Enigmatic Bali is the proverbial jewel in the crown of Indonesian tourism. The Hindu enclave has long entranced foreigners, from artists and writers in the 19th century through to surfers in the 20th century and these days, well, pretty much everyone from budget-conscious backpackers through to well-heeled luxury travellers from around the world come to Bali.
There's a reason the crowds come and it's this: Bali pretty much offers anything a traveller might want. It's beautiful, the culture is rich and fascinating, it's cheap (or at least consistently excellent value for money), the geography is stunning, the shopping eclectic, cuisine wide-ranging and delicious, and the people friendly. In short, Bali is really what other destinations try to conjure themselves up to be when seeking to entice tourists.
The challenge of a holiday in Bali is not to find something to do or hunt down a fabulous place to hang your backpack/kaftan/Louis Vuitton luggage: it's successfully whittling down the enormous list of possibilities to a few manageable items.
Let's begin with the beaches. Kuta, a long arch of sand that stretches into Legian and Seminyak beaches, was the original beach of choice for surfers who first started straggling into Bali in the 1960s. These days Kuta still attracts beginner surfers, with its gentle breaks and array of surf schools vying for the attention of newbies.
But people come to just hang out on the beach, swim and party as well. Those seeking big nights out tend to gravitate to the Kuta/Legian area, with the style of parties tending to get more sophisticated and exclusive (generally speaking) as one heads north toward Seminyak and then to a lesser extent the much quieter Canggu area. Thumping bars, gourmet restaurants and designer shops vie for the attention of the crowds right across this patch of Bali. This is a good spot for families with older kids, with attractions such as Waterbom park and loads of water sports on offer.
Sanur, on the east side of the island, is another of the island's original beach resort areas. What it lacks these days in terms of trendiness it more than makes up for in terms of easygoing-ness. The beach is fringed by a reef, meaning the shore is safe for kids' swimming, and a boardwalk along the beach makes pram pushing a pleasant rather than fraught experience.
From either coast, head up north through patchwork rice paddies to the cooler hills of Ubud, the island's cultural and artistic heart. Check out the Monkey Forest, a revered temple sanctuary where primates who can be a bit naughty are boss. Head off for a bird-watching ramble through the paddies. Ubud's restaurants in particular are superb, whether you're after cheap and cheerful, authentic Indonesian or a world-class degustation.
Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Bali Overview or check hotel reviews on Agoda . Hungry? Read up on where to eat on Bali Overview. Want to know what to do once you're there? Check out our listings of things to do in and around Bali Overview. If you're still figuring out how to get there, you need to read up on how to get to Bali Overview.
By Stuart McDonald.
Last updated on 23rd March, 2016.
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