The Island of a thousand temples
The last part of this Indonesian trip, yet the one taking half of the entire time we had with one full week. No surprise why this much, after such an incredible busy past days non stop, we wanted also to relax and enjoy doing nothing but lying in the beach and by the hotel’s pool. Still, with so much to see and do in the island, even a week is not enough and you will need to prioritise and plan ahead what you really want to see. The best way in doing so? Having a driver to take you around and explaining you a bit on the places. This is not really a high cost but surely is something you will not regret but be thankful instead.
Bali ranks among the lists of number one destinations of places to visit on “to do before you die” and on every travel magazine. It’s a major tourist destination that keeps gaining strength with more and more people coming here every year. Such fact is not fortuitous, but has to do with the incredible culture legacy and facilities offered. Literally there are over a thousand temples in such a “little space” that the island is, and to this, the spectacular rice terraces and nature, mountains and volcanoes, and the hundreds of kilometres of beaches aligned with great resorts and hotels. An ever growing thriving nightlife, and day life too!, and countless activities for everyone. No, you will not definitely be bored at any time and wished for the days to have more hours!
As for the cities, pretty much everything is located on the southern tip of the island, with its capital Denpasar, and the resorts of Kuta and Nusa Dua. Also the airport is located on the narrow strip that divides Denpasar from Kuta. Half of the entire island’s population lives just in this small area in the south, that’s over 2 million people.
With regards to food, I will be talking here a bit different to what I mentioned in the previous posts for all other destinations in Indonesia we’ve been for the past days before arriving to Bali; but still, three traditional Indonesian dishes you will find on and on everywhere that of course you should try: nasi goreng (fried rice), nasi campur (rice with veg and meat) and mie goreng (fried noodles). Now, for some more traditional Balinese food and fast style of eating, you will find at the great street vendors called kaki lima, literally translates as five legs. Specially at sunset and along the tourists resorts and beaches are the most popular spots where you will find them. The most famous dish they serve is bakso, which is a meatball and noodle soup, really delicious, and inexpensive at around only Rs 5000. Try also wherever you find it, the traditional Balinese dish satay lilit, which is minced seafood grilled over charcoal on a lemon grass stick.
As for any destination across the globe, not because you see lots of restaurants it means all are good nor will ask for a fair price. There are plenty of tourist traps and low quality places in Bali unfortunately, hence check around few places before making a decision, and even if you ask any local for suggestions for a good restaurant, be cautious that they might send you to the restaurant of a friend or they might be working on commission for bringing people to certain restaurants. In any case as a rule, you shall not have any trouble finding good places and enjoying really nice food of any kind and style. Take the chance to enjoy sea food for example, as it is by far much cheaper here than where probably you might be coming from (Europe as example).
For more information about Bali check the Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. The currency in Indonesia is Indonesian Rupiah (IDR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Bali
- South Bali Where you will find the capital Denpasar and the major resort areas of Kuta and upscale Nusa Dua.
-Denpasar Is a great point to start any sightseeing in Bali. Here you will find the major museums and the cultural core of what you can expect to find in the island. Although it is nothing really special but a madness of congested roads and overall poor architecture taste yet still there are nice buildings and old temples worth to spend at least a day.
-Puputan Square Is the main square in the centre of the city. On the nearby streets you will find most of the tourist sights of the city.
-Bali Museum Settled in what you might think is an old temple, it is in fact a 1932 construction made to look as a traditional Balinese temple. It houses the most complete collection of all Balinese from ancient to new. It is on the east side of the square. Entrance fee Rs 11000.
-Pura Jagatnata Temple Although built in 1953 it is richly decorated and follows the traditional Balinese architecture. Located just to the north of the Bali Museum.
-Palace of Satria Located on the northern side of the square is the palace and temple complex of the royal family of Denpasar.
-Pura Maospahit Temple Originally built in the 14th century in fine red brick architecture typical of the Majapahit period was greatly damaged in an earthquake, creating a beautiful atmosphere specially because of the very few tourists, if any, that you will come across. Located on the west of the city but not too far from the Puputan Square hence walking distance from each other.
-Perjuangan Monument Designed in Balinese style was erected to commemorate the Indonesian struggle for independence from the Dutch. Located to the southeast of the city in the largest square and park of the city.
-Kuta Famous for the 5 kilometres long Kuta Beach with many hotels and resorts, and for being the party capital of Bali. Located west and south of Denpasar, north of the airport.
-Tanah Lot Temple In north Kuta, west of Denpasar. This is one of the most recognisable images anyone have about Bali. Appearing on any travel guide and magazine. The small temple lies in a tiny island that can be accessible by the beach. Unfortunately as it is one of the most accessible to all and very near the major tourist area in the island, expect it to be packed. There is a Rs 10000 to enter.
-Bukit Peninsula The southernmost area of Bali is famous for hosting the upscale luxurious resorts on the eastern side, known as Nusa Dua area, and for having one of the finest temples in the entire island and very quiet beaches on the west though with strong currents, hence paradise for surfers.
-Nusa Dua Just southeast from Kuta and the airport it is where the majority of the high end resorts are located aligning the long and nice golden sand beaches.
-Water Blow Located on the south easternmost point of Bali and north of Nusa Dua Beach, right by the Grand Hyatt resort, is this rock formation where when the waves collide creates a giant splash of water. The bigger the waves the more impressive it gets, and mind that you will get seriously wet!
-Uluwatu Temple Beautiful not only for its architecture and history, but for its idyllic location perched on top of a cliff 75 meters high on what is the south westernmost point of the island. There is no entrance fee for this temple, and is spectacular at sunset.
- Central Bali Known as the cultural core of Bali with many temples, archaeological sites and lush nature and the world famous rice terraces, included in the UNESCO list as World Heritage Site.
-Pura Taman Ayun This 18th century Royal Water Temple is the largest and most impressive architectural edifice of its type on the entire island of Bali. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site listing “Cultural Landscape of Bali Province: the Subak System”. Located on the edge between South Bali with its Denpasar area and Central Bali, 15 kilometres southwest of Ubud.
-Ubud City and nearby Is regarded as the arts and crafts capital of Bali. Here you will find plenty of shops where to get traditional Balinese crafts.
-Ubub Palace Right in the middle of this small city is this complex of beautiful small buildings and pavillions, current residence of the Royal Family of Ubud. It is easy to locate as it is by the main road crossing the city, Jalan Raya Ubud.
-Goa Gajah Temple Elephant Caves as the name translates, has origins in the 11th century. Located just 2 kilometres south of Ubud, open from 8.00am to 16.00pm as majority of temples in Bali, Rp 15000 to enter. Its highlight is the entrance richly decorated with rock carved demons and pools at the front with statues guarding on the sides.
-Yeh Pulu Carvings and Pool Some 500 meters to the southeast from the Goa Gajah and way less crowded, it is worth to visit, also for the nice location around the rice fields.
-Tegalalang Rice Terraces This village is just 10 kilometres to the north of Ubud and it’s rewarded as having some of the most beautiful rice terraces in the whole of Bali.
-Gunung Kawi Royal Monuments 20 kilometres north of Ubud, east of the village of Tampaksiring. Rs 15000, including sarong rental, open from 8.00am to 18.00pm. Believed to be the burial complex of King Anak Wungsu and his many wives, has its origins in the 11th century. Sited on an idyllic location is accessible via 371 steps down into the valley and river.
-Tirta Empul Temple and Pool Probably the most iconic of all the sacred pools in the entire island for the Hindu Balinese, but also the crowdest one. Not far from the Gunung Kawi Temple, just to the north of it, the site opens from 8.00am until 16.00pm, Rs 15000 including rental of sarong.
-Bedugul This small village is located on the western shore of the lake Beretan is 43 kilometres north of Ubud across the greenest regions of Bali and near the famous rice terraces that lie on the region to the west.
-Pura Ulun Danu Bratan The Lake Bratan Temple was built in 1633 and is something not to miss for any visitor to Bali. It’s one of the really must do’s. Probably your Bali guide book has in the cover image this temple! Open from 7.00am until 17.00pm, Rs 30000 including sarong rental.
-Jatiluwih Rice Terraces One of the truly icons of Bali, designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site, are simply spectacular and a sight not to be missed. Those famous terraces are located in the region immediately southwest of Bedugul, and around Mounta Batukaru, at 700 meters above sea level.
-Pura Luhur Batukaru This is one of Bali’s nine key directional temples dating back to the 11th century, located near the village of Wongayagede, on the south slopes of Mount Batukaru, not far from the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces.
- North Bali One of the quietest regions in the island specially when compared to the hectic south. Here is the former Dutch capital of Bali, Singaraja among beautiful temples and many deserted beaches, most of which of volcanic black sand.
-Singaraja The old Dutch capital city in the island still retains flairs of time gone by with few colonial houses still in place, organised streets and avenues. It is around 3 hours drive from Kuta/Denpasar.
-Pura Meduwe Karang Along the coast some 10 kilometres to the east from Singaraja is this temple, the most impressive in north Bali, famous for the hundreds of stone carvings. Among them is one quite unusual, a representation of Dutch artist Nieuwenkamp on a bike, legacy from his trip around the island at the beginning of the 20th century on a bike.
-Lovina Is the second city in importance in the north (with city I mean more as a village), famous for its black sand beaches.
-Brahma Vihara Arama While near Lovina, it is already in the village of Dencarik. It is the largest Buddhist monastery in Bali.
- East Bali Where Bali’s active volcano is among the famous tourist resort of Candidasa, black sand beaches and the holiest of any temples in the island.
-Candidasa This small city had plenty of choice of accommodation and it’s a perfect base for accessing the tranquil black sand beaches nearby.
-Pura Besakih Also known as the Mother Temple by the Hindu Balinese people, is the most important and holiest temple in the island. Also one of the largest, with an area spreading 3 kilometres with many structures. This temple should be on everyone’s list of must do’s when visiting Bali.
The majority of visitors will come here by plane. The island boats one of the busiest airports in the entire country. Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known simply as Denpasar, lies just few kilometres south from the capital city of Bali, Denpasar, and also right at middle distance from the major resorts of Kuta and Nusa Dua.
*Important information about Visas and departure fees: Visa on arrival can be obtained for most European Union countries and cost $35. Any other country requires to arrange the Visa prior to the arrival at the respective embassies in the country. The easiest and straightforward way to pay for this is by cash. Just read and follow the signs as everything is in a one way process, one after another, first paying for the visa and getting the visa note with barcode, then following to passport check where the visa is attached to the passport, you provide them the landing/departure card and they will give you the departure card that you MUST keep for the entire length of your trip until you leave the country. Then you process to immigration and onto luggage reclaim, where then you process through the exit previous declaration of goods (if any). As for when flying away from any Indonesian airport, there is the Rs 200000 departure tax for international flights and Rs 75000 for domestic that must be paid on cash at the counters. Please keep spare money to pay for this.
Getting into Denpasar and the resort areas from the airport is best by prepaid taxi. There is a small booth once you pass through baggage x-ray upon exiting the airport where you can pre-pay to your destination, and a taxi number will be assigned to you. This way there is no space for confusion nor over charging you, yet still be cautious as the person in the booth might tell you higher prices arguing fares have increased or any other story. As long as you see the table of fixed prices to the predefined destinations then you are fine and you will pay the right amount. Al alternative would be the Trans Sarbagita bus service heading to Kuta and Nusa Dua but you will need to get this bus from outside the airport building itself as there is no stop within the terminal but instead at the road roundabout some 5 minutes walk from the terminal. A single ticket to anywhere in the route of the bus costs only Rs 3500, yet depending where your final destination is, a taxi would always comes the fastest and easiest way and at what is, honestly, quite a cheap fare.
Arriving to Bali from elsewhere withing Java Island is possible via bus and by train, still for the last part of the trip whichever the form, it involves crossing by ferry the small 2 kilometres gap that separate Java from Bali island.
To move elsewhere within the capital city Denpasar or the southern resorts to/from the rest of the island the best you can do is renting a car with driver. Negotiate beforehand the fare for a full day tour and plan ahead what places you would like to go and see. The driver will take you there and wait for you, then continue to the next destination and so on. Without any doubt this is what you should consider straight away. This or an organised tour that can be booked at any hotel or the many tourist information points. Otherwise, you will end up visiting just the hotel’s pool and nearest beach while you have near you impressive and very much worth places to visit.
Probably nowhere else in the world you will come across this incredibly large range of accommodation by the numbers and variety of any kind in such a small space. It is the case that making your mind and a choice is hard to do. You will be too overwhelmed and won’t really know what to select. But let me help you in saying you should reduce your search to South Bali, specially the areas of Kuta and Nusa Dua which are the major and largest resorts in the entire island. Nusa Dua being the upscale one with large 5* and top luxurious properties. This does not necessary mean fares are therefore higher than anywhere else; in fact it is here we found our resort at a great deal! And also being one of the greatest in the area with an impossible to beat location right by the main beach.
A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms, Ebookers or TUI.
We stayed at the impressive Ayodya Resort, on Jalan Pantai Mengiat, righ by the beach of Nusa Dua. Location could not be better but the resort itself was breathtaking in all senses. For its countless large facilities distributed around a lagoon designed to look as a Balinese water palace, including pools (a main one and an infinity by the beach), jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, gym; to the large landscaped gardens and even the garden theatre. The rooms were very large, our was with garden view. The staff at every moment made the stay special, and the enormous breakfast was having any possible choice you could imagine. Definitely we had 6 splendid days here that will not hesitate in returning to the same resort if we come back to Bali.