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Bali is an island filled with exotic flowers, ancient temples, towering volcanoes and welcoming smiles, it is a truly magical destination. A holiday to Bali is definitely not a one-stop-shop, traveling around is a must, perhaps staying on one of its fashionable southern beaches with the mist-clad jungles of Ubud or even a few days in remote north Bali.
Southern Bali is home to the world renowned beaches of Seminyak, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Jimbaran as well as smaller beaches such as Uluwatu and Canggu. Seminyak is at the very heart of chic and cool Bali. Its lively bars and restaurants, fashionable boutiques and inimitable style make it key to Bali's emergence as a lifestyle destination. Whether you choose a luxury pool villa resort such as Samaya Seminyak or a small pool villa property such as The Elysian, you are sure to be delighted by the innate beauty and excellent service.
Jimbaran is another great option for travellers - with plenty of restaurants, resorts and golden sand beaches to choose from, this is surely one of Bali's best beaches. Nusa Dua is home to the larger resorts of Bali and Uluwatu is at the southernmost point of the island and the towering cliffs here offer wonderful views.
The charming beach area of Sanur is far less developed for those seeking a relaxed pace of life but still have access to a variety of restaurants and small shops.
For a more remote experience head to the Tabanan Regency in the south-west. Your journey from the airport takes you through a montage of village life, rice paddies and rural living to a stunning volcanic sand beach with terraced rice paddies and soaring volcanic mountains behind you. This is the real face of Bali and the luxurious Alila Soori or rustic charm of WakaGangga perfectly compliment the charm of this region. Bali's West coast is also home to the picturesque temple complex of Tanah Lot. The famous rock formation has been shaped by the tide over centuries and is also home to a famous pilgrimage temple.
Just an hour’s drive from the airport or the resorts in southern Bali, Ubud, a somewhat bohemian town, is the hub of Bali’s vibrant arts and craft trade. A colourful village with a beautiful jungle backdrop which spreads itself along the Ayung River gorge, this is an unmissable destination. Walk along Monkey Forest Road and you’ll find shops and galleries selling local art, stone statues, wooden carvings and fantastic furniture that you’ll want to ship home immediately. The Ayung River Valley close by is our favourite place for stunning walks, cycling, and white-water rafting.
Ubud is also excellent for relaxation and pampering with many of its hotels offering a fabulous range of treatments and therapies. Some resorts even offer yoga with scenic views and it is an ideal place to come for a few days to recover after your longhaul flights. This peaceful and spiritual destination really encapsulates the magical side of Bali and is well worth a few days before you head to the beaches.
For the more solitary sand-seeker, eastern Bali is a great alternative. The beaches are volcanic and often deserted, the snorkeling and diving is top-notch and the local food some of the best we’ve come across. Silver sand, turquoise water and the dense emerald green jungle rising in the distance, you are only an hour from the airport yet transported effortlessly into the rural heart of Bali, remote and untouched.
An incredible fusion of religion, spiritual belief and culture can be enjoyed within this region. Visit rural villages tucked into lush rice paddies, where life hasn’t changed for centuries, explore royal palaces and ancient temples or closer to hand take a cooking class which begins at dawn with a market visit. Diving, trekking, mountain biking and arts and craft experiences are all easily accessible.
Go out on a fishing boat or head inland to the 8th-century temple of Pura Besakih, the must-visit on ‘the island of a thousand temples’. Nestled into the slopes of Gunung Agung (Bali’s highest mountain), the super-fit can carry on hiking – a midnight start gets you to the top for sunrise!
Bali's beautiful North and West coasts are two of the most rewarding areas of the island in which to travel. Unspoiled and remote, they show the true Bali along with its stunning coastline, small fishing villages and friendly inhabitants. There are definitely fewer hotels and resorts along this stretch of coastline than in bustling South Bali. Travellers will be rewarded with breath-taking views, volcanic sand beaches and true tranquillity.
Islands such as Menjangan Island on the North West tip of the island are particularly renowned for some of Bali’s best snorkeling and diving and this area is also home to Bali Barat National Park, where you can stay in an atmospheric luxury eco-retreat and snorkel right from the deserted beach. The National Park boasts a high level of bio-diversity with no fewer than 175 plant species and a wide variety of animals such as wild boar, deer, monkeys and macaques, the Flying Fox and the amazing Water Monitor. Magnificent coral gardens and dramatic reef walls are home to a vast range of marine life. Further along the coast Lovina, a cluster of fishing villages, famous for snorkelling, legendary sunsets and dolphin watching, is home to the charming Villa Damai, a charming boutique retreat.
Slightly further east the remote location of Spa Village Resort Tembok, Bali, a two and a half hour road transfer from the airport transports you to tranquil, local life in the blink of an eye. With soaring volcanic peaks and black sand beaches washed by the deep blue Bali Sea this is the perfect place to unwind and gain an authentic insight into the local life.
El Nido Pangulasian – Philippines
Tucked away in a secluded bay of emerald waters and dramatic limestone karsts, El Nido Pangulasian in the Philippines is simply sublime. Endless stretches of pristine beaches and a marine sanctuary beneath the waves, you will see why it has been voted as the Most Beautiful Island in the World by Condé Nast Traveller. This really is an untouched, picture perfect haven just waiting to be discovered…
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