Bali is known as the ‘Island of the Gods’. It’s not difficult to see why. With stunning beaches washing into aquamarine seas, terraced rice paddies and temples that lie across the feet of smouldering volcanoes, and a rich and diverse culture; Bali has it all. No wonder the millions of tourists who visit every year consider it paradise.
Part of transcontinental Indonesia, the island has an excess of natural and cultural riches. From Mount Agung and hillside temples such as Pura Luhur Batukaru, to Bali Barat National Park and the island’s cultural capital of Ubud, Bali offers a level of diversity that can surprise.
There are offshore islands such as Nusa Lembongan, the joys of Seminyak and Petitenget beaches, the party capital of Kuta, as well as the island’s more relaxed and traditional eastern side. No matter where you are, the warmth and generosity of the Balinese will only add to your experience.
The majority of the population adheres to Balinese Hinduism and there are thousands of temples peppering the landscape like confetti. The most dramatically located of these are Tanah Lot and Pura Luhur Uluwatu, the latter perched atop a cliff 70 metres above the sea.
Offering a unique combination of spirituality and natural wonders, this is island living at its best.
Set across seven floors overlooking the Wos River, Bridges is casual fine dining at its most accomplished. Located in the town of Ubud, head chef Wayan Sukarta’s team serves culinary treats to revel in. Expect perfectly-cooked mains, from soy-braised wagyu beef to fresh-from-the-boat barramundi.
With an industrial feel, marbled mah-jong tables and oversized tan leather Chesterfields, Mama San is as much an interior design experience as it is a culinary one. Specialising in South East Asian food, it serves delights such as crispy lemongrass chicken with papaya som tum and sweet chilli sauce.
Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku
Forget the name; this is as simple as it gets. This basic eatery in Ubud offers just two dishes, both of which are a variation on nasi ayam. Essentially chicken and rice, go for the bigger option with chicken thighs, skewers, beans, coconut, salted peanuts and chillies.
Alila Villas Uluwatu
If dramatic locations are what you seek, look no further. Designed by award-winning architectural firm Woha, the villas cling to limestone cliffs 100 metres above the Indian Ocean. Quite simply one of the most spectacular destinations in the world, each villa has own pool and requisite coastal views.
Como Shambhala Estate
Situated roughly 15 minutes’ drive from central Ubud, the Como Shambhala Estate is a destination spa with a global reputation. Pitched as a wellness retreat, the nine hectare estate revels in its tropical location, employing resident yoga teachers, as well as Ayurvedic doctors and dieticians.
A collection of villas and rooms cocooned in a tropical Balinese setting, Maya Ubud is both a resort and spa overlooking the Petanu River Valley. A celebration of Bali’s cultural heritage, its design resembles a harmonious village and provides an array of wellbeing classes, including yoga and tai chi.
Bali’s very own “Valley of the Kings”, Gunung Kawi is an 11th-century temple complex and one of the island’s most ancient monuments. Just 30 minutes from Ubud, the complex includes 10 shrines cut out of the rock face thought to be dedicated to Balinese royalty. Overlooking the Pakerisan River, it is a truly impressive site.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu
An awe-inspiring cliff-top temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of several important sites dedicated to the spirits of the sea. Also one of the island’s nine key directional temples protecting Bali from evil spirits, it is located on the south-western tip of the Bukit Peninsula and is best visited at sunset.
With an abundance of marine life – there have been nearly 1,000 species of fish identified in its waters – it would be rude not to grab a snorkel and take to the seas while in Bali. Two of the best places to do so are Amed and Tulamben, with coral reefs in Jemeluk Bay and the wreck of the USAT Liberty two top snorkelling attractions.