|The definition of "island paradise" for many, Bali has been enchanting visitors for centuries. When Dutch traders first arrived in 1597, half of the crew refused to leave. Today Bali is one of Indonesia's 27 provinces, a Hindu minority in the middle of a Muslim nation. The nearly three million people live a mostly agrarian lifestyle, growing rice in lush hillside terraces and producing coffee and copra (dried coconut meat) for export. Tourism makes up approximately 50-80 percent of Bali's economy. The island has an ideal combination of hospitable people, vibrant culture and excellent resorts set among abundant natural beauty-white beaches, high volcanic peaks and steep, verdant river valleys.
Bali is an island in the middle of the Indonesian Archipelago, east of Java. A chain of six volcanic mountains runs down the middle of the island, interspersed with crater lakes. The active, 10,308ft-high volcano Gunung Agung-the "navel of the world"-is the island's highest point. Rice terraces have been carved out of many of Bali's steep river valleys. White sand beaches spread around the island's southern edge; gray sand forms the beaches elsewhere.
Travel in Bali
South Bali, the area encompassing Kuta and Nusa Dua, is the most developed, with abundant hotels and shops, golf courses and surfing beaches. In central Bali is the town of Ubud-the island's cultural heart, with art galleries and cafes set among rice paddies and jungle. Also inland is the lake, caldera and volcanic peaks around Kintamani. North Bali is popular for diving and dolphin watching. East Bali is mountainous and less developed, home to very traditional villages and a handful of luxury resorts. West Bali is the least developed, with much of its interior taken over by West Bali National Park.
Bali is a safe, highly recommended destination year round. It is ideal for couples, honeymooners and families-anyone seeking a perfect balance of luxury, beauty, romance, and great sightseeing. We recommend spending at least a week to enjoy Bali's highlights, but even shorter stays are opportunities to experience its rich culture and soak up the magical atmosphere of the "island of the Gods."
Artisans of Leisure luxury tours to Bali are private and customized and include the very best local guides and some of the world's most lavish resorts. Our tours are in-depth, rewarding travel experiences that emphasize Balinese art, architecture, crafts, natural landscapes, traditions and cuisine. Most of our tours combine different locations in Bali (resort stays in Jimbaran Bay or Nusa Dua, cultural touring in the traditional eastern Bali province, and exceptional dining, shopping, and soft-adventure touring inland near Ubud).
Bali is a largely Hindu island and its culture remains deeply intact and an essential part of daily life. Balinese society-from agriculture, to economics and politics, to the arts-is permeated by religion. All around the island, tiny woven baskets filled with jasmine blossoms, fruit and herbs dot sidewalks, market stands, fishing boats and houses-all as offerings to the benevolent gods.
Bali has more than 20,000 temples and shrines, and religious ceremonies permeate daily life on "the Island of the Gods." Over 90 percent of the population practices a form of Hinduism mixed with animist beliefs and a respect for nature centered on the sacred volcano Gunung Agung-the island's holiest temple (Pura Besakih) is on its slopes. Balinese Hindus believe in one true god who appears in the many forms of the Hindu pantheon. Elaborate performances, festivals and rituals mark the passage through different stages in life; weddings and funerals are particularly colorful. Regular offerings of flowers and food-to praise the good spirits and appease the evil-decorate temples and front doorsteps. A minority of Balinese follow Buddhism, Islam and Christianity.
In Bali, discover exquisite arts and crafts, beautifully carved temples and palaces, daily festivals and ceremonies (from weddings, to tooth filing and coming of age ceremonies, to surprisingly colorful cremations), performances of ancient myths, gamelan orchestra music and traditional dance, and incredibly hospitable people. Of course, Bali is also renowned for its gorgeous and exclusive luxury resorts and its superb cuisine-both are highlights of any visit to Bali.
Rice, the staple of Balinese cuisine, is accompanied with an assortment of meat, seafood and vegetables, and seasoned with wide range of tropical herbs, spices and sauces. Coconut, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilies, peanuts, lime, shallots, nutmeg, shrimp paste and soy sauce are common flavors. The most famous Balinese dishes are babi guling (suckling pig roasted with many of the above spices) and bebek betutu (duck and herbs roasted in banana leaves). Indonesian dishes are also popular throughout Bali. Favorites include nasi goreng (rice fried with vegetables or bits of meat and topped with a fried egg), gado gado (cold, boiled vegetable salad with spicy peanut sauce) and satay (skewers of barbequed chicken, beef, pork or prawns with a peanut dipping sauce). Sambal is a general term for relishes, usually chili-based. Dessert often features tropical fruit, such as rambutan, jackfruit, mango, coconut and papaya.
Upon request, we arrange comprehensive culinary tours in Bali that include private cooking classes, market tours, and special meals in private homes and at cherished local restaurants.
Shopping is one of the highlights of Bali, and the island is a never-ending source of creativity and design innovation. Among the many possibilities, we recommend textiles (beautiful silks, batik, ikat and double ikat weavings, and gringsing cloth), jewelry (filigree, contemporary style silver and gold, semi-precious stones), paintings (Balinese wayang and other styles), woodcarving (teak, ebony, and jackfruit woods in traditional and contemporary styles), sandstone carvings and sculptures, porcelain and terracotta pottery, baskets, and Javanese and Balinese antiques and custom furniture.
Nusa Dua & Jimbaran
Enjoy days of sun, soft adventure activities, and shopping on the southern peninsula. The resorts on the beaches of Sanur, Nusa Dua and Jimbaran are beautiful and offer activities such as golfing, spa treatments, cooking schools, kids' clubs, sailing, surfing, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, water skiing and wind-surfing. They also have their own private beach clubs. When not dining, shopping and relaxing, we recommend visiting the cliffside Pua Lhur Uluwatu temple, carved from an enormous limestone and popular at sunset.
This small town is located on the eastern coast in Bali's most traditional and most intriguing province. The superb Amankila resort is nearby, and day tours are fascinating. Visit small villages famous for their weavings and ancient Balinese traditions. Drive deep into valleys nestled in terraced rice fields. Spend a day on a luxury boat excursions for sailing, snorkeling or diving. Hike up a mountain at sunrise, followed by a gourmet picnic breakfast. Take a Balinese cooking class. Attend local festivals that take place at villages and along the local streets almost daily. And visit some of Bali's most revered temples and water palaces. Pura Besakih the "Mother Temple," is Bali's holiest and Indonesia's largest Hindu temple, located on the slopes of Mount Agung. Nearby, find crumbling water palaces, remnants of the Balinese rajahs. The walled village of Tenganan is home to Bali's original inhabitants-the Bali Aga-who maintain different languages and ancient traditions from the rest of the island. There, you may wish to purchase the village's famous (and expensive!) double ikat textiles.
Ubud is located in the heart of the island-appropriately so, since this town is the cultural heart of Bali. There are dozens of luxury resorts. Our favorites remain the Amandari (Bali's first Aman resort, modeled after a Balinese village) and the Four Seasons Sayan. In and around Ubud, enjoy traditional dance (Barong, Keris, Kecak) performances at the Ubud Palace. Visit museums (Puri Lukisan Museum, set in a garden, displays all schools of Balinese art) and modern Balinese art galleries. Dine at some of the island's finest restaurants-the streets of Ubud are lined with cafes and upscale restaurants. Browse the studios of weavers, painters, metalsmiths and carvers in nearby villages. Around Ubud explore ancient monuments: the rock-cut shrines of Gunung Kawi, the Pura Samuan Tiga temple, and Goa Gajah (at Yeh Pulu). Other highlights include a walk through Monkey Forest, a part filled with hundreds of monkeys right in the center of Ubud. We also recommend visiting a nearby morning market, perhaps followed by a simple cooking class or lunch at a local home. Shoppers will easily fill their days browsing Ubud's excellent boutiques selling jewelry, furniture, clothing, housewares, and Indonesia crafts. Those seeking more adventure can select from river rafting and mountain biking excursions. There are also great spas in the region, including at the resorts, and wonderful scenery to enjoy along the Ayung River gorge. We are happy to customize tours to suit all interests.
Fewer visitors come to this quiet, beautiful part of the island. On the scenic route via Pupuan, through the mountains to Bali's North coast, enjoy spectacular views of incredibly green rice paddies and plantations of sweet-smelling trees (vanilla, cacao, coffee, cloves). Bathe in the pond formed by a hot spring (near Banjar). In Lovina sunbathe on the beach of black sand or go on a dolphin tour. Singaraja, the former capital, is a quiet town that retains a colonial feel. Visit Pura Maduwe Karang, the intricately carved village temple.
Sparsely populated and little frequented by tourists, this region offers extensive stretches of beaches, a few notable temples (Pura Rambut Siwi and the royal Taman Ayun temple) and Bali Barat National Park a protected game reserve that includes Menjangan Island (excellent diving) and rare flora and fauna.
Recommended luxury resorts in Bali include the Amanresorts (Amandari in Ubud, the Amanusa near Jimbaran and Denpasar Airport, and Amankila near Candidasa) and the Four Seasons Resorts in Jimbaran Bay and Ubud. For families, we particularly recommend the Ritz-Carlton Resort & Spa or the Conrad Bali. The Amanwana on nearby Moyo Island is also highly recommended.
Though Bali is Indonesia's destination of choice, Indonesia's immense archipelago offers many attractions. Both during a first visit to Bali or on a repeat trip, we highly recommend spending few days in Yogyakarta (familiarly known as Yogya)-one of our favorite Southeast Asia destinations-and the beautiful island of Lombok.
Yet another example of the diversity of Indonesia, Yogyakarta-the cradle of Indonesian civilization-is a major center for classical Javanese arts (batik, dance, drama, music, poetry and puppet shows). Visit the quaint old city (the Kraton) protected by high castellated walls, the Sultan's Palace (for the city's history and culture), the Academy of Fine Arts, and enjoy performances of wayang, gamelan, and Javanese dance (at Agastya Art Institute). Nearby temples of Prambanan (intricately carved Hindu temple complex) and Borobudur (Indonesia's most famous Buddhist monument, this grandiose temple was discovered by Sir Raffles and dug out from volcanic ash)-both Unesco Heritage sites-should not be missed.
Our preferred resort on the island of Java is the Amanjiwo, overlooking Borobudor near Yogyakarta. From there, visit local villages, ride elephants, enjoy the pool, and visit the galleries and studios of Yogya's most esteemed artists.
Lombok ("chili pepper" in Indonesian) has long existed in the shadow of its more famous neighbor, Bali. The island is a great cultural and scenic destination-ideal for a few nights-offering luxury resorts and great day tours to villages, waterfalls, and dive sites. See beautiful rural scenes, passing villagers working in the lush rice fields. Shop for local basketry and earthy ceramics and weavings. Lounge on pristine beaches, and visit traditional villages of mud and thatch huts on stilts. Admire the still active Mt. Rijani towering over the island, and-for the more adventurous-hike to the hot springs.
Our preferred luxury resort in Lombok is the Oberoi Lombok.