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Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, with its varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all providing a picturesque backdrop to its colourful, deeply spiritual and unique culture, stakes a serious claim to be paradise on earth. With world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations, this is one of the world's most popular island destinations and one which consistently wins travel awards. Bali has something to offer a very broad market of visitors from young back-packers right through to the super-rich.
South Bali (Kuta, Bukit Peninsula, Canggu, Denpasar, Jimbaran, Legian, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak, Tanah Lot)
The most visited part of the island by far, with Kuta Beach and chic Seminyak.
Central Bali (Ubud, Bedugul, Tabanan)
The cultural heart of Bali and the central mountain range.
West Bali (Negara, Gilimanuk, Medewi Beach, Pemuteran, West Bali National Park)
Ferries to Java and the West Bali National Park.
North Bali (Lovina, Singaraja)
Quiet black sand beaches and the old capital city.
East Bali (Amed, Besakih, Candidasa, Kintamani, Klungkung, Mount Agung, Padang Bai, Tirta Gangga)
Laid back coastal villages, an active volcano and the mighty Mount Agung.
Southeastern Islands (Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan)
Quiet offshore islands in the southeast, popular for diving activities.
Unlike any other island in largely Muslim Indonesia, Bali is a pocket of Hindu religion and culture. Every aspect of Balinese life is suffused with religion, but the most visible signs are the tiny offerings found in every Balinese house, work place, restaurant, souvenir stall and airport check-in desk. T
Balinese dance and music are also justly famous and a major attraction for visitors to the island. As on neighbouring Java, the gamelan orchestra and wayang kulit shadow puppet theatre predominate. Dances are extremely visual and dramatic, and the most famous include:
Barong or "lion dance" — a ritual dance depicting the fight between good and evil, with performers wearing fearsome lion-like masks. This dance is often staged specifically for tourists as it is one of the most visually spectacular and the storyline is relatively easy to follow. Barong dance performances are not hard to find.
Calonarang — a spectacular dance which is a tale of combating dark magic and exorcising the evil spirits aligned with the witch-queen Rangda. The story has many variations and rarely are two calonarang plays the same. If you can find an authentic Calonarang performance, then you are in for a truly magical experience.
Kecak or "monkey dance" — actually invented in the 1930s by resident German artist Walter Spies for a movie but a spectacle nonetheless, with up to 250 dancers in concentric circles chanting "kecak kecak", while a performer in the centre acts out a spiritual dance.
Legong Keraton — perhaps the most famous and feted of all Balinese dances. Performed by young girls, this is a dance of divine nymphs hailing from 12th century Java.
Daytime temperatures are pleasant, varying between 20-33⁰ C (68-93⁰ F) year-round. From December to March, the west monsoon can bring heavy showers and high humidity, but days are still often sunny with the rains starting in the late afternoon or evening and passing quickly. From June to September, the humidity is low and it can be quite cool in the evenings. At this time of the year there is hardly any rain in the lowland coastal areas.
Bali is in the UTC+8 time zone (known in Indonesia as WITA, Waktu Indonesia Tengah), same as Western Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and China and 1 hour ahead of Jakarta.
Most visitors will arrive at Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), also known as Denpasar International Airport. Despite this misleading name, the airport is actually located in Tuban between Kuta and Jimbaran, roughly 30 mins away from Denpasar. Ngurah Rai is Indonesia's 3rd busiest international airport and a major hub well-connected to Australia, South-East Asia, and the rest of Indonesia.
Ngurah Rai International Airport has recently been largely revamped to compensate for the growing amount of visitors to the island.
International arrivals procedures
All passports must be valid for a minimum of 6 months from the date of entry into Indonesia and have at least 2 blank pages available for stamps.
Get form the airport
Some hotels organise free transfers from the airport, but plenty of public taxis are also available: go to the ticketing booth.
If you are travelling on a restricted budget, you can flag down a Blue Bird Taxi from outside the airport gate. Blue Bird Taxis are safe and reliable, and their metered fares are somewhat cheaper than the prepaid taxi fares.
There are direct bus services to Bali from all major cities on Java and Lombok that link with ferries for sea crossings. These are cheap and easy, but slow.
Ferries cross from Ketapang on the island of Java to Gilimanuk in western Bali every 15 min, 24 hr every day. These are very cheap, and the crossing takes just 30 min (plus sometimes considerable waiting around for loading and unloading).
Bali is a fairly large island and you will need a method to get around if you plan on exploring more than the hotel pool. Rapid, seemingly uncontrolled development and an aging infrastructure, mean that the roads struggle to cope. In major tourist areas the traffic is chaotic, and there are daily jams. Particular blackspots are Ubud, Kuta, Seminyak and Denpasar.
For different excursions around the island, it is common to join a tour via your hotel or at one of the many street agencies which are found everywhere in booths normally marked "Tourist Information".
Bemos are minivans which serve as a flexible bus service (also known as Shuttle Bus) and are Bali's traditional form of transportation. However they have largely given way to metered taxis in the south.
What to see
Bali's best-known attractions are its countless Hindu temples. Each village is required by adat (customary law) to construct and maintain at least three temples: the pura puseh (temple of origin) located at the kaja (pure) side of the village, the pura desa (village temple) at the centre for everyday community activities and the pura dalem (temple of the dead) at the kelod (unclean) end. Wealthy villages may well have more than these three obligatory temples, and additionally all family compounds have a temple of some nature.
Most of the coastline of Bali is fringed by beaches of some type, with the exceptions being some important areas of mangrove forest in the southeast, and certain parts of the Bukit Peninsula where high cliffs drop straight to the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean.
Unsurprisingly, given the volcanic nature of the island, black sand is the norm, but there are also some beaches in the south which have fine-grained white sand. Beaches that are especially safe for swimming include Jimbaran Bay and virtually all of the north coast.
Away from the coast, Bali is largely lush, green and fertile, and rice paddies are the dominant agricultural feature of the island. In some areas, paddies take the form of dramatic sculpted terraces which efficiently utilise every available acre of land for cultivation. Especially beautiful examples of terraced paddies can be found in the centre of the island north of Ubud and in east Bali around Tirta Gangga. Elsewhere, gently rolling rice fields make for very pleasing rural scenery.
All of Bali's mountains are volcanoes, some long dormant and some still active. Much more active is Mount Batur, which permanently smolders and periodically produces a large bang and plumes of ashy smoke as pressure is released from within.
Bali's Hindu culture and history is both extraordinary and unique. Many visitors get so wrapped up in shopping, partying and beach life to miss the opportunity to understand and absorb at least some of this. You cannot fail to see temples, come across ceremonies and witness daily offerings, and those who take the time and effort to understand what is going on around them will find their visit very rewarding.
There are several hot springs to be discovered in Bali. One of them, on the north coast of the island near Lovina, is Air Banjar, where stone mouth carvings allow hot water to pass between the pools, which are set in lush gardens.
Bali is a paradise for spa lovers, and all sorts of treatments are widely available. The Balinese lulur body scrub with herbs and spices—traditionally performed before a wedding ceremony—is particularly popular. Balinese massage is usually done with oil and involves long, Swedish-style strokes.
Bali is host to some of the finest yoga and well-being centres and retreats in the world. You can find an abundance of amazing yoga classes to suit all levels in most of the tourist areas.
Bali, Indonesia is an unique island with a rich of Hinduism cultural and friendly people. It is probably the best island in Indonesia when you come as a tourist. Bali has beautiful varied of landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all providing the best and colorful cultural, in deep spiritual that visitors claim as island of paradise. Bali is paradise for surfing and diving lovers, family travelers, honeymooners including back-packers.
Clothing is a real draw. Popular sportswear brands are available in a multitude of stores in Kuta and Legian for prices approximately thirty to fifty per cent lower than you would pay at home. If the mass market is not your thing, try the ever-increasing number of chic boutiques in Seminyak and support young local designers. Jalan Laksmana is a good starting point.
Bali is an island of artisans, so arts and crafts are always popular. Try to head to the source if you can rather than buying from identikit shops in Kuta or Sanur.
Dried spices and coffee are very popular items to take home. Most supermarkets have specially designed gift packages aimed at tourists, or, if you are visiting Bedugul, buy at the Bukit Mungsu traditional market.
Whatever you are buying, make sure you are in your best bargaining mode, as these skills will be required except in the higher-end stores that specifically state that their prices are fixed. And of course, bargaining is a lot of fun.