The name of Bali alone brings to mind images of dark forests, colourful parades and tasty cuisine. From volcanoes to black sand beaches and stunning rice terraces, Bali offers an incredible variety of scenic views. It is undoubtedly one of the top Asian destinations. In this guide, you will find our favourite spots, good deals and practical tips.
Bali and its dreamlike landscapes, between sea and volcanoes
- Indonesia in a nutshell
- The beating heart of Indonesia
- The must-go places in the North
- Places to visit in the East
- Places to see in the Center
- Southern attractions
- The beauties of the West
- Hotels for families
- Kid-friendly cuisine & restaurants
- Moving about
- Weather & climate
- Some tips
1 – INDONESIa in a nutshell
- Capital: Jakarta (Bali: Denpasar)
- Political regime: Presidential democracy
- Official language: Indonesian (Bali Bahasa)
- Currency: Rupiah (Indonesian rupiah – Rps)
- Cost of living: Very cheap
- The best time to travel to Bali: May to October
2 – THE BEating HEART OF INDONESIA
- With over 13,000 islands, the Indonesian archipelago is the largest one in the world. It is crossed from East to West by an impressive chain of volcanoes. Bali is culturally rich and made up as a huge patchwork of peoples, religions and languages.
- The geographical location of Bali and its international airport make it easily accessible for whoever wants to discover the beauties of the archipelago.
- Although Bali – also known as “The Island of the Gods” – is very popular among tourists, the inhabitants have been able to preserve its authenticity and to keep their traditions alive.
- The sacred is an important part of the island’s magic. Hinduism is practised by 95% of the population. It is characterized by animism and local peculiarities. Several times a day, the inhabitants make offerings in front of their houses, engage in processions and participate in ceremonies. The air is then filled with heady scents of incense.
The welcome and beauty of traditions
3 – the must-go places in the north
- The beach of Lovina is known worldwide for hosting one of the favourite activities of the island’s visitors: going out to sea to meet the dolphins. The local hotels offer tourists the opportunity to board the fishing boats, which have coexisted alongside the adorable marine mammals for centuries. Ask the hotels on the coast to make sure you sail in the best conditions.
- Your children will have the best time at the Krisna Funtasticland, a fun-filled amusement park. Bumper cars, carousels, roller coasters, and well-stocked gift shops, it has all you need to please your little ones. Itinerary.
- A little further inland, make a detour to the quiet village of Kalibukbuk, where you will have the opportunity to visit the ancient Buddhist temple of Candi, in the middle of the luxuriant vegetation. Further into the north-east, near Sembiran, is the Pura Ponjok Batu, an imposing Hindu temple in black stones overlooking the beach (hence its name « Ponjok », « Overhanging »). In front of it, a statue representing a boat « prahu » (traditional sailing boat) was carved on a promontory in the open sea and offers a breathtaking view. Itinerary.
- South of Bali’s former capital, Singaraja, is the famous Git Git Waterfall. With its 40-meter height, it is very popular among tourists, but if you go past the stalls of sarongs (traditional cloth pieces) and other souvenirs, the show is worth it. The place is also very rich in plants and exotic flowers. Itinerary.
4 – places to visit in the east
- The highest point of the island is in the northeast of the country: Mount Agung (3031 meters high). In clear weather, you can see this grand volcano even from kilometres away. The climb of Mount Agung is possible from two large Hindu temples, the Besakih on its southwestern slope and the Pasar Agung on its southern slope. It is however not recommended for children as it is challenging (it is a 6 to 9-hour climb).
- To contemplate Mount Agung in the best conditions, we advise you to go to Amed, a peaceful village known for its beautiful black sand beaches, located about fifteen kilometres away. The whole coast is a diver’s paradise and it is extremely easy to rent equipment. Corals, colourful fish, old shipwrecks: discover all the wonders of the sea while snorkelling with your children. Itinerary.
- As a small group, it is also possible to accompany the local fishermen in search of tuna, barracudas or dorado by boarding their « prahu ». An exciting experience for the whole family.
- About ten kilometres south of Amed, the Water Palace in Tirtagganga is a splendid complex surrounded by natural springs running into fountains and fishponds. Your kids will love to jump from stone to stone before a family picnic in the elegant palace gardens. Itinerary.
The grand Agung volcano and its rice fields’ landscapes
5 – places to see in the centre
- Make sure you visit the city of Ubud, located just outside the centre to the south. It is quite touristy but still worth a visit as it is one of Bali’s cultural centres, with plenty of things to see and do. Don’t miss the wonderful traditional dance shows which take place every day at 7.30 pm in the former Royal Palace (17th century). You will be amazed by the makeup, costumes and graceful dancers. Itinerary.
- In the south of the city, you will find the Monkey Forest, a natural reserve that hosts many different kinds of monkeys whose games and arguments are simply hilarious. Itinerary.
- The centre of the island is famous for sheltering some of the most beautiful rice fields. The Jatiluwih (meaning “really wonderful”) rice fields are located in the region of the Batukaru volcano and its 11th-century temple and have been recognized as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage. They form natural amphitheatres and have shaped the Balinese nature for more than a thousand years. At the end of each parcel, small altars dedicated to Dewi Sri, Vishnu’s devoted wife and goddess of rice, punctuate your hikes. Itinerary.
6 – Southern ATTRACTIONS
- The southern part of the island is home to the seaside resorts of Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu, whose beaches are very popular, especially with surfers. It is also in these resorts that you find the most lively and trendy spots of Bali.
- However, quite close by you can find more quiet areas such as Jimbaran, whose beautiful white sand beach and fish market are famous throughout the island. On the southeast coast, Sanur is also a fairly quiet resort where you can meet fishermen and see their traditional boats. The sea is accessible and suitable for young children who want to take a dip. Itinerary.
- Going a little further along the coast to the west, wilder beaches will lead straight to one of the most famous temples on the island: the Pura Tanah Lot. Built in the sixteenth century on a rocky island, it is one of the seven temples of the Sea on the coast of Bali. They are meant to protect it from evil spirits from the waters. A mysterious aura seems to surround the building. Contemplating the sunset will certainly be one of the highlights of your trip. Itinerary.
- In Sukawati’s urban area, do take your children for a visit to the Bali Zoo. You will have breakfast with orangutans, dine near the lions, and get to this fantastic place… riding on an elephant’s back! Itinerary.
- Not far from there, the Gyaniar, Bali Bird Park is home to hundreds of exotic bird species gathered in vast greenhouses with impressive vegetation. Parrots, toucans, macaws, etc., your children will be thrilled! Also worth mentioning are the many games available to them in the park. Itinerary.
The Pura Tanah Lot and its unforgettable sunset
7 – the beauties of the west
- The northwest is probably the wildest and best-preserved area of the island. This is where you can discover the West Bali National Park. We recommend going for a trek as a family (2 to 3 hours) from the temples of Jayaprana and Layon Sari into the monsoon forest, where you will be able to observe mangroves, rare animals and medicinal plants.
The city of Pemuteran is simply unmissable. This peaceful fishermen’s village with black sand beaches is ideal to enjoy the sun and feast on seafood specialities. It is also a model for eco-tourism, as local authorities have been committed to the protection of coral reef for thirty years. Itinerary.
- From this magical place, you can easily access Menjangan Island marine park. Its turquoise waters are full of exotic fish, turtles and colourful corals. Go snorkelling with your children and enjoy unforgettable moments as a family. Itinerary.
8 – HOTELS FOR FAMILIES
- North: A few kilometers from the Krisna Funtasticland Park, and next to Lovina Beach, the Hotel Shri Ganesh *** is a quiet and comfortable establishment with everything your family needs for an unforgettable stay, such as the connecting rooms with air conditioning, the large private bathroom and the comfortable seating area overlooking a beautiful garden. The staff is very caring, and the beautiful swimming pool, the relaxing massages and the excellent restaurant guarantee beautiful moments with your loved ones.
- East: With its direct access to the black sand beach and its view of the Agung volcano, the Villa Agung Amed *** is an ideal place to stay for groups and families. The private parking, the terrace, the garden with infinity pool and the spa with a family atmosphere contribute to the cosy and friendly feel of the place. The hotel offers many activities: in addition to renting bicycles or cars, it is possible to use paddles, kayaks, windsurfing boards and other diving equipment, free of charge.
- West: Make the most of the island’s exceptional biodiversity at the Seen Divers Resort, a charming family-run hotel with wonderful views and direct access to the beach. As its name indicates, diving lessons are the hotel’s speciality. It also houses a protection centre for turtles. What a joy for your children to be able to release those small creatures into their natural habitat…
- South: The Villa Sungai ***** is composed of two villas. Enjoy an experience of refinement and incredible luxury in the middle of rice fields. In a refined space where tradition and modernity meet, you benefit from exclusive services. These include an 18-meter long infinity pool, a music room, special spa treatments, and culinary creations by 4 talented chefs. Your children enjoy a tailor-made program with body care, play areas, dance classes, crafts, introductions to diving and snorkelling… In short, the Villa Sungai is paradise on « the island of the gods ».
Villa Sungai, our paradise in South-West Bali
9 – KID-FRIENDLY CUISINE & RESTAURANTS
- Scented rice, spices, vegetables, meat, fish, etc. Balinese cuisine is a real festival of flavours. Most of the island’s inhabitants are Hindu, which is different from the rest of Indonesia (they eat less beef). Balinese cuisine also mixes a lot of Chinese and Indian influences.
- With just € 3, you can already enjoy typical street-food style dishes such as nasi goreng (fried rice with meat and vegetables), or small chicken skewer with satay sauce (or « bumbu kacang », peanut sauce). Pineapple, coconut, bananas, guavas and passionfruit are everywhere. Be careful with peppers. Balinese food tends to be very spicy! At the restaurant, we recommend you to specify « not spicy » for your children’s orders.
- In Indonesia, « warung» refers to a restaurant serving local food, or even a grocery store selling local products. With the development of tourism, the meaning of the word has transformed, as it originally designated small wooden shops and food stalls where cheap meals were sold.
- A remarkable fact: the island has a large number of cooking schools. When you visit Ubud in the centre, bring the whole family to the Paon Bali Cooking Class. You will be welcomed into a family atmosphere and have the opportunity to accompany a couple of passionate chefs on the Laplapan market. Afterwards, you and your children will prepare the best local dishes. Itinerary.
- In the locality of Keramas, in the southwest, and close to the Sababay Winery (a lovely wine estate), taste one of the best cuisines of Bali by going to Warong Lelong, a typical and authentic restaurant. Their « nasi campur » (tuna, fried tofu, cucumber, spinach, fermented soy, chicken, corn and spicy sauce), as well as their « ayam betutu » (grilled stuffed chicken, vegetables, tapioca and coconut) are excellent. Itinerary.
- In Seminyak, on the southwest coast, check out Bambu, a fine Balinese-style restaurant. It was the TripAdvisor community’s Travelers’ Choice Laureate in 2018. You can enjoy a relaxing time and exquisite food under a Joglo (a typical Balinese shelter), surrounded by ponds and exotic plants. The staff will take good care of you and cater for your every need (special attention is paid to the level of spiciness in your food and to any intolerance or allergy). Itinerary.
Promoting products, a real art of living…
10 – MOVING ABOUT
- When you arrive in Bali, it is recommended to stay at least 2 to 3 days in the same place, so that the whole family can rest from the long flight and recover from the jet lag (there is a 6-hour time difference with Brussels).
- The best way to get around the island with your children is to rent a car. We advise you to collaborate with the hotels where you are staying. Villa Sungai, for example, provides its guests with a private car with chauffeur between the Denpasar International Airport (Ngurah Rai) and the hotel. This type of hotel usually contacts trustworthy English-speaking people to help you tour the region.
- Although public transport used to be relatively undeveloped in Bali, there is now a bus company, Kura Kura Bus, which connects the Southern part of the island from Ubud to Seminyak through 5 different routes. The rates are good, and they also provide a taxi service.
- Evidently, as is the case in many Southeast Asian countries, two–wheel engines are most popular with locals and are often the most suitable means of transportation to travel in less accessible parts of the countryside. However, whether by scooter or car, avoid the cities’ traffic between 8 am and 10 am and between 5 pm and 8 pm.
11 – weather & cLIMATe
- Due to its proximity to the Equator, Bali only has two seasons, which is typical of tropical climates. The dry season, from May to October, is usually preferred by travellers, with a peak attendance in July and December. The rainy season occurs from November to April, with the monsoon in January, especially in the north of the island. Interestingly, in Bali it usually rains during the evening and at night.
- The average temperature is 26 °C. The « island of the gods » really offers an ideal climate almost all year long. The heat is always tolerable, and the coolness is pleasant. Nature lovers and hikers will be happy with the altitude temperatures, which are always a little cooler, ranging between 20 and 25°.
- Despite the nice weather and temperatures, do not forget to protect your skin as the sun shines quite brightly.
- If you have planned a very busy day, you can rise with the sun (always around 6 am) and go to sleep when it sets (around 6 pm).
12 – some tips
- The running water is not drinkable: do like the Balinese, do not taste it.
- The Balinese cuisine is extraordinary, but can contain unpleasant surprises: do not forget to check that the dishes served to your children are not too spicy, as their stomachs are fragile.
- The tropical sun can be very aggressive on your skin. Do not hesitate to use a sunscreen with maximum solar protection (SPF 50+). Hats, sunglasses and anti-UV clothing are also helpful. Here is a more detailed article about this subject.
- To finish on a helpful note, here are a few basic words and phrases that could help you during your stay on the « island of the gods »:
- Hello (morning) – Selamat pagi
- Good afternoon – Selamat sore
- Good evening – Selamat malam
- Goodbye – Selamat Jalan
- Please – Minta
- Thank you – Terima kasih
- Can I have the bill? – Minta bon?
- What time is it? – Jam berapa?
- How much does it cost? – Berapa harganya?
- No spice please – Tidak cabai silahkan+
HAVE A GREAT TRIP!
Jean-Philippe, 34 years old, musician and travel lover, from Brussels, Belgium