Located in the Lesser Sunda islands of Indonesia, the province of Bali known for many things, including its natural beauty and history. Romanticized by anthropologist Margaret Mead, its culture is a mixture of Chinese, Indian, and Hindu influences across eight regencies and neighboring islands.
It grew to international prominence during the thirties, and currently, tourism accounts for 80 percent of the province's total revenue. Considering its warm year-round climate and favorable foreign exchange, it an attractive getaway for snowbirds.
Known locally as Mandala Suci Wenara Wana, the Sacred Monkey Forest sanctuary attracts approximately 120,000 visitors a month. While it's a nature conservatory with a variety of protected animals, the Balinese long-tailed monkeys are the main draw. Different groups of monkeys occupy separate territories within the sanctuary. Visitors can observe, photograph and have limited interactions with them. Other than that, touching the monkeys and feeding them human food, such as cookies or bread, is strictly prohibited. That doesn't stop the monkeys from sometimes accosting tourists if they feel there's food.
Founder of the Shaivite priesthood and traveler, Dang Hyang Nirartha came to Bali from Java during the 15th century. His travels led him to the rock-island where he told some fishermen to build a temple because he felt that it would be a holy place to worship Bali's sea gods. The mythology surrounding Tanah Lot and its Hindu temple has been around for centuries, and the site has been the subject of many tourist photographs.
Ubud Royal Palace, known as Puri Saren Kangin, was built from 1800 to 1823 by the late ruler Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel. It's a complex that contains the houses for Ubud royals and their families. During the reign of the last king, famous entertainers and artists visited and helped Ubud to become Bali's cultural hub. Ubud Royal Palace is free to visitors, who can hire a guide to learn more about its history
The history of Sanur tells of invasions of Dutch and Japanese forces during the first half of the twentieth century. However, in 1963, it saw a boost in tourism thanks to the Bali Beach Hotel, built by the Indonesian president. These days, Sanur is becoming a popular location for villa resorts. While it has beaches that offer panoramic views, a major attraction is the Bali Orchid Garden. Opened in 1999, this landscaped gardens has species from Indonesia as well as abroad.
Located in Gianyar district, Tegalalang Rice Terraces offer visitors a real rural experience. While terraced rice fields are all around Bali, Tegalalang is home to the Subak system, a cooperative irrigation system that was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2012. Visitors can walk through the rice terraces, which have an entrance fee as well as mandatory donations at certain access points. The terraces are at their greenest in September, October, March or April, which are rice harvest times.
Known as the Elephant Cave, some speculate that Goa Gajah was built in the 9th century, while others postulate that the style is from the 11th century. What is known is that the complex contains images of Hinduism and Buddhism. One example is the main stone-carved image that was thought to be an elephant but was, in fact, a statue of Hindu God Ganesh.
For centuries, Celuk Village in Gianyar has been known for handcrafted gold and silver jewelry. Celuk started as a farming community. Over time, each learned how to manipulate metals, and today, it's home to traditional artisans who have passed down their expertise through the generations. Tourists can check out some of the pieces on display and may even commission custom pieces from certain artisans. In rare instances, some smiths may allow visitors to create their own jewelry.
Off the coast of Bali, in the Klungkung Regency, is the Nusa Islands. These three islands are known for their beaches and natural landscapes, but they're also bird sanctuaries. Nusa Lembongan has white sand beaches and limestone cliffs, and on the other side of the yellow suspension bridge is Nusa Ceningan, known for its surf breaks. These three islands are vacation spots on their own and travel experts recommend booking a few days to explore and enjoy.
When artists fled Java for the island, Balinese dances became a way for the people to teach and showcase historical events and beliefs. While there are many types, visitors to Bali tend to appreciate the Kacak, Legong and Barong dances. Legong tells the story of a king finding a lost maiden who he holds captive, and the Barong tells of a fight between good and evil. There are many dance performances daily in the temples and palaces of Ubud for visitors to enjoy.
Built in 1633 to honor the Balinese water, lake, and river goddess Dewi Danu, Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is a complex of four sacred buildings with multiple tiers and tropical foliage. This floating temple is also a major part of the subak system which uses Bali's second largest lake, Lake Beratan, to irrigate the local village's crops. The temple is open for worship 24 hours, but for visitors who want to learn more about its history, it's open from 8 am to 5 pm.