Popularly known as the Island of Gods, Bali is an island and province in the Southeast Asian country of Indonesia. As a province, Bali includes the main island of Bali along with small surrounding islands like Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan. Denpasar is the capital of the island that lies in its southern part.
Located on the westernmost tip of the Lesser Sunda Islands, it is between Java and Lombok Island. The island is home to most of the Indonesian Hindus. In fact, more than 80 percent of the inhabitants of Bali follow Hinduism. Bali is not only known for its pristine beaches, diving sites, and rich flora and fauna, but also for its exquisite art, rich culture and hospitality. Beaches like Kuta, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Suluban are great locations to relax. Waterfalls, such as Nungnung, Aling-Aling and Sekumpul along with the rock formation of Tanah Lot are few of the many natural marvels here.
The Agung Rai Museum of Art, Antonio Blanco Museum, Bali Museum, Neka Museum and Rudana Museum contain descript information on the art and history of the island. Most of the temples and heritage sites in Bali are not only known for their traditional architecture, but also for their gardens. Tirta Gangga, Tirta Empul Temple, Samuan Tiga Temple and Penataran Ped Temple are some of the most famous Balinese shrines.
Bali has always been known for its rich marine flora and fauna, and numerous diving sites off the coast offer a chance to discover them. In recent years, Bali has gained immense popularity among water sports enthusiasts as well. Facing the deep blue waters of the Bali Sea, the coastline of the island offers countless options for aquatic activities.
From festivals and rituals to folk music and dance to art and craft, the deep cultural influences from Hinduism are apparent in Bali. Ubud art market and Sukawati art market sell a variety of stuff, including handicraft items, hand-woven bags, decorative items and souvenirs. Besides this, Sanur night market and Kuta night market serve as apt venues to try local delicacies.
Just like its culture, Balinese cuisine is quite distinct from the rest of Indonesia. Showcasing a flavoursome mix of Indonesian, Chinese and Indian flavours, Balinese cuisine is considered as one of the most complex in the world. Fresh vegetables, meat and fish along with a blend of spices are common ingredients of Balinese preparations. Bebek Betutu, Babi Guling, Lawar, and Pepes and Tum are a few of the most famous Balinese specialities.
Just like the majority of the islands in the Indonesian archipelago, the island of Bali was created millions of years ago as a result of the tectonic subduction of the Indo-Australian plate under that of Eurasia. On the verge of this subduction, Bali was known to be connected to the nearby Java Island as part of the continental Sunda shelf.
Since it was once part of the Sunda Shelf, Bali’s history can be traced back to the Palaeolithic era. Tools found in parts of the island depict that it was inhabited by the Java man in around 200000 BC. More sophisticated tools, made out of animal or fish bones, were also found in the region. Dating to the Mesolithic era (200000-3000 BC), these show that people during this period were involved in advanced food gathering and hunting practices.
Between 3000 and 600 BC, Austronesian peoples occupied the region. They are supposed to have migrated from China and believed to practice agriculture and make use of boats. In ancient times, there were nine distinct sects of Hinduism in Bali, namely Bhairawa, Pasupata, Waisnawa, Siwa Siddhanta, Bodha, Resi, Brahma, Sora and Ganapatya, with each dedicated to a specific deity.
The beginning of the 1st century AD marked the development of a distinct Balinese culture, which was mostly influenced by Chinese and Indian, specifically Hindu, cultures. Inscriptions from AD 896 to 911 depict Bali to be an independent entity with its unique dialect, and people, following Buddhism and Saivism at the same time. Bali has been mentioned by several similar names as Bali Dwipa and Walidwipain in various ancient inscriptions. In the 14th century, the Hindu Majapahit Empire established a Balinese colony in eastern Java.
The island first came into the sight of the Europeans in the early 16th century. Dutch explorers arrived here in the late 16th century, and later the Dutch East India Company was formed in the early 17th century. The Dutch took the advantage of a tussle between several Balinese kingdoms and extended their control over the region by the end of the 19th century. Tourists from the West started visiting this island in the first half of the 20th century. During World War II, Imperial Japan invaded the region, but soon after its surrender in August 1945, the Dutch re-occupied the island. In 1946, the Battle of Marga took place in central Bali as a result of the Balinese rebellion against the Dutch rule.
The Dutch designated Bali as one of the 13 administrative districts of their State of East Indonesia. Eventually, the island became part of the Republic of the United States of Indonesia after Indonesia became independent in December 1949.
Separated by the Bali Strait, the island is situated about 3.2 km from the east coast of Java. Stretching nearly 153 km from east to west, the island is approximately 112 km from north to south. In total, Bali has an administrative area of about 5577 sq km, exclusive of the Nusa Penida district.
Located on the southern Bali coast, Denpasar is the capital and largest city of the province. Singaraja is the second largest Balinese city, while Kuta and Ubud are important towns on the island. Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan Isles lie southeast of Bali Island and are separated from the same by the Badung Strait. Lombok Island is in the east of Bali, separated from it by the Lombok Strait, which demarcates the bio-geographical separation of the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone from the totally different fauna of Australasia.
The centre of the island has many mountains, with Mount Agung being the highest. An active volcano, its cone is at an elevation of approximately 3031 metres above sea level. The mountain range in the centre of Bali extends to the east and ends at Mount Agung, the easternmost peak.
These central mountains slope down towards the south and north of Bali and constitute the major rice cultivation and coffee production areas of the province. Heavy rainfall in the region is contributed to its high mountains, whereas the extreme fertility of the soil can be attributed to the volcanic nature of the island.
Bali has a tropical monsoon climate, with the sun shining throughout the year. With the temperature ranging between 20 to 33 degrees Celsius, the days are pleasant. Rainfall occurs from October to March, when the western monsoonal winds strike the region. The most amount of rain falls between December and March. From June to September, the weather is relatively dry with a low level of humidity, and the evenings remain cool during these months. The mountainous areas of Bali observe rain round the year whereas the days mostly remain sunny in Bukit, a hilly area to the south of Jimbaran.
How to reach
Located about 13 km south of Denpasar, Ngurah Rai International Airport is the only airfield that serves Bali and its surrounding islands. Flights to Bali are available from major destinations within Indonesia and the world, including cities like Kuala Lumpur, Auckland, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Dubai and Beijing. An array of direct flights from Europe, America, Australia and most Asian countries are available for Bali. Domestic flights also operate to and from major cities within Indonesia, including Jakarta.
Ferry rides are a popular means to reach Bali from Java and Lombok. This service is also available to and from Bali to access nearby islands. Besides, Bali is also a stop-off point for cruise ships that cross the region.
Right from luxury limousines to traditional modes of transportation, a number of options are available to explore the island. Buses are available that ply between important towns and areas in Bali. Bemo, a small van with a defined service route, is a relatively cheaper means to commute if the distance to be covered is not too much.
Cab services along with chauffeur-driven cars are mostly available in major towns and cities. Self-driven cars, motorbikes and bicycle rental service can also be availed for a personalised trip. Dokar, a horse cart, offers a chance to get a first-hand experience of Balinese culture. Besides, Becak, a tricycle pedalled by men, is another unique way to commute from one place to another in Bali.
To access the nearby islands, some of which are prominent tourist destinations, boats are available from various terminals along the coast of Bali.