Words: Aaron Toumazou
Better known as 'the Island of Gods', the Indonesian tropical paradise known as Bali sees spirituality, serenity and a damn good party wash up on its shores.
From quaint beach towns frequented by all-Australian surf adonides to jungle villages beloved by wheatgrass-drinking yogis, not forgetting Seminyak’s bustling gay centre, few destinations paint such a diverse picture in so small a space.
Not only this, the island is fast becoming a hub for south-east Asia and Australasia’s creative start-up scene that’s transforming the island to much more than just an Eat, Pray, Love getaway.
And while that comes with a slightly harder hunt for untouched nooks of paradise depicted in Julia Roberts’ soul search, budding design hotels, thriving nightlife and more places to grab a flat white than you can shake a stick at abound.
This being the case, Attitude decided to jet off to Bali to discover its many different offerings. Below we’ve lay out the appeal of four of the island’s most popular destinations, whether you’re finding yourself, looking for a good time or planning a honeymoon.
Stay: The Slow
Offering something decidedly different to Bali’s more common private villa sleeping situation, The Slow is a stunning boutique hotel nearby the shores of Canggu. The minimalist and decidedly hipster space features an eclectic selection of art installations and sounds to match its edgy aesthetic, care of Los Angeles’ Reverberation Radio.
Suites are spacious, modern and comfortable, but where the hotel truly comes into its own is its food and drink offering. Not only does The Slow serve up the best full breakfast you can get on the island (which includes a mouth-watering half grilled avocado stuffed with ricotta), it also makes its own juices, served in stylish glass bottles with eco-friendly glass straws.
Stay from £148 per night, theslow.id
Do: Learn to surf
While Canggu has a diverse selection of Warungs (local, cheap Indonesian restaurants) sea food spots and Ayurvedic cafes (Cafe Vida is a must visit), it’s surfing that’s the real draw in Canggu.
A wide selection of places to rent boards line the town’s shores, so try your hand at an intensive course. Alternatively, if you don’t take to riding waves, there are plenty of washboard abs to prick your interest from the sidelines.
Stay: The Amala
Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of Seminyak, the private villas at The Amala take you a world away from the moped honking and street-side massages that abound in the area.
The wellness retreat is the perfect base to explore Seminyak’s picturesque beach clubs and thriving nightlife.
Boasting a main pool as well as your own private pool, the small villa complex also has a spa, yoga schedule and healthy room-service menu, for mornings after the particularly big night before.
Stay from £235 per night, theamala.com
Do: Check out the Gay scene
A short walk form The Amala, you’ll find Bali’s gay strip, a burgeoning row of bars with impressive local drag queens coaxing in passers by.
Home to one of the best drag shows on the island, check out Mixwell and join the crowds of locals, visitors and expats, or pop next-door to Bali Joe - a beacon for the LGBT community in Seminyak.
Stay: The Balé
The picturesque sunsets on the southernmost coastline of Bali are best witnessed from laid back resort land, Nusa Dua. Here, we’re well into honeymoon territory, and the best place to do it in style is The Balé — a large collection of breathtaking modernist villas, each coming with a personal 24hr butler, BBQ area and private swimming pool.
Not only does the resort’s ‘no children’ policy make it perfect for honeymooners, there’s also a number of couples’ spa treatments to be enjoyed together, not forgetting romantic candlelit dinners that can be arranged out in The Balé’s exclusive beach club or in the privacy of your own pavilion garden.
Stay from £580 per night, thebale.com
Do: Top up your tan
The white sands of Nusa Dua are made for relaxing, preserved by the large resort hotels that line its coast.
Rent a sun lounger on Pantai Gerger beach, or take a golf caddy down to The Balé’s private beach club and kick back with a book until sundown. Paradise.
Stay: Five Elements
What wellness dreams were made of, Five Elements is a true oasis complete with private gardens, outdoor showers, a restaurant that serves delicious vegan food and one of Bali’s finest spa offerings.
A 15-minute drive from Ubud — Bali’s spiritual centre — the retreat sits on the banks of the Ayung River and comprises interlinked bamboo and thatch buildings to connect you to nature.
Offering unique spa treatments in its dreamy Healing Village, staff treat its guests like royalty, with a particular highlight coming from a superfood facial which used ingredients such as coconut, aloe, pineapple, quinoa and more to vanish the ill-effects of partying too hard in Seminyak.
Stay from £250 per night, fiveelements.org
Do: Get Spiritual
Ubud is Bali’s cultural heartland, with many authentic Hindu temples a short driving distance from its centre. But to really connect with this great island, head to the yoga barn — a sanctuary of wellness and spirituality beloved by the yogi community.
Many aspiring teachers train at this very centre, and visitors can try their hand at any number of variations for a fraction of the cost of yummy-mummy frequented western equivalents.
LGBT travellers should always check local laws and customs before travelling - see igla.org for more information.