Beautiful and mysterious, and known as the Island of the Gods, TripAdvisor crowned Bali the world’s favourite holiday destination in 2017. Dorothy Veitch finds out why.
Hop on a boat
Whether you want to laze on a long-tail boat or take a lavish around-the-island catamaran cruise, Bali is a great place to test your sea legs. There’s dolphin-watching off the beach at Livonia, and if you take a boat from Jemeluk to the underwater temple, you’ll likely have a chance to snorkel with turtles.
Hunker down in Ubud
One of Asia’s top spa destinations, Ubud is Bali’s new-agey, artsycrafty beating heart. The streets are lined with healing centres and yoga studios, and inviting shops selling locally made handicrafts. Ubud Traditional Art Market features in Eat Pray Love, and if you’re a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, there are plenty of tours on offer that give you the chance to explore the island through her eyes.
Eat it up
There are six dishes every visitor to Bali simply has to try – babi guling (suckling pig), bebek betutu (slowcooked duck), ikan bakar (grilled fish, Jimbaran-style), sate lembat (Balinese satay) and nasi campur (rice with dips). Cookery classes are available all over the island, and for a crash course in street food (meatball soup, anyone?), head to Gianyar Night Market.
Visit an elephant cave
Goa Gajah Elephant Cave is a mysterious archaeological site surrounded by ancient Hindu temples. While there are no elephants in Bali, a gigantic elephant-headed Ganesh is carved into the rock. You enter the tiny cave through a demonic mouth, representing Rangda, the child-eating witch from Balinese mythology. Welcome to the underworld!
Hit the water
Known as a surfer’s paradise (catch the best waves on the south coast), Bali also has some world-class dive sites, the USS Liberty Wreck being the most famous. Torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942, the World War II cargo ship lies close to the shore at Tulamben and is covered in soft coral. Spot sunfish, great barracuda, Napoleon fish and peacock grouper. If a waterpark is more your speed (and you have the kids in tow), be sure to visit Waterbom Bali in Kuta.
Climb a rice terrace
Bali’s beautiful rice terraces were all carved by hand and are irrigated using an impressive communal water system developed by Balinese farmers in the eighth century. Some 600 metres above sea level, Tagalong Rice Terrace is a must-visit due to its sublime views, and you can hike or even cycle through the rice paddies.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary homes some 600 greyhaired long-tailed macaques. As you wander through the 12.5-hectare nature reserve, you can get as close as you like to the monkeys, but you are advised not to make eye contact with them, or smile at them (to a monkey showing your teeth is a sign of aggression). And don’t steal their bananas!
Explore the interior
If you tire of the beach, head inland for trekking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, quad biking… and waterfalls. One of the most magical and easy to get to is Tegenungan Waterfall, a 10-minute drive from Ubud. Here, you can enjoy epic views from the top, as the waters cascade over black-stone cliffs, and walk down 100 or so steps for a dip in the pool.
View active volcanoes
Penelokan means ‘place to look’ in Balinese, and from this tiny aptly named village you can view both of Bali’s active volcanoes. Be stunned by the view across to Mount Batur and down to the lake at the bottom of the crater, and check out the lava flow on Mount Agung.
Bali is a devoutly Hindu society with Animist roots, and it’s said there are more temples than houses on the island. Make a point of visiting the venerated sea temples, which form a chain along Bali’s south-western coast. From the clifftop site of Pura Ulu Watu, you can see both Pura Tanah Lot and Pura Perancak.
Images: www.wikimedia.orgTags: travel, escapes, things to do in bali, goa gajah, elephant cave, mount batur, temple hopping, ubud, tegenungan waterfall