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  Bali Island Tour  

Discover Bali

This tiny island of three million - the last
stronghold of ancient Hindu beliefs in
Indonesia - is one of the smallest
yet most visited of Indonesia’s
thousands of islands - the jewel in
the crown of Indonesian tourism.

   
Bali, however, does not give up its secrets easily and for the most fascinating aspects of its distinctive and magnificent civilisation the visitor must travel beyond the developed southern districts.  

Diverse marine life and superb visibility can be experienced by diving a sunken Liberty ship off Tulamben on the northeast coast, or by taking fishing boats out to view schools of dolphins

 
This is not a daunting task as all the major points of interest on this 90 kilometres long by 150 kilometres wide island are accessible within just a few hour’s journey from Kuta, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Denpasar or Ubud.

Most people along the tourist routes speak at least some English and you can get by quite adequately without any knowledge of Indonesian, though a few words or phrases will both delight and surprise your hosts. If you spoke a smattering of Balinese, it would flabbergast them even more!

For a quick introduction to the island, join one of the many guided-tour groups offered as pre-and post-convention extensions by Bali’s professional destination management specialists. Two, three, even five-day tours can take in all the highlights. If pressed for time, even a one-day foray into Bali’s hinterlands can put the visitor in touch with the real Bali.

Tours to the south emphasize the shoreline, beach life and shopping; trips to the centre the classic historic monuments and temples; trips to the north vault the volcanic mountain range to the serene coast of northern Bali; while trips to the east and west cover the more isolated and natural parts of the island.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
For students of history, the Bali Museum in Denpasar houses a collection of historic and cultural objects dating back to the Neolithic and Megalithic periods. Tours are also offered to archaeological remains and ancient spiritual sites such as the mysterious 11th century Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) in Gianyar, the nearby 25-metre-long carvings of Yeh Pulu, the sacred Bronze Age Moon of Pejeng and the 11th century rock-hewn tombs of Gunung Kawi.

Never ending Festivals & Performances
Besides the myriad destinations available around the island, there’s another reason that warrants an escape from the tourist centres for those keen on discovering traditional Bali: the nearly ceaseless celebrations. A whole series of religious rites and festivals guide the Balinese from birth to death and into the after world.

These ceremonies can be easily seen by simply driving down Bali’s inland roads, parking your car and observing the local celebrations from a respectful distance. Visitors are generally welcome if properly attired in temple scarf and sarong.

With 1000 dance troupes on the island, dance is at the very centre of Balinese life and will probably be the most impressive spectacle visitors will see and remember. With such musical names as Cupak, Kebyar, Janger, there are over 200 kinds of dances, each a composite of not just a dance but also drama, music, spoken poetry, opera and song. Visitors won’t have any trouble finding live performances or rehearsals.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Further a Field
The natural flora of the island is another inimitable attraction of Bali. Many plants that we lovingly cultivate as pot plants in the West - poinsettias, dracaena, coleus and begonias - grow in riotous profusion along Bali’s roadsides. Twelve varieties of coconut palm and thirteen species of bamboo exist on Bali.

For the avid botanist, the sprawling high altitude Eka Karya Raya Botanical Gardens is dedicated to the study of the mountain flora of eastern Indonesia. Located in the Bedugul area, visiting this beautifully landscaped, cool, green and inviting botanical gardens is much like strolling through an expansive private country estate.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Bali is also home to 32 species of mammals and 300 species of birds. Join one of the many bird walks offered in the fertile backcountry lanes of Ubud. The best place to experience the wild side of Bali is the famous Bali Barat National Park in West Bali which contains habitats ranging from rainforests to coral-fringed islands.

A two-hour 11-kilometre rafting trip down the spectacular Ayung River gorge, through one of Bali’s last original tropical forests, is a nature lover’s delight. The Ayung is Bali’s longest river and it flows year round. Though thrilling enough to be scary, the well-supervised experience is definitely far from life-threatening.

Bali is a safe and friendly destination for families. Kids have room to run around and let loose as most hotels have ample free space and frequently offer a children’s activities centre or kid’s club. Gardens, a swimming pool, a coconut grove and the beach are always nearby. Bali’s

Volcanic Spine
No trip to Bali is complete without a visit to its high mountain climes. The cool, 1450-meter high village of Penelokan, 56 kilometres north of the capital, perches on the rim of a gigantic caldera that looks out over the sacred blackened smoking volcano of Mount Batur.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
The views here are magnificent. Not only can you see all the surrounding mountains but also mount Agung to the east and sometimes even to the sea and beyond to mount Rinjani on the neighbouring island of Lombok. With its high, fresh climate, the area offers invigorating walks, highland rainforests and sweeping panoramas.

It’s a three kilometre corkscrew descent down to the crescent-shaped Lake Batur below. Along its shores huddle eight villages inhabited by the Bali Aga, Bali’s original settlers. A journey along the northwest shore is through a strange moonlike landscape over rivers of black lava and volcanic ash and rubble.

Guides of the area will offer their services to lead you to the top of the smouldering volcano, rising 688 meters above the lake. Though strenuous, Batur is the easiest volcano on Bali to climb. From the top climbers can see the sun climbing slowly and lighting the whole lake.

Bedugul: Bali’s Market Garden
The small friendly lakeside resort of Bedugul in the middle of the central highlands is just an hour’s drive north of Bali’s capital of Denpasar. Located along the main road to Singaraja on Bali’s north coast, surrounded by scenic terraced vegetable gardens, the area has unsurpassed views, cool temperatures and wonderful markets selling delicious citrus, passion fruit and other exotic fruits.

Over 1200 metres above sea level, Bedugul has been a popular weekend retreat since Dutch times, a welcome change from the tropical humidity of the south. Placid Lake Bratan fills the ancient crater of the long inactive Mount Catur that towers above the lake. The layers of mist, reflections of the mountain, the fleecy clouds and peaceful Ulun Danu Temple lying in the lake’s shallow waters, lend a mystical quality to the environs.
 
Bali Island Tour
 

Hikes along the exquisitely cultivated lakeshore lead up through steep, jungle-covered hills and pine forests. From Catur’s summit, there are stupendous views of Mount Batur to the east and the mountains of the national park to the west.

From the pier in front of Hotel Bedugul boats of every size and description - from small perahu (traditional Outriggers) to powerboats - stand ready to take you on tours of the lake. Another attraction of these central highlands is hidden Lake Tamblingan, one of Bali’s least known large bodies of water. At 1500 metres altitude, framed by dramatic peaks, the miniscule lake is also one of Bali’s highest. An important archaeological site, remnants have been found here of a people who lived on the lake’s shore 1000 years ago.

The Historic North
Two main roads cross Bali’s central mountain range leading to north Bali, an untouristed region of mountain hikes, rustic farming villages, high waterfalls, steaming hot springs, glistening black sand beaches, untouched marine and forest reserves, traditional craftsmen and dancers and temples decorated with baroque figures carved from volcanic rock.

The region stretches from the foothills of Bali’s central volcanoes to a secluded coastal plain against which the calm warm waters of the Java Sea lazily lap. Geographically isolated from the densely populated south, the north has developed distinct cultural differences in architecture, music and art. North Bali is the birthplace of the famous Kebeyar style of gamelan and dance, a genre now popular all over Bali.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Until the international airport opened at Tuban in 1962, northern Bali had much greater contact with the outside world than the south. Singaraja, the main city, has a cosmopolitan air with many ethnic and religious minorities living in harmony. A number of imposing European-style residences still stand, reminders of Singaraja’s former
grandeur as the Dutch colonial administrative centre of Bali and all of Nusatenggara.

To the east - at Sangsit, Jagaraga, Bungkulan and Kubutambahan - are found extravagant specimens of the north’s flamboyant temple architecture, differing considerably from the stiff classical lines carved of grey sandstone on the temples of southern Bali. The soft pink paras quarried here allow northern sculptors more exuberant adornment and artistic license.

The quiet, shady, hassle-free coastal resort of Yeh Sanih, 17 kilometres east of Singaraja, offers an idyllic beach and an enclosed natural swimming pool of clear, fresh water welling up from underground springs. A sleepy paved road, lined with old gnarled trees, follows the coast
eastward past sandy coves sheltering fishing jukung. A short hike inland from Tejakula, 32 kilometres east of Singaraja, is Les - the highest waterfall on Bali.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
With uninterrupted views of the island’s highest peak the whole way, the road eventually leads around Bali’s dramatic northeast corner and then heads south to Amlapura, capital of the eastern Karangasem Regency and once the seat of the one of the richest kingdoms of Bali. This is one of the few stretches of road on the island where rural life has been largely unaffected by tourism.
  frolicking in their feeding grounds at Lovina (north Bali) or Candidasa (east Bali).

Lovina: Northern Retreat

The north is perhaps best known for the Lovina Beach area, a whole line of villages along a palm-fringed shore that starts about six kilometres west of Singaraja. Diving and swimming can be enjoyed in crystal clear water off the unbroken eight-kilometres-long string of black sand beaches while breathtaking sunsets involve simply walking out on a café’s or restaurant’s veranda.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
The docile sea and shallow lagoons make this coast ideal for families. Beginners and young snorkelers can safely explore the specialized marine communities of plants and animals in the inter-tidal zone. Pre-dawn dolphin-watching is another popular activity when, for a few miraculous moments, your motorized outrigger may be surrounded by leaping, flipping, blowing dolphins.

Inland there are outstanding walks into the high country for waterfalls and rolling vineyards. In Banjar, surrounded by jungle and luxurious gardens, are hot sulphur pools - the perfect setting for a day’s loafing and soaking.

Rounding the corner of a road beyond the hot springs, the gleaming orange tile roof of the storybook monastery, Brahma Vihara Asrama, suddenly appears. The only Buddhist ashram on Bali, inside are Sukothai-style gold leaf Buddha images, a brightly painted stupa and exuberant woodcarvings - a dazzling mix of Balinese Hindu and Buddhist architectural elements.

Escape to Bali’s Wine Country
Lovina also makes an excellent jumping off point for the lakes and mountains of the island’s central mountain range. Where else to enjoy Bali-made wine but in the far reaches of northern Bali surrounded by verdant wine country?
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Kilometre upon kilometre of vineyards stretch along the fertile coastal plain from Pulaki all the way to Singaraja. Using the pergolas system popular in Spain and Sicily, overhead trellises are held aloft by small trees joined at the top by a wooden frame and wire mesh.

Bali’s Wild Side
Occupying the island’s western end, the West Bali National Park’s complex of habitats, including high forests and magnificent coral-fringed islands, is the untamed and unvisited side of Bali. The park’s primordial beauty is the perfect complement to Bali’s sun and sea, rice terrace and temple tourism.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
In the waters off the northwest horn of Bali are the marine reserves that have made this region a recreational paradise. One of the island’s premier dive sites is the sensational drop offs and coral reefs of Menjangan Island, teeming with a giddy variety of fish.

The Mother Temple of Bali
With mighty Mount Agung dominating the landscape, the scenery of Bali’s eastern regency of Karangasem is some of the most spectacular on the island. Far removed from the bustle of the south, this is an area where a number of archaic dance and musical forms are still regularly performed and where the high Balinese language is still in common use. It is Bali’s most traditional and least visited district.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
The main attraction of the area is Bali’s oldest, largest and most impressive and austere temple complex which sits one-third of the way up the slopes of Mount Agung in East Karangasem. Besakih is the essence of the island’s estimated 20,000 religious shrines, a symbol of religious unity; it is the supreme “mother temple” of Bali.

Looming up behind the complex, Mount Agung is considered the “Navel of the World,” the geographical and mystical centre of the universe.
As Olympus was to the ancient Greeks, so sacred is this massive 3000-meter high volcano that the Balinese always sleep with their heads towards the mountain. As many as seventy rituals are held annually inside Besakih’s temple complex.

Points East: Weaving Villages & Seaports
In the foothills of Mount Agung, heading east to Amlapura on a little used country road, the traveller comes to Selat, Iseh and Rendang. As well as affording magnificent views, these mountain villages incorporate a sturdy, distinctive volcanic-stone architecture found nowhere else on the island. Sideman is renowned all over Bali for its endek (Balinese ikat) weaving and silk songket fabrics interwoven with designs of gold and silver thread.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Approaching from the south along the coast beyond Klungkung, the traffic thins and the pace slows as the main road finally meets Bali’s east coast. Undulating irrigated rice fields give way to the sun’s blazing heat on this arid stretch of road which passes fishing villages, beachside salt processing factories, the old harbour of Kusamba and the holy bat cave of Goa Lawah. Deep inside, it is said, a mythical serpent lives, the caretaker of the earth’s equilibrium.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
A right hand turn takes the traveller to the small, charmingly scruffy port of Padangbai, known for its plentiful restaurants serving freshly caught seafood, as well as the ferry transit point for the neighbouring island of Lombok. The surrounding area offers varied hiking, beaches for sunbathing, hidden coves and at least three excellent dive spots just 15 minutes away by native jukung.

Northwest of Amlapura is the fabled open-air water palace of Tirtagangga, a former raja’s retreat and one of the prettiest pool complexes on Bali. With its fountains, bizarre statues, pleasant cool weather, quiet star-filled nights and the constant sound of splashing water, it’s a sublime experience to swim laps in big flower-strewn spine-tingling reservoirs filled by freshwater mountain streams.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Only a few kilometres inland from the tourist beach resort of Candidasa is the walled village of Tenganan. Inhabited by the aboriginal Bali Aga people, Tenganan has long been a stronghold of unusual indigenous traditions and customs that have been jealously guarded for centuries. Removed from the Javano-Balinese regions of Bali, its pre-Hindu architecture is simple yet very powerful.

Tenganan is the only locale in all of Indonesia that still produces double-ikat woven textiles (kamben gringsing). Strong, insect and heat resistant ata baskets, as well as lontar palm leaf books upon which intricate scenes from the Hindu epics have been superbly etched, are also on sale here at very reasonable prices.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
For marine life enthusiasts, snorkelling and diving off the coast in and around the seductive seaside resort of Candidasa, as well as in the vicinity of Amed north of the regency capital Amlapura are outstanding. One of the premier dive spots on the whole island of Bali is off Tulamben in the northern corner of the regency.

Nusa Lembongan - Bali’s Offshore Playground
Bali’s premier offshore recreational destination is a small low dry island inhabited by amiable seaweed farmers, 25 kilometres from Bali’s eastern coast. Ringed by palms and sugary sand beaches, Nusa Lembongan offers excellent beachcombing, sunbathing, diving and snorkelling in its immaculate shallow bays, channels and coral reefs.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Immensely popular with families, couples and small groups of friends, there is a wide variety of safe and well-organized day and evening Bali-based cruises on vessels ranging from high-speed ocean rafts to stately sailing ships.
 
Bali Island Tour
 
Nusa Lembongan is definitely not a beach chair war kind of place. Cruise operators share the same small bay that is framed by high promontories with a row of rainbow-coloured jukung at one end. Though the day can be spent crammed with sporting and touring activities, most just choose to sleep, relax, drift off with a book or perfect their tan on a pristine arcing beach under the shade of ketapang trees.

Bali Island Tour
 


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