Flawless Beaches, Cultural Traditions, and More Only in Bali
For centuries, the waters of Bali’s Jimbaran Bay have beckoned the weak and the weary. Seeking rejuvenation in the Indonesian island’s warm ocean and on its sublime, cotton-soft beaches, travelers to Bali’s exquisite southern peninsula discover a world where the four elements—earth, water, fire, and sky—converge seamlessly into a complex tapestry. And it’s not just the south of the country that intrigues.
Sun-kissed surfers laid claim to Bali’s storied waves in the late 1960s. In 1972, Uluwatu, now ranked among the top surf spots in the world, gained yoga international prominence with the release of the now-classic film Morning of the Earth. Back then, the beach was accessed via a long staircase from the eponymous temple. The film broadcast the area’s isolated, stunning beauty and unleashed a torrent of visitation.
Nowadays it’s not just surfers who come here (though there’s still plenty of opportunity to catch a wave, if desired). Visitors to Bali’s extensive coast dabble in a range of ocean sports like kayaking and parasailing, dine on fresh seafood, and lounge on the silky sand.
Beyond the beach, Bali offers unparalleled immersion in culture and tradition, both of which are embodied in the country’s estimated 10,000 Hindu temples called puras. These places of worship are designed as open-air gathering spaces enclosed by thick walls connected with a series of intricate gates.
Built to face the mountains, sea, or sunrise, the temples range from modest to elaborate. Inside are spires, towers, and pavilions deliberately organized around three zones, known as mandalas. Typically serene and uninhabited, the puras transform into vibrant places during festivals and temple anniversaries, when visitors can experience traditional dance performances and more.
A natural extension of the country’s spirituality is its reputation for holistic healing. Bali Usada, sometimes called Balinese Traditional Healing in the West, employs naturopathic remedies— herbs, massage, energy work, and other ancient practices—to treat ailments both physical and mental. Complementing this practice are the island’s burgeoning yogic opportunities. In recent years, leaders of Balinese studios have developed loyal followings, and Bali has emerged as a premier destination for yoga teacher training.
Perhaps a great deal of the island’s popularity can be attributed to its prominence in author Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love. (Bali was where she found love.) A hit movie starring Julia Roberts followed the book, and now tourists arrive regularly on the island hoping to follow in Gilbert’s footsteps.
But Gilbert merely amplified what travelers who came before her already knew: There is no place else in the world like Bali. Lush, remote, exotic, and intriguing, Bali is a beautiful, multi-faceted destination. A vacation here can be tranquil or turbo-charged. Either way, it is guaranteed to transform.