Island of the Gods

Bali is famous for being a tropical island with sun, sea and beaches. The island in Indonesia has a great climate, and a rich Balinese culture with festivals, temples, tradition and delectable food.

The highlights in Bali are very diverse. Imagine numerous temples, which are often located in beautiful places. Bali is an ideal travel destination or as a stopover for a tour of Indonesia. On my trip I looked for the nicest sights and excursions for this article. To help you prepare well your trip to Balil. So you get the most out of your visit.

Gitgit Waterfall

The famous Gitgit Waterfall on Bali.

The Gitgit is the highest waterfall in Bali. It flows all year round, but is most impressive in the rainy season.This waterfall is not extremely high, and only flows down about 35 meters. Gitgit is set in a green rainforest. It is located in the north of Bali, about 10 kilometres from Singaraja.

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

The wonderful Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple.

 According to many, the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is the most beautiful Hindu temple in Bali, and ideally situated in Lake Bratan. The temple is perfect for photos. And is very popular on social media. It's best to arrive early in the morning. Or just when the sun goes down then the light is softer. You can easily reach the temple. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is located in the northwest of the island.

Kecak Fire Dance

The mesmerizing Kecak Fire Dance.

Kecak is the famous fire dance of Bali. This dance originated in the 1930s in the village of Bona, which lies south of Ubud. It is a derivative dance of older dances and tells the story of well-known Hindu legends. Men are moving fast in circles close to each other. There's no music, but there's a lot of singing.

Fire is also involved, with which all kinds of performances. In the middle of the group of dancers you can usually see a costumed dancer. The rhythms are rousing and the passion radiates from the exposed upper bodies. Kecak dances are performed in various places in Bali, such as Uluwatu and at Ubud. Usually the shows are staged at nightfall or just after. Make enquiries about the dance.

Pura Pasar Agung Temple

For the Pura Pasar Agung Temple, the location is tranquil with a magnificent view. This temple is located at Gunung Agung, Bali's highest mountain. The view from here is over the mountain, and of all East Bali. The temple was destroyed by the volcano in 1963, but it was rebuilt in the late 1990s. In the holy part there is a three-part lotus shrine. The temple is located at Selat and Sebudi amongst immense fields of lava.

Bali dolphins

A tour with dolphins in the waters of Bali.

Lovina Beach in the north of Bali. It is world famous as a good place to see dolphins in the wild. The animals are usually common dolphins. They are seen playing almost every day in the warm shallow waters. Nowadays, dolphin watching is big business, which has lost a lot of its charm. Turtle island, south of Sanur, also offers dolphin watching excursions. Here, too, the mammals show themselves regularly, resulting in the same crowds.

Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyan

The Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyan temple on Bali.

The temple Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyan has become famous on Instagram. The pillars are beautiful, especially with the sunlight on it. Local photographers use a trick. They put a mirror in front of your camera so that it looks like the temple is reflected in water. Which it isn't. If  you would like a photo like this you will have to pay for it.

Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyan Temple is located in eastern Bali. Keep in mind that it can be very busy here. And that you have to queue for a photo. 

Bali Rice Fields

Hiking along the Bali Rice Fields.

Those who drive from Antosari to Pupuan (via Belimbing and Sanda) overlook Bali's most beautiful rice fields. Here you can see how ingeniously the Balinese use the structure of the landscape for growing rice. Pay particular attention to the water that flows from one field to another.

If you have a guide with you, you'll learn all about the various types of rice, the regular repotting and much more. A good time to go is in the early morning or in the afternoon. It is not so hot and the sunlight is not too bright. 

The city of Kuta

Surfers in the sea at Kuta. ©Corno van den Berg

This well-known tourist resort used to be a leprosy colony and slave island. Here, too, Westerners played an important role. First it was the Danish entrepreneur Mads Lange who opened a trade center as early as the 19th century. In 1937, the American couple Robert and Louise Koke built the first bungalow hotel.

Nowadays Kuta is one of the best places to learn surfing, the waves are ideal. While the wide beaches are the focal point for many souvenir shops, restaurants, guesthouses and expensive lodges. There are also numerous shops of expensive brands such as Bulgari and Dolce & Gabbana.

Go rafting in Bali

This is what rafting in Bali looks like.

Rafting is not exactly something you expect to do in Bali. It is not well known, but the interior of Bali offers good white water opportunities. For example, you can go rafting on rivers with names like Ayung, Telaga Waja and Unda. This is rated Class II and III, which is average, and not extraordinarily challenging. You paddle your way through the green heart of Bali, right through the rainforest and meter-high gorges. If you have time to look during your rafting adventure.

From most hotels (but also in Sanur, Kuta and Ubud) you can easily get in touch with the tour operators. Half day or full day rafting options are available . Check in advance the quality of the provider of the raft excursions, there are considerable differences in the quality of the equipment. Where cheap is often expensive in the bigger scheme of things.

Petroglyphs by Yeh Pulu

The petroglyphs of Yeh Pulu are unique. The name Yeh Pulu comes from the word Yeh, meaning water or spring and Pulu, a rice pot or water container made out of stone. The spring water seeps out of a rice pot. The drawings are about daily life, which include the hunt for a wild boar, a woman in her house and a few men on horseback.

There are also various images of animals on display. Scientists have not yet figured out the function of the bas-reliefs, as they are officially called. According to most scholars, they date back to the 14th century, but it is not entirely certain. They're near Bedulu, which is southeast of Ubud. The images are a kilometre away from Goa Gadja, ask for the exact location.

Pura Tanah Lot

The lovely temple of Pura Tanah Lot.

The sunset at Pura Tanah Lot is seen as one of the highlights of Bali. This temple is located on a rock off the coast, the contours come out beautifully when the sun goes down. Especially with the beautifully stylised trees and shrubs around it. According to the stories, the temple was founded by Danghyang Nirartha in the 16th century.

This high priest had fled Java because of the advancing Islam religion. His meditations became very popular quickly, which induced jealousy from a local leader. After which he moved to the rock where the temple now stands. The temple is not accessible at high tide, but from the surrounding rocks you have a beautiful view of the rock, the temple and the sea.

Goa Gadja (Elephant Cave)

The entrance of Goa Gadja.

The Elephant Cave, or Goa Gadja, was discovered by Dutch archaeologists in 1922. It is unclear exactly when this cave was made. But mentions are made of the Elephant River as early as the 11th century, with which there may be a connection. The statue on the left in front of the cave is about a thousand years old. The entrance to the cave resembles a mouth of a monstrous creature.

Most of the statues in the cave were stolen, most recently in 1992. On the left side of the cave is another image of Ganesha, the God with the elephant's head. In front of the cave are two sacred basins, with six statues spewing water. Countless fish swim in the water. This special cave is located in Bedulu, south of Ubud.

The City of Sanur

A sunset in Sanur.

After Kuta, Sanur is the biggest tourist hotspot in Bali. Western artists who first settled here were inspired by the beaches, the people and the climate. Nowadays Sanur looks completely different. You can still dine by the beach.

In the City of Sanur you can see countless souvenir shops, hotels and restaurants, but also countless woodworkers who, for example, make custom made hardwood cabinets. Or sell masks and statues from East Timor. Sanur is located in the southeast of Bali.

Monkey Forest Ubud and Tabanan

A macaque in the famous Monkey Forest of Bali. ©Corno van den Berg

Bali has several monkey forests, or forests where monkeys live. Such as the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal (near Ubud), the Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest (near Tabanan) and the Sangeh Monkey Forest (near Sangeh). You see java monkeys, or macaques. In Pura Alas Kedaton, hundreds of bats also live in the trees. Note, the monkeys are quite cheeky and sometimes climb on you.

See the Barong dance

A mask of the Barong Dance on Bali. ©Corno van den Berg

The famous Barong masks come from the Barong dance, which is performed annually during a temple festival. This show (in adapted form) is especially for tourists, and is staged daily. The masks and suits are very impressive. The whole show is supported by numerous instruments. Although the message from the show is not always clear to us, the costumes makeup for a lot. In good weather, the show is staged outside, and when it rains then inside. Ask about the times when you're there.

Release a turtle hatchling

Turtle hatchlings at Reef Seen. ©Corno van den Berg

It's a unique opportunity to do a good deed. For a small amount of money you can put a baby turtle out in the sea in Bali. At Reef Seen Divers Resort in the north near Permuteran, sea turtles eggs are hatched. As a tourist, if the tide and conditions are good, you can release a baby turtle in the sea in the morning. So that he does not encounter hungry dogs or birds of prey, in order for him to have a long future.

Ask in advance (e.g. via e-mail) when is it the best time to do this, as it is influenced by the lunar phase and tide. You can also visit the project yourself if you are in the area. And learn all about the five species of sea turtles that swim around here. 

These are: loggerhead turtle, hawksbill turtle, green turtle, leatherback turtle (the largest) and warana.

Learn how the coral grows

At Pemuteran in northeastern Bali, an attempt is being made to grow coral with weak currents. Several artificial reefs have also been built here, on which the tiny animals can develop.

Pemuteran Artificial Reef Project is right in front of Taman Sari Cottages. The first results were promising. The coral grows steadily and attracts numerous fish species. You can see for yourself on a snorkel excursion. You can learn a lot about the coral and its inhabitants here.

Taste Babi Guling

Babi Guling is the traditional dish on Bali.

If you go to Bali, you should actually try Babi Guling, or roast suckling pig on the spit. This is the most famous dish on the island. The animal is filled with a motley mix of herbs and spices, while the skin is smeared with turmeric juice. After that, the pig is roasted over a wood fire.

When you order this you get steamed rice with young bread fruits, tender meat, pieces of crispy skin and a piece of black pudding. In addition, you get lawar, a mixture of blood, minced pork and vegetables and herbs. Eat the whole thing with your (right) hand and judge for yourself.

Look for Balinese starlings

The very rare Balinese starling.

In the rugged west of Bali lies the West Bali National Park. This is the last habitat of the Balinese starling, a striking white bird that occurs only on this island. These birds are all but extinct, mainly because it is a beloved cage bird. The last dozens of birds live in the park, but the chances of seeing them are slim. The park shows how all of Bali must have looked about 200 years ago. When there were tigers out there, too.

Nyepi: Balinese Day of Silence

It is a spiritual phenomenon in Bali. That surprises tourists both pleasantly and unpleasantly. This traditional Hindu Balinese festival is held in March or April. The Balinese calendar is used to determine the exact date. Nyepi (which means Day of Silence) is celebrated, by the whole of Bali being silenced and in darkness. Saka New Year  is celebrated the day after Nyepi , when countless animals are sacrificed to the Gods. 

At sunset, as much noise as possible is made (including with instruments and fireworks), this is to scare away the spirits. After which all the lights are switched off, to give the spirits the idea that the island has been abandoned. And so you can't go out on the street either. There are no flights to and from Bali. The day of silence lasts 24 hours. 

Tour Bali

A fisherman at the beach. ©Corno van den Berg

Many tourists  book a holiday package which includes flights and a hotel. This makes it difficult to travel the whole island. As Bali is quite large and offers many opportunities to hop from hotel to hotel. For example, you can arrange a flight and hotel for the first few days. I did this too and noticed that it’s very easy to do.

After that, you can easily hire a car with a driver to drop you off at the next hotel. And repeat this after a few days. To finally do a round trip of Bali. This is ideal for those who want to see a lot.

The Gods of Bali

many Hindu temples. These are not particularly large and imposing, but some are very worthwhile due to their tranquil locations. For example, they lie in the middle of the rainforest, or stand on a steep rock on the coast or in a lake.

Kids on Bali.

The island is located between Java and Lombok, but Bali is a world in itself. Due to its location, the island has its own climate. It can rain on the surrounding islands, but in Bali it is often dry. 

Bali’s Marine Life

The climate also creates a world of marine life. Which is still fairly intact. The coral reefs off the coast are home to more than 1,000 species of fish, 260 species of coral and 70 species of sponges. The diversity is so great because these islands lie on the border of the tropical coral reef, but also house many marine animals from the cooler seas from the south.

Best time for Bali

Bali has roughly only two seasons. These are wet and dry, and they are very different.

Wet season

The wet season lasts from December to April. But this doesn't mean it rains all day. Occasionally there may be a shower, especially in December and January. Often it is cloudy, whilst still very sweltering. However, there are fewer tourists and the island is extremely green and colourful due to the many flowers. On the other hand, the rain showers cause a lot of waste to flow into the sea. And so this soils the beach and coral reef. The temperature varies between 25 and 30 degrees, but occasionally 35 degrees can occur.

Dry Season

This is the high season of Bali. The hotels and resorts are full, the sun is shining and the beaches are golden yellow (or lava black). The temperature here can reach up to 35 degrees, sometimes even 40 degrees, it is not always easy to take an excursion. Or, of course, it can be one of the many water activities. The humidity is much less than in the wet season.

Pay attention in Bali!

Bali has luxurious resorts, small-scale hotels and private houses for rent. All are easy to book. Those who would like a feel of the local atmosphere should book a small hotel. If you want to be provided for with all the luxury, choose a resort. Of course you can also mix, especially when you travel around.

At all temples, your legs must be covered. If you want to visit a temple in shorts that is not a problem, at the entrance you can get sarongs (usually free or for a donation) to cover your legs.

In the volcano area, the locals have high prices for guides who take you up the volcano. But there are also entrance fees for cars and every passenger. At the Pura Besakih countless sellers constantly harass you. In addition, to see another part of the temple again you might have to pay for extra time. Be well informed so you know what to expect.

Background of Bali

The island of Bali captures the imagination. About 75% of Bali residents are Hindus, 10% are Muslim, the rest are Christian or not religious. For the Balinese, the mountains have been the source of life for centuries. After all, this is where the Gods live and they decide what happens. A volcanic eruption is a sign of anger, but also provides fertile soil. While the rivers bring the precious water from the mountains. You don't come across many wild animals, with the exception of monkeys and various birds.

Bali is a well-known island that attracts many sunbathers. In this part you can still find the real Indonesia, the people have retained their rich culture. But Bali has more to offer. The island has several rugged parts, where most beach goers do not visit. Like the rugged west, with many protected coral reefs and rainforest. And the wild northeast where volcanoes rise high above the landscape. Visit Bali and find out for yourself!