Southern Bali – The Holy Grail of Tourism
Kuta and its surrounding areas are by far the most diverse, lively and international holiday spots on Bali. Kuta, originally a little fishing village, started growing when an American couple opened an Inn there in 1936. The airport was completed in 1969, propelling the development of the area further. Today, Kuta is the largest and most happening place in Bali and the right choice for those wanting to live in a place where there are no off days. The nightlife, as well as the day time fun, is always bubbly.
Kuta also features excellent shopping opportunities. There is everything from extensive shopping malls to little street stalls. The best finds from Bali are hidden in Kuta; whether you are craving clothes, music, handicrafts or souvenirs. There are also plenty to choose from food wise. You can find American chain restaurants as well as local, excellent but cheap cafes, restaurants and bars in Kuta. There are also plenty of clubs and pubs with live music and dancing. There is a wide selection of hotels at Kuta that cover different budgetary constrains well, from luxury resorts to home stay accommodation.
Kuta is also famous for its three kilometer long Kuta Beach which is both a superb hang out and an excellent spot for surfing, especially in the autumn. There are different surf schools there, too, and the beach gets good enough waves for both beginners and more experienced surfers.
The norther part of the Kuta area is called Seminyak which is especially famous for its luxurious paradise hide-aways and absolutely delicious food in some of the fanciest restaurants in Bali that alone convince you to spend breakfast, lunch and dinner there.
Canggu is a newer built tourism area starting just after Seminyak when heading west. Often called “the hipster area” of Bali, Canggu is a home to modern holiday villas, beach bars, and coffee shops of all sorts – all nestled among local houses and beautiful rice fields. Canggu area attracts many students too thanks to its beaches suitable for surfing, yoga and health retreats, several dining and going out options, and the ever-growing amount of hip travellers from all around the world.
Denpasar is the capital city of Bali as well as the most concentrated inhabited area on the island. Denpasar doesn’t attract very many tourists due to its land locked location but there are services there not found elsewhere in Bali. Denpasar is worth seeing precisely since it is not one of the tourist beehives and you can easily observe the true local life and street style on its less crowded streets. One of Udayana University’s campuses is located in Denpasar.
Jimbaran, just south from Kuta, is a pilgrimage for fish food fans at night when the catch from the morning is on the grill. Many flock to one of the many seafood restaurants on Jimbaran’s beaches where you can sample the freshest fish and seafood dishes. There are more than 50 different seafood restaurants in Jimbaran, making the selection of venues and dishes absolutely mind boggling. Often you even get to pick which fish you want from the fish tanks at the restaurant. Add the delicious food to a beautiful sunset, cold drinks and live music and you have a night out that is difficult to top. This is a far cry from cup noodles and tuna, and luckily, since Udayana University’s other campus is in Jimbaran, students get to enjoy Jimbaran’s nutritious dishes, filled with those good oils that help you study, throughout their exchange semesters.
Central Bali – Ubud and other villages
One of the most sacred places in Bali is located in Uluwatu. The Pura Luhur Ulawatu temple in the most south west corner of the Bukit peninsula has been built on tall cliffs and is an architectural marvel. The monkeys at the temple are intelligent little pick-pocketers when it comes to unaware tourists bringing snacks to the temple. In addition to the building itself, there is plenty of pro surfers and beautiful sunsets for you to look at. Padang Padang is the nearest beach to Uluwatu and is, dare we say, the perfect beach.
Nusa Dua, in contrast, is Bali’s most high class hotel resort area and entertains its wealthy customers with a large shopping center as well. The beach there is elite, too, and has plenty of water sport activities available for try outs. Dreamland has beautiful golden sand and big waves, as well as some excellent views. All of the above places are about a half an hour scooter ride away from Kuta.
The cultural capital in Bali is the village of Ubud. Even though the village has spread its tentacles to cover a larger area now, it has completely retained its artsy and charming vibe. There are rice fields, local arts and crafts, birds singing in gardens, as well as enchanting little dance performances by the locals. In Ubud, it is also possible to stay at someone’s home for a very modest charge; and the experience is not unlike going on your own homey summer cottage for a weekend.
You can also learn to paint batik clothes, cook Balinese food or try out one of the other traditional islander skills at one of the village’s workshops. There are also different ceremonies taking place quite regularly, including somber funeral parades, on the streets and temples all around the village. In addition to artists’ workshops, art galleries and temples, there are plenty of gorgeous views that overlook the nearby rice terraces. A walk trailing the edges of the rice fields is a must.
There is also a fairy tale like forest in Ubud where hundreds of wild monkeys live and lounge under the forest’s ancient trees. There are two temples in the forest, too, the Sacred Fountain temple and the smaller Pura Prajapati that is inhabited by both real monkeys as well as moss covered statues of monkeys. There is a modest entry charge for the forest area as well as the opportunity to feed bananas to the monkeys.
The shopping opportunities in Ubud are surprisingly plentiful. The artists at Ubud sell their own work, everything from wood carvings to paintings and a multitude of other beautiful little things to decorate your home with. The village is dominated by the central market, a two story building that has fruit, household supplies as well as plenty of souvenirs on offer.
Northern and Eastern Bali – Volcanoes and islands
Northern Bali as an area is drier than the rest of the island. It is known for being the harbor area that was, back in the day, frequented by merchants from Arabia, China and the Netherlands. You can still spot signs of the colonial past in the architecture; many of the building have recognizable Dutch hues. Singraja is the largest town in the North. Lovina is a beach holiday destination where you can witness dolphins taking their morning stroll in the clear blue waters, backlit by the rising sun. There is also the Pura Pula temple in the North as well as the Menjangan Island, one of the best places to explore the underwater world of Bali.
The most popular travel destination in the North-East of the island is the city of Amed, only recently discovered by tourists and the quickest growing area in Bali. Amed is especially desirable for its stunning landscape and nature. Also the beaches around Amed are much quieter than, for example, the beaches at Kuta or Uluwatu and Nusa Dua. There are also plenty of excellent snorkeling and diving at Amed.
Probably the most famous temple in all of Bali is the Pura Tahah Lot temple. The temple is perched on top of a steep rock that rises straight out of the ocean. The temple is only about twenty kilometers from the capital of Denpasar but absolutely stunning with regards to the solitary views. Check it out during a sunset while sipping a cocktail in the restaurant that provides panoramic views to the whole glory.
Gunung Batur is the most active of the volcanoes in Bali; though ‘active’ is still a strong word for the sleepy giant. The view from the edge of the crater, overlooking the lake in the crater, is magnificent. You can join a guided tour to the mountain, easily purchased in Kuta, or hike there on your own. Pack a pan and some eggs with you; when else can you make a scramble using the steam rising through the cracks of a volcano! There are also some charming villages around the mountain, for example the Kintaman village, resting at the edge of the crater, and Toya Bungkah a bit lower, bordering the crater lake.
Gunung Agung is a holy volcano for the Balinese and rises up to three kilometers in height. Even the beds in Bali are aimed to point at this spiritual landmark. It is very important to understand how to behave at Agung and, thus, it is recommendable to only go on a guided tour there. You can also admire the volcano from the sea if you’re on your way to the Gili Islands.
The small and peaceful island of Nusa Lembongan is only a hop and a skip from Bali. It is the perfect spot for exploring an even deeper level of relaxation. The paradise island is only eight square kilometers but offers accommodation options at every price range. There are white sandy beaches, astonishingly clear blue waters, awesome waves for surfers, as well as some of the best diving in Bali. Cars are not allowed on the island; mopeds take care of the transportation needs. Lembongan is located off the coast of eastern Bali and, thus, offers some spectacular views of the Agung volcano as well. There are three types of boats that travel to Lembongan multiple times a day and the prices range from 5€ – 30€ depending on the speed of your vehicle.