Bali is a small Indonesian island best known for its mixture of laidback beaches, ancient monkey forests and volcanic landscapes. It’s a tropical holiday escape with many areas to discover, depending on the type of trip you’re looking for. See below for a rundown of Bali’s most memorable spots.
‘The hedonistic getaways of Bali’
Most tourists will begin in Kuta, as it is a 10 minute drive from the international airport; Denpasar. Try not to be fooled by the taxi drivers who will charge you a pretty penny and claim that the journey is further. Instead, opt for the Balinese version of ‘Uber’ which can be downloaded using the airport’s free wifi and save yourself some Rupiah. Kuta is a beach town with good surfing and vibrant nightlife; a favourited location for drunken Aussie students and backpackers alike. I’d best describe it as a ‘Balinese Benidorm.’ Enough said.
The Gili Islands are 3 small treasures just off the North West coast of Lombok. Easily accessible by daily boat services from Bali and Lombok island, the most popular of these is Gili Trawangan (Gili ‘T’). Gili T is home to stunning coral reefs as well as breathtaking snorkelling and diving spots for tourists. It’s small geographical size means there is no need for cars on land, locals will instead ferry tourists around with horses and carts or supply the odd bicycle. You’ll notice the poor animals suffering under the heat of the sun so I’d avoid jumping in one of these and instead use your two legs! The island has a few private resorts poking round the far side so the bladdered backpackers can be avoided, but the myriad of bars, pub crawls and boat parties on offer are too tempting for the 18-30’s crowd to miss. This may be a hen party’s dream, but a bit of background research is needed for any couples or families wanting to stick to the quieter parts of the island.
‘The über chill surf towns‘
Canggu is dotted with rice paddies and is ideal for those wanting to surf and speed round on their cheap and cheerful rental mopeds. The town is located within close proximity to Kuta, around a 30 minute drive, and is home to the black sand ‘Echo Beach’ which is famed for its strong surf waves. Tanah Lot is an ancient Hindu shrine and historic landmark also worth visiting in this area. In Canggu, ‘Old Mans’ is a popular watering hole for thirsty patrons where you can stop off for a refreshment in-between scouring the local boutiques for products to overfill your suitcase with.
Uluwatu is another surfer’s dream as the waves crash along the stunning coastlines. For those who prefer to stay dry on land, or like me, have the balance (and figure) of a plate of jelly, you can visit the famous Uluwatu Temple which sits on the edge of a limestone cliff and surrounded by macaque crowded forests. For a dab of local culture, Kecak fire dances are held at the local amphitheatre and depict the story of the Sanskrit epic ‘Ramayana’ which sees Prince Rama seek the help of a monkey army to help save his beloved wife Sita.
‘A honeymooners delight’
Gili Meno is the smallest of the Gili islands, measuring in at 2km wide and 1km long. It is the ultimate location for those seeking relaxation with a ‘gram-worthy’ backdrop. The ‘Gili Meno Wall’ is a popular diving spot which boasts turtles, moray eels and an array of sea life to keep you down below all day. The island is accessible by boat from the mainland and neighbouring Gilis, with departure times/ ticket information being found at near enough any tourist shop. These shops tend to be littered within a few feet from each other, in typical tourist luring fashion.
Jimbaran is of a similar nature but a larger coastal resort with calm waters and tasty fresh fish restaurants that line the shore. The relaxing pace of this town is again, a big hit with couples and those who wish to take a backseat and enjoy the best of Bali. Jimbaran also has the Garuda Wisnu Kencana or ‘GWK’ site which is home to various cultural events throughout the year and the grand 121 metre statue of the Hindu God; Vishnu.
‘Chilled out sexy vibes’ *eye-roll*
Gili Air is a welcome break for those who have been abused by Gili T’s attractive drink deals. Its soothing live music bars and equally relaxing beaches can be described as the quintessential island lifestyle, all whilst pedalling round barefoot on your push bike.
Seminyak is a slightly more upmarket area of Bali, with plenty of private villas, bijou shops and luxurious restaurants to choose from. This glamorous location is known for its infamous ‘Potato Head’ and ‘Mrs Sippy’ beach clubs where the young and rich like to hang out and sip on Fluffy Duck cocktails, or you can even take a stab (hopefully not literally) at a local cooking class.
Lombok is the Easterly neighbouring island of Bali and again, certainly isn’t a disappointment on the eyes. It can be reached by boat which takes 4-5 hours in total and departs every hour from Padang Bai Harbour. It has the same beachy charms of Bali but is also home to Mt Rinjani, the 2nd highest volcano in Indonesia. Oh, and it’s active…For those seeking adventure amidst the recuperation from a hectic daily life back home, the hike of this volcano takes 2-4 days. Yoga retreats and spa days can then be enjoyed by those returning with aching feet.
‘A little bit of greenery’
Ubud is central to the island and a 45 minute drive from Denpasar. It’s best known for its ‘Monkey Forest’ sanctuary that is home to just over a thousand Balinese long tailed monkeys. It costs 80,000 Rupiah (£6) to enter and the cheeky animals can be seen skulking in the ancient temples central to the forest or stealing food from unsuspecting tourists. Ubud is also home to Mt Batur. This active volcano is hiked by thousands of people each year and the morning sunrise can be viewed from the summit, all whilst fighting to keep your complimentary banana sandwich from being pilfered by a local monkey. Alternatively, Ubud is another area which is ideal for yoga enthusiasts and health retreat seekers as its jungle landscape is perfect for taking time to unwind and bask in the Balinese culture.
Tip: For those seeking something more off the beaten track, East Bali is the perfect place to hide out amongst the traditional villages and admire the rice terraces which are commonly associated with Indonesian topography.
Since Bali is a smaller sized island, a 2 week break should be enough to satisfy your craving for an experience tailored to your holiday desires. I’d advise that you avoid trying to cram all the different locations into one trip as this will conclude in the majority of your time being spent travelling in the back of a stuffy taxi or on several boat rides. Instead, I’d focus on what you’re looking for from your trip and avoid stressing about any local travel costs. The island lifestyle can be kept relatively cheap if this is your aim, and everywhere is within close range. Another memorable detail regarding the slow pace of Bali, is that nothing needs to be planned ahead. Quirky hostels and hidden apartments are in abundance and can be booked on the day, along with boat departures to the various local islands. The beauty of Bali is best enjoyed with a bowl of Beef Rendang curry, a cocktail in hand and not a care in the world.