Bali

Bali has got it all: history, landscape, the poetry of Hindu devotion, beaches and surf, plus a highly developed tourist industry offering everything from backpackers' guesthouses to sensational boutique hotels.

Bali is a small and hilly island, measuring only about two-thirds the size of Crete. In contrast to the rest of Indonesia, the population is predominantly Hindu, and devoutly so: the Balinese make daily offerings to shrines and spirits, and each year lavishly celebrate anniversary festivals at some 20,000 open-air temples across the island. The main tourist resorts are in the south, notably Nusa Dua and Kuta, with an inland hub at Ubud.

Kuta

This seaside resort developed into a backpackers' paradise in the 1960s. It still has an easy-going, partying flair, with budget accommodation as well as more up-market options. You have to look for authentic aspects of Bali beneath all the pazzazz. Kuta runs into the neighbouring, and slightly more sedate, Legian to the north.

Sanur

While Kuta looks west towards the sunset, the gentler resort of Sanur looks east, on the other side of the peninsula. With its range of stylish beachside hotels and little else, Sanur offers a relaxed atmosphere and an elegant base from which to tour the rest of the island.

Nusa Dua

When planning for a future of mass tourism in the 1970s, the tourist authorities wisely earmarked the drop-shaped clump of land the hangs from the very south of Bali for the big new purpose-built hotels. Here, close to the airport, they could build a new infrastructure for large-scale operations, without upsetting the traditional heartlands of Bali. Nusa Dua has all you need for luxurious beach holidays in the sun, but the Balinese culture has to be bussed in.

Denpasar

Bali's capital is a bustling city and administrative centre, but most visitors just pass through on their way between the resorts in the south and the rest of the island.

Ubud

This pleasant rural village was famous for its artists, and a centre for excursions to the monkey forest, the rice terraces, and temples in the outlying villages. Over the last twenty years, numerous and ever-more sophisticated hotels (with pools) have been built, but Ubud still retains its easy-going air and its role as a cultural centre. This is a good place also to explore Bali's extraordinary traditions of dance and gamelan music.

Mas

This is the wood-carvers' village, where numerous shops and workshops exhibit the exceptional skills of Balinese craftsmen.

Candi Dasa

An agreeable and low-key beach resort, Candi Dasa is a good base from which to explore the villages and beautiful landscapes of eastern Bali.

Tanah Lot

A multi-tiered temple perched on precipitous rocks on the west-facing coast provides a dramatic and evocative scene, especially at sunset - as thousands will testify.

Singaraja and Lovina

The north coast of Bali is less crowded than the south, the landscape is drier, and the beaches are often composed of black volcanic sand. There is also a greater Muslim presence. The result is that it has a very different feel to central and southern Bali, but offers a pleasant place to travel and hang out in. Singaraja is the main town, and Lovina the main beach resort.

Temple ceremonies

Every visitor to Bali will come across a temple ceremony - regular events, when each of the island's thousands of temples are dressed up with ravishingly beautiful offerings and become stages for ritual, dance and gamelan music, which often run right through the night. Ask around to see if you can attend a temple ceremony: visitors are welcome, as long as they behave discreetly, and wear the correct dress. The same applies to the astonishing cremation ceremonies.

Surfing

Bali has some of the world's best breaks. The most famous spot is Pantai Suluban, near Ulu Watu, on the west of the Nusa Dua peninsula. Novices can start at Kuta and Legian; and there is more surfing further north along this coast, at Canggu and Medewi.

Diving

The most famous dive-centre in Bali is at Amed, in the arid, volcanic north-east. This part of the coast offers fine coral gardens and drop-offs to 30m. Tulamben Bay, to its west, contains the wreck of a US transport vessel, the 'Liberty' (sunk by the Japanese in World War II), as well as the Tulamben Wall, dropping from 1m to 70m.

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