The island of Gods as Bali is also known, is a true paradise on Earth. Probably more famous than the country it is located in, beautiful Indonesia, the largest island country with more than 17000 islands. Bali sits between the islands of Java and Lombok and is very popular with tourists and one can see why. The lush and varied landscape, rugged coastline, amazing beaches, countless rice terraces, many smaller neighbouring islands like Nusa Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida, rich culture and most genuine and always smiling Balinese people. So why not immerse yourself in its unique and spiritual atmosphere. Bali is the only Hindu majority province in Indonesia and about 83% of the population adheres to Balinese Hinduism so seeing many temples and offerings is a normal thing here. Travelling solo? No problem. Bali is one of the best destinations in the world for solo travellers.
Bali is a part of the Coral Triangle, an area with the highest biodiversity of marine life and is located about 8 degrees south of the equator, therefore has a fairly even climate all year around. With a population of 897.400 people, the country’s capital is Denpasar and Ngurah Rai International is the islands main airport and a getaway to Bali for many visitors. Then there is the traffic oooh the traffic. For the first time visitor from the west, like myself, it is a bit of a shock, to say the least. It almost seemed that there are no rules when driving in Bali. Lots of cars and motorbikes everywhere and everybody is honking at each other and… Wow, I thought to myself could I drive here? They drive on the left-hand side, just like us in the UK, that’s a plus, right? Well, I will leave the driving for somebody else for now. The conclusion? The best way to experience Bali is hanging out with a local guide, who will not only drive but also teaches you a lot about the Balinese culture, history and even cracks a joke and gives you much valuable information and even makes you blend in with the local. I still need to practice more, but what a blast I had. Terima Kasih Joni
I don’t need to mention that there are many amazing places to visit in Bali and you will not be able to see them all in a week, but for the first-time visitor here are some ideas on the top places to see.
Mt. Batur volcano and Batur lake – Still active today, the Batur volcano located in northeast Bali is a welcomed break from the hustle and bustle of the beach resorts and is popular with visitors due to its surroundings and pure, beautiful nature. Here you can admire the extensive lava field which covers the foot of the mountain and also the Batur lake. Many small villages are located close to the mountain too. Kintamani being probably the most visited. One of my favourite locations for sure. Plenty of people come here not just to admire the volcano, but also hike up the mountain to watch the sunrise. Though you would have to get up pretty early in the morning to do that, the views are spectacular and well worth the effort.
Monkey forest, Ubud – not only for the animal lover or Instagram geek, the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud is another great place to visit. The mission of the Monkey forest is conserving the area based on the concept of Tri Hita Karana (three causes of wellbeing, harmony with God, among people and with nature or environment) a philosophy of Hinduism in Bali. There are some 750 monkeys here and also 3 temples. The forest is not just a tourist attraction but also an important place for research and conservation programs. You can buy bananas to feed the monkeys or even a take picture with them. Just keep in mind the monkeys can get a bit cheeky and jump on you or steal your belongings. I was one of the lucky ones, no interest from the monkeys in me. Luckily.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace – stop number 3, the rice paddies. Tegallalang is one of the most splendid terraced landscapes in Ubud. The lush, green landscape is a photographers paradise. Here you can try the Bali swing, take a selfie in one of the tree nests or ride a bike above the fields on a jungle zip line. It is quite fascinating when you are here and think about the hard-working farmers trying to make a living by looking after the rice paddies. Respect for them.
Pura Tanah Lot- Tanah Lot Temple – Perched on the top of a big rock formation, the ancient Hindu temple is a cultural icon not only for photography but also one of Seven sea temples on the Balinese coast. The temple was built by priest Dang Hyang Niratha in the 15th century and it’s believed that he had to fight a giant sea serpent who lived here, in order to build the temple. Another fact about this place that interested me is magical spring water which comes out of the ground here. The water from the spring is fresh, but the temple is surrounded by the sea. Another interesting thing worth mentioning is the Holy snake. Not a myth, but a real sea snake, that you can touch and make a wish. Sure I did.
Devil’s Tear – Nusa Lembongan Island – Located off the southeast coast of the mainland Bali is a small island called Nusa Lembongan. One of many islands, Lembongan is home to many beautiful places like the Dream beach, the Yellow bridge and the Devil’s tear. Many people flock here and to its neighbouring islands of Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida for their sheer beauty and one of the best locations for snorkelling, visiting the mangroves or just chilling on the stunning beaches. Get sprayed by the sea mist at Devil’s tear, admire the power of the waves crashing on the rocks and take some cool selfies here. The only way to get to Nusa Lembongan is by a fast boat from Sanur, Serangan or Benoa beach. You can book just a return ticket or try one of many attraction, that are offered like snorkelling, island tour and more. Ideas on pricing available here.
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Bali is famous not only for the temples, beaches, mountains or shopping but also for yoga and meditation retreats and one of the best coffee in the world.
Let’s talk about shopping. I am not a big fan of any kind of shopping myself, home or abroad, but when you are in Bali, everybody should give it a go. There are markets or shops big and small on almost every corner, so it’s almost impossible to walk past at least one a day. One of the best markets can be found in Ubud, Kuta, Denpasar, Seminyak, Sanur. If you are looking for souvenirs, Balinese Batik, clothes, fresh fruit or maybe the iconic Balinese round rattan bag, then pop into one of the shops. All the sellers are ever so friendly. But! Do Not forget to haggle, always! If the seller tells you one price, offer half of that (or less), the seller will most likely say NO, then try again. Don’t like the final price? Simply walk away and try another seller. Mind the Balinese a great sellers, so takes a bit of practising to haggle with them. Bottom – line have a fun haggling and shop in the morning for the best “morning price”.
Yoga and meditation are very popular in Bali. Many people come here just to relax. If you need some time to slow down or clarify your purpose in the world, then visiting one of many yoga retreats here is a fantastic place to go to. Rural, peaceful settings will enhance your experience even further.
More ideas on yoga retreats in Bali available here
Coffee lovers paradise. The mountain region of Kintamani is the main coffee growing area in Bali. One of the most expensive coffees also comes from here. Kopi Luwak or civet coffee is coffee that contains partially digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. This improves the coffee through selection – the civet only eats the cherries and digestion – the digestive system of the civet alters the composition of the coffee cherries. Hence the name, the most expensive coffee in the world.
Tips on the Do’s and Don’t in Bali
Do Tip – for good service. Working people in Bali are not on a high salary, so a tip even a small one goes a long way.
Do Be respectful – when entering a temple, wear a sarong or long clothing.
Do haggle – when visiting the markets. Smile can get you a long way too.
Do smile, smile, smile in the land of smiles.
Don’t – bring or get involved with drugs. Indonesia has one of the toughest drug laws in the world and still enforces the death penalty.
Don’t – step on ceremonial offerings. You will come across them everywhere.
Don’t – provoke a monkey to attack. You might get bitten and as a result, the trip to a hospital could ruin your holiday. The same applies to street dogs, there is a lot of them in Bali and many carry rabies.
As I mentioned above, Bali is located close to the Equator, so you can expect a tropical and humid climate all year around. Bali only has two seasons, Dry and Rainy.
The dry season lasts from May to September. With average temperatures about 31 degrees C. July and August tend to be the busiest months, due to school holidays, many tourists come to chill in the Balinese sun.
The wet season is from October to April. You ca experience cheaper hotel bookings and fewer crowds during the wet season.
The best time to visit Bali is just before or after the high season (April, May, June or September).
Also keep in mind that a “day of silence” called Nyepi – Balinese New Year, is a Hindu celebration and the whole island comes to a standstill with no flights coming in or leaving. If you are in Bali during Nyepi make sure you do not plan any travelling or outside activities. Read more about Nyepi here
Indonesian rupiah (IDR) is the currency in Bali and the whole of Indonesia. The bank notes are very colourful, making it easier to differentiate between denominations. Amounts in rupiah tend to be quite large because of all the zeros. Banknotes come as 10.000, 20.000, 50.000 and 100.000, coins do exist, but you will not use them a lot if at all. There are many places where you can exchange money, just be careful, use only authorized exchange place and always count your money before leaving. ATM’s are also widely available, but best to use one attached to a bank.
For the latest currency exchange rates check here