The island of Bali lies in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands, of Java and Lombok. But to the Balinese people, their island is considered the center of the spiritual universe.
Bali has a population of around 4 million people, and is home to Indonesia’s Hindu population. The Balinese practice the concept of Tri Hita Karana, which seeks to balance the human, natural and spirit worlds. And it is this sense of harmony which makes Bali more than just a physical destination, but a complete state of mind.
Most first time visitors are drawn to the south of Bali, a region blessed with incredible beaches and world class surf. Kuta was discovered by the flower children and surfers of the 1960’s. Just a short drive from Bali’s International Airport, and renowned for it’s nightlife and shopping.
It’s hard to imagine this was once a sleepy fishing village. Yet Kuta’s crescent shaped beach still retains a magical quality, casting a spell over sun worshippers from all over the world.
From Kuta, grab your sarong and follow the beach north, to the beaches of Legian, Double Six and Seminyak, where things really mellow out. Step from the sand of Seminyak and into Petitenget Temple.
The temple was built centuries ago, around a simple shrine built to appease troublesome spirits who haunted the area. Today, Seminyak is a tranquil place, known for its great restaurants and fashion boutiques.
Bali has come a long way since it’s days as just a backpacker destination. Head south from Kuta to the Bukit Penninsula where you’ll find the luxury resort enclave of Nusa Dua, a name synonymous with seclusion and style.
On the peninsula’s west side is one of Bali’s finest beaches, Jimbaran. Towards the end of the day, pull up a chair at one of the seafood restaurants, and experience an incredible spectacle, as Bali’s gods hurl paint across the heavens.
A little further south, and jutting out into the Java Sea is the rock at lands end ~ Uluwatu. Follow the cliff-top pathways to one of Bali’s most important temples, then grab your board and paddle out into Uluwatu’s legendary swells.
Discovering more of Bali is a breeze. Hire a van with driver for the day, or if you’re feeling more adventurous rent a scooter. Not far from the island’s capital, Denpasar, is the Bali Bird Park, a sanctuary to over 1000 birds from all over Indonesia and beyond.
Nearby at the Bali Zoo, see Bali from up high, on the back of a Sumatran elephant. But it’s even higher, in the foothills, where the true spirit of Bali awaits. Only an hours drive from Denpassar is Bali’s cultural capital, Ubud.
Here the streets are lined with stalls and galleries selling the works of local artisans. To deepen your appreciation of Balinese art, spend a few hours at The Neka Art and Puri Lukisan museums. Or take a tour through the fabulous private collection of the Arma Museum.
Don’t miss the flamboyant home of painter Antonio Blanco ~ The Dali of Bali ~ who’s life’s work was a tribute to the female form. Ubud is one of Bali’s most popular tourist destinations, but serenity is never more than a few steps away.
You’ll find some of Ubud’s most popular residents under the cool canopy of The Sacred Monkey Forest. A few kilometers away, step through the mouth of a demon into the elephant caves of Goa Gajah.
Ubud is surrounded by Bali’s rural heartland, where, apart from the motor scooters, life has changed little for centuries. As the altitude rises the ighlands offer a cool haven. It is here, among the volcanic mountain mists of Kintamani and beyond, that the island’s most revered gods reside.
Down below, the rest of Bali awaits, as well as nearby treasures like ombok’s, Gilli Islands. Indonesia has thousands of islands to explore.
But few others in this archipelago, or indeed the rest of the world, can match the culture, natural beauty and spirit of Bali.