Lying just South of the Earth's equator, and approximately 330 miles South-West of the Indonesian mainland, Bali is the largest of the volcanically formed islands, within a group known as the Lesser Sunda Islands. Measuring 95 miles wide, and 69 from North to South, Bali's land mass is a contrasting topography of dense forests, low lying plains and soaring slopes giving way to mighty volcanic hills. It's perhaps these striking landscapes, coupled with a colourful native culture that have made way for the increasing number of cheap holidays to Bali, this idyllic island.
Bali, also known as the "Island of the Gods", has long had a reputation for breath-taking panoramas and spectacular ocean vistas, however much of the landscape would have remained relatively smooth were it not for Mount Agung, the only active volcano and highest peak on the island at 3,145 metres.
The "Mother Mountain" (as it translates to English) is of key importance to the climate balance of Bali, attracting clouds that contribute to the Western rainfall, vital for harvests. The East is considerably drier and more arid, however overall temperatures on the island reach in excess of 92 F during summer months, dipping just shy of 75F during the precipitous months of October to March.
Hinduism has a ubiquitous presence on Bali, and has largely shaped both the culture and daily routines of it's natives for many hundreds of years. The Pura Besakih Temple Complex sitting upon the slopes of Mount Agung is the largest and most beautiful of all on Bali. The Pura Besakih has occupied it's present position on Mount Agung since the 14th Century, surviving the violent eruptions of Agung during the 1960's - leading to it's affiliation with miracles in the eyes of Balinese natives.
Denpasar, the administrative capital of Bali, is an enthralling city where modernity and antiquity merge in perfect harmony. The Bajra Sandhi Monument within Puputan Park is exemplary of how the Balinese patriotically commemorate their struggles and victories for independence, while the Palace of Satria and the Royal Temples provide a fascinating insight into the past monarchies of the island. Modern museums house a stunning variety of archaeological and political exhibits, notably the Museum Negeri Propinsi Bali which catalogues everything from island-devastating earthquakes to mythical spirits, thought to inhabit the forests.
Denpasar is one of the best accommodation areas for cheap package holidays to Bali, largely due to the diversity of choice on offer. Comfortable hostels provide back-packers with simple facilities, but for family vacations, the low rise apartment complexes in the East of Denpasar are by far the better option, and perfectly situated for local amenities like Batung Market, and Kereneng Night Market which operates from dusk until dawn.
Once a haven for surf enthusiasts, Kuta is now a draw for the many visitors seeking the party-hard ambiance of Balinese clubs, along with some of the vastest expanse of beach on Bali. Considered the best area for "Bali-on-a-budget" holidays, accommodation here is still largely targeted at the island-hopping backpackers, however you'll find a wealth of affordable accommodation within the trendy Legian and Semiyak quarters. Semiyak is ideal for partying without the international throngs of Kuta, and features a nice variety of trendy bars and restaurants.
Ubud is widely considered the cultural heart of Bali, maintaining greeting traditions such as dancing to welcome newcomers, and the scattering of petals outside the front door to pacify evil spirits. Here too the arts and crafts movement is at it's strongest, and you'll find a plethora of stalls along the main Jalan Raya Ubud road selling handmade wares. Agung Rai Museum of Art and the Museum Puri Lukisan are worth a visit if you take delight in post-60's contemporary art. The museums feature some notable work of Dutch painter Arie Smit, as well as modern photography by Rudolf Bonnet. Whatever your forte, the many facets of Balinese culture will have more than enough to enrich both your holiday, and your memories.
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