World’s Best Trip: Bali, Indonesia
Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, with its varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all providing a picturesque backdrop to its colourful, deeply spiritual and unique culture, stakes a serious claim to be paradise on earth.
Bali received the Best Island award from Travel and Leisure in 2010. The island of Bali won because of its attractive surroundings (both mountain and coastal areas), diverse tourist attractions, excellent international and local restaurants, and the friendliness of the local people. According to BBC Travel released in 2011, Bali is one of the World’s Best Islands, rank in second after Greece. The island is surrounded by coral reefs. Beaches in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand.
The tourism industry is primarily focused in the south, while significant in the other parts of the island as well. The main tourist locations are the town of Kuta (with its beach), and its outer suburbs of Legian and Seminyak, the east coast town of Sanur (once the only tourist hub), in the center of the island Ubud, to the south of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, Jimbaran, and the newer development of Nusa Dua and Pecatu.
A former fishing village, Kuta was one of the first towns on Bali to see substantial tourist development, and as a beach resort remains one of Indonesia’s major tourist destinations. It is known internationally for its long sandy beach, varied accommodation, many restaurants and bars, and many renowned surfers who visit from Australia. It is located near Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport.
The five km long sandy stretch of Kuta is arguably the best beach front in Bali. The beach is safe, partially clean, well-maintained, although the beach vendors remain annoying pushing massages, hair braiding, cigarettes and surf boards. The long wide stretch of sand is often full of sunbathers and although most of the serious surfers have moved on to newer pastures, there are still plenty of surf dudes around at most times of the year, and especially so during peak season. As you move north along the beach to first Legian and then Seminyak and Petitenget it becomes progressively quieter and less frenetic.
Legian offers the same easy access to shops and bars but a slightly more relaxed and less chaotic feeling. It is a low-key area where you can still get the low prices of Kuta without some of the hassle. The northern area of Legian bordering Seminyak offers a bit of an escape from the crowds and is also a popular surf beach. Aside from the obvious (the gorgeous beach!), there is not a great deal to see in Legian. It is a place where visitors stay, shop, eat, drink and go to the beach. Legian Beach is one of the best in Bali for viewing the sunset.
The next town north of Legian, Seminyak is more upmarket with mostly luxury accommodation and fashionable high-end restaurants and bars. The atmosphere is much more sophisticated and laid-back than Kuta, and the beach in particular is quieter during the day. Seminyak is also the high end spa and boutique shopping capital of Bali.
Sanur is Bali’s oldest upscale resort area and is a mature beach-side town. Despite the abundance of restaurants and accommodation, it has a quiet and relaxed feel to it. In general terms, it is more expensive than Kuta but cheaper than Seminyak. Sanur tends to appeal most to middle-aged and older families, especially Europeans.
This is a town with a wealth of cultural, natural and historical attractions, as well as the obvious shopping and beach-related sights.
Ubud, a town in central Bali, is far removed from the drunken bikini scene in Kuta, and is regarded as the cultural centre of Bali. It is famous as an arts and crafts hub, and much of the town and nearby villages seems to consist of artists’ workshops and galleries. There are some remarkable architectural and other sights to be found, and a general feeling of well being to be enjoyed, all thanks to the spirit, surroundings, and climate of the place.
Due to its elevation at 200 m above sea level, Ubud enjoys cooler temperatures than the coast, and it is sometimes necessary to bring a pullover for the evening. The midday sun can still be scorching though and the humidity often relentless, a murderous combination for temple tramping which, in hilly Ubud, usually requires climbing up and down staircases. If there is a time to avoid, it would be the depths of the wet season in January and February – when it rains in Ubud, it really rains.
Jimbaran is just south of the airport and Kuta. This was formerly a real backwater of south Bali, just a tiny fishing village with a daily market. That all started to change in the 1980s and Jimbaran is now home to several world class 5 star beach resorts, plus a few more moderate mid-market hotels. There is however little in the way of budget accommodation and there are also many high-end villas in this area, particularly on the ridges of high ground above Jimbaran Bay. This has resulted in monikers such as the “Beverly Hills of Bali” or “Millionaire’s Row”.
The bay itself has a pleasant white sand beach and is very safe for swimming. The three clusters of grilled seafood restaurants on the beach are a major tourist draw in the evenings, as is the truly stunning sunset.
As well as a host of luxury hotels, Nusa Dua is home to the most popular golf course in Bali and the main convention centre on the island.
The beaches here are glorious – white sand, deep, long and safe for swimming. The public beach at Geger is the best to head to if you are not staying at Nusa Dua. This is also home to one of the best museums in Bali. The museum is nearly always empty.
Pecatu is a beach resort located in the southern peninsula of Bali. For decades, beaches around Pecatu had been well known by surfers and also nudists due to its location behind the cliffs with limited access.
Bali is an all season place as far as weather is concerned. However there are certain months in a year when it’s become to humid in Bali. May, June and July are generally considered to be the best time to travel to Bali in terms of the weather. However, depending on whether the traveler is a surfer or explorer, preferences may change. During the dry season, May to October, the western side of the peninsula creates some of the world’s best waves. This is also high season together with Christmas and New Year, when most hotels and villas will charge higher rates.
The ideal season to visit Bali is between March and September. This period is best for beach lovers as the day temperature remains good. It may rain sometimes during the day but it will fresh the air and bring more joy and fun for the tourists.
With world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations, this is one of the world’s most popular island destinations and one which consistently wins travel awards. Bali has something to offer to a very broad market of visitors from young back-packers right through to the super-rich, and though heavily traveled, it is still easy to find some peace and quiet if you like.