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Pocket Guide: Bali

Visiting Bali

Bali is one of the world’s most iconic destinations, a dream holiday for beach lovers, scuba divers, honeymooners and those searching for a little slice of paradise. Picture scenic rice paddies, holistic retreats, ancient temples perched precariously on cliff edges, kaleidoscopic coral reefs and volcanic peaks towering over the rainforest – before you know it, you’ve slipped into a Bali state of mind.

Sandwiched between the Indonesian islands of Java and Lombok, Bali is surrounded by coral reefs populated with a wonderfully diverse range of marine life, including sharks, turtles, barracudas and manta rays. The beaches are similarly idyllic. To the south of the island, where the capital Denpasar is located and most tourism takes places, the beaches have shimmering white sand, while to the north the sand tends to be black. Bali has several active volcanoes, which accounts not just for the colouration of the sand, but also the rich fertility of the soil.

Virtually every aspect of society and culture here is imbued with spirituality. Bali has around 10,000 temples, while religious celebrations, often accompanied by dance and music performances, take place on a regular basis. Given the breadth of attractions on the island and the number of resorts, it makes sense to spend some time when selecting your Bali hotel to ensure you’re be within easy reach of everything you want to do. Keep in mind that the monsoon season runs from December to April, and while you can often get a good deal during that period, some areas of the island may be off-limits.

Where to stay in Bali

Denpasar is the principal gateway to Bali. Many visitors see the capital as little more than a jumping-off point on the way to nearby Kuta and its glorious beaches, but it’s worth spending a few days exploring a cosmopolitan city with several impressive temples and to sample some of the most authentic cuisine on the island. Hotels in Denpasar are indicative of the range of accommodation found across Bali, from budget hotels suited to backpackers to family-friendly beach hotels and luxury 5 star hotels.

For beach lovers, it’s often all about Kuta. A delicate ribbon of picture-perfect beach wraps the southwest coast of Bali, dotted with many lively resorts. Kuta, once a peaceful fishing village, is the largest and best known, and you will have no difficulty finding a memorable Kuta hotel. The nightlife is formidable, but do try and escape the bars for a while to enjoy the legendary sunsets.

Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali. The streets are lined with artisan crafts, bohemian restaurants and cafes and, away from the crowded main areas, it has a tranquil atmosphere with the capacity to bewitch. Again, there is plenty of choice when it comes to hotels in Ubud.

Things to do in Bali

The rice terraces of Jatiluwih are a Unesco World Heritage Site, and make for one of Bali’s most popular and scenic day trips either on foot, bike or by car. If you fancy getting a little more exertion and a staggering view into the bargain, then you can also hike to the summit of volcanic Mount Batur and catch the sunrise, subject to its activity level of course!

Thrill-seekers are spoilt for choice in Bali. Once you’re down from the volcano, you can try some epic whitewater rafting on the picturesque Ayung river, track huge monitor lizards in the Komodo National Park, or explore the coral reef with an underwater scooter journey. Select your hotel in Bali once you have a good idea of what you want to do while there, to minimise the amount of travel required and maximise your relaxation time.

If you feel like a little pampering, then there are no end of spa hotels in Bali, where you can indulge in massages and treatments using locally sourced ingredients. Should your Bali hotel not have its own spa, then you can find a spa package in most parts of the island with little effort. Cookery classes are also commonplace, often combined with market visits, for anyone who has fallen in love with Balinese cuisine and wants to pick up some skills to take back home.

Among the most sought-after attractions in Bali is a visit to Tanah Lot, an ancient temple perched on a rocky outcrop offshore. Waves crash dramatically around this iconic landmark, and catching a sunset here is well worth the journey.

Tanah Lot is often paired with a trip to Ubud Monkey Forest, a Hindu temple complex set within a nature reserve. There are 600 crab-eating macaques in the forest that are utterly fearless around humans, happy to take a piece of fruit from your hand or pose for a photograph, although watch out for your valuables!

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