Photo: Beach reflection, Balian.

Introduction

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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”.



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 watch out!

Beachside offerings. Photo taken in or around Balian, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

Beachside offerings. Photo: Sally Arnold

As with many of the beaches along this stretch of Bali’s coast, Balian is a black-sand and pebble beach. To the north, Mejan Beach a stunning squid-ink-like black-sand beach, that stretches for over 30 km, is largely deserted and is simply spectacular in the late afternoon light. Another attraction, handy if you have kids with you, is the impressive bat cave underneath a temple at Soka Beach (a few kilometres to the east of Balian) that is worth a look at sunset when thousands of bats fly out for the evening meal.

Balian is close enough to South Bali (it takes around two hours to reach here from Seminyak by car) that it sees plenty of day trippers from the south, but you really need to stay here to get the best of it—both for the early morning uncrowded waves but also for the relaxed feel of the village—take a wander on foot and soak it up. Gone are the days where the accommodation here was solely surfer focused—you’ll find all manner of accommodation, from basic fan-cooled rooms, to air-con flat screen lodges with fancy horizon pools, and the prices to match.

Leave only footprints. Photo taken in or around Balian, Indonesia by Stuart McDonald.

Leave only footprints. Photo: Stuart McDonald

The village around Balian is easily walkable (if a little hilly), with bus connections from the main road to Denpasar and Gilimanuk, for connections to Java or Bali’s north coast, although most visitors rely on taxis or motorbikes.




Orientation
Along the main Kuta to Gilimanuk road, the village of Lalanglinggah marks the entrance to Balian where the road continues one kilometre to Balian Beach (you’ll see a bunch of signs advertising hotels and guesthouses). This area on the western bank of the Balian River is where most of the accommodation and restaurants are centred, but the eastern side of the river, accessed via a road running from the highway just east of the bridge, is developing fast, particularly with private villas.

A quiet spot just for you. Photo taken in or around Balian, Indonesia by Sally Arnold.

A quiet spot just for you. Photo: Sally Arnold

Along Jalan Pantai Balian, about 700 metres from the highway, the road branches in two directions, west to Gajah Mina Resort as well as some budget guesthouses, and east down a bumpy track with a spattering of homestays also continuing to the beach. The only tourist style shop in Balian is attached to Pondok Pitaya selling beach wear, sunblock, bikinis and sarongs plus a few souvenirs and on the main road you’ll find local convenience stores. You won’t find hawkers, hair braiders or hear “massage massage” “transport transport”.

While there is a BNI ATM in Balian, it can be unreliable with international cards with the next closest ATM around ten kilometres east along the main road in the village of Bajera. Telkomsel has a solid 4G signal here, but most accommodation options offer free WiFi.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Balian.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda
 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.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Balian? Please read this.



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