What To Do Inland When Visiting Bali
Bali, they say, is a genuine paradise on earth. From the rugged mountain ranges tumble swathes of winding rice terraces, banana trees bordering roads speckled with shrines and leading to the black sands of Bali’s unique volcanic beaches. A surfer’s paradise since the 1960’s, its beaches attract thousands a year. World-class diving and an enduring traditional fishing industry, replete with quaint fishing villages and elaborately painted boats, have cemented an image of Bali as one giant beach into popular culture.
In South Bali, coastal cities like Kuta and Jimbaran have stolen the limelight, and while they remain idylls of surf and sun, the party-hard atmosphere is not to everyone’s tastes. Bustling crowds, touts and over-priced bars seem to have stolen the scene. Venture further inland, however, and you’ll discover that South Bali’s reputation as a favoured sun-spot is outdone by Central Bali’s reputation as the heart of Balinese culture. Take a short journey north and you’ll find places like Ubud, a village where dance and art take centre stage against a backdrop of museums, craft shops and the Sacred Monkey Forest.
There are many ways to explore inland Bali, whether on the back of a motorbike or as a group on one of the many coach tours. Either way, if traditional Bali is what you’re looking for then an excursion into its bustling markets provides an eye-opening experience of daily life and custom. This is what National Geographic refers to as ‘Intelligent Travel’, and testimonials for its intrepid writers should provide ample reason to check them out. Bali is known for its exquisite sculptures and fine local crafts, and the markets are a perfect way to find them.
Hire a bike and hit Bali’s gentle roads, winding your way past rice terraces and views of some its stunning mountain ranges. Mount Agung is Bali’s summit, an active volcano with regular tours for the more adventurous. A two day trek is recommended, while Mount Batur offers equally awe-inspiring views with much less of a climb. The Bali Safari and Marine Park is also a popular destination, with more than 50 species of animals cared for in Bali’s rugged, natural habitat, and activities for the whole family.
Bali is also called the ‘land of a thousand temples’. Its rich cultural heritage is resplendent with spiritual and religious sentiment and practice, and its temples are a true spectacle. Venture as far as North Bali and you’ll find the Ulun Danu Temple, which sits enthroned on mist shrouded lake. Besakih Temple rests on the side of Mount Agung, the oldest and most venerated of Balinese temples with a history spanning more than a thousand years. Architectural majesty meets sincere religious practice, with sites like the Tirta Temple’s holy spring continuing to be a pilgrimage for the locals.
True Bali is only to be found inland. The Balinese people themselves bring out the best of its culture, and its art is illustrated most beautifully in traditional dance. Evil spirits are slain, the fight between good and evil enacted, and witch-queens duelled with in dances such as the Barong and Calonarang. Performance groups work in places like the Monkey Forest and quiet villages. An enduring cultural history and breath-taking displays of piety and celebration make visiting inland Bali a must for anyone who wants more than sun, sea and surf.
There are plenty of great packages available for holidays in Bali, so keep an eye out for the best deals and take a trip you’ll remember forever.
Tom Walsh is a freelance travel writer.