“Om swastiastu”. You’ll hear the Sanskrit greeting everywhere among the smiling Balinese. Offer this traditional hello and you’ll enjoy a reaction of genuine glee. Meaning something along the lines of “peace from God”, it’s very much in keeping with the spirit of Bali. This gem of the Indonesian archipelago is known as the island of the gods and it’s easy to see why. The emerald green rice terraces, forested volcanic mountains and towering cliffs are almost painfully beautiful, dotted throughout with tiered pagodas, exquisite temples and hidden shrines reflecting a deep adherence to Hinduism entwined into the daily lives of the Balinese.
People here are extremely conservative, and this becomes immediately apparent, especially outside the heavily touristed areas around Seminyak and Kuta, which are best avoided in your discovery of an authentic Bali. The biggest crowds congregate in the dry season May to September, and then again around the period December and January. The wet monsoon season lasts October through May and apart from the Christmas and New Year peak, can be considered low season. March to May and October to November are magical times to travel – costs are lower, crowds are fewer and as you watch raindrops dripping off the elephant ear palms and revel in the relief humidity, you will relax, whether you want to or not.
A favoured hotspot, not least since its starring role in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, Ubud is an absolute must for the low season. Nestled among rice paddies, rainforests, and steep ravines, it’s a centre for traditional crafts and dance. The picturesque Campuhan Ridge Walk is gorgeous undertaken early in the morning or just before sunset. At The Pyramids of Chi sound healing centre you’ll spend an hour transcending through an energetic musical vibration. Take time to explore the sacred Monkey Forest, where 14th century temples sit within dense foliage and make a home for hundreds of long-tailed macaques. Just take care not to look any of the primates directly in the eye, and keep your snacks well out of reach.
Your Beach of Choice
Each traveller’s idea of a perfect beach is different, so choose carefully. The popular sands around Canggu, Seminyak, Kuta are fabulous for Instagram shots of you and your pals enjoying cocktails and sun loungers at upmarket Finns Club, Ku De Ta and Café del Mar. If you are looking for something more pristine, it is worth venturing further to check out the cliffs at Yeh Gangga, the surf at Keramas, Amed in the north east for incredible snorkelling, or the beautiful island of Nusa Penida.
The Great Indoors
Even in the wet monsoon, you’ll find sunny periods for much of the day, but to dodge the showers, there are loads of brilliant options. Bali is renowned for its super chilled yoga retreats. Whether you’re a dedicated yogi or beginner on the mat, take a single class or stay for a week and be at one among paradisial surroundings and spiritual vibes. Get inspired by Bali’s community of artists, keeping ancient traditions alive and pushing boundaries. Bajra Sandhi in a Denpasar park showcases spectacular feats of architecture; Le Mayeur Museum home of Adrien-Jean features furniture sculpted with Hindu legends; and Tugu Hotel houses a stunning collection of Indonesian art and antiquities. Or just while away the hours in Bali’s many cocktail bars, coffee shops or fragrant local restaurants.