Unique among 17,504 islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is a province and a state of mind. Home to most of Indonesia’s Hindu minority population, the island represents the core of the Tri Hita Karana philosophy — put simply, harmony among people, nature, and God. Bustling beachside towns occupy the south. This area is flush with tourists, high-end resorts and hotels, and dazzling sunsets over the ocean. With an ancient culture that overcame Dutch colonization, Balinese people have a warm character and serenity that permeates the island, giving it a distinctive vibe not found anywhere else.
The colorful ceremonies and daily offerings of the Balinese Hindu religion are lovely and unmistakable. Ornate temples are on nearly every street. You can visit spectacular shrines by the sea in Tanah Lot and Uluwatu, or in the highest mountains of Besakih and Lake Bratan.
The south coast of Bali is the center of tourism, where each beach town has its own character and crowd. It’s the most developed part of the island and has something for everyone — from hipster-heavy Canggu, the wild party town of Kuta, to upscale, glamorous Seminyak; all side by side on the shores of the Indian Ocean. Denpasar is the biggest city and seat of government. Sanur is a destination for families and retirees, while the Bukit Peninsula features a combination of world-class surf spots, hidden beaches along steep cliffs, and 5-star resorts.
Ubud is in the middle of Bali and forms the epicenter of art and New Age attractions. A quaint town set among the rice fields, it is home to craftsmen, artists, and searchers from Bali and beyond. Mount Agung is an active volcano with the islands’ tallest peak and serves as the spiritual center of Bali — the home of the Gods, set among verdant mountains that stretch from east to west.
West Bali is the island’s nature preserve. West Bali National Park dominates the landscape with its vast swath of preserved land that is surrounded by villages and rice fields. North and east Bali have laidback beach towns that offer a quiet respite from the bustle of southern Bali. To the southeast are Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Ceningan — these three pristine islands that are known for their diving and nature tours.