With gorgeous beaches, world-class surfing and diving, and endless sunshine, Bali has long been a bikini paradise for the laid back sun and surf fan. However, there is a lot more to Bali than gnarly waves and sweet parties. This Indonesian island is saturated with a deeply spiritual and unique culture that will enchant and delight you in ways you never imagined.
The scenery in Bali could almost fool you into thinking it was an elaborate painted backdrop, because the emerald green rice paddies, dramatic volcanoes, dense tropical jungles and warm sun glinting off blue water are too incredible to be real. Bali is called the “Island of the Gods” and when you arrive at this last paradise it is easy to see why.
Bali is an absolute treat for the senses, and its colorful traditional art and live performances, lush surroundings, spicy and bold cuisine, and tranquil temples will create travel memories that you will never forget.
A Very Sacred Place
Bali is also known as the “Island of a Thousand Puras (Temples)” and there are an estimated 20,000 temples and shrines throughout the island. Each village is required by law to have at least three temples, and many have more. Religion is part of nearly every aspect of traditional life in Bali, and embraces theology, philosophy and mythology. Gods and goddesses are present in all things, and every element of nature represents the power of the gods.
You will see tiny offerings to the gods everywhere, known as canang san, which consist of leaf trays filled with rice, flowers, cookies, and other treats and set out with incense sticks and a sprinkle of holy water. The Balinese subscribe to the Hindu philosophy of “Tri Hita Korana”, which means that the three causes of happiness are good relations with God, other people, and the environment. This idea of universal harmony underlies all interactions.
The rest of Indonesia is mostly Muslim, however Bali has managed to retain a small pocket of Hinduism. The art and ritual of Balinese Hinduism is a visual manifestation of sacred religious beliefs.
The Sights and Sounds of Artistic Bali
Bali has one of the most innovative and diverse performing arts cultures in the world. Many temples have an inner courtyard which serves as a performance space for the music, dance, or drama that often accompanies a Balinese ritual. Thousands of performances are held throughout the year, at public shows, temple festivals, or private ceremonies. Balinese performers act out the ancient stories of Hindu epics such as the Ramayana with their own Balinese touch. They also perform the traditional ritual dances, such as the Barong or “Lion Dance” that depicts the battle between good and evil.
Sculpture is an important form of creative expression in Bali, and you will see many beautifully carved statues of gods and goddesses in the temples and courtyards of the island. Bali has a very highly developed visual arts culture, including painting, leather, and metal working.
Taste the Local Cuisine
Are you ready for a hot, spicy and colorful explosion of flavor? Balinese food is most often served with rice or noodles, and most dishes involve pork, chicken or seafood and a variety of vegetables mixed with chili. Sate is a method of cooking that produces mouth-watering grilled meat on a stick. Nasi goreng is one of the most popular dishes, and is a delicious plate of steamed rice fried in wok with oil, vegetables and seafood or chicken, often served with a fried egg on top. Duck is also a popular ingredient in Balinese dishes.
You can find great authentic food from the roving vendors, known as kaki lima. The name means “five legs” which refers to the three legs of the food cart and the two legs of the vendor. From these carts you can get deliciously spicy hot meatball noodle soup called bakso.
Pretty and Peaceful Ubud
Ubud is regarded as the cultural center of Bali, and is the epicenter of all the arts and crafts activity in the nearby villages. It is rich with beautiful temples, tranquil gardens, and a general feeling of peace and wellbeing. There are many museums and galleries for the art lover to explore, and botanical gardens for a relaxed wanderer to unwind in. Cruising at a leisurely pace through the streets on a bicycle is the best way to explore the hidden treasures of Ubud.
Cycling Through the Paradise Island
Our Bali bike tour, Bali Paradise Ride begins in beautiful Ubud with a chance to discover what this artistic center has to offer. Then, we venture outside the village and into the hills and down to the coast. Enjoy a ride along some of the most breath-taking beaches you can imagine, while stopping to admire stately ancient temples along the way. Have you ever seen a volcanic black sand beach, or visited an 11th century temple perched on the rim of an active caldera? Our tours will take you through the most other-worldly scenery of Bali, where you will gasp at the wonders of nature and truly feel like a guest in the land of the gods.