Exploring the Island of the Gods Bali’s best beaches, temples, surfing and diving
POSTED BY Mavy | May 8, 2015
Ask anyone who has visited Bali about their experience and there’s one word you’ll hear repeated time and again - paradise.
As well as being a beach lovers’ paradise, a divers’ paradise and a surfers’ paradise there’s a unique quality to this beautiful island and its people, a blissful Balinese state of mind that envelops visitors and locals alike.
From dramatic hillside complexes to those carved from caves or into ravines, Bali is known for it’s beautiful and bountiful temples.
Known as the ‘Island of the Gods’ or ‘Island of a Thousand Puras’, Bali in fact has an estimated 10,000 Puras, Balinese Hindu Temples.
But by no means is that all that the island has to offer, there are stunning beaches that regularly make it on to lists of the world’s best, incredible surfing opportunities and world-famous dive sites, so take advantage of cheap flights to Bali while you can.
Inhabited since prehistoric times, the cultural landscape of Bali is heavily influence by Indian, Chinese and especially Hindu culture.
It’s thought people first migrated to the island from Southeast Asia and Oceania in around 2000 BC, but Bali wasn't mapped until a Portuguese expedition in 1512.
Following a long Dutch rule and occupation by the Japanese during World War II, the Dutch constituted Bali as part of the new State of East Asia in 1946.
Still an expressive culture dominated by religion, modern day Bali has adopted many foreign values while retaining the spirit of the island.
Where to go and what to do
Holidays in Bali can vary wildly depending on where you visit on the island, the good news is there’s something for everyone.
Described by some as “the Australian version of Benidorm”, crowded Kuta is not for the faint-hearted.
The island’s most famous resort boasts a golden eight-kilometre sandy beach, plenty of nightlife and some good shopping, this is mass tourism Bali style.
Immediately north you’ll find Seminayk, which can feel like a different island all together. Still bustling, this home of many a wealthy Aussie expat is a good middle ground if you want the restaurants and boutiques that a big resort brings, but with more of a nod to Bali’s hippy side.
Or if you’re seeking a great sunset, head to Jimbaran Bay, just south of Kuta. Take your pick from the seafood stalls and enjoy a barbecue on the beach or chill out and enjoy the views at The Rock Bar, named after its breath-taking location, rather than the music genre.
Head inland to experience Ubud, Bali’s centre of arts and culture. Made famous by Eat Pray Love, it’s where you’ll find traditional dancers, stone and wood carving, theatres and galleries as well as yoga and health retreats.
There are lots of great eateries to chose from, but make sure you don’t miss out on foodie haven Naughty Nuri’s. Serving up arguably the best ribs on the planet, you’ll smell the barbecue and see its smoke long before you spot this expat hotspot. If ribs aren't your thing don’t worry, there’s also lamb and pork chops, fresh tuna and their legendary Dirty Martinis.
While you’re central make the effort to take in the truly wonderful sight of Bali’s terraced rice fields. At Tabanan you’ll find the Jatiluwih Rice Fields, named a UNESCO Cultural Landscape. Here the vast terraced, green rice paddies run the entire length of a mountain, all the way from its peak to where it meets the sea.
Uluwatu, on Bali’s rugged Bukit Peninsula, is known for its famous waves, stunning sunsets and its breathtaking temple. The Pura Luhur Uluwatu is built at the edge of a 70 metre high cliff projecting into the sea. The temple is inhabited by monkeys, notorious for stealing anything from sunglasses to handbags, so be sure to hold onto your belongings and take bribes of fruit.
If a tick list of temples to visit is high on the agenda, after Uluwatu, next on your list should be Tanah Lot, set upon a rock surrounded by the sea, Goa Gajah (or ‘Elephant Cave’), the picturesque Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, and the grand Besakih Temple.
Visiting the Bukit Peninsula it’s easy to see why how Bali has gained it’s reputation as one of the worlds’ top surfing destinations.
You’ll find the relaxed surf-shack vibes of Bingin and the gloriously clear waters of Dreamland (or New Kuta) and Padang Padang beaches, as well as Uluwatu. But while you’ll see plenty of people out on their boards these waves are strictly for the experienced, so stick with the calmer swells of Kuta or Medewi in the north if you’re a beginner.
If you’re chasing Bali’s waves or just somewhere a little more peaceful, hop on the boat to nearby Nusa Lembongan. The island’s incredible surfing beaches include Playgrounds and Shipwrecks. There’s also excellent diving at Blue Corner, where there are regular sightings of one of the most odd-looking sea creatures around, the Sunfish. Once a hidden gem, this small island has now hit the big time, but is still a change of pace from Bali itself.
For some real island hopping head off the coast of another surfer’s favourite Lombok, to the Gilli Islands. Despite growing tourism, serenity endures on these three tiny desert islands of white sand beaches and turquoise seas, meaning a visit is a must - even if you can only spare 24 hours. We promise you wont regret it!