A Beginner’s Guide to Bali’s Best Vacation Spots

Mar 07, 2020
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Bali is a land of juxtapositions. It's a mix of conspicuous tourism and sacred traditions, sleek luxury resorts and intricate ancient temples. Travelers in search of Shangri-La have long flocked to its shores for a bit of surfing, shopping, and culture soaking.

And now it’s your turn! You've booked a flight and are ready to plan the trip. Where should you go? What should you do on your Bali vacation?

Kuta and Sunar Beaches

Bali's beaches are breathtaking. Their silky sands are golden, and their waters are crystalline blue. First timers should check out two postcard-perfect offerings, Kuta and Sunar.

Known as "Sunrise Beach," Sunar is a serene spot that tops the "morning proposal ideas" list. Hotels and resorts do line the strip, but the traditional fishing boats bobbing in the calm water encapsulate its lower-key vibe.

Conversely, energetic Kuta, also known as "Sunset Beach," is crawling with shirtless surfers and spunky hipsters. Vendors can't sell food directly on the beach, but the surrounding streets are a smorgasbord of restaurants and bars.

Are you looking for something less touched by tourism? Hop on a motorbike and make your way to Amed. A string of seaside villages, the quaint region clings tightly to its roots, and the area diving is spectacular.

Ubud and Sideman: Art and Natural Beauty

In the central foothills sits Ubud. The artistic and cultural heart of the island, its petal-strewn streets vibrate with gallery-hopping guests and busy locals. Be sure to snap a few shots of the ornate Ubud Palace. Once the official residence of regional monarchs, today, it’s still a royal property that serves as a ceremony space.

After a stroll through town, take a bike ride in the surrounding rice paddy farms. Amidst the stepped, emerald fields and rainbow blooms, it's difficult not to fall in love with the land.

Cultural enthusiasts must make their way to Pejeng, just east of Ubud. It’s home to the Moon of Pejeng, the largest single-cast bronze kettle drum on Earth. Pejeng is more rural than Ubud, and locals see the drum as highly sacred, so be mindful of traditions when visiting.

Sidemen is an alternative to Ubud for crowd-phobic guests. The town isn't an art hub, but Mother Nature spared no expense on its adornment. Before heading out, map out the hidden area waterfalls, and then make your way to them!

Temple Tours

Bali is awash in temples, and many are open to the public.

On the edge of the Baratan Lake, in Bedugul, is one of the most beautiful temples on the island. It's dedicated to the lake's goddess and revered as a quiet and peaceful place. Don't miss the intricately carved gates, and make sure your phone is charged as this floating shrine, encircled in manicured shrubs, is picture-perfect.

The Besakih complex — also known as Pura Penataran Agung and the "Mother Temple of Bali" — is a menagerie of 23 temples on the slopes of Mount Agung in the village of Besakih. An important spiritual center, Besakih is the holiest and largest Hindu sanctuary in Bali. Area hustlers offering ersatz tours congregate around the welcome gates. But people who want a knowledgeable docent to enhance their experience should book a legitimate one in advance. Also, since the Besakih temples are a religious site, it’s respectful to wear a sarong.

If you can absorb its essence, Bali is a powerful stress antidote. So while there, remember to put down your phone sometimes and breathe in the magic. But most importantly, have fun!