As one of Indonesia’s most high-profile destinations, Bali’s reputation for backpacking and beach life goes before it. However, this relatively small island is so much more than the stereotype; it demands a conversation. There are plenty of beautiful-yet-busy beaches and castaway bars in the south, but they contrast with sleepy fishing villages and rugged volcanoes in the north and east, and a blend of temples, rice terraces and retreats in the centre. Add the draw of adventure activities and water sports, as well as the chance to delve deeper into the island’s culture, and there's a lot to be gained by venturing a bit further down Bali’s lesser-walked paths.
Obviously there's a lot more, this is just to get you started...
Bohemian Ubud is Bali’s buzzing focal point, and well worth a visit, but there are lesser-known gems to discover when you want a break from the crowds. Overlooked by the magnificent Mount Agung, Sidemen is Ubud’s calmer cousin. Trek between rice terraces, take a dip in a waterfall pool, and watch rural life unfold. Further north, Munduk is similarly unhurried. Gaze across a mirror-still lake or watch the sunrise from volcanic Mount Batur. Immerse yourself in Bali’s varied history and compelling blend of beliefs at the serene Ulun Danu Beratan Hindu temple on Lake Bratan, at Besakih’s complex of clan shrines on the slopes of Mount Agung, or at the peaceful Brahmavihara-Arama Buddhist monastery. When exploring Bali, give yourself time to pause and soak it all in.
Where to stay:
We absolutely love the Bill Bensley designed Capella Ubud, a lush oasis of luxury tents with private pools and a strong focus on sustainbility.
When by the coast, sipping a cool glass of Bintang and listening to the crashing waves, it's easy to see why Bali’s famous sands are the stuff of office daydreams! Exactly where you choose to hang your hammock will depend on how low key or hectic you like your beach breaks to be. The sandy south coast is on the go 24/7, and fulfils the party-island cliché, but it also has some great spots for families looking for uncomplicated R&R. Head to the coarse volcanic sands on the north coast and you'll find the island’s peaceful side, while the east coast, around Amed, also attracts fewer crowds and offers some excellent accommodation against a backdrop of fierce waves. To get fully off the beaten track, go west and discover Bali’s wildest side, with stunning stretches of coastline to match.
Where to stay:
With terrain ranging from cultivated rice terraces and wild waterways, to wide valleys and stark volcanic slopes, Bali exerts a powerful pull on those looking to get out and explore extraordinary landscapes. For a true adrenaline rush, navigate one of the island’s rivers on a white water rafting expedition. Whether you head out to the Telaga Waja River from Sidemen, or to the Ayung River from Ubud, there’s nothing like cascading over the rapids as they flow through some of Bali’s most stunning scenery to anchor you in the moment! On the more sedate side (though still requiring a fair amount of exertion) cycling trips through the forest and shrublands, crossing rope bridges and tackling steep slopes, can take you to parts of the island that fewer visitors get to see.
Walking backwards (supposedly for ease!) in flippers, mask and snorkel is a pretty awkward look, but as you sink into the warm water and begin to breathe, for a few moments all life on land is left behind… Although there aren’t many places where it’s possible to snorkel from the beach in Bali, boat trips out from the east coast, between Amed and Padangbai, offer some absolutely outstanding snorkelling over deeper waters, with a vibrant variety of colourful sea life to discover. Scuba divers also love Bali's eastern side, with some intriguing dive sites further offshore. If you want more underwater adventures than the island can offer, pair your Bali trip with a stay on neighbouring Lombok for an even greater diversity of diving possibilities.
Where to stay:
Head to West Bali for a little slice of paradise at the Menjangan, with its lush surroundings and beach views.
From cruising the jungle waterways of Kalimantan’s rainforest and spotting orangutans, to soaking in the culture in Java to a few days relaxing on Bali and Komodo island - this is a trip full of beautiful contrasts in Java, Kalimantan, Bali and Komodo.