Beautiful Bali is not just an island geographically, but also culturally, retaining the last living remnant of an ancient Hindu heritage that once stretched across a now otherwise exclusively Islamic Indonesia. 

This culture was itself part of an Indian influenced civilisation that once spread across the entirety of Southeast Asia, focussed upon the great Empire of Angkor, which features so dramatically in the history of many of these modern nations, initially founded by a Prince of neighbouring Java, Jayavaraman II. 

In common with the rest of the Indonesian Archipelago, Bali is a highly active volcanic island whose eruptions may well have submerged many of its ancient sites beyond accessible knowledge. 

The importance of the Gunung Agung Volcano, Bali’s highest Peak, as an entity of both veneration and fear to the early Balinese culture is evident at the 13th century Pura Penataran Agung, which is directly aligned toward the fire mountain.

The temple forms part of the ‘Mother Temple’ complex of Pura Besakih, a collection of 23 temples dating back to the tenth century, and is Bali’s most sacred site. Another example is at the spectacular Pura Luhur Lempuyang, whose ‘split gate’, so characteristic of Balinese architecture, dramatically frames the mountain in an absolute clarity of significance.  

Another temple, the eleventh century Pura Luhur Batukaru serves a similar function at Bali’s second highest volcano, Mt. Batukaru. 

Among Bali’s earliest surviving structures is Pura Tirta Empul, built in 962 AD, a temple dedicated to Vishnu, at the site of a sacred spring into which an ancient ornate stone carved purification pool is set, which is still in use today. Another of these sacred pools can be found at Goa Gajah, near Ubud, erroneously often referred to as the ‘Elephant Cave’, a ninth century hermitage. 

The Goddess of water is known as Devi Danu, and a prominent temple dedicated to her is Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, a photogenic site in Lake Bratan. As rice farmers, irrigation was and remains paramount to the Balinese, and the temple again reinforces the veneration of natural forces. At Puru Gunung Kawi, a shrine to eleventh century kings and queens, often described as Bali’s ‘Valley of the Kings’ despite not actually being a tomb site, the sacred power of water is said to sanctify the monument. 

Of all Bali’s 6,002 temples, Bali Pura Tanah Lot is undoubtedly the most photographed, serenely placed on a small rocky outcrop in the ocean with its pathway submerged at high tide. Another ocean facing temple, Puru Luhur Uluwatu, is picturesquely perched 200 feet and popular with sunset photographers. 

Other historic sites and fine examples of Balinese temple architecture include Puru Dalem Agung Padangtegal, the so-called ‘Temple of Death’ known for the quality of its often bizarre sculptural masterpieces, and the beautiful Puru Taman Ayun, or ‘Garden Temple’, now both UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

UNESCO has also recognised the site at the Jatiluwih Rice Fields, which, aside from their outstanding beauty, also highlight the ancient technology of Balinese irrigation and the associated spiritual and philosophic concepts of the farmers. The Water Museum at Sanggulan Village near Tabanan augments the study of Balinese water management (Subak). 

Other museums providing a deeper understanding of Balinese culture include the Negeri Propinsi Museum, Puri Lukisan Museum, Bali Museum and Neka Art Museum.

Country: Bali - Indonesia
Type of holiday: Adventure, Heritage
Destinations: Around Bali
Duration: 9
Guideline price: US$ 1000     (per person for Superior accommodation)
Highlight: Sample travel plan only: for a ‘no obligation’ comprehensive itinerary within 24 hours, click here.

With its mythical charm, exotic beauty, rich traditions and full range of activities, Bali Indonesia is an ideal destination for just about every style of traveller. This Bali tour is specially tailored to present a relaxing and learning experience with the island’s pristine natural scenes and vibrant, ancient culture.

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