Bali Destination Guide
One of the world's favourite destinations, Bali holidays are the perfect way to either kick back and relax or soak up the cultural sites of this exotic Indonesian island. Fringed by a combination of white and black sand beaches and boasting a lush green interior, Bali is blessed with resplendent natural beauty. The so-called 'Island of the Gods' is also a spiritual heartland boasting countless religious sites and some of the richest cultural diversity in the region. Whether you're lazing on the beaches of Nusa Dua or exploring the temples of Ubud, there's something to do for everyone.
Exploring the island's numerous Hindu temples is one of the most popular things to do in Bali. Many are complex architectural structures and the 9 'directional temples' are the island's most prominent. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan at the edge of pretty Lake Bratan in Bedugal is one of the most picturesque, although Pura Luhur Uluwatu on the Bukit Peninsula is perhaps the most accessible. Traditional arts and crafts are abundant in Ubud – regarded as the cultural centre of the island. One of Ubud's best-known attractions is Goa Gajah, the so-called 'Elephant Cave' which in 1995 was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The similarly spectacular Gunung Kawi or 'Poet Mountain' is an 11th Century burial complex believed to be the final resting place of King Anak Wungsu and his wives.
Balinese food is well regarded and comes in all shapes and forms. Street food is common and often includes the popular satay dish Sate Lilit – a grilled dish of minced seafood served on a lemongrass stick. Unlike the rest of the predominantly Muslim nation, Bali is also a great place to eat pork. Babi Guling is a ceremonial dish comprised of roast suckling pig served with rice. One of the best places to experience it is at the Ibu Oka in Ubud – one of Bali's most popular restaurants. The locals are always up for a drink and Bintang is ubiquitous, although locally brewed Storm and Anker are tasty microbrews. Bali Moon is a flavoured liqueur available almost everywhere on the island.
The island contains a diverse range of places to stay. From cheap 'losmen' bungalows and guest houses to luxurious five-star resorts, Bali accommodation offers something for everyone. If you're backpacking your way around the island then Kuta is an obvious first port of call, but if you're after a more culturally enlightening experience then head for the highlands around Ubud. Private villas are dotted across the island, with the largely undeveloped coastal regions of West Bali perhaps the quietest place to relax.
Some enticing conversion rates make shopping a popular pastime for visitors to Bali. From inexpensive trinkets to high-end clothes and jewellery, Bali offers a great range of shopping options. Monkey Forest Road in Ubud is one of the island's most popular shopping thoroughfares. It boasts a wide array of venues, from boutique handicraft stalls to upmarket fashion outlets. The Kuta Art Market is a good place to test your haggling skills, but make sure you bring an extra suitcase given the multitude of souvenirs on offer.
Bali like a Local
While Mount Agung is the highest mountain on the island, Mount Batur is the summit to scale for spectacular sunrise views. You can depart for the top of the active volcano from the small village of Penelokan on the southern side. The straightforward 1,717-metre climb is rewarded with vast panoramic views over the island and beyond. When you've finished exploring Mount Batur you can head to nearby Kintamani to check out Pura Ulun Danu Batur – one of Bali's famous 9 'directional temples'.