The island of Bali is undoubtedly one of the most visited areas in South East Asia. It is also one of the most controversial spots on Earth. While the construction boom threatens to destroy what’s left of spectacular nature, tourists fight their way through it to find their hidden corner. In the meantime, thousands of magnificent Hindu temples color the never ending urban sprawl, telling the story of the unique Balinese culture.
Most of the stories I heard about Bali were quite positive. To be honest they were told by some people that visited it a decade ago or so. Things have changed dramatically. The southern half of the island is completely urbanized, with hundreds of villages connected to each other in an endless concrete jungle. The northern half still preserves an authentic natural spirit, but is only reachable by organized tours and excursions.
When I travel, I tend to choose the accommodation that is best integrated with the environment. If it’s in an urban settlement I prefer to stay near an authentic or culturally rich neighborhood. When it comes to a natural site my ideal place would be close to the mountain, lake or beach, and possibly with nice views. In this regard the closest you can get to the beautiful landscapes of Bali is Ubud, the cultural capital of the island. The town itself is fairly nice, but is growing rapidly, so it’s in danger of becoming overly urbanized.
Take a look at this post about the best resorts in Bali.
Nature in Bali is astonishing with spectacular waterfalls, rice paddies, valleys, lakes and mountains. Because of its wet climate, the vegetation flourishes most of the year. One of the most popular rice terraces is located near the town Tegalalang, just 10 km north of Ubud. The views from there are amazing, but the place often gets overcrowded. For a real getaway Mount Batur can be the perfect escape from the crowds, and having lunch in one of the many restaurants with a view can be a rewarding experience. Additionaly, Bali is one of the best diving destinations in Indonesia.
There are so many temples and sacred sites in Bali that is simply impossible to choose a few to visit if you are short of time. A nice tour could include: Goa Gajah, just outside Ubud is a nice cave dating back from the 11th century settled in a beautiful environment; Gunung Kawi temple that consists of 10 shrines cut from the rock is the largest temple on the island; Tirta Empul temple, further north is known for its holy water, where local people go for purification; Tanah Lot, a temple in the middle of the sea is bit away from there, but offers one of the best coastal views. Another coastal temple worth visiting is the Uluwatu Temple.
I would recommend visiting Bali only if you organize it well. That includes having a lot of patience, finding a place to stay away from tourist areas, a reliable driver to take you around the island and bringing in a little extra money. If you are ready to do all of that then you should definitely visit this little piece of heaven on Earth.
If you are traveling with a family check these great family hotels in Bali.
Also check out this list of the best pool villas in Bali.