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Bali can be easily divided into five sections. Each part has its own uniqueness. Central Bali is the most culturally active region. It has Ubud and the misty hilly getaway of Bedugul. You can find a lot of lovely lakes, gardens, and temples there. East Bali is riddled with quaint coastal hamlets, beautiful winding roads and the powerful Mount Agung looms over it. This part offers excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. Amed, Kintamani, Candidasa, Padang Bai, Tirta Gangga etc are all located in east Bali. The not-so-popular west Bali is mostly used as a ferry point. Travellers go there for boat transfers to and from Java via Gilimanuk. Though a pretty avoidable area, west Bali has the less frequented (TNBB) Taman Nasional Bali Barat or the West Bali National Park. An exceptionally beautiful national park, TNBB has the dual ecosystem of the land and the sea. You can dive at a wall of coral, or go for spiritual walks in the island of Menjangan which has 16 monks and lots of deer. Alternatively, you can have adventures in the park’s rainforests, swamps, or try spotting the rare, Bali Starling. TNBB has over 160 avian species and is a bird lover’s paradise. The quiet black sand beaches of Lovina and the old capital of Singaraja lie in the north. This part is preferred by those looking for quiet getaways. It is the southern part of the island which received the highest number of foreign tourists. Most of the iconic Bali party places lie in that region and it includes Kuta, Seminyak, Denpasar, Sanur, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran, etc. The tiny southeastern islands of Nusa Penida, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan are also located here along with the stupendous Tanah Lot temple.

Jatiluwih rice terraces of Bali

I have been to nearly every part of the island apart from west Bali. Its beauty seems more grounded and realistic to me, unlike the moon-like landscape of Bromo and Ijen and this quality made Bali all the more endearing. I find a lot of comfort in Bali’s aura, in just being there and the island has a kind of beauty which is like a mother’s face: known, familiar and one which makes you feel very comfortable and at home. My favourite places in Bali (besides Ubud) are the stunning Jatiluwih rice terraces, Bedugul and Amed. Rice fields and Bali go hand in hand and they form an indispensable part of the island’s charm. Although the stunning layered Tegalalang (30 minutes by car from Ubud) has more tourist footfall, I found the quiet Jatiluwih to be more beautiful.

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The famous Subak cultivation system of Bali

Result of the famous Subak cultivation system of Bali

The 11th-century farming method which is still in practice

I visited Jatiluwih twice. Both the times, the sky was heavily overcast and the rice terraces were freshly plowed after harvest. They had none of the photographed swaying paddies. Instead, dark brown stubs shot out from submerged rice fields and the slightly muddy water reflected the dark brooding clouds. Despite, the weather, Jatiluwih looked beautiful. Located around two hours away from Ubud, Jatiluwih is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is particularly important for its support in organic agriculture. An initiative by the ancient Subak Cultivation (cooperatives), Bali’s rice terraces are the perfect harmony of nature, human interference, and a strong belief in 11th-century farming methods. The water collected from Bali’s incredible network of 150 rivers and streams is channeled into various rice terraces at different times. The water distribution is done according to the Subak guidelines and this thousand of years old practice is responsible for Bali’s jaw-dropping beauty of the terraced landscape. Incidentally, most of Bali’s rocky hilly slopes are cut into tunnels and channels and this gives rise to the tinkling gurgling sound which accompanies every rice terrace.

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Jatiluwih is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Head towards the gorgeous tip of Bali

Jatiluwih is hard to access by public transportation and both the times I visited there on my own rental scooter. While the first visit had culminated in an expensive overnight stay, the other one ended with a visit to the spectacular Uluwatu temple. Located in the large limestone Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu is one of Bali’s oldest and nine directional temples. Officially known as Pura Luhur Uluwatu, it was built in the 11th century to protect Bali from evil forces. Its magnificent location, stunning sunset views, and the beautiful Indian Ocean panorama make it a popular place among Bali visitors. While the drive from Jatiluwih to Uluwatu was not easy owing to my bad sense of direction, the beautiful cliff-hanging temple was worth a visit. The Pecatu village where it is located is closer to Kuta and I passed rice fields, ocean and frangipani covered villages of Jimbaran countryside along the way.

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It is beautiful even on a cloudy day

Uluwatu temple, the sunset point of Bali

The beautiful black coral rock temple stands at the tip of a cliff and a most magnificent surf breaks at its feet. The sheer drop into the Indian Ocean from its precarious location makes it a photographer’s delight and although I visited there on a cloudy evening, its magnificent locale is hard to forget. Uluwatu was not the first temple in Bali which I visited, but it is the most spectacular in my eyes. I also went to the beautiful Besakih (Mother Temple), the grand Taman Ayun, super touristy Tanah Lot, and the placid Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. However, none of them match up to Uluwatu in beauty and it is one of the loveliest sites I have ever seen.

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bukit peninsula in bali

Bukit Peninsula sunset on a cloudy day

Bali travel tips for Tegalalang Rice Terraces

  • Why visit – Tegalalang makes an ideal quick getaway from Ubud. Located north of Ubud, Tegalalang has jaw-dropping rice views. It is an easy 30 minutes from Ubud center away and can be reached by public transport. Most small group tours from Ubud stop by at Tegalalang restaurants for lunch stops.
  • Best Time to Visit – The best time to visit these rice terraces is in the morning before the tourists’ coaches descend in hordes.
  • Entrance and entry payments – The entrance to Jatiluwih is located on the side of the road and you may be asked for donations. Though not an official entrance fee, this is in lieu of all the tourists walking over the locals’ fields. Most of the terraces are fenced off and to take pictures inside them, usually, a small payment of 50,000 Indonesian Rupiah is charged.
  • Other attractions – Attractions in Tegalalang are the famous I LOVE BALI sign and the Instagram worthy Bali swings. Note that the swings are expensive (8 USD for 3 minutes ride) and have had fatal accidents in the past. The nearby village of Padukoi is also worth stopping by and has beautiful stone and woodcarvers’ studios.
  • How to Reach – The best way to reach Tegalalang from Ubud is the Bali Waterfall Route.

    Jatiluwih rice fields of bali

    Terraces of Jatiluwih on a cloudy day

Bali travel tips for Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Jatiluwih unlike Tegalalang is hard to reach by public transport and is worth staying for at least one night.

  • Why visit – The village has some beautiful walks through the undulating rice fields and a pleasant cool climate.
  • Location – Located in Bali’s Tabanan district, it around 40 kilometers from Denpasar and takes around 2 hours by road. The Jatiluwih rice terraces are in the heart of Bali countryside and have only farming communities and a few high-end mountain resorts. The best way to reach there is by either a self-drive vehicle, private tour, or a small group tour.
  • Where to stay – There are a few guesthouses and resorts around Jatiluwih. However, they are not cheap. Plus, there’s a small road/entrance fee to enter Jatiluwih. The nearby Gunungsari Orchard makes an interesting stopover for nature lovers if staying over at Jatiluwih or visiting it on your own car.
  • How to explore – For those interested in enjoying Bali’s rice terraced hilly beauty to the fullest, opt for cycling or walking or eco-tours, which include short hikes, interesting homestays, and hands-on experience of planting rice saplings. Most tour companies in Bali offer such eco-tours and its best to hunt around a bit for the best option. Small group tours (out of Ubud) to Tanah Lot etc also include Jatiluwih and these make great options for those interested in just photo stops. However, many drivers do not always stop by at Jatiluwih (claiming road block etc). In case it is included in the package, do insist on visiting Jatiluwih because it is simply stunning.

    uluwatu temple in bali

    Uluwatu temple     PC Shutterstock/cescassawin

Bali tips for visiting the famous Uluwatu Temple

Pura Luhur Uluwatu is a famous Balinese temple, overlooking the gorgeous Bukit Peninsula coastline. It is one of the most visited sites in Bali and offers stunning sunsets.

  • How to visit – The best ways to visit Uluwatu are by rental scooter or car, private tour or a small group tour.
  • Best time to visit – Uluwatu owing to its location is most picturesque during sunset. Expect gorgeous photos and lots of crowds.
  • Timing and Tickets – Uluwatu Temple is open from 9 am – 6 pm every day. Worship services are open 24 hours. 30,000 Indonesia Rupiah for an adult and 20,000 Indonesian Rupiah for a child
  • Temple Facilities – Paid parking is available for both cars and motorcycles. There are toilets and shops selling snacks and other knick-knacks at the entrance.
  • Kecak Dance Performance – The Kecak Fire Dance at Uluwatu is one of the must-have experiences in Bali. The iconic fire dance is held every day at sunset and the tickets sell out fast. Arrive early to get a good seat and the price per person is 100,000 Indonesian Rupiah. The show starts at 6 pm and the ticket sale starts around 4:30 or 5 pm in the temple campus. You can also book the ticket through a travel agency or online. Avoid sitting in the first row, as the fire gets kicked around during the show.
  • Other tips – Uluwatu temple requires the following dress code. Long skirt, long dress, trousers, sarong and shoulder concealing blouses are allowed. Sarongs are provided if your attire is found inappropriate. Beware of the cheeky monkeys of Uluwatu who are known to stealing things from the visitors.

    Little Hindu boys wearing traditional costume in Bali

    Little Hindu boys wearing the traditional costume in Bali

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