showcase the best of Indonesia’s crown jewel
It can seem surreal, but as far as Australia is from the tropical paradises of the Maldives, of Madagascar, of the Caribbean and the Hawaiian islands, we’re lucky to have a paradise nearby that isn’t far at all.
The crown jewel of Indonesia’s 17,000-strong islands, Bali is home to beauty and splendor, and it’s not too far from our own home, either. Bali flights might take longer than a quick trip to the next capital city over, but there’s something different on offer wherever you go.
After catching one of the many Bali flights, you’ll land at the country’s international airport, Denpasar, and from there, your path can be decided simply by working out which way you want to start your journey.
The north offers the calm tranquility of resorts and Bali beaches, and the south delivers the hustle and bustle of street vendors, as well as that party scene Bali is famous for. But what about the east and west?
Head east from Denpasar and you’re on your way into some of the most appealing parts of the island. On your way, you can enjoy a stop at the Bali Safari and Marine Park, only a short detour off the main road leading east. Here you can discover the amazing native wildlife of Bali along with other animal species that are part of conservation and breeding programs.
About an hour and a half drive up the coast, you’ll find the town of Candi Dasa. It offers a virgin beach environment with little to no development, and a very relaxed, peaceful way of life.
From here, there are many attractions within a short distance, including Lempuyang Temple, an incredibly old structure that is so remote, it’s a genuine hike to get there. For those willing to go the distance, the reward is nothing short of spectacular, with spires reaching to the sky, overlooking absolutely stunning mountain passes.
Much of Bali is known for spectacularly structured rice paddies, and some of the most beautiful examples are found in the east, around Tirta Gangga. In fact, it’s here where you’ll find the famed water palace, featuring numerous fountains and pools amidst a stunning garden setting. This is a beautiful location for a day communing with nature.
The east is also home to one of Bali’s more active volcanoes, Mount Agung, which last sent a plume of smoke into the air in November 2017, and has certainly made its presence felt on Bali flights.
Also to be considered for your east Bali experience is a visit to the Bali Aga at Tenganan. Very much a traditional Bali village, Tenganan is one of the few that still adheres to the pre-Majapahit Balinese culture.
Much about this location is distinctly different to other Balinese towns and villages, from the architecture to the strict social order that is observed. For that reason alone, it is absolutely worth a visit to experience truly authentic Balinese life, and it may be recommended to arrange your travel to the village with a professional guide to ensure you make the most of your time with due respect to the local customs, traditions and laws.
Easily the least visited and least populated part of Bali, the West is dominated by a huge national park which is a true ecological treasure.
The main townships of Gilimanuk and Negara are relatively quiet, and it is the outlying areas that offer the best experience after spending time on one of the many Bali flights.
One of the primary attractions in this part of the region is Menjangan Island. Located a few kilometres offshore and part of the national park, the Bali beaches here are well known for their coral reefs and abundance of marine life, and a favourite spot due to the calm waters and gentle currents.
Increasing in popularity for those keen to get off the beaten tourist path is the fishing village of Pemuteran. The coral reef here is part of an extensive conservation effort and includes the world’s largest artificial biorock reef. A trip to the beaches will leave you feeling more relaxed, as these Bali beaches are free of the hawkers found on other parts of the island, and one need only walk into the water and start swimming to enjoy the coral and aquatic life below the surface.
The western Bali beaches are almost completely without development, and for this reason, the trail west is very popular with surfers. You’re sure to meet plenty from all over the world on your travels, and they can provide more than a few tips about some of the more secluded beach gems in the area.
Another bonus for those planning their Bali travel to the west is that everything is significantly cheaper than the highly developed areas of the island.
While Bali’s prices may not be significantly high altogether, on the west of the island, the cost of living is differently again. In fact, you can splurge for a few hundred a night and enjoy a luxury experience with all the pampering and amenities that normally go with a high price tag.
Alternatively, you can embrace the Balinese culture and embrace the warmth and hospitality with a local Bali homestay, doing it for mere dollars a night.