What is it about Bali that makes it such a popular destination for travellers? It certainly ticks all the boxes for a tropical Indonesian island, but it’s not the biggest (that honour goes to Sumatra), nor is it the wealthiest (Java takes that crown). And although it gets great weather during the peak season, it’s prone to cyclones and heavy rains for much of the year.
So why do more than 3 million international tourists flock to Bali every year? Well, we think we can answer that in one word: beauty.
We don’t just mean physical beauty, although Bali certainly has that in spades. We’re also talking about the spiritual beauty: the zen; the vibe; the feeling. In a way, this is one of the hardest guides we’ve ever had to write. If you’ve been to Bali before, then you’ll understand when we say it’s almost impossible to describe Bali in words. But all of us here at Journeying The Globe have been to Bali many times, and we really want you to fall in love with it too. So over the next few minutes, we’re going to highlight a few of the reasons why we think you should pick Bali for your next vacation.
[Note: This article is just a brief introduction to some of the highlights – a sort of ‘Bali 101’. We’ve also got a much more detailed guide, if you want to get into more detail.]
It’s hard to know where to start, so let’s start with the obvious: the beach.
The Beaches in Bali
It’s a strange thing. If you type ‘top ten beaches in the world’ into Google, chances are that Bali won’t feature in the list. Bali doesn’t have the hottest beaches, or the longest beaches, or the whitest sand. It doesn’t even have the best beach in Indonesia – that’s probably Pink Beach in Flores. But that doesn’t matter, because what Bali does have is atmosphere. Once you’ve spent the day immersing yourself in the culture of Bali, a beach in Bali is the only place to wind down.
As we’ve already mentioned, we’ve spent a lot of time in Bali; and over the years we’ve been to most of the beaches. There’s no clear winner – different beaches all have different things to offer. Rather than list them here, we’ve prepared several guides which should help you decide which beaches belong on your wishlist. We’d recommend the beaches in Uluwatu as a good starting point, but with over 40 beaches on the island, you’re sure to find your own special place. (BTW: if you’re more into an Ibiza-like vibe, then check out the OMNIA Dayclub – it’s an all-day beach party with top DJs and stunning, exclusive views!)
Places to Go in Bali
If you’re looking for tourist attractions, then Bali’s rich culture has a lot to offer. They call Bali ‘The Island of the Gods’, and it’s not hard to see why: everywhere you turn there are sights that just shout out “Instagram!” As you’d expect from a team that love Bali so much, we’ve got a fair number of guides that cover our favourite viewpoints in Bali, but if we had to pick only three, these would be our top choices…
Mount Batur and Mount Batang
If you don’t mind an early start (we’re talking 3am), then Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is the place to be. You’ll need to book a tour (about €50 per person) and then there’s a 2-3 hour trek to the top. But once you reach the summit, your effort is rewarded by one of those stunning, misty-morning sunrises that can only happen on Bali. Looking down on the cloud-covered lake whilst the sun comes up over Mount Abang is just so spiritual. It’s absolutely the best way to start your day.
The Gateway to Heaven
The Lempuyang Temple, (Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang), is one of the oldest and most sacred Hindu temples on the island. It’s the first stop of one of our favourite hiking trails, which takes three hours but you’ll get to see six other temples – some of which are equally as stunning. However, most people just stop here, and that’s all you really need for what will (probably) be your proudest photo. The best time to visit is either early morning, to beat the crowds, or at the ‘golden hour’ of sunset.
The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
The Balinese irrigation system, known as subak, has been around since the ninth century and is still in use today to supply water to the rice terraces and other parts of Bali. There are five terraces in total, but the most picturesque is at the village of Jatiluwih. It’s about an hour-and-a-half outside of Ubud, so we recommend hiring a guide with a car. Walking through these rice fields, unchanged for centuries, is one of the most peaceful experiences we know of. Just choose one of the little side tracks and go where your feet take you.
Stunning Natural Scenery
The temples and the rice fields are all man-made, but Bali was an impressive sight long before the first Austronesians set foot on its shores, way back in 2000 BC. Apart from the impressive mountains and active volcanoes, such as Mount Batur which we’ve already mentioned, Bali is home to some incredible natural landscapes. You could spend an entire vacation just driving around the island to see places of amazing natural beauty, but here’s a couple that you shouldn’t miss….
Bali’s Coral Reefs
Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, recognised as the global centre of marine biodiversity, is home to over 3,000 species of fish including the whale shark – the largest fish in the world. The reef itself is made up of at least 500 species of coral, and it’s a mecca for scuba divers and fans of snorkelling. Dive expeditions are run from almost every beach, and most cater for both amateurs and seasoned professionals. We suggest checking out one of the dive locations, then spending a relaxing afternoon on the beach.
There’s something about the power of a waterfall that never ceases to amaze. We have a guide to some of the most popular waterfalls in Bali, which you can browse for more information. Kanto Lampo Falls is not necessarily the most well known, but it’s our undisputed favourite. It’s one of the most accessible waterfalls in Bali, and unusually it’s set in the centre of a river. It takes less than 30 minutes to get there from Ubud, and the drive is great fun on a scooter!
Temple Monkeys in Uluwatu
No trip to Bali is complete without a visit to these mischievous little devils! The Balinese believe that monkeys are just stepping up to join the human caste (or maybe just stepping down) and so they’re seen as sacred, which has earned them their own temples throughout Bali. Comical and naturally inquisitive, these long-tailed macaques steal the show every time – and steal your food as well! Make sure your valuables are safely tucked away in a secure bag, and don’t wear sunglasses that you can’t afford to lose. Don’t say we didn’t warn you..!
Get a Balinese Massage
If your idea of a massage conjures up dingy back-alleys and lacklustre ladies of dubious repute, well then you’ve never been to Bali. Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali, and it’s here that the Balinese practice the art of full-body, deep tissue holistic massage. In the hands of an expert, a Balinese massage can be one of the most relaxing experiences in the world.
Treatments can last for many hours, and are usually complemented by aromatherapy techniques, such as the use of ayurvedic and essential oils. There are hundreds of spas and wellness centres in Ubud, and the choice can be quite overwhelming. Ask at your hotel for a recommendation, or you could choose from our selection of some of the top spas in the area. Either way, expect to feel relaxed, pampered and over-indulged; and expect to be surprised at just how little it’s cost you.
There are many other great reasons to visit Bali: we could mention the thrilling surfing, the exciting nightlife or the amazing street food. But we want to bring one more thing to your attention: the people.
The Balinese Smile
When all is said and done, it’s the attitude of the people that has the greatest effect on your holiday. You can be lazing in the lap of paradise, but one rude deckchair salesman can ruin it all in an instant. Not so in Bali, because the Balinese people are some of the friendliest people in the world.
The Balinese are deeply spiritual, and they see joy and goodness in everything and everybody. Even the poorest of communities surround themselves with elaborately beautiful temples, and they are devoted to a spiritual, inward beauty. A joyous qi, or ‘life force’, is not just some mystical, new-age philosophy but a real way of life for the Balinese people.
Regardless of your mood, they look at you with grace and ease and greet you with a warm, gentle patience. We’ve yet to meet even one Balinese person that has ever been in a bad mood. You might wonder why they greet every stranger with genuine warmth and a beautiful smile. Then you take a look around, and the answer’s obvious….. They live in Bali.
A Final Word
This article has just skimmed the surface of the wonderful, exciting, vibrant and above-all beautiful place that is Bali. Apart from putting together our detailed guides (you can see them in the panel on the right), we all have first-hand experience of travelling through Indonesia. In fact, two of us lived there for several months. If you have any questions about Bali, or you want some ideas on where to stay or what to do, please get in touch and we’ll help you all we can.
More Bali Travel Guides: