Bali is a beautiful island known for having a unique colourful spiritual culture. There are its many rituals and practices which originated thousands years ago, and till today they have survived. Such is the endurance of Balinese culture, which in turn reflects on the deep faith and resilience of the Balinese people. With swaying palm trees that beautifully line its many white sandy beaches, Bali welcomes every visitor to her land of songs, dance, colours and culture that are intertwined with its natural beauty. While in Bali, you may choose to participate in this magic by visiting one of the large numbers of temples, or you may be blessed enough to have the chance to observe a temple festival or public cremations. Grab the occasion to one of Bali's famed dances: Kecak, Legong, Barong. Even though it is relatively small, approximately 5,000 km2 in all, Bali boasts a whole range of different environments. This compact landscape centres on a line of active volcanoes with alluvial slopes with spill down to coastal plains. Tropical rainforest fringe the mountains, eventually giving way to carefully cultivated rice fields and crop growth. Further down on the plains, water logged mangrove swamps lead to ocean, a number of different rivers and streams, in turn, wind their way trough a cross section of these environments and down to coast, carving deep chasms as they go. Wherever you are and whatever you choose to do, enjoy the warm smiles and open hold of people who appreciate their whole way of life and would love to share some of its magic with you.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Denpasar, Bali's capital, is far from the most people picture of a typical Asian capital. Denpasar is a busy city, centred on a grassy square and dominated by family compounds grouped into traditional banjar districts, which just a few major shopping streets crisscrossing the centre. Denpasar's vital and most suitable landmark is Puputan Square, marking the heart of the downtown area.
The Bali Museum
The Bali Museum is Denpasar's most significant attraction and is prettily located in a series of traditional courtyards. The main building mostly houses items form Bali's prehistory, including stone axes, bronze jewellery and a massive stone sarcophagus from the second century BC, and the exhibition of traditional household utensils, many of which are still in common use today. Other pavilions hold some fine examples of major styles of Balinese textiles, religious paraphernalia, theatrical masks, costumes and puppets.
Kuta - Legian - Seminyak
The biggest, loudest, least traditional beach resort in Bali is the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak conurbation. Packed with hundreds of home-stays, hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, souvenir shops and fashion boutiques, this place hosts a lot of visitors, many of them regulars and a lot of them surfers - all here to party, to shop or, indeed, to surf.
Nusa Dua & Tanjung Benoa
Nusa Dua is the most exclusive and well-known resort in Bali. It offers the best services, facilities, golf course with international standards, luxurious shops and exclusive beaches for tourists only. Most of hotel in Nusa Dua is landmark of the new Balinese architecture. Tanjung Benoa, as this finger-like projection is known, still functions as a fishing village, but also boasts tourist accommodation, and a whole heap of water-sports facilities.
With the image that stands somewhere between the youthful hustle of Kuta and the manicured sterility of Nusa Dua, Sanur attracts a fairly sedate clientele to its fine white sands, peacefully lush residential streets and mainly mid-range and upmarket hotels. The main attraction of Sanur is the beaches with their white sand and the beauty of constantly calm water.
Being one of Bali's holiest and most important temples, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is located at the tip of a steep rocky promontory jutting out over the Indian Ocean, 70m above the foaming surf. Views over the ragged coastline are stunning, and this is a favourite spot at sunset. Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of Bali's sacred directional temples, or kayangan jagat, a state temple which has influence over all the people of Bali, not just local villagers or ancestors, acting as the guardian of the southwest and dedicated to the spirits of the sea.
Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot is probably the most photographed temple in Bali, as a place for viewing spectacular sunsets, it has few equals. Every day at dusk, tourists throng the area to witness the magnificent silhouette of the temple against the glowing horizon. The temple is said to have been founded by the wandering Hindu priest Niratha, who was drawn to Tanah Lot by a beaming light that shone from a holy spring here. He began to preach to the local people of Beraban, but this angered the incumbent priest, who demanded that the rival holy man should leave. In response, Niratha meditated so hard that he pushed the rock he was sitting on out into the sea; this became the Tanah Lot "island". He then dedicated his new retreat to the gods of the sea and transformed his scarf into poisonous snakes to protect the place. Ever since then, Pura Tanah Lot has been one of the most holy places on Bali, closely associated with several other important temples along this coast, including Pura Rambut Siwi and Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Because of its sacred status, only bona fide devotees are now allowed to climb the temple stairway carved out of the rock face and enter the compounds; everyone else is confined to the patch of grey sand around the base of the rock which is under water at high tide. When the waters are low enough, you can take a sip of holy water from the spring that rises beneath the temple rock or stroke the docile holy coral snakes that are kept in nests behind the cliff face.
The small village of Mengwi has an impressive history as the capital of a great seventeenth century kingdom and is the site of an important temple from that area. Pura Taman Ayun probably built in 1634, it was designed as a series of garden terraces with each courtyard on a different level, and a whole complex was surrounded by a moat to represent the mythical abode of the gods, Mount Meru, floating in the milky sea of eternity.
The village of Ubud and its surrounding area form Bali's cultural heartland, home to a large number of temples, museums and art galleries, where Balinese dance shows are staged nightly and a wealth of arts and crafts studios provide the most absorbing shopping on the island. It's also set within a stunning physical environment - a lush landscape watered by hundreds of streams, with typical terraced rice fields at every turn. Ubud is a magnet for tourists interested in Balinese arts, the traditional villages of dancers and craftspeople is still evident - the people of Ubud and adjacent villages really do still paint, carve, dance and make music, and religious practices here are rigorously observed that hardly a day goes by without there being some kind of festival in the area.
Mount Batur and Lake Batur
The Batur area was formed 30,000 years ago by the eruption of a gigantic volcano. The entire area is sometimes referred to as Kintamani, although in fact this is just on of several villages dotted along the rim of the ancient crater. The highest points on the rim are Gunung Abang ( 2153 m ) on the eastern side, the third highest mountain in Bali, and Gunung Penulisan ( 1745 m ), on the southwest corner. Rising from the floor of the main crater, Gunung Batur ( 1717 m ) is an active volcano with four craters of its own. Volcanogists describe Gunung Batur as a "double caldera", it means one crater inside another. The outer crater is an oval about 14 km long, with the western rim about 1500 m above sea level. The inner crater, a classic volcano-shaped peak that reaches 1717 m. Recent activity has spawned several smaller cones on its western flank, named Batur I, II, III and IV.
According to legend, Gunung Agung was created by the god Pasupati when he split Mount Mahmeru ( the centre of the Hindu universe ), forming both Gunung Agung and Gunung Batur. At 3142 m, the superb conical-shaped Agung is the highest Balinese peak and is a breathtaking sight. The spiritual centre of the Balinese universe, it is believed that the spirits of the ancestors of the Balinese people reside on Gunung Agung. Villages and house compounds are laid out in relations to the mountain, and many Balinese people prefer to sleep with their heads towards it. Directions on Bali are always given with reference to Agung, kaja meaning "towards the mountain", and kelod meaning "away from the mountain". If you want to climb Gunung Agung, there are two routes, one path leaves from Besakih and the other from Pura Pasar Agung over on the southern slope of the mountain. This is the most sacred peak to the Balinese and, while it is not possible to climb the mountain at certain times of the year because of the weather, it is also not permitted at many other times because of religious festivals. Whichever side you climb from, you will need to set out early in the morning of you want to be at the top to see the spectacular sunrise. From Pura Pasar Agung, it's at least three-hour climb with an ascent of 1500 m, so you'll need to set out at 3 am or earlier, depending on how fit you are. This path does not go to the actual summit, but to another point on the rim which is about 100 m lower. From this point you will be able to see Rinjani, the south of Bali and Gunung Batukaru and look down into the 500-meter-deep crater. From Besakih, the climb is longer, taking five or six hours, and you'll need to leave between midnight and 2 am. This path starts from Pura Pengubengan, the most distant of the temples in the Besakih complex, and takes you up to the summit of Agung with views in all directions. Allow four to five hours to get down.
The major tourist draw in the east of Bali is undoubtedly the Besakih Temple, the most respected site in Bali, situated on the slopes of Gunung Agung, the holiest and highest mountain on the island. The Besakih complex consists of 22 separate temples, each with its own name, spread over a site stretching for more than 3km. The central temple is Pura Penataran Agung, with the other temples ranged at varying distances around it. It is busy almost every day at Besakih. Balinese often come in order to obtain holy water for ceremonies, Balinese come to here also at the end of the long series of funeral rites, after the post cremation purification of the soul has taken place, to ready the soul for enshrinement in the family house temple. In all cases, the worshipper is sure to pay reverence at the triple lotus shrine of the Pura Penataran Agung.
Tenganan is a village of Bali Aga people, the descendants of the original Balinese who populated Bali before Mahapahit arrival. Rejecting the Javanization of their land, the caste system and the religious reforms that followed the Majapahit conquest of the island in 1343, the Bali Aga withdrew to their village enclaves to live a life based around rituals and ceremonies. The most famous product of the village is geringsing or double ikat, a highly valued brown, deep-red, blue-dark and tan cloth. It's chiefly worn during certain rituals, given as an offering to the gods and used as a protection against the evil. The village is also famous for its unusual gamelan selonding music, using instruments which are believed to have considerable religious power.
Candidasa is a new but rapidly growing beach resort located on the black sand coast of Karangasem regency. It is the perfect base for explorations of the area, as well as a quieter alternative to the southern tourist centres. Candidasa is a centre for snorkelling and diving.
Bali Barat National Park
Nearly a whole of west Bali's mountain ridge in conserved as Bali Barat National Park, a 76,312 hectares area of wooded slopes, savannah, rainforest, monsoon forest, mangrove swamp and coastal flats, which is home to a range of small animals and approximately 160 species of bird - including the elusive and endangered Bali starling ( Leucopsar rothschildi ), Bali's one true endemic creature. However, over ninety percent of the parkland is out of bounds to visitors, with only a few trails open to the public.
Lovina stretches along 8km of black-sand beach, the largest resort in Bali outside the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak conurbation. The resort encompasses six villages: Pemaron, Anturan, Tukad Mungga, Kalibukbuk, Kaliasem and Temukus. Kalibukbuk is generally accepted as the centre of Lovina and it is here you'll find most tourist facilities.
Mount Batukaru & Pura Luhur Batukaru
Much of southwest Bali lays in the shadow of the Mount Batukaru, which at 2276 metres above sea level is the second highest mountain on the island ( after Gunung Agung ) and one of the holiest. All west Bali temples have a shrine dedicated to the spirit of Gunung Batukaru, and on the lower slopes of the holy mountain itself stands Pura Luhur Batukaru, Bali's directional temple ( kayangan jagat ) for the west. The dense tropical forest that clothes the uppermost slopes of Gunung Batukaru is a nature reserve, and is a particularly rewarding area for bird watching. Pura Luhur Batukaru temple, a complex of shrines is set amidst lush, tropical forests, the grassy courtyards are planed with flowering hibiscus, Javanese ixora and cempaka, forest surrounds the temple on three sides. Pura Batukaru's most important shrine is the seven-tiered pagoda which is dedicated to Mahadewa, the god of Gunung Batukaru.
Bedugul, 1,300 metres above sea level, is a small town and mountain-lake resort area which Balinese love to use as weekend retreat. Thought to be 35 m deep in places, Lake Bratan is surrounded by forested hills, with Gunung Catur rising sheer behind. The lake is essential water source for surrounding farmlands, and Bedugul people honour Dewi Danu, the lake goddess, at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. Temple is set in attractive, well-maintained grounds, the temple consist of several shrines, some spread along the shore and others dramatically situated an small islands that appear to float on the surface of the lake, with the water stretching behind and the mountain looming in the distance. In Bedugul area there two more lakes, Buyan and Tamblingan. There are several small villages and temples along the shores of both lakes.
Bali Botanic Garden
Bali Botanic Garden is a branch of the National Botanical Gardens at Bogor on Java. The gardens cover almost 320 acres on the slopes of Gunung Pohon. There are over 650 different species of tree here and over 400 species of orchids and the gardens are also a rich area for bird watching. Bali Botanic Garden is unique in Bali as a place for botanical research, survey, conservation, recreation and education. It provides a place where you can relax in beautiful and peaceful surroundings while learning about the use of plants in the daily lives of Balinese people as well as some interesting rainforest plants and birdlife. Within Bali Botanical Garden you can see many places of interest as orchid park, traditional Balinese house, fern park, ceremonial plants collection, medical plants collection, tree collection, and other.
On the slopes of Mount Batukaru is the small village of Jatiluwih famed for outstanding scenery.