayun temple is situated on top of a huge rock and is surrounded by the sea. It is considered to be one of Bali’s most important sea temples. Poisonous sea snakes in the caves at the rocky base are believed to guard the temple against evil spirits.

Tanah Lot is one of Bali's most important sea temples.

Tanah Lot is one of Bali's most important sea temples.

Accommodation

Bali offers a vast assortment of accommodations. You can choose from family hotels with recreational facilities for children and secluded villas with private pools to low-end guest houses. One common characteristic that binds all lodging facilities is that they all are beautifully landscaped to enable you to experience the best of Bali’s natural attractions.

Renting vacation villas is becoming increasingly popular because they allow you to soak up the local flavors in privacy and comfort, away from the usual tourist crowds. Some vacation villas worth checking out include Begawan Giri Estate at Payagan, fronting the Ayung River, Wantilan Golf Villas at Nusa Dua, The Pavilions at Sanur and The Villas at Seminyak.

A young woman relaxes in an infinity pool at a villa in Bali.

A young woman relaxes in an infinity pool at a villa in Bali.

South Bali is the hotbed of tourism as many popular beach resorts are located here. Areas include Jimbaran, Tuban, Kuta, Legain, Seminyak, Canggu, Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Candidasa. Nusa Dua, better known as Bali’s high-end resort, comprises of high end luxury resorts which are blissfully cut away from the realities of everyday life. Another high end option is The Oberoi hotel and resort. In fact the resort is so popular that the entire stretch between the hotel and Seminyak is now known as Oberoi.

The biggest tourist attraction in Bali is Kuta, which draws exceptionally large crowds mainly because it promises the most happening nightlife on the island. Here you can find accommodations ranging from top end and midrange to budget.

Dining Options

No other place on earth is as well represented by its cuisine as is Bali. By eating in Bali, you actually imbibe the very essence of the island. The presence of rice in all dishes reflect the island’s fertile landscape and the exotic spices that go in creating these dishes, represent the warmth of the people.

Never miss an opportunity to dine at the home of a local. Outside the homes, you can relish traditional Balinese food in the warungs or the open air stalls serving fresh seafood that you can see being prepared in front of you. Popular Bali dishes include lawar (chopped coconut, garlic, chilli along with pork and chicken meat), bebek betutu (duck stuffed with spices, wrapped in banana leaves and coconut husks and cooked in a pit of burnt embers) and babi guling (spit-roast pig) stuffed with chilli, turmeric, garlic and ginger.

Kuta: Whether you are looking for traditional Balinese food or some old favorite, you are sure to find something to suit your taste and budget. The budget travelers can find innumerable options in the local food stalls along Legian Beach and opposite Hard Rock Café in Kuta. Some good budget restaurants in this region include Poppies, one of the oldest restaurants in the area, TJ’s for Mexican food, and Nusa Indah Bar & Restaurant. For a unique dining experience you can visit Joni Sunken Bar and Restaurant where you can enjoy your meal semi-immersed in a swimming pool.

Candidasa: You can find numerous restaurants dotting the main road offering fresh seafood. For dining in quieter surroundings, you can try out the waterfront restaurants. For the budgeted traveler there are plenty of food stalls lining the road leading to the sea. Lotus Seaview, located on the shore of Candidasa, is a great place to savour Asian and international dishes and seafood fresh from the local market. Visit Dewata Agung to feast on typical traditional Indonesian and Balinese cuisine and enjoy the stunning views of the Candidasa lagoon.

Jimbaran: If you are in Jimbaran don’t miss the opportunity to taste the sumptuous sea food on sale in the warungs along the sandy beach near the Bali Inter-Continental Resort. If you are looking for fine dining options, you can try KO Japanese Restaurant or Singaraja restaurant, well-known for good food and excellent service. The Ritz-Carlton’s Padi garden restaurant is best known for its authentic Thai cuisine.

Sanur: You will find distinct German and Scandinavian flavors in the menus in Sanur reflecting the influences of the visitors. You can dine in any of the breezy cafes along the waterfront or eat out at the upper end restaurants and hotels. Café Batu Jimbar, a casual sidewalk café, is a popular destination for meeting people for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Kafe Wayang is an air-conditioned café good for relaxing in an indoor tropical garden setting and enjoying exotic Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. Gateway of India is a must visit for those who love Indian food.

Shopping

Bali is a treasure trove of fine art and handicrafts, paintings, wood and stone carvings and jewelry; it is little wonder then it is considered to be a shopper’s paradise. Shopping in Bali is also about testing your bargaining skills, the more you can bargain, the more you can shop!

Kuta: The main road is lined with a stream of shops where you can find a wide variety of products ranging from clothes and handicrafts to electronics, furniture and leather goods. If haggling is not your style, you can check out the upscale shopping centers such as Kuta Square and Kuta Centre. There are a number of chic boutiques in the north of Legion Street where you can shop for local designer clothes, antiques, furniture and lifestyle goods.

Ubud: The place is a haven for the art aficionados. You can browse through innumerable art galleries within Ubud and its neighboring villages such as Peliatan, Penestanan and Pengosekan, where you will find an ethnic collection of paintings, handicrafts, jewelry and antiques.

Kamasan and Tenganan: Kamasan near Klungkung is famous for traditional Balinese paintings. Tenganan specializes in producing a special cloth called ‘Geringsing’ which is really unique and is a must buy for those who appreciate finer things in life.

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