Beaches, natural beauty, cultural heritage – the paradise “Glorious Bali Island” has it all. The most popular tourist destination in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali has been well known to the entire world since World War II, with epithets ranging from “Island of Gods”, “Island of thousand Temples” to “The Last Paradise” and “Island of Artist”.
Bali has a tropical climate, so the best time to visit is from May to August, with bright sunshine interspersed with occasional drizzle leading to pleasant temperatures. The wet season lasts from October to March.
In ancient times, the people of Indonesia lived by animism and ancestor worship, till about 600 AD when Indian beliefs began to spread through Southeast Asia, leading to the rise of Buddhism and Hinduism. During the Hindu era, the royalty patronized the native arts of Bali, which was displayed in the palaces – exquisitely carved wood panels, paintings, silk materials and gilded umbrellas adorned the pavilions. Native performing arts such as gamelan music, dances and songs in Kawi were showcased for entertainment and encouraged. Do make time to catch a Barong dance performance. Most art was based on the great Hindu epics. The 16th century Tanah Lot temple dedicated to the Balinese sea Gods has a significant Hindu influence, and is a must-visit on your trip to Bali.
In the first decade of the 20th century, the Dutch took over the island, and introduced the western way of art and life in Bali, leading to experimentation in style and media by local artists. Art permeates everything in Balinese life even today, from the steeply-terraced rice cultivation to the elaborate temple offerings of flowers at times of celebration. The traditional and modern arts can be viewed at various places: Museum Bali in Denpasar exhibits Balinese art from prehistoric times to the early 20th century, and modern art. Werdi Budaya Arts Center in Denpasar hosts exhibitions and sales of local handicrafts and handloom fabric. Head to Sukawati market for Balinese handicrafts and clothes, Celuk for silver and gold jewelry, Peliatan for art, Tohpati for fine batik, Mas for wooden craft and Ubud for paintings. Traditional Balinese paintings, woodcarvings, woven baskets and batiks make great souvenirs.
Ubud, the “Artist’s Town” and “Creative Heart of the Island" has a lot to offer apart from art – from its tranquil atmosphere along the breathtaking panorama of the Ayung River valley and the stepped rice terraces, to its traditional market and numerous shops which line the road to the Monkey Forest. This little "Royal Town” invites people to “Eat, Pray, Love”. The road from Denpasar, the nearest airport, to Ubud is lined with artisan villages, such as Batubalan (stone carvings), Batuan (paintings) and Celuk. In the town center, the interesting places to see are the Puri (the court of palace of former kings), and the main market just opposite Puri selling T-shirts, paintings, wood carvings. Nearby is the Puri Lukisan (Museum of Paintings). Established in 1954, it is dedicated to showing the works of local artists. There are several places near Ubud that you could visit – the road to Tegalalang has beautiful views of terraced rice fields, Sayan offers a stunning panorama of Ayung River valley and spectacular views of gorges, palms and rice fields, Campuhan, where three rivers meet is a sacred site. There is a very beautiful temple called Pura Gunung Lebah is worth a visit. To the north is Petulu village which is known for kokokan or white herons. To the south is the Monkey Forest with hundreds of tame monkeys and a temple in the middle.
If you are a nature lover, you simply have to go to Jatiluwih in Tabanan, with never-ending panoramas of fertile rice fields stretching from the foothills of Batukaru volcano to the south coast. The view from Jatiluwih oversees the whole of South Bali. On the route to the mountain village from the town, you will be amazed by the wonderful rural ambience – farmhouses, shrines dedicated to Dewi Sri the Goddess of rice, flocks of ducks and cascading terraces of rice fields. The journey continues up the road till Pura Luhur Batukaru, one of Bali’s most venerated nine “directional” temples that protect the Balinese from evil spirits. The surrounding dense rainforests are rich in wild orchids, healing herbs, fragrant spices and exotic trees. Finally, at the top is Jatiluwih with its magnificent views.
Bali is the ultimate destination for beach lovers, with warm sunshine during the day and dance and cultural shows on the beach at night. The nightlife on Kuta beach remains vibrant till the wee hours of morning. When there’s a full moon, the Balinese people organize beach games. Bali also has scuba diving, with an extensive range of sea life inhabiting the virgin coral reefs. To see the corals, take a trip to Nusa Penida. Tanjung Benoa beach has a whole range of water sports, from jet skis to banana boats and parasailing. Uluwatu and Sanur beaches are the best place to surf. Try a Reef Cruise from Sanur.
There are several terrestrial activities as well in Bali such as horse riding, elephant rides, quad & buggy ride, bungy jumping, forest trekking, mountain hiking and white water rafting.
Bali is a great destination for relaxation with scenic landscapes, magnificent mountains, beaches, forests and spas where you can unwind, and temples and cultural attractions where you can marvel at the art.