Spiritual nirvana, surfer’s paradise, cultural haven: Bali has long been known for its tropical climate and stunning beaches, but in recent times its lush tropical interior has also attracted its fair share of the attention. With miles of coastline, kaleidoscopic waters and chilled-out vibes, it’s easy to see why people flock to this beach paradise.
For those after peace and quiet, idyllic spots like Balian beach in the west and Amed in the east are good contenders. If it’s something more lively you’re looking for, then there’s plenty of that on offer in hotspots such as Seminyak and Kuta in the south.
The south also has some of the island’s best beaches, although they are also the busiest. Beaches in the north and west are less well-trodden and a little harder to reach, but there is some excellent diving and snorkelling on offer if you make the journey.
Bali is a small island, so wherever you choose to stay you’ll be able to take day trips to plenty of places of interest. A visit to the interior’s rice paddies and volcanoes is a must and some of the latter offer good opportunities for climbing, particularly Mount Agung.
Yoga is hugely popular in Bali, particularly in Ubud, and there are lots of meditation and spiritual centres around too.
If you’ve got enough time, visit the nearby island of Nusa Lembongan or one of the Gili Islands slightly further afield. Both can be reached by boat, although if you visit the Gilis you’ll need to stay at least one night.
Bali has hundreds of five-star hotels, as well as lots of cheaper options. In Seminyak, The Legian is a good choice if you’re after a traditional hotel, while One Eleven provides a luxurious adults-only private villa experience.
For those wanting to get away from it all, the forest hideaway setting of the Hanging Gardens Ubud, about 30 minutes from Ubud, is a perfect choice.
The island is home to some world-class eateries: The Solata, fronted by Michelin-starred chef Ezio Gritti, in Seminyak and Mozaic in Ubud are among the most revered. But don’t miss out on the experience of eating with the locals at a night market or warung. Nasi Ayam Kedewatan and Warung Teges are two popular options in Ubud.
It’s possible to rent a car, but traffic and road conditions can be challenging. Finding your way around can also be difficult due to a lack of signposting. It’s far simpler to take taxis or hire a private driver for longer distances – ask your hotel for info. For short jaunts along beach roads there are also shared taxis, but make sure you negotiate the price before you get in.
The best time to visit Bali is during the dry months between May and September. July and August are busiest, but outside these peak months you can find good deals and accommodation is easier to secure. November to April is rainy season, although this can still be a pleasant time to visit as it often only rains for short bursts in the afternoon.
During rainy season beaches in the south-west turn into rubbish dumps, with winds blowing plastic bags and other detritus into shore. Beaches on the eastern side of the island are better picks at this time of year.
Bike tours are a great way to explore the island and visit local homes and farms. Helpfully, many are specially designed to ensure most of the journey is downhill.
The wreck of a US cargo ship sunk in WWII is just 50m from the shore in Tulamben, and while it’s a popular dive site, it’s also possible to just swim out with a snorkel and have a look.
The Balinese have developed a number of unique dance styles and catching a show is a must for travellers. Kecak, a male dance where dancers chant and imitate monkeys, and Legong, which features women carrying out intricate hand movements, are among the most popular.
If you’re travelling with children, the popular resort of Sanur is a good choice as it offers loads of activities and plenty of food and accommodation options, but without the raucous party vibe of places like Kuta. There’s also a kite festival that is held each July just a couple of kilometres away.