Photo: Beach reflection, Balian.


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Balian is the gateway to Bali’s wild west. First “discovered” by surfers, this laid-back friendly village on Bali’s remote southwest coast has developed dramatically in recent years, but remains an enchanting, beautiful location and until now to some extent retains the sense of “old untouched Bali”.

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While still most popular with surfing folk for its consistently great waves, Balian draws an increasing mix of families and particularly yoga retreats—perhaps due to the areas wild coastal scenery. Expect fewer creature comforts than South Bali (unless of course you are staying in a resort), replaced by open spaces, big skies, a more relaxed vibe and plenty more hellos and passing smiles from the locals. You’re a world away from Seminyak and Legian here.

Yes, uncrowded waves in Bali exist. Photo taken in or around Balian, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Yes, uncrowded waves in Bali exist. Photo: Sally Arnold

The area is named for the Balian River that runs through the village of Lalanglinggah. A Balian in Bali is a dukun or shaman and in this case refers to the arrival of Dang Hyang Nirartha, a 16th century Javanese Hindu sage credited as being responsible for introducing Shaivite Hinduism to Bali (he is also the founder of Tanah Lot Temple). It is believed he placed his staff in this river which was magically bestowed with the powers to heal the sick and henceforth the river and beach that sits at the mouth were known as “Balian”. The river is still considered holy by Balinese and occasionally ritual ablutions are performed here.

While it is possible to wade across the mouth of the Balian River, swimmers and surfers both should be aware of a strong current which can make the beach quite treacherous for swimming—take considerable care in the water here. If you’re travelling with young kids or older children who are not strong swimmers, Balian’s main beach really is not suitable, so either consider a place to stay that has a swimming pool (plenty do), or let them swim in the river rather than the ocean. Thanks to the river emptying out and the sometimes murky waters, Balian is also one of the few places in Bali that has seen the occasional shark attack—so ... Travelfish members only (Around 700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Balian.
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 Read up on where to eat on Balian.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Balian.
 Read up on how to get to Balian.
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