Bali may have its fair share of tourists seeking nothing more than seven days of sun and sand in the southern party triad of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak, but this only forms a small part of what is on offer. In reality, Bali is a lush Indonesian island teeming with cultural experiences, delicious food and exhilarating adventures. Consider the following, less-visited possibilities:
Good for surf, seafood and spirituality
Bali may be known for
beaches and cornrows now, but it was the surfers who first discovered this beautiful Indonesian island. Go south
from Kuta to the Bukit Peninsula, and you will see what lured them here. Head
to Ulu Watu beach for the kinds of waves surfers dream of, or to Nusa Dua for
some killer breaks around the reef. Note however that Neptune is fierce in this
part of town and only the experienced should attempt to brave the waters around
Bukit. For novices, there are plenty of other to places
to surf in Indonesia.
Explore Bali’s spiritual
side with a visit to Pura Luhur Ulu Watu on the island’s south east. Perched high on
a cliff top, the temple has arresting views across the ocean that will leave
you gob-smacked. (Just do not venture into Ulu Watu with any loose items
dangling from you. The temple is awash with pick-pocketing monkeys, and before
you know what has happened they will have scarpered with your best sunglasses.)
A trip to the Bukit
Peninsula is not complete without visiting the Jimbaren fish markets. Early
morning is the best time, as the market is in full throttle for the day’s
sales. Finish the evening in Jimbaren, watching the sun set at one of the
picturesque seafood warungs (simple
food stalls). There are three strips to choose from, with the southern section
(near the Four Seasons)
generally agreed to be the best.
Good for food, unique coffee and natural wonders
Bali is famous for the
delicacy of babi guling – suckling pig – and no place does it quite like
Ibu Oka in the centre of Ubud. For a communal experience, join other diners at the
warung, opposite Ubud’s
palace. If you would prefer to sit down, ask the staff to walk you a little
further up the road to the “secret” warung.
The prices are the same, but it is a little quieter, a little plusher and a
little more tucked away.
Metered taxis are rare in
Ubud but there are plenty of drivers around vying for your business. However,
more adventurous souls might like to jump on the back of a scooter and zoom up
and down the mountainside. Better yet, from around 60,000 rupiah you can hire
your own scooter. Once you get the feel of the ebb and flow of traffic, you
will be free to explore the beautiful scenery of Bali’s mountains all by
yourself. Scooter 16km north to the Elephant Safari Park at Desa Taro and marvel at the gentle beauty
of rescued Sumatran elephants. Do not be fooled by imitations. The only
legitimate conservation park is the one booked through Bali Adventure Tours.
From Ubud, hire a driver
and head north to Kintamani to see the awe-inspiring sight of Gunung Batur, Bali’s second highest volcano. Its last
eruption was in 1994, and traces of the black lava can still be seen. Worth it
for the crater lake alone, it is interesting to see bustling of villages so
close to a potentially murderous natural wonder. Make sure you check up on
volcanic conditions before you go.
Coffee lovers should stop
en route to Kintamani at the town of Tampaksiring to try kopi
luwuk. This coffee is famously produced by passing the coffee bean
through the digestive system of a cat, and retails for a lot of money elsewhere
in the world – here, you will get it at a steal.
North, east and everywhere else
Good for waterfalls, kite surfing and beach paradise
Cross through the mountain ridges at Danau Bratan, stopping for some sweet strawberries from one of the many roadside
vendors. Head north towards Lovina Beach,
stopping to check out the Gitgit
Waterfalls. At Lovina, enjoy the chilled out atmosphere among the black
sand and seafood warungs – just as
fresh but much cheaper than in Jimbaren – and revel in the lack of tourists. If
you can afford the time, make a side trip to Air
Panas Banjar, three natural hot springs open daily from 8 am to 6 pm.
Admission is a steal at 5,000 rupiah.
On the east coast of Bali, Sanur is much more laid back than beachside towns
like Seminyak and Kuta but it is worth a visit, particularly for those after
the oceanic thrills of the former without the drunken revelry of the latter.
Sanur is one of the best places in Bali to try out kite surfing -- strap
yourself in and fly away with the breeze!
There are few greater
experiences than hopping a boat in Candi Dasa and heading east to the Gili
Islands for some beach paradise. Sure, we are not in Bali any more, but it is so
close that you could be. Rapidly gaining in popularity, it will not be long
before these islands are overrun with tourists, so get in quick. Just northwest
of Lombok, the Gilis are a 90-minute boat ride from
the east coast of Bali. Each island (Trewangan, Meno and Air) caters to a
different kind of traveller, but all three share the same untouched beauty.
There are no cars allowed on the islands, so get used to cycling or walking.
The article 'Beyond the usual suspects in Bali' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.