Gorgeous experiences for a gorgeous Bali
With its mystical volcanoes and wild jungles, postcard-perfect rice paddies, and spectacular coral reefs, Bali is sure to get under your skin and haunt you long after you’ve left. Although famed for its world-class surfing and diving, the island’s real charm lies far beyond its sun-kissed beaches, in the unique and gorgeous spiritual culture and the people who define it. From diving with Manta Rays to exploring the island’s most awe-inspiring rice terraces, these are the experiences that will transform your Bali escape into the trip of a lifetime.
Soak Up the Art in Ubud
Teeming with artists’ workshops and galleries, beautiful temples, historical sites, and traditional dancing shows, Ubud is the cultural heart of Bali. The town, situated in the center of the island, is surrounded by a number of wonderful artisan villages, each with its own specialty craft. Start your art discovery with a visit to the Ubud Palace (Puri Saren Agung) in the middle of town. This wonderful historical building complex serves as the official residence of the royal family, but it’s also a great place to admire Balinese architecture and watch a traditional Barong dance performance. To learn about the development of painting in Bali, head to Neka Art Museum, one of the island’s most remarkable galleries. On display are more than 400 works of art, ranging from ancient wayang paintings and historic black-and-white photographs of Bali to contemporary Indonesian art.
Immerse Yourself in Luxury at Villa Sungai Bali
Villa Sungai Bali is a distinguished luxury villa with the sophistication, inclusions and full service of the finest hotel, but with the privacy and exclusivity of a private residence. This isn’t one of a complex of villas, not a villa within a hotel, but a truly private “one-off”. Bali has a number of beautiful private villas, but this is one of the best. Imagine five star resort service, then imagine that service all to yourself in a villa with the amenities of a top hotel, that’s villa Sungai. Set in a tranquil country village in the island’s south-west, yet just 30 minutes from action-packed Seminyak Beach, Villa Sungai is the stylish way to do Bali. This is a destination for all senses, the exclusive Villa Sungai in Bali’s undiscovered southwest offers a rare, bespoke experience that combines contemporary style and intimate luxury with an authentic Balinese environment. Near the village of Cepaka where a brace of other upmarket and luxurious villas have also sprung up away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Denpasar, this villa hugs the cliff a amid palm and bamboo above the Penet river. Walk down the steep steps and through the double wooden doors and you are in your own private pavilioned world.
Sungai is divided into two parts: Villa Sungai, which has three large en-suite bedrooms overlooking an 18m infinity pool and a spacious dining/relaxation area; and Sungai Gold, a separate, smaller space housing three bedrooms also with its own infinity pool and dining/living pavilion. The main difference between the three rooms of Villa Sungai is that one room, the master, has a much larger outdoor bathroom where you can bathe or shower under the stars. All the rooms are lovely and light, with large four poster beds, mosquito nets, TV and preloaded iPods. At the newly re-worked and enhanced Sungai Gold the 3 bedrooms have separate dressing rooms and fabulous bathrooms. Book the three-suite flagship Sungai, the three-suite ‘Owner’s Villa’ Sungai Gold next door, or take over both [Sungai Platinum] for the ultimate glam escape.
Explore the Stunning Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
When in Bali, you will find no better place to escape the crowds and noise of everyday life and reconnect with nature than the marvelous Jatiluwih rice terraces. Located in central Bali, 7000 meters above sea level, these UNESCO-protected fields in the shadow of Mount Batukaru make up one of the island’s most stunning landscapes. Moreover, a day trip here will give you a true taste of rural Bali and a unique insight into the island’s agricultural life. There are lots of authentic little villages to explore in the area, as well as great restaurants serving genuine local food along with peaceful views of the emerald green paddies. To visit the Jatiluwih rice terraces, you can either hire a driver or opt for a full-day excursion organized by one of the local tour operators.
Dive with Manta Rays on Nearby Nusa Penida Island
A little developed island off the southeastern coast of Bali, Nusa Penida is one of the region’s best diving destinations. The surrounding crystalline waters are teeming with exotic marine life, and there are plenty of dive centers and shops along its coasts. Among the most notable diving sites on Nusa Penida island are the stunning coral-filled Crystal Bay, famed for its rare oceanic sunfish (Mola Mola), and Manta Point, where Manta Rays can be spotted all year round.
Marvel at the Tanah Lot Temple
Built in the 16th century to honor Baruna, the Hindu God of the Sea, Pura Tanah Lot is the most photographed of the seven ocean temples lining the southwest coast of Bali, and rightly so. The venerated structure sits on top of a massive rock formation in the middle of the sea, and can only be accessed at low tide. Foreign tourists are not allowed to enter the shrine, but the mesmerizing sunset backdrops and fantastic photo opportunities are worth the trip alone. The adjacent beach is brimming with souvenir shops, while the restaurants perched on the clifftop above offer excellent views of the shrine. Tanah Lot Temple is only 30 minutes by car from Ubud and less than an hour’s drive from Kuta and Seminyak.
Spend a Mystical Stay at Tugu Bali
Tugu Bali isn’t a typical Indonesian island retreat. Located in the sleepy town of Canggu, just steps from the beach, the hotel has ditched the identikit white-on-white design concept in favor of creating a true sense of place. The soaring thatched lobby is modeled after a traditional ceremonial hall and features a towering 4.9-meter tall statue of Garuda carved from a 120-year-old tree and pillars adorned with carved wooden heads. It feels as if it were built for reliquary purposes rather than greeting guests. Tugu Bali is designed to bring back to life the romantic, forgotten tales of Java and Bali. The hotel, owned by an Indonesian who has been collecting antiques since the early 1960s, is home to one of the largest original art collections in South-East Asia. The main building, the Bale Agung, features a distinctive architecture inspired by a secluded village in Central Bali, whereas some of the public areas are original hundreds-years-old structures moved in entirety into the property. The suites are housed in individual buildings tucked in lush tropical gardens and natural lotus pond facing the Indian Ocean. All guest accommodations are within steps from the beach. All ground floor suites (Dedari Suites) have private plunge pool and open air bathroom, whereas the second floor suites (Rejang Suite) have ocean-view and private spa area with unique sunken tub. Hotel Tugu Bali recounts the most romantic tales, folklores and legends of Indonesia, one room at a time. Each room individually created by the owner, displaying his immaculate attention to detail reconstructed to provide blend of colour, texture and atmosphere. The design, stunning and dramatic is blended together with the vast and eclectic collection of antiques of owner, from all over Asia.
Shop in Seminyak
Situated at the southern end of Bali, Seminyak is the island’s most fashionable beach resort area, a treasure trove of hip restaurants, fascinating spas, and world-class hotels. This trendy enclave is also a shopping haven for designer fashion wear, custom-made furniture, and exquisite jewelry. Lined with famous designer names and funky little boutiques, Jalan Raya Seminyak and Jalan Laksmana are Bali’s best shopping streets, while Jalan Mertanadi, also known as Jail House Road, is a hotspot for furniture and homewares.