Despite being one of the most popular tourism destinations for Australians, Bali west of Ubud, is rarely visited. Bali is a great step off point for exploring other parts of Indonesia but it’s also got extraordinary beautiful landscapes, great family accommodation and stunning snorkeling. Nearby Lombok, including the Gilis, are alternative destinations for those who want to step away from the crowds and enjoy a spectacular part of Indonesia.
The island of Bali is situated just east of Java (Jakarta is on Java's western end). To the east of Bali is Lombok and the Gili Islands are situated on the north-western edge. There is another island, Penida (including Lembongan and Ceningan Islands), just off Bali's east coast that are popular spots to visit for snorkelling and diving. These are accessible by fast boat from the harbour in Sanur.
Bali is one of the most popular tourism destinations for Australians but north of Ubud, is rarely visited. At the island's busiest time of year, when even flight availability is difficult, we've had guests practically owning resorts to the west (Bali Barat ... 'barat' meaning west), where there's extraordinarily beautiful landscapes, great family accommodation and stunning snorkeling. Bali is a great step off point for exploring other parts of Indonesia if you just travel a short distance away from the crowds.
We highly recommend 3-4 days in the west. Your transfer to and from there takes a few hours, giving you chance to visit other locations enroute. If you want to, but also explore the southern coast and take in the scenery and visit a turtle sanctuary. When you're in the west, there are a number of resort options we can recommend and if you're slightly adventurous, you can even enjoy a guided tour into Bali Barat National Park to see a rare endemic bird, Bali Starling, that’s been successfully reintroduced and protected.
A beach on Bali Barat (west Bali)
A short flight and you're on Lombok. Separated from Bali by deep ocean, the flora and fauna on this side of what's known as the 'Wallace Line' after the famous naturalist, is different to the educated eye. For the general tourist, Lombok offers another place to explore. It's quieter than Bali but tends towards the slightly more adventurous traveller. Popular among adventure types is the chance to climb Mt Rinjani (3.726m above sea level) where the air is thin and night time temperatures are cold. This contrasts with the warm tropical beaches and rainforests in the lowlands.
The summit of Mt Rinjani at 3,726m
Gili Trawangan is the largest of the three islands and is around thirty minutes boat ride from Lombok. Regular fast boats depart daily. The beaches of the Gilis are powdery white, the water a beautiful clear blue and they are positioned perfectly for sunsets over Bali’s Mt Agung and sunrise over Lombok’s Mt Rinjani. Thirty years ago the Gili islands were uninhabited and only discovered by the seafaring Bugis people from Sulawesi.
Quiet beach and resort on one of the Gili Islands
Getting there and away
Travel to Bali is via Denpasar international airport. Depending on your arrival time, someone will be there to pick you up and transfer you to your hotel or for your onward journey to Bali Barat.
Where else to go
From west Bali you can take a ferry across the short strait to east Java and Mt Bromo, or return to Denpasar to catch any number of regional flights to other destinations.
Waterfall on Lombok