Travel

Beyond the Beaches: Cultural Highlights of Bali

The North of Bali - Pemuteran. Aerial view from drone. Palm trees on an ocean coast and green hill

Beyond the Beaches: Cultural Highlights of Bali

Amazing Tegalalang Rice Terrace Fields and some Palm Trees Around, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
Amazing Tegalalang Rice Terrace Fields and some Palm Trees Around, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

With its tropical climate, white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, it’s no wonder the Indonesian island of Bali has boomed as a leading destination for luxury, sun and sand in recent years. Sun worshippers, scuba enthusiasts and surfers flock to Bali every year, seeking out what this island has become famous for: resplendent beaches. From hidden gems like Dreamland beach to more visited areas such as Sanur, visitors have endless choices of where to play and work on their tan.

But this volcanic island also has a great deal to offer in the way of culture. From timeless artistic trades to picturesque and architecturally marvellous temples, Bali is a thriving hub of history and religion with something to offer everyone looking to get something meaningful from their journey to the island.

Holy Spring Water Tirta Empul Hindu Temple at Bali in Indonesia.
Holy Spring Water Tirta Empul Hindu Temple at Bali in Indonesia.

Tirta Empul

According to Hindu legend, the deity Indra was in the midst of battle with the powerful demon Mayadanawa, who poisoned Indra’s soldiers. In order to revive his soldiers, Indra pierced the earth and created a fountain of immortality, and thus, Tirta Empul, or the Holy Water Temple, was created. It is said that the springs at the site can purify the body and soul from negative influences and energies.

The location of a temple on the site is recorded as far back as the 10th century AD, and for more than a thousand years, pilgrims have made an offering within the temple before seeking out the healing and purifying waters.

Bali Indonesia April 22,2010 : Balinese women vendor sell local good at Ubud market in Ubud Bali Indonesia. Ubud Market is very famous among Balinese located in center of Ubud Village and in front of Ubud Palace.
Bali Indonesia April 22,2010 : Balinese women vendor sell local good at Ubud market in Ubud Bali Indonesia. Ubud Market is very famous among Balinese located in center of Ubud Village and in front of Ubud Palace.

Ubud

Described as the cultural heart of Bali, Ubud is steeped in tradition, art and history. If Balinese traditional music and dance is of interest to you, Ubud is the place to go, as local displays and temple festivals are regular occurrences.

The Ubud Art Market is a bustling assemblage of sights and sounds, offering everything from typical tourist trinkets to Balinese arts and crafts and island style decor. Ubud Art Market has a reputation for selling higher quality items in a greater variety than other, more touristy markets such as Kuta. The majority of stalls are run by local craftspeople from the surrounding villages with wood and stone carvings, gold and silver work, hand-woven fabrics and popular paintings.

Elephant Cave Temple at Ubud Township in Bali Indonesia. Bali Indonesia is a lush island paradise famed for its art culture and recreation.
Elephant Cave Temple at Ubud Township in Bali Indonesia. Bali Indonesia is a lush island paradise famed for its art culture and recreation.

Goa Gajah

Ubud is also popular for those seeking to experience a little bit of Balinese spirituality or religion. Visitors are able to take part in local healing therapies as well as meditation. For those keen to take part in sacred Hindu or Buddhist meditation, Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave, can be found just outside of Ubud.

This historical site dates back to the 11th century as a place of meditation. Visitors enter the cave through the mouth of a startling, grimacing stone carving of a face, which is thought to depict an elephant. Spend your time at the site deep in meditation, or wandering the ruins of the courtyard and pools with beautiful waterspout fountains.

BALI, INDONESIA - MARCH 08, 2017: Semarapura, Kertha Gosa Pavilion in Klungkung Palace, in Denpasar city in Indonesia
BALI, INDONESIA – MARCH 08, 2017: Semarapura, Kertha Gosa Pavilion in Klungkung Palace, in Denpasar city in Indonesia

Pemuteran

This little utopian village tucked in the Northwest corner of Bali is growing in popularity as a luxury destination. The village is known for its relaxed vibes and serene location, beautiful beaches and ocean activities. It’s a popular place to try traditional Balinese healing and visit a number of notable temples, like Pura Pulaki with its band of friendly monkeys who have taken up residence.

But the area is also rich in certain aspects of traditional Balinese culture, like dance. Balinese dance is deeply intertwined with religion, and different dances are used as a way to communicate with the gods and ask for rain or to give thanks. Different dances and rituals can be seen here, and visitors can even take part in traditional Balinese dance lessons.

Besakih complex Pura Penataran Agung hindu temple of Bali Indonesia
Besakih complex Pura Penataran Agung hindu temple of Bali Indonesia

Pura Besakih Temple Complex

Nestled high on the volcanic slopes of Mount Agung looms the sprawling Pura Besakih temple. The complex is comprised of 23 separate but linked temples whose origins are uncertain, though it is thought to date back about 2,000 years.

The complex leads visitors up a series of terraces and stairs that lead further up the mountain, which is considered sacred. The main temple within the complex is Pura Penataran Angung, or the Mother temple, which is the most holy site in all of Bali.

Each year there are more than 70 festivals and celebrations held at Pura Besakih, which makes it a popular destination for tourists eager to experience Balinese spirituality at the source.

Hall of Justice at Kerta Gosa

While the name “Hall of Justice” may bring to mind images of a local courthouse, what you’ll find at Kerta Gosa is anything but typical. Kerta Gosa actually forms part of an ancient royal palace, which showcases excellent examples of traditional Balinese architecture and art.

The ceilings within the Hall of Justice are adorned with Balinese style paintings depicting different traditional stories concerning spiritual guidance or tales from ancient Balinese lore.

Tanah Lot Temple and ocean in Bali Island Indonesia.
Tanah Lot Temple and ocean in Bali Island Indonesia.

Tanah Lot

Last but certainly not least on our list of Bali’s cultural highlights is the iconic temple situated on a rock in the sea, Tanah Lot. Another historic and religious site shrouded in legend, it is said that the temple was formed when a priest shifted his meditation spot out to sea in order to save it from a local chief.

Though visitors are not actually allowed to enter the temple grounds, it’s well worth a visit to cross the rocks at low tide to see the natural Tirta Pabersihan fountain, which is the source of holy water for every temple in the area. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Tanah Lot on the temple’s anniversary date, you can witness the heirloom pilgrimage, a festive parade not to be missed.

Many thanks to David Pettitt writing on behalf of Pettitts. Click here to learn more about visiting Bali.

Naomi Isted
Editor in Chief, Naomi Isted is known as The Ultimate Lifestylist to her readers and viewers. She is a TV Presenter and Columnist. Ranked in the Top 100 LFW Social Media Influencers AW14 & SS15, Brand Ambassador for Pears Soap UK. Her Celebrity beauty TV Series currently airs to 27million homes on Physique TV in UAE, previously on Wedding TV in the UK. She brings fashion and beauty advice to her readers and viewers on a daily basis. She is Fashion and Beauty Columnist for Herald Scotland and has a Fashion and Beauty Bridal Blog for HELLO. She can usually be found attending celebrity fashion and beauty events in and around London and sharing the latest fashion and beauty trends with her readers.

1 Comment

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