Kuta and Seminyak are the main towns in the most touristed part of Bali, the part of the south that follows the magnificent stretch of sand from the airport northwest via Canggu to Pererenan Beach. The Bukit Peninsula combines remote surf breaks with vast resorts.
Ubud occupies the heart of Bali in many respects and shares some of the island's most beautiful rice fields with east Bali. The latter has no major centre but does have popular areas such as Padangbai and the Amed Coast.
Bali's centre is dominated by dramatic volcanoes. North and west Bali are thinly populated but have fine diving.
Kuta & Seminyak
Kuta's famous sweep of wave-pounded sand extends for 12km past Legian, Seminyak, Kerobokan and Canggu, before finally ending up on the rocks near Pererenan Beach. All along the sand are beach bars and vendors where the atmosphere is always merry.
Party 'Til Dawn
Restaurants and cafes in Seminyak, Kerobokan and Canggu are some of the best on Bali. Some have gorgeous sunset views, while bars and clubs have a vaguely sophisticated air. Nightlife becomes manic in Kuta, where the party goes all night.
Shopping in Seminyak and Kerobokan is reason enough to visit Bali – the choice is extraordinary. Along with countless open-air markets selling typical Balinese treasures like rattan handbags and sarongs, there are surf shops, fashion boutiques and jewellery designers galore.
South Bali & the Islands
Beaches can be found right around south Bali: little coves of white sand like Balangan and Bingin are idyllic and inspire one to just plop down on a beach chair and watch the gorgeous surf.
Ulu Watu Breaks
You can't say enough about the surf breaks on the west coast of the Bukit Peninsula; Ulu Watu is famous the world over, and its multitude of breaks are world-renowned. Cool guesthouses let you stay near the action.
Underwater Nusa Penida
The best diving is at the islands. Nusa Penida has challenging conditions and deep-water cliffs, and you might even see large creatures, such as manta rays winging their way along.
Ubud & Around
Dancers & Artists
Ubud is the nexus of Balinese culture. Each night there are a dozen performances of traditional Balinese dance, music, puppets and more. It's also home to talented artists, including superb woodcarvers who make the masks for the shows.
Spas of every stripe, often with traditional medicine sessions and yoga classes, are the soul of Ubud indulgence. Services for mind and body abound, with near limitless options from bargain-priced massages to opulent all-day retreats.
The rice fields surrounding Ubud are some of Bali's most picturesque. You can walk for an hour or an entire day, enjoying river valleys, small villages and enveloping natural beauty.
Beaches are found along much of the Bali's east coast. While you'll come across many a dark volcanic sand strand along the coast road, the real star is popular Pasir Putih, with its swimmable surf, lovely sand and mellow vendors.
Some of Bali's most alluring rice fields and landscapes are found in the east. You're spoilt for choice around Sideman, which has walks aplenty through the verdant green hills and valleys. Or go all out and tackle Gunung Agung.
A Tragic Past
Taman Kertha Gosa has the moving remains of a palace lost when the royals committed ritual suicide rather than surrender to the Dutch in 1908. Accounts of the battle are inscribed in the Puputan Klungkung monument.
The centre of the island offers hikes around volcanoes and lakes. Trails radiating from Munduk include these natural highlights along with misty walks through spice plantations and jungle to waterfalls.
Pura Luhur Batukau never fails to touch the spirit of those who find this important temple on the slopes of Gunung Batukau. It is a mystical – and misty – place to contemplate Bali's beliefs and to commune with nature.
Cooler than the rest of Bali, the mountains feel lonely. A solitary visit to Pura Luhur Batukau can be followed by retreats to remote lodges, treks through volcanic mountains and wanderings around the adjoining lakes Danau Buyan and Danau Tamblingan.
The crescent of beach hotels at Pemuteran is the real star of north Bali. Beautifully built, the hotels form a fine human-scale resort area, and they're close to Pulau Menjangan.
Settle onto a mat on Lovina's tan and grey sand, pick up a book and let the day drift past at your low-cost, quiet getaway. Even the surf is mellow: much of the north coast is protected by reefs.
Pulau Menjangan lives up to its many superlatives. A 30m coral wall close to shore delights both divers and snorkellers with a cast of fish and creatures that varies from sardines to whales.
The breaks at Balian Beach have a following, and a small surfer community has sprung up with simple guesthouses and somewhat posher retreats. Hang out with locals who know the waters well. Further west, Medewi is even more remote.
Balian Beach is the main strand in the west, and it makes a good place to hang even if you're not surfing. Enjoy the range of accommodation, from hip to simple to posh.
Unesco has given Bali's subak system of rice-field irrigation World Heritage Site status. The area around Tabanan has some of the most beautiful rice fields, plus a nice little museum and the nearby temple of Pura Taman Ayun.