More of a state of mind than a place, the Indonesian island conjures instant thoughts of a tropical paradise with a soft spiritual soul and a healthy dose of mysticism thrown in for good measure. Having travelled to the Indonesian island no less than three times, we thought the travel blogging couple from the Contented Traveller were the perfect people to choose 10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Bali…
Bali is a famously beautiful island located in the Pacific Coast Indonesian archipelago. For the Balinese religion is an integral part of life, which gives the whole island a very spiritual feel. The main religion is a form of Hindu Dharma, yet it is actually a blend of Hindu, Buddhism, and Javanese beliefs. Denpasar is the capital but most people head straight out to the beaches and the hinterlands. For many years it’s been a mecca for surfers, but more and more people are embracing its cultural qualities, divine spa facilities and excellent cuisine.
For a good start and a taste of the ‘real’ Bali, head to Ubud. Also a laid-back bohemian enclave, this hinterland town is spectacular in every way. Here everything is very traditionally Balinese with beautiful Balinese style accommodation, spa facilities and sensational gardens. The village is brimming with artists studios and excellent cooking schools (which are well worth attending) but its probably most famous for the Sacred Monkey Forest – a lush jungle where errant macaque monkeys wander freely. Also worth exploring are the surrounding villages and Ubud Palace for its opulent traditional architecture.
Located on the beautiful West Coast of Bali, this is a local area also popular with tourists. Although Seminyak, is more upmarket than its rival resorts with mostly luxury accommodation and fashionable high-end restaurants. The atmosphere is much more sophisticated and laid-back than Kuta (the main resort on the island), and the beach in particular is much quieter during the day. It’s also known to be the high-end spa and boutique shopping capital of the island and like most other beach resorts in Bali, its home to some spectacular sunsets.
Uluwatu Temple and Tanah Lot Temple
These are arguably two of the most beautiful temples in Bali and on an island which is home to over a hundred temples, that’s saying something! We’ve chosen them mostly because of their geographical location – both are dramatically situated on steep cliffs which overlook the crashing sea below.
Located on the west coast, this is another beach resort which is much quieter than Kuta. It’s home to picture-perfect tropical beaches, excellent restaurants and great shopping. The surfing is also very good here, but if you are really keen surfer then head to Uluwatu, Bignin, or Balangan (all about half an hour away) as these offer some of the best surf in the world.
Mt Batur, Kintamani
It will take some stamina, but if you’re fit enough to climb the black sand and lava of Mount Batur you will be rewarded with some seriously spectacular views (particularly if you time your visit around sunrise). Once there, do as everyone else does and strike a yoga pose at the precise time as the sun rises! Afterwards amble around Lake Bratan and pay a visit to the truly awe-inspiring Ulun Danu Temple. Alternatively, you can always just enjoy the volcano from a distance.
Jimbaran Bay and Nusa Dua
The ares of Jimbaran and Nusa Dua (just 15 minutes apart) are home to several world class five star beach resorts, and are otherwise known as the “Beverly Hills of Bali”. Although an experience still very affordable to the average traveller is the chance to dine at a multitude of sea front restaurants with the water literally lapping at your feet. All are candle lit which makes for a beautiful spectacle. They are both fishing villages renowned for their excellent catches so expect the seafood to be very fresh and varied.
The Water Palace of Tirta Gangga
Tirta Gangga is both a village and palace located in the eastern part of the island. The palace is owned by Karangasem royalty and is easily one of the most attractive places to visit in Bali. It’s known for its maze of pools and fountains surrounded by lush gardens and intriguing stone statues, a simply beautiful complex.
The Wood working villages
To the north of Ubud you’ll find the woodworking villages of Tegalalang and Jati. This is where generations of families are involved in the process from beginning to end. The intricacies of the carvings are phenomenal and the villages of Mas, Peliatan, Petulu and Pujung (which lie to the east) are also are home to wood workers. The carvings range from the highly ceremonial to phallus shaped bottle openers (for the tourists)! When you visit you’ll find that each village tends to specialise in a particular theme – animals, figures or more abstract concepts.
Located in Tampaksiring (North East of Ubud) this is one of Bali’s oldest ancient monuments – a beautifully preserved 11th century temple complex. To reach it, you will need to descend stone steps through the lushest green valley imaginable. Once there, you’ll see ten large rock-cut shrines which were made to honour the 11th century Balinese royalty. As with all temples in Bali, you must be appropriately dressed but sarongs are available for hire at the entrance.
This chaotic, noisy tourist resort will be the most controversial choice on the list, but colourful Kuta is popular for a reason. The beautiful (but crowded beach) is ideal for surfing and swimming and the rest of the resort is also a lot of fun. Get a massage or your hair braided while you watch the passing circus of hawkers, surfers and bustling locals. Also visit Poppies Lane 1 and 2, where you can buy “genuine” Rolex watches, “real” Gucci bags, DVDs and surfer t-shirts with mostly the same design. Kuta is what it is… and washed down with a Bintang beer, you really cannot go wrong.
All words (and Jimbaran Bay and Gunung Kwai images) by Gordon and Paula from The Contented Traveller. They have been travelling ever since they met 10 years ago. They aid and abet one another in their ventures. Their site arose from their love of travel and unusual adventures, but also, and most importantly their ability to embrace serendipity.
For other image credits click on the image.