From monkey-filled forests and ancient temples to beautiful beaches and buzzing bars, holidays to Bali have all-round appeal.
Of all the 17,500 islands in Indonesia, Bali shouts the loudest. It’s dubbed the Island of the Gods, and you’ll see their handiwork wherever you roam. You’ve got everything from liquorice-black beaches to cloud-shrouded volcanoes and bright-green rice terraces. Plus, Bali’s just a boat ride away from go-slow islands like Lombok and the Gilis.
Bali’s beaches excel at the big three – swimming, snorkelling and surfing. The main names are Seminyak and Kuta, where the sands are boosted by a collection of hip hotels, bars and spas. Off the well-worn path, there are surf spots and calm bays with nothing but coconut trees for company. Plus, the island sits within the Coral Triangle, which has the biggest diversity of marine species in the world, so the reefs are a diver’s dream.
Back to nature
Sands aside, there’s no end of landscapes taking up residence in Bali. You can move from the iconic rice terraces to thick forests and lava-spewing volcanoes. Speaking of the latter, if you don’t mind getting up in the middle of the night, a sunrise climb of Bali’s second-biggest is a must-do. From the top of Mount Batur, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best views on the whole island.
Bali’s charms aren’t all natural. A visit to Ubud takes you right to the heart of the island’s soul. It’s Bali’s spiritual centre, so the streets are hemmed with art galleries and museums. Here, you can do as Julia Roberts did in Eat, Pray, Love and shop in the markets, wander around its ornate palace, and dine in the authentic, al fresco eateries.
Things to See and Do in Bali
Ebony and Ivory coastline
Bali’s well-stocked with beaches – and they come in various shades. There are the long, golden sweeps, the tucked-away, white patches and the eye-catching, black-sand curves. Sunbathing’s not the only thing that tops the agenda, either. There are the world-class waves, lively bars and top dive spots to consider, too.
The big beach
There’s a reason so many people descend on Kuta’s beach – the surf. Pros come from all over the world to paddle out and ride the breakers back to shore. Beginners, meanwhile, can take lessons in one of the beachside surf schools. The bar scene is legendary, too. Pull up a chair at a bar for sunset, then watch the sky turn burnt orange with a Bintang beer in hand.
The secret beach
Nyang Nyang Beach isn’t easy to find, hence its secluded status. You’ll need to navigate dirt tracks, fields and hundreds of cliffside steps to reach it. When you get there, you’ll be greeted by lily-white sands and green-covered cliffs. You won’t find anything – or anyone – down there, bar a few locals or in-the-know tourists. So you can make the most of your own private beach, sunbathing uninterrupted on the sands and unwinding in the hot tub-like tide pool.
You can follow in the footsteps of Julia Roberts at Ubud Art Market. The actress roamed the colourful, stall-lined streets when filming Eat, Pray, Love. You can get sunglasses, souvenirs and homewares for less than the cost of a coconut. And there are no fixed prices, so haggling’s the norm.
Seminyak’s warren of streets are lined with little, trinket-filled boutiques. It’s a great place to pick up bits for the home, like handmade ornaments, custom-made candles and cushions. Surfers are well catered for, too. Kuta’s got the only Billabong factory outlet in Asia. Just down the road, Surfers Paradise lives up to its name, with Oakley, Roxy, Quicksilver and Hurley all under one roof.
Kuta’s full to the brim with shopping malls – and they’re cut from an upmarket cloth. T Galleria by DFS has a roll call that lists Gucci, Burberry, Dior and Calvin Klein. Nearby, there’s Seminyak Village, which has stores from designers all over the globe – think Singapore, Indonesia and Germany.
Kuta’s known for its raucous partying, while its sibling, Seminyak, takes things a little more upmarket. It’s home to a good supply of five-star hotels with the top-of-the-range bars to match, as well as ultra-chic cocktail lounges and rooftop watering holes. Meanwhile, in Ubud, catching a Balinese dance show is a must. Even if you can’t follow the story, the traditional music and extravagant costumes are mesmerising.
Bali’s beach clubs aren’t just reserved for the day. Potato Head, Ku De Ta and W Hotel are the ones on everyone’s lips in Seminyak and Kuta. You can lounge on one of their celeb-worthy daybeds in the morning, and watch as top international DJs take to the decks after dark.
Fried rice to Asia is like pizza to the Italians. Traditionally, nasi goreng’s eaten at breakfast using leftovers from the night before’s dinner. The rice is mixed with soy sauce, garlic, chilli and ginger. Chicken or prawns are added to the dish, along with carrot, peanuts and fried eggs.
Babi guling – or roast suckling pig – is usually on the menu at traditional, roadside warongs for lunch or dinner. The pig’s rubbed with turmeric, ginger, garlic and shallots, before being roasted for two hours. In most places, it comes with a generous helping of crackling, too.
This is the Indonesian take on Malaysia’s much-loved satay. In Bali, chicken is blended with spices and kecap manis – Indonesian sweet soy sauce. Then it’s added to lemongrass or bamboo skewers, and barbecued. Some – but not all – restaurants will serve it alongside a peanut dipping sauce.
Coconuts are readily available on the island, and they make a refreshing, mid-sunbathing drink. They’re sold from stalls along the sands, with a straw for sipping.
Simple, but delicious is the only way to describe this Indonesian dessert. Bananas are covered in batter, deep fried and then smothered in honey or palm sugar syrup. They’re easy to grab from a street food stall, or you can have them with ice-cream at a sit-down restaurant.
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The Tegalalang rice terrace is a real sight for sore eyes. Layered terraces are sliced into the pea-green hillside, creating…View details »