While Europe attracts Indians much more than most other continents courtesy Bollywood movies, Asia is in no way less attractive given the rich and diverse culture, varied landscapes, art and architecture, great hospitality and food that ignites all senses. And I would say, Bali, among Asian cities would top the chart for being a complete package. It has stunning beaches, picturesque rice paddies, rich cultural heritage, water sports/activities, nightlife, lovely locals and most importantly fab art and craft scene.
Bali is not just a place, it’s a tropical vibe – cool and sophisticated.
We traveled to Bali just last year for the first time, even though we have sent many of our clients to Bali over the years for honeymoon and vacations.
Why because …Way back in 2007 when we were traveling to Penang for work, 3 disasters had hit Indonesia at the same time. Adam Air Flight 574 disappeared over Makassar Strait, Indonesia. A speed boat capsized in the coastal area of Java Sea, Central Kalimantan, killing 15 people in the accident. And lastly, whirlwind and landslides hit Lampung.
So much on one single day. This is one reason why we kept ourselves away from Indonesian islands for long. Bali happened last year because of work. But really thankful for the opportunity. What a beautiful place and good vibes especially for someone like me who has interest in Art. Reason they call it Island of Gods.
Bali Travel Guide
About Bali :
Bali is part of the Indonesian archipelago, located in the westernmost end, near the island of Java. It is situated between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. It covers an area of 5,780 km² (2,231 mi²) and is roughly the size of the US state of Delaware. The capital of Bali is Denpasar, which is located in the southern part of the island. You would read this name while booking your flights. Thats also where the airport is.
Bali has a population of around 4.2 million people, making it the most populous island in Indonesia. The official language of Bali is Indonesian, but Balinese is also widely spoken on the island. You can expect most people to understand and somehow manage in English especially those related to Tourism.
Known for its beautiful beaches, terraced rice fields, lush forests, and volcanic mountains, Bali is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Subak System, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, and the Taman Ayun Temple.
The main airport in Bali is Ngurah Rai International Airport, located near the capital city of Denpasar.
Culture and Religion:
Balinese culture is heavily influenced by Hinduism, which was brought to the island by Indian traders around the 1st century AD and that’s why the island is home to thousands of temples and shrines (Estimated no is 10000), including the iconic Tanah Lot, Uluwatu temples and Ulun Danu Beratan temple. The inhabitants of this small island in general are indeed quite generous, genuinely warm, friendly and welcoming apart from being known for their hospitality.
Ubud, the central part of Bali Island and the cultural heart is where once can experience the local culture playing out at all levels of life. South Bali is the most visited part, famous for its beaches, and the Southeastern Islands are best for diving activities.
Best time to visit Bali
The best part about Bali is it is positioned in the southern hemisphere so when it is not quite suitable to travel within India due to weather, Bali season is just right. For example May to August is not very good season for most of India either due to hot summers in May and June or rains during July August but for Bali travel, these months are good.
Sun seeker or an adventurer or an art lover, whatever your travel tastes, you’ll find rewarding things to see and do in Bali at any time of year. Temperatures in Bali don’t vary much from season to season, it usually hovers between 28°C and 32°C (82°F to 90°F) year-round. The dry season, from April to September, is the most pleasurable time for outdoor activities, which include swimming , hiking, surfing, sailing, diving, canyoning or simply relaxing on beaches.
High Season in Bali – July August and December
Shoulder Season in Bali – April, May, June, September and October
Low Season in Bali – January, February, March and November
Things to do in Bali –
Visit the Beaches in Bali – Swim, surf, soak up the sun and live the island dream. Bali is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with crystal clear waters and soft white sand. The popular ones include Kuta, Seminyak, Echo beach in Canguu, Jimbaran Bay, and Nusa Dua. These beaches offer a variety of activities such as surfing, snorkeling, and sunbathing. If you’re looking for something more secluded, head to the less crowded beaches like Thomas beach, Balangan, blue lagoon or Padang Padang. You can also check out the best beaches list by Lonely planet below
Best beaches in Bali- The best beaches in Bali for an island escape – Lonely Planet
Explore Bali Temples – The best part about Bali is it so much more than just fun in the sun destination. It is home so many beautiful temples in beautiful locations. The richness of the culture, history, Art and architecture of the Island is quite evident in the numerous ancient temples scattered throughout the island. Some of the most popular temples include Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, and Besakih.
Activities in Bali – Wow! there is so much to do in Bali from water sports like surfing, snorkeling & diving to hiking to spa treatments to yoga retreats to clubbing.
Hiking- Bali’s lush forests and volcanic mountains provide a perfect backdrop for hiking and trekking. Mount Batur is one of the most popular hiking destinations, where you can watch the sunrise from the top of the volcano. Another popular trekking destination is the Campuhan Ridge Walk, which offers stunning views of the lush green valleys.
Snorkeling – Amed beach , Blue Lagoon Padangbai, Virgin beach, Menjangan Island, Nusa Penida, Wreck Of The USAT Liberty, Tulamben, Mangrove Point, Nusa Lembongan are some popular spots.
Diving – Tulamben, Gili Islands , Amed/Gili Selang, Nusa Penida , Padang Bai are popular in East Bali. Secret Bay, Menjangan Island, Pemuteran are popular in Northwest Bali
Surfing- Echo beach in Canggu, Kuta, Padang Padang Beach in Uluwatu, Suluban Beach, also known as Blue Point Beach in Uluwatu, Nusa Lembongan, Balangan Beach, Nusa Penida, Medewi are some of the popular spots.
Spa treatments – A Bali trip would be incomplete without this indulgence given that Balinese massage is so popular across the world. Moreover, they are comparatively inexpensive, insanely relaxing and available everywhere you look. Almost all star hotels have in house spa treatments- authentic and reliable. Apart from that there are some popular brands like Kimberly, traditional spa Ubud, Massaji , Como and more which have great reviews . To know more about the treatments and best spas, please check out these links – https://www.inbali.org/traditional-balinese-spa/ and 9 Best Spas in Bali | Condé Nast Traveler (cntraveler.com)
Yoga retreats – Here’s a link to an extensive list of yoga retreats in Bali – The Best Yoga Retreats In Bali (And Where To Book Them) – Breathing Travel
Bali Art & Culture – Bali is famous for its colorful cultural festivals, which are held throughout the year. One of the most popular festivals is the Bali Arts Festival, which celebrates the island’s art and culture with dance, music, and theater performances. Other popular festivals include the Nyepi Day, Galungan, and Kuningan. You can plan your travel basis fares and festivals in Bali to deepen your local experience.
Food in Bali – Experience the local cuisine Bali’s cuisine is a unique blend of Indonesian, Chinese, and Indian influences, with a focus on fresh, flavorful ingredients. Some of the must-try dishes include Nasi Goreng (fried rice), Satay (grilled meat skewers), and Babi Guling (roast pork). You can find these dishes in local warungs (small eateries) as well as high-end restaurants. For Indians particular about Veg food and Indian dishes, Bali does have many Indian restaurants. You can look at the list on tripadvisor.
Bali shopping – You can’t miss this. A must do activity really given that Bali is a home decor heaven. Infact not just home decor, from textiles to jewelry to hand woven bags, you can find artistry everywhere. Some of the popular markets to shop are Kumbasari Art Market, Sukawati Art Market, Ubud Art Market, Kuta market and more
Bali nightlife – Bali also has a vibrant nightlife scene, with many bars and beach clubs catering to tourists and locals alike. Apart from these one can also go for evening cruise, cabaret shows, live music events and more. Most popular clubs and pubs are in Kuta, Semiyak Canggu & Ultunwatu.
Places to see in Bali
- Tanah Lot Temple – a Hindu temple located on a rock formation in the sea and is known for its stunning sunset views. The temple is dedicated to the sea goddess Dewi Danu, who is believed to protect the island from evil spirits. The temple can be reached by foot during low tide, but during high tide visitors can only view the temple from a distance.
2. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, also known as Ulun Danu Temple, is a famous Hindu water temple. The temple is built on a small island in Lake Bratan, which gives it a unique and picturesque appearance. It was built in the 17th century and is dedicated to Dewi Danu, the goddess of the lake and the rivers. The temple complex consists of several shrines and pagodas that are surrounded by a serene garden landscape. The main pagoda is dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvathi, and it is adorned with intricate carvings and colorful Balinese decorations. The temple is particularly beautiful during the sunrise and sunset, when the lake reflects the colors of the sky, creating a magical atmosphere.
3. Ubud – Considered to be the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali, Ubud is a town in central Bali known for its beautiful jungles, water bodies, rice paddies, art galleries, museums and traditional Balinese art and crafts. Below are a few pictures that I had clicked in Ubud.
Here I am at Tanah Gajah resort, just outside Ubud. Had been there for lunch. I loved this place so much. Sitting in the middle of thriving rice fields as far as the eyes can see, this place had amazing vibe and energy. I can’t forget what I felt there…. no wonder Tanah Gajah features in the list of world’s best resorts. Besides, I am quite fond of artworks in the form of sculptures and this place does have many including a girl’s sculpture who is looking up at the sky and her head is held high. It was like having the freedom to fly.
4. Tegallalang Rice Terraces – Apart from artistic temples and amazing markets, there is a place called Tegallalang rice terrace located just north of Ubud in Bali, known known for its beautiful and dramatic landscape, which features terraced rice paddies that cascade down the hillside. The rice terraces were built using a traditional Balinese irrigation system known as subak, which dates back more than 1,000 years. This system involves the cooperation of farmers who share water resources and work together to cultivate the rice paddies.
Though, with popular photo stops and specific activities to attract tourists, this place becomes a bit touristy, yet we did enjoy being childlike here on the swing. Do remember to take local currency for the activities here.
5. Jimbaran Bay
Jimbaran Bay is a beautiful crescent-shaped beach located on the southwestern coast of Bali, Indonesia. The bay is known for its calm waters, golden sand, and beautiful sunsets. Besides, Jimbaran Bay is popular for its fresh seafood, and there are several restaurants lining the beachfront that serve grilled fish, prawns, crabs, and other local delicacies. One can enjoy a delicious meal while watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean. We stayed at Intercontinental hotel which is on Jimbaran Bay and loved the evenings here and around.
In addition to the above, one can also enjoy water sports such as parasailing, jet skiing, surfing and banana boat.
6. Uluwatu Temple
Uluwatu Temple is renowned for its stunning location and beautiful architecture. The temple is built on a steep cliff that drops almost 70 meters into the sea below, providing breathtaking views of the ocean and coastline. The temple is dedicated to the sea god, Dewa Baruna, and is considered to be one of the six holiest places of worship in Bali. In addition to its religious significance and stunning location, Uluwatu Temple is also known for its daily Kecak dance performances which is a traditional Balinese dance that tells the story of the Ramayana, a Hindu epic. The dance is performed by a group of men who chant rhythmically while making intricate hand movements.
7. Nusa Penida
Love Snorkeling and diving? This is the place to be. Nusa Penida is a small island located in the southeast of Bali. It is part of a three islands group known as the Nusa Islands, which also include Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. This Island is known for its stunning natural beauty, including pristine beaches, rugged coastline, and vibrant marine life. The popular beaches here, include Crystal Bay, Atuh Beach, and Kelingking Beach, which are known for their crystal-clear waters and white sands. Being a popular snorkeling and diving place, Nusa Penida is home to a variety of colorful marine life, including manta rays, turtles, and tropical fish. Besides, Nusa Penida has Angel’s Billabong, a natural pool of crystal-clear water located on the rocks near the ocean.to swim and relax.
8. Gili Islands –
The Gili Islands are a group of three small islands located off the northwest coast of Lombok, Indonesia. Pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and relaxed atmosphere, what more one can ask for in an Island? Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands and is known for its vibrant nightlife and beach parties. Gili Air is the second-largest island and is known for its laid-back atmosphere and stunning sunsets. Gili Meno is the smallest of the three islands and is known for its peaceful and tranquil atmosphere.
All three islands offer a variety of accommodation options, from luxury villas to budget-friendly hostels, and a wide range of dining options, including local Indonesian cuisine and international dishes. The Gili Islands are easily accessible from Bali or Lombok by speedboat or ferry. Once on the islands, one can explore the islands on foot or by bicycle, as motorized vehicles are not allowed on the islands.
9. Kuta & Semi yak- Kuta is a famous beach in Bali, known for its long sandy shorelines, perfect for surfing. Semiyak on the other hand has upscale resorts, shopping, and vibrant nightlife.
10. Mount Batur – an active volcano located in the northern part of Bali, popular for sunrise hikes.
11. Besakih Temple – a complex of Hindu temples located on the slopes of Mount Agung, considered the holiest temple in Bali.
12. Nusa Dua – a resort area in Bali known for its beautiful beaches, luxurious hotels, and water sports activities.
Visa for Bali
Where to Stay
- For first timers – Kuta, Legian Semiyak – Best for partying and for first time surfers. Seminyak is cleaner and classier than Kuta and has many good restaurants and cafes.
- For night life -Canggu — Best for Surfing, Expat Hub and presently the night life scene is great here.
- For travelers with kids – Nusa Dua with fancy resorts and Jimbaran which has white sandy beach.
- For peaceful and off beat stays – Uluwatu and Bukit — Dramatic Cliffs and Superb Beaches
- Ubud- To experience eastern culture , Meditation, yoga, healing therapies and most importantly to buy lot of Art.
- Apart from these if you plan to visit Islands like Gili, Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan for water sports and activities then do add a couple of days to stay the
How to travel in and around in Bali
Just like Goa , you have all the options here.
- Renting a moped – If you are on a budget and for long in Bali then this makes sense.
- Taking a self drive car option – Again if you are comfortable in a new country on unknown roads. For both moped and car rentals , international driving license is required.
- Hiring a car and a driver – Safest and least headache option. You can check fix everything including the costs before you decide to hire.
- Taking a taxi or a bus – there are online apps from point to point travel in south Asia like Grab and Gojek.