Eye-popping landscapes with wild surf, dramatic volcanoes, lush rice terraces and green canopies. Mesmerising culture with hillside temples, elaborate festivals, classical dances and artistic traditions. Lux lifestyle with designer shopping, beachside resorts, thriving nightlife. Bali is a complete destination blessed with sunshine, spirituality and splendour.
Indonesia's most famous holiday destination, Bali, continues to tempt every kind of traveller with a hundred definitions of idyll. Active surfers and lazy sunbathers claim their spots on curving shorelines. For luxury lovers, there is the temptation of uber-chic bamboo pods, oceanfront resorts and Balinese massages. Emerald jungles with rushing waterfalls, towering volcanoes and terraced rice paddies beckon nature buffs. And culture vultures swoon over pagoda-topped temples echoing with incense-filled chanting rituals. There is a Bali for every taste.
Most visitors choose the capital Denpasar as a base to access famous beach stretches and commercial areas. The vibrant Seminyak and trendy Canggu are great picks for their boutiques, eateries and wild clubbing, but there is so much more to capture the imagination.
Temple hunters and photography enthusiasts make a beeline for the most iconic sight in the area, the multi-tiered shrine of Pura Tanah Lot in Kuta, a spectacle framed by frothy surf and black sand. Nearby Uluwatu pulls visitors with miles of beaches and a cliff-top Hindu temple of Pura Uluwatu. From here, private fishing charters are available to transport you to the best snorkelling spots around Southern Bali and Nusa Penida.
Bring escape fantasies to life at the tiny island of Nusa Lembongan. Stroll on white-sand beaches and bike through wild mangroves, free of crowds. It's the stuff of daydreams.
The heartland of Bali is a volcanic area of abundant vegetation, vibrant flowers and terraced rice fields. The region's cultural epicentre, Ubud, is a celebrity town (thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame) and a hive of activity with yoga studios, bohemian eateries and colourful markets.
Watch traditional Legong dances at the old palace, bump into long-tailed macaques in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, and go white-water rafting along the Ayung River. The wow-factor appeal lies in a sunrise trek up Mount Batur. The UNESCO-listed geopark is a thing of splendour with its volcanic peaks and silver-turquoise crater lake.
Hit up the north and west of Bali to spot bottle-nosed dolphins off the Lovina coast once you can pull yourself away from the mesmeric effect of black volcanic sands. Pay homage to the 'floating' Ulun Danu Water Temple built in the middle of Tamblingan Lake.
Take a tour of an organic coffee plantation and learn all about speciality coffee. Go deep into the mountains, rain forests and mangroves of Bali Barat National Park in Tegal Bunder to hunt for the endangered Bali Starling, flying foxes and black giant squirrels. Be a world citizen at Pemuteran - release a turtle hatchling into the ocean, courtesy of the Turtle Hatchery Project.
Venture eastwards for a taste of the unspoilt rural life. Encounter rice fields, coconut palms, banana trees, pineapple-clad hills, temples, streams and waterfalls. Stop and stare at Gunung Agung, the island's largest volcano and the holiest mountain.
A visit to the colossal Besakih temple complex will introduce you to 20 majestic temples within three kilometres. Bring the scintillating journey to a close at Jemeluk, a coral diver's paradise with high fish density, including sharks and parrotfish.
Kuta Beachwalk: This vast complex is built to showcase the island's green, open, outdoorsy lifestyle. A combination of water bodies, lush gardens, and sea breeze afford it an idyllic vibe. Dig into the treasure trove of boutique shopping stores with international luxury and popular brands, as well as homegrown Indonesian designers.
Seminyak Village: Built of glass, this contemporary light-soaked building located in the heart of a fashionable Bali district is a shopaholic's paradise. Retail therapy sessions will continue for hours as you stroll through over 100 trendy stores in this stylish mall. Balinese crafts in the Indonesian Emporium are unmissable.
Ubud Night Bazaar: Live out a shimmery fairytale with an evening in the charming night market. If you have a soft corner for quirky trinkets, unusual home accessories, locally handcrafted statues and wooden crafts pieces, this is the hangout of choice. Don't forget the food, spices and kitchen ingredients while you are at it.
Threads of Life: Threads of Life works with over 1,000 women weavers from over 50 communities on islands across the country with a mission to support indigenous textile traditions. The boutique is your best bet for buying scarves, textiles, basketry, decorative pillows, natural-dyed ikats and vibrant graphic sarongs.
Museums & the arts
Bali Museum: This heritage centre located in Denpasar has four distinct structures displaying different artwork. The Tabanan complex has a collection of musical instruments and theatrical masks. The Karangasem complex exhibits paintings and sculptures. Textiles can be found in the Buleleng complex, and the Timur complex showcases archaeological finds.
Neka Art Museum: The collection covers many paintings and sculptures from classical to contemporary periods. A fascinating set of exhibits on tools and weapons includes the traditional Keris dagger collection. Lovers of art can spend hours discovering the work and style of influential Balinese artists.
Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA): This visual and performing arts centre has a permanent exhibition with paintings by Balinese, Indonesian and foreign artists. The Kamasan painting on tree bark and Batuan masterpieces of the 1930s and 1940s and are especially noteworthy.
Museum Pasifika: This world-class cultural institution in Nusa Dua is devoted purely to Asia Pacific art. Considered Bali's best art museum, it is a true melting pot of culture showcasing 200 artists across 25 countries. The Museum Pasifika collection is a hub of cultural and Balinese themes.
The Blanco Renaissance Museum: Ubud's famous art museum perched on a lush hilltop in the house and studio of Philippine-born Spanish painter Don Antonio Blanco. Gloat over the collection of his most important works. Don't miss the incomplete painting on the easel in his studio.
Golf: The breathtaking cliff-top setting of the 18-hole par 72 New Kuta Golf Club has all the potential for distraction. Located in Pecatu, only 20 minutes from Bali airport, the scenic golf course spread over an 85-hectare plot is an excellent choice for both amateurs and low handicappers. Linger on after the game to enjoy one of the vibrant sunsets that Bali is famous for.
Sea walking: A unique way to get up, close and personal with the underwater marine wildlife is to walk on the Bali seabed from Sanur or Tanjung Benoa. Gear up with all the required safety equipment and explore the terrain of the estuary, speckled with colourful marine life and vibrant coral reefs. Heads up, no diving or swimming skills are required.
Quad biking: Pump up the adrenaline as you take the front seat of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), and navigate through Bali's lush forests, rich farmland and golden sand. Instructors are available to guide you. Ubud, Selemadeg, or Tabanan…choose your preferred starting point.
Mejekawi: Glass-fronted space overlooking the Seminyak shoreline is a spot for gloating over special sunsets. The ever-changing tasting menu includes courses like yellowfin tuna with sumac and radish, dry-aged duck roasted on the crown.
Locavore: The popular Ubud restaurant tempts foodies with a degustation menu. Inventive dishes like the salt-cured prawn with a chilli gel and kemangi juice or the oven-roasted jicama with passion fruit emulsion are highly recommended. Local ingredients celebrate the farmers, fishers and food artisans of Indonesia.
BLANCO Par Mandif: Ultra-fine Indonesian cuisine is presented in an intimate setting at the award-winning restaurant, accommodating under 30 diners. The menu is a sublime display of 7 or 9 courses, paired with fine wines and cocktails. Order the signature butter-poached Jimbaran Bay Rock Lobster served with a kalio curry sauce and rice.
Mama San: Two industrial loft-style floors are perennially flooded with guests for standout Asian flavours. Try the Siamese prawn curry, roasted Peking duck with mandarin pancake, and Indian-inspired lamb saag with spinach and broken burrata. Cocktails are a different league altogether.
Mozaic Restaurant: Gastronomical legends unfold in this local favourite, where seasonal ingredients sourced from the sea and farms are treated with modern French techniques.
Notch up your gourmet game with a private Balinese cooking class. Learn about local ingredients and cooking traditions and understand signature flavours under the watchful eye of a skilled chef. You couldn't ask for anything better than the Jala Cooking Academy at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. Expect an amble through Jimbaran's fish market before getting your hands dirty on the table.
Buy an authentic hand-carved wooden mask from an artist in Mas village near Ubud. Lovingly crafted out of fine quality wood, each mask is a labour of love. You may even have the chance to witness one being finished to perfection. The Balinese wooden masks are believed to be blessed with the souls of ancestors. Each of them holds a special significance, so pick yours with care.
Plan to drive down to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, where you can see the traditional Balinese Subak irrigation system. Located 700 metres above sea level near the second tallest volcano in Bali, the site is spread over more than 53,000 hectares of agricultural fields. Hike along the mind-numbing scenic trails and gawp at the expanses of greens for a one-of-a-kind healing ritual.
Find mystique in the lush Balinese rainforest north of Bali, where a chain of natural pools and cascading waterfalls creates the Secret Gardens of Sambangan. Prepare for a three-hour trek into the remote jungle to stumble upon pristine scenery, seven splashing waterfalls and pools filled with spring water. Set your Instagram feed on fire.
Bali is one of the most popular travel destinations in the world. Every year tourists flock to the island seeking and enjoying superb cuisine, wondrous temples, and for many it is an emotional journey. Add fabulous hotels and then it becomes Eat, Pray, Love … and Relaxation!
Arrive in Bali through Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), situated on the island's southern tip between Kuta and Jimbaran. You can book a prepaid taxi from the airport taxi counter or ask your hotel to arrange a private transfer. During your stay in Bali, hiring a car with a driver for a hassle-free commute through traffic chaos and unfamiliar routes comes highly recommended.
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