Why is Bali so popular, you ask? Where do we begin? A whopping 6.9 million visitors choose the so-called Isle of the Gods each year. They come for all sorts of reasons. Some jet in for the roaring surf swells that crash into the Bukit Peninsula – they’re considered some of the best in the whole world! Others are drawn by the promise of shimmering beachfronts and deluxe hotels with spa facilities and infinity pools. Then you get adventurers, who head to the misty jungles around Ubud and smoke-belching Mount Agung in the north.
On top of all that, Bali manages a unique and earthy human history. It’s wrapped up in ancient tales of Buddhist settlers. It also has an enthralling mystical brand of Hinduism, revealed in countless shrines, cave temples, and dance traditions across the island. Throw in batik fabric weaving, gamelan music, and some a peanut-scented, spice-packed cuisine, and you start to see why this corner of Indo is a regular fav.
This guide will delve a little deeper into the reasons for the fame of this small speck in the midst of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It’ll reveal why is Bali so popular by hopping from its surf-sprayed beaches to its cloud-haloed mountains. You’ll want the passport ready, because there’s a good chance you’ll be searching for flights into Denpasar before the article’s through!
The truth is, Bali doesn’t have the hottest beaches, or the longest beaches, or the whitest sand. We’d even say it doesn’t even have the best beach in Indonesia (that’s probably Pink Beach in Flores). But this isle manages to balance all that out with one hefty dose of atmosphere! Yep, Bali’s beaches are all about kicking it with a cold Bintang and enjoying the vibes. From Canggu all the way to laid-back sands of Lovina, there’s plenty to be explored…
In fact, there’s over 40 designated beaches on the island. We’ve managed to see the majority in our frequent return trips to Bali, so here’s a few top recommendations:
- Kuta Beach – Bali’s liveliest beach, best for backpackers and people looking to learn to surf.
- The Uluwatu Beaches – Stunning beaches backed by rugged cliffs on the south side of the island, also a surf mecca.
- Padangbai – Relaxed and untouched beaches on the east shore. There’s a good mix of black-sand and white-sand bays here.
- Nusa Penida – A particularly stunning island just off Bali’s south-west coast, with come-Instagram-me bays like you’ve never seen before!
- Lovina – The honeymooner’s beach on the north coast, where you can also go to see dolphins.
Why is Bali so popular compared to the rest of Indonesia? A lot of it is down to the unique blend of Hindu and animist culture that’s flourished here. It sets it apart from the rest of the country, which is predominantly Muslim. It also brings a great wealth of historic shrines and worshiping spots that date back millennia. They’re undeniably haunting places, all writhed in tales of demon kings and Hindu demigods. You won’t want to miss…
- Uluwatu Temple – The most famous of all the things to do in Uluwatu is the Kecak Fire Dance at this dramatic clifftop shrine. Wow!
- Monkey Forest – A collection of moss-caked temples that’s now completely overgrown by the jungles in the town of Ubud.
- Elephant Cave Temple (Goa Gajah) – The Goa Gajah is a cave temple that dates all the way back to the 9th century AD. It showcases a mix of Hindu and Buddhist artistry.
Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, recognised as a global centre of marine biodiversity. Its seas are home to over 3,000 species of fish, including the whale shark – the largest fish in the world. The reefs here are made up of at least 500 species of coral, and figure as a mecca for scuba divers and fans of snorkelling. Dive expeditions are plentiful, with most catering to both amateurs and seasoned professionals. Some of the most amazing sights are:
- USAT Liberty shipwreck – A sunken USA navy vessel that’s packed with anemones and coral. Early morning divers often meet sea turtles here.
- Tulamben – A north coast location that’s rarely crowded but has waters teeming with fish and some dazzling coral reefs.
- Blue Lagoon – Near Padangbai, this spot benefits from the rich plankton currents that pass through the Bali Strait between Lombok. It’s got some incredible fish life!
The 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, Bali also rolls down to seas dashes by coral gardens and into lush jungles where hidden rice paddies glow 10,000 shades of green. You could spend an entire vacation just driving around the island in search of hiking trails and waterfalls, mountain vistas and secluded coves. Here are some of the standouts…
- Jatiluwih Rice Terraces – There are five terraces in total, but the most picturesque is at the village of Jatiluwih, just outside of Ubud. Don’t forget to charge the camera!
- Kanto Lampo Falls – Not really the best-known of Bali’s waterfalls, but one of our favorites, the Kanto Lampo Falls showcase precisely the sort of hidden jewel you can find in the backcountry here.
- Danau Batur – A glimmering lake that lies in the shadow of Bali’s most active volcano. Come to see the rugged mountains reflected in the surface.
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 (they cost about $55/€50 per person) and then there’s a 2-3 hour trek to the top. Efforts are rewarded by visions of a stunning, misty-morning sunrise the likes of which can only happen in Bali. Looking down on the cloud-covered lake whilst the sun comes up over Mount Abang is one of the most life-affirming moments we’ve experienced while traveling! Talk about a top way to start the day!
You can also mix outdoorsy hikes with a touch of Balinese culture. Take the The Lempuyang Temple. It’s one of the oldest and most sacred Hindu temples on the island. It’s also the first stop of one of our favourite hiking trails, which takes three hours in all but leads you past a whopping six other shrines as it goes. Again, the best time to come is early, around sunrise.
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 center of Bali, and it’s here that the Balinese practice the art of full-body, deep-tissue holistic massage. Put yourself in the hands of one of the local experts and prepare to be pampered!
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.
When all is said and done, it’s the people of Bali that keep tempting us back and back again. 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 local 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. From the poorest to the richest, everyone here appreciates natural beauty and the pious temples. They are devoted and welcoming, but also just a little wild!
Why is Bali So popular? Loads of reasons…
So, Why is Bali so popular? There’s no single reason! There are countless reasons. Whether you come in search of ancient shrines hidden in lush jungles, wild surf breaks that barrel overhead, or coral reefs filled with whale sharks, you won’t be disappointed in the fabled Indonesian Isle of the Gods!