If anything can tear you away from Bali’s beaches, it’s the elaborate ancient temples scattered across the island. Rumour has it that there are more than 10,000 religious compounds spread around the mountains and jungle-covered hilltops; some are little more than extended shrines, while others are unmissable cultural attractions. Number one on any Bali buff’s list should be Pura Besakih – the holiest and largest complex on the island with 18 separate sanctuaries surrounding three main temples. Offshore Hindu sea temple Tanah Lot is famous for its picturesque setting and stunning sunsets, while visitors in search of an Indiana Jones experience should head for Watukaru – a secret site hidden in rainforest at the foot of Mount Batukaru.
Volcanoes and lakes
For a tropical adrenaline rush, embark on a trek to the top of an active volcano. The route up the Gunung Batur winds through stunning volcanic scenery and it’s traditional to be on the summit for sunrise. In the highlands you’ll also discover the spectacular mountain lakes of Batur, Bratan, Buyan and Tamblingan. If that sounds a little too much like hard work then take advantage of the geothermal activity on the island by heading to the hot springs at Banjar for a healing soak.
Hit the terraces
Bali’s lush rice terraces are the stuff of legend, with some dating back to the 9th century. Visitors flock to the World Heritage-listed terraces at Jatiluwih, but if you’re keen to escape the crowds then take a trek through rarely seen terraces around the glorious temple of Jagsari. Stay at luxurious boutique eco hotel Sanak Retreat (Banjar Dinas Menagung) in north Bali to enjoy views of verdant rice terraces without leaving your balcony, or dine on delicious organic food while surrounded by paddy fields at open-air Sari Organik restaurant in Ubud (Jalan Raya Tjampuhan).
Forests and lakes
With lush rainforests blanketing part of Bali’s interior, it’s no surprise that the island has become a favourite eco retreat destination. Share the poolside with jungle monkeys at the 5-star Nandini Bali Resort (Br Susut, Desa Buahan, Payangan), discover hidden waterfalls on a trek through Munduk jungle or enjoy an elephant safari in the cool rainforests of Taro. En route, spot hundreds of bird species as well as exotic butterflies, wild pigs, slow lorises and black panthers.
Immersing yourself in local culture is all part of the Balinese experience. Festivals are held on the island throughout the year, such as the Bali Arts Festival in June and the colourful Bali Kites Festival in August. Parades, traditional clothing and rituals characterise the Galungan Festival, while the Makepung Buffalo Races sees dozens of bulls race around the paddy fields of Jembrana each November. If your visit doesn’t coincide with one of these cultural highlights, dip a toe into the local way of life by taking a traditional rindik class with master musicians at the ARMA Museum in Ubud (Jalan Raya Pengosekan).
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