Bali, a beautiful and relatively small island located just 8 degrees south of the equator, a part of the country of Indonesia is a must-visit location for any nature and culture lover. Located in the majority Muslim country of Indonesia, Bali’s population is surprisingly 85 % Balinese Hindu. There is an estimated 20,000 temples throughout the island of Bali. Each and every establishment and home in Bali has a dedicated place of worship. Along with the traditional Hindu Gods the people of Bali worship a wide range of local deities unique to their own branch of Balinese Hinduism, thus the name “The Island of The Gods”.
Each morning and multiple times throughout the day Balinese people pay respects to their Gods. The daily offerings are called Canang Sari. They are small, square handwoven baskets made from coconut or palm tree leaves and filled with colorful flowers and burning inscents. The evidence of the daily offerings is everywhere. Besides the traditional temples, offerings to the gods are placed wherever a worshiper feels necessary. It is not unusual to walk on the sidewalks of Bali and to have to step over offerings baskets.
There is something magical about Bali. The beautiful and stunningly detailed carvings of the Balinese temples, the Canang Sari offerings everywhere and the sweet smell of the constantly burning inscents truly captured our senses.
When visiting a place the question is always where to stay and what to see. Even a smaller island offers a variety of places to stay, things to experience and climates to consider. Let’s look at Bali for example, the island has a number of beautiful beaches but also a spectacular jungle nature. In our opinion, experiencing one and not the other would be a shame. We recommend to split your time in two parts of the island and we promise the experience will be both, very different and unforgettable.
We chose to start with the jungle. The area of Ubud is world-famous for its art scene and serene hotels and spas. The options vary from budget hostel inns and rental hosing to ultra luxury five-star resorts. Decide based on your budget. We decided to stay at the Hanging Gardens of Bali. The resort is not the most expensive the in the area, however it is one of the most unique properties in Bali and around the world. Nestled in the lush jungle of Bali, the resort offers 44 individual bungalows, many with private swimming pools and panoramic views of the surrounding nature. The resort is probably most well known for its central two-level swimming pool, arguably one of the most photographed pools in the world. The idea behind building this pool was to give swimmers the feeling of floating above the rain-forest canopy. It is a truly remarkable work of art.
The villas at the resort are both private and very spacious. It is difficult to describe the peace and serenity of lounging on your patio overlooking the rain-forest and taking in the breathtaking view of the jungle fog floating by. At times it felt like we were floating in the clouds. Such an incredible feeling!
Bali is also knows for its beautiful temples and you don’t have to go too far to visit one while at the Hanging Gardens of Bali. The resort is home to the Dalem Segara temple, a small but very picturesque temple. You are required to wear a sarong to enter the temple and the hotel staff can help you with that. A sarong is a large and usually colorful piece of fabric, which is wrapped around your waste or entire body and tied with a know at the end.
Just about a 30 min car ride from the resort is the beautiful city of Ubud. Take a day trip to experience some of the local cuisine, visit the Monkey Forest and the Tagalalang Rice Terraces as well as get some shopping done if you so please. Ubud is the arts and dance center of Bali, surrounded by some of the most famous Balinese landmarks and dotted by hundreds of temples and shrines throughout the area. The hand carved statues, temple walls, etc are simply stunning. The intricate details seem almost impossible…truly fascinating!
The Tagalalang rice paddies are probably the easiest accessible being right on the side of the road as well as the most photographed rice paddies in Bali. Depending on the season, the paddies may be bright green covered with growing rice or just harvested and filled with water reflecting the sky, clouds and palm trees above.
The Jatiluwih rice terraces located in the region of Tabanan is another place to see and experience the beauty of the Bali rice fields. The area was also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012. If you have time, take a walk through the rice fields for some unforgettable photography or simply sit and enjoy the stunning view of endless terraces.
The Monkey Forest of Ubud (officially known as Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary) is a nature preserve and a Hindu temple on the outskirts of Ubud. The area residents view the monkey forest as an important “spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation center for the village”. According to their website, around 700 monkeys live in the sanctuary. When visiting be careful! The monkeys will likely try to steal anything that is not firmly attached to you such as sunglasses, shoe laces, water bottles, cameras, phones, etc. Be mindful and protect your items. Also be aware and don’t get too close to the monkeys. Getting scratched or bitten by a monkey can lead to diseases and/or serious hospital time. Enjoy their presence, but do not encroach on their space.
Bali is also home to an active volcano named Mount Batur. The volcano has not actively erupted in years, however even today you can see areas with smoke/steam rising from within the volcano. Hiking and trekking the volcano and surrounding mountain areas is a popular activity in the area if you are interested. If you are not into hiking, just admire its beauty from the side of the road or stop for a cup of tea at one of the many surrounding rest areas.
Picking a temple to visit in Bali is almost impossible. Each is beautiful and unique in its own way. We decided to visit the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan (aka Pura Bratan), a Shaivite water temple. The temple is a little bit out of the way, but worth the drive if time permits. The famous and very picturesque temple is illustrated on the 50,000 rupiah bill. Built in 1633, this temple is used for offerings ceremonies to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess Dewi Danu.
One of the most popular and most photographed site in Bali is the Pura Tanah Lot. This rock formation ancient temple sits right off the coast of Bali accessible by foot at low tide and completely surrounded by water at high tide. According to tales the temple is work of the Dang Hyang Nirartha, a 16th century religious figure and Hindu traveler. The viewing areas around Tanah Lot tend to get quite busy at sunset when spectators gather in the hopes of seeing one of Bali’s incredible sunsets.
Once you have completed your jungle experience, it is now time to head to one of Bali’s many beach areas. Where you stay depends largely on what your interest are. If you are looking for endless shopping, crowded tourist areas and a nightlife scene your best bet is to stay near Kuta or Legian beach areas.If you are interested in fine dining, luxury and relaxation look no further than Jimbaran and Seminyak beach areas. This time we chose the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. The resort is located on a cliff overlooking Jimbaran Bay. The villas are beautiful, spacious and all around luxurious many with sweeping ocean views, private infinity pools, etc.
While in Bali, a must-do activity is to get a massage. Whether at your hotel/resort or at a local massage place you should give it a try. Many spas and massage places feature massage rooms that are open to the outdoors. If you are lucky while you are getting your massage tropical rain will be pouring outside and you will experience one of the most peaceful and relaxing practices ever. The sound of the pouring rain carries a sense of calm and harmony!
Bali has the perfect balance between nature, culture and luxury.
Last but not least, being wine lovers we always look for a new wine to try and Bali did not disappoint. There is something about sipping on a glass of wine while tropical rain is drenching the outdoors…the experience is nothing but tranquility and peace…Cheers!