Learn More About Indonesia (Bali, Lombok & Bintan)
Bali offers the tourist stunning hotels, instant culture and incredible scenic contrasts
There are over 13,000 islands in the Indonesian archipelago, stretching over 3000 miles from Sumatra in the west to Irian Jaya in the east. Of all these islands, Bali is the most popular for tourism, both from Europe and Australia, as well as from within the Asian region – and with good reason. Instant culture from the moment you disembark at the temple inspired airport. Incredible scenic contrasts. Proud traditions seem to blend almost seamlessly with modern tourism requirements. The most amazing and genuine smiles. Stunning hotels, either located at one of the developed beach resorts, high in the hills – or for those looking to see the Bali of yesterday, up on the much less developed north coast.
Roughly speaking the island is shaped like a turkey, propped up by just one leg (the peninsular) in the south. See map. The major resort areas are all located on the peninsular, where you will also find the airport and the busy island capital, Denpasar (little interest to most tourists).
Unlike most of Indonesia, which is Muslim, the majority of Balinese are Hindu – Buddhists. They are proud of their totally unique culture and are more than happy for you to understand and enjoy it.
The Main Resort Areas
Sanur – On the east of the peninsula. The original resort and it still retains a small village appeal. Several international hotels (we feature just the really good boutique Pavilions in this area). Clients like the well -priced restaurant options. The beach is reasonably good, although the reef comes close to shore limiting sea bathing and sports.
Nusa Dua – On the south-east coast, a manicured tropical garden estate, with a long stretch of sandy beach with good swimming and water sports. All of the international brand hotel names are here – Melia, Hyatt, St Regis, Aman Ritz Carlton and several more are being developed, many regional hotels and a good selection of boutique properties usually located a few minutes inland. Numerous restaurant options either in the various hotels or adjacent villages.
Jimbaran – Located on the south-west coast, probably the best swimming beach in the area with soft sand and generally gentle waves. No water sports permitted. A limited number of upscale hotels, and in recent years more restaurant options (mainly seafood).
Ulawatu – This is located at the extreme southern point of the peninsular and is definitely the place for sunsets. Several brand name hotels, such as Banyan and Bulgari. Personally, I think this area has tremendous appeal to ex-pats living in the region (Hong Kong or Singapore for example), they have already been to Bali many times and deliberately want to be well away from the more developed resorts. I don’t think it is any coincidence that most of the hotels here focus on three bedrooms upwards villa style accommodation. It would not be my choice for a first-time visit and /or I wanted easy access to restaurant options, but we will be happy to assist you of course. What I would do is find time to go and see the sunset one evening. It will take you about 45 minutes drive south from the aforementioned resorts.
Seminyak /Legian/Kuta – This is the long stretch of beach on the north-west of the peninsula. Within 8 miles of soft sand, you have something for everyone. Kuta is the party capital, lots of midranges and lower hotels, highly developed with numerous bars. It is also referred to as “Costa Fosters”, given its popularity with Australians. Legian is more upscale, with more deluxe hotels. Seminyak is top of the range, both in hotels and restaurant options. This is the place for foodies, incredible choice. Although the beach is long and sandy, you would need to be a confident swimmer to enjoy the strong waves and currents offshore. The area is popular with surfers, both regular and kite.
Canggu – This is a new area that is beginning to attract attention. For years it was the place of choice for well-heeled ex-pats deciding to reside on the island. Some really impressive villas. It is located 10 miles north of Seminyak (see note above) but is much less developed. A few small villages, some restaurant options but most will self-drive down the coast. Small rocky black volcanic sand beaches, only suitable for extremely confident swimmers. But it is beautiful, with many of the sumptuous villas surrounded by rice fields.
Airport to all of the aforementioned will be about 25 minutes, except Ulawatu which will be 70 minutes. Kuta to Nusa Dua 25 minutes ( longer in restaurant rush hour).
Ubud – Located about 75 minutes drive inland from all of the above (except Uluwatu). Romance at its best, this is picture book tropical splendour, and let me tell you, the reality is a hundred times better ! Incredible hotels, many with their own plunge pools. Enjoy it with someone special. In our view an absolute must on any visit to Bali, you can do it as a day trip, but try to plan at least 2/3 nights.
North Coast – This is the Bali of yesterday. Just a handful of boutique hotels.Dramatic views of neighbouring Java with its high volcanic mountains. Small villages and a pace of life that rarely exceeds first gear. Dark sand beaches, dolphin watching and some good dive sites. It appeals essentially to those who have been to Bali before and now want to see something even more authentic. It is easy to combine with hotels in the south. The scenic drive will be about 4 hours, longer if you want to do some sightseeing en route as you pass lakeside or water edge temples, misty mountains and villages where tourists are still a novelty.
Lombok – A separate island, just 20 minutes flight south-west of Bali. Just a few international hotels, the stunning scenery on the west coast, superb beaches (actually better than Bali), small highly traditional villages. A few restaurant options away from the hotels, but essentially Lombok is all about total relaxation. It is a large island, evidenced by the newish airport which is conveniently located right in the middle – a 2 hours transfer to most of the hotels! Lombok is also the place to discover the Gili islands, which is regarded as one of the best diving spots in the region.
Komodo – The island residence of the famous giant dragon lizard. No hotels, but it can be visited as part of a 4-day adventure cruise from Bali. Ask us for details.
Best time to visit Bali
It is popular and warm year round, but the best weather is generally March to October when the days are bright and sunny. November to February can see increased rainfall. Ubud, being inland, is noticeably cooler than the beach at night.
This part of Indonesia (East Java, Bali & Lombok) has incredible contrasting scenery. Nature has been good, but at times it gets angry and volcanoes suddenly erupt after years of slumber and even occasionally earthquakes. This region is prone to tremors on a regular basis.
If We Were To Be Critical...
Too much luxury hotel development, especially in the south Nusa Dua area. OK, I am spoilt, but I first came to Bali 30 plus years ago, and I have fond memories of having beaches almost totally to myself. Doesn’t apply now. Although I have to say, mostly through gritted teeth, some of the new hotels are truly spectacular – just too many of them. The Kuta area is an acquired taste – and when people talk about Bali being ruined, their experience tends to be based here.
I have lived in many tropical areas, so I have been blessed with truly great beaches. Nusa Dua and Jimbaran beaches are good, but I would not rate as exceptional on a worldwide scale. But the culture, the smiles and the genuine warmth, plus the luxury of the hotels more than compensates.
Indonesia sits within the so-called Ring of Fire which is an area of Tectonic activity. This means that earthquakes and volcanic eruptions do occur. Earthquakes of less than a 5 level magnitude happen so frequently they are hardly mentioned by locals and just taken as fact of life. Indonesia has 130 active volcanoes, more than any other country in the world. This all adds the dramatic scenery and the atmosphere, boring it is not. 90% of clients never get to experience a severe earthquake. They might see a smoking volcano in the distance, but nothing more. But this is a reality of considering/travelling to the destination.
Visa on arrival
Bali – A CHIC Location
More Hotels in Bali
All price guides are Per Person Sharing Double Room (Entry level), based on travel between May and/or June when prices are generally at their lowest and include promotional offers.
Supplements will probably apply at other times, particularly mid-summer in the Med, and for rooms and/or transfers arranged for single travellers.
For example Caribbean and Indian Ocean prices for winter can be approximately double the May - June level and about 50% more in Asia.
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