What to see and do, and where to stay in Bali. There’s more to the island than sun, sand, sea and shopping — go and dip into the sacred spirit of the land.
Bali, in the east Java region, is a 5,780km2 island province in the Indian Ocean — with a mix of flat, sloping and mountainous terrain — that is made up of over 17,000 islands. It stands apart from other major destinations in the Indonesian archipelago with its Hindu majority (about 84% of almost 4.5 million people; compared to the Muslim majority elsewhere in the country) and its acceptance and assimilation of foreign cultures. This, on top of its natural characteristics — green, rustic and raw landscape, colorful and dynamic food traditions, vibrant sea and jungle ecology, traditional and holistic ways of life, and more — make it a suitable destination for people who like their creature comforts, yet are open to the slow life, soul-searching and being one with nature whenever they like.
For all these complementary experiences, Bali has everything — from its no-frills, 24-hour warung (small family-owned businesses) to award-winning fine-dining restaurants; vast stretches of farmland that celebrate the earth’s bounty to busy beaches drawing hordes of travelers; tranquil temple grounds to a bustling cultural heart centered in Ubud; and more.
Much of Bali moves along to island time — acknowledged as living in the present moment and taking things easy — which, when combined with its tropical monsoon climate (wet from October to April and dry from May to September, with higher humidity in the wet season and a year-round average temperature of 31°C), often results in slow-moving traffic and long commutes. Prep for outdoor adventures with light, layered clothing and plan your itinerary with ample buffer and travel time in between activities.
Highlights for the Traveler
There are so many ways to cover ground on the island — from an inland farm to the shore, getting in an early surf (weather and conditions permitting) and venturing into the forest shade or going from a retreat to a livelier, bouncier side of the island. As you style your itinerary, you’re advised to plan your activities based on a general area — there’s Badung, Canggu, Legian, Sanur, islands like Nusa Penida, and more — or type of activity (such as waterfall-chasing, Balinese craft classes, yoga retreats, festivals or concerts).
For small groups looking to customize their mainland trips, chartering a private car or van (oftentimes your driver will also your guide) is a good way to start — you get to circumvent the lack of public transport options, and avoid hiked-up tourist prices. Inter-island trips may be best booked by your accommodation concierge or local tour agencies.