Bali has long been equated with an exotic paradise, a picturesque vision of green rice fields and plantations, soaring volcanoes, cool lakes and rushing rivers, lush forests and palm fringed beaches. It is Indonesia's number one tourist destination and as a result suffers from commercialisation and overcrowding, but this is confined to a few main areas. The original charm of the 'Island of the Gods' and its smiling people is still very much in evidence, especially in the many small rural villages and fascinating places of the fertile interior.
What sets Bali apart from the rest of Indonesia is the prevalence of Balinese Hinduism, which incorporates the ancient Indonesian animist conviction that natural objects are inhabited by good or bad spirits into every aspect of local life on the island. Scattered around Bali are thousands of Hindu temples and places of worship. The island's religious beliefs are evident in the ceremonies, daily rituals and attitudes of the locals, in the offerings of flowers and food that adorn the roadsides, the charms hung inside taxis, and the numerous vibrant festivals that occur throughout the year. It is also perceptible in local reverence for the Holy Mountain, the soaring volcanic cone of Gunung Agung, which is the spiritual centre of the Balinese universe. Art is an integral part of daily life and every village has its artists, from internationally acclaimed painters to aspirational young cow herders. Ubud, the cultural centre, with its streets lined with art and crafts shops, also offers regular performances of traditional Balinese dance and music. Art, together with tourism, is an important source of revenue for the island.
With its fine beach, the popular resort of Kuta is the most visited destination, but there are numerous other beach resorts around the island, with more peaceful settings on the east coast at Candidasa, Sanur, and the fishing village of Padang Bai, and on the northern coast at Lovina. There are a number of good scuba diving sites and reef snorkelling spots close by.
Despite the shock of terrorist attacks a few years ago, Bali is still a tropical paradise with a rich and intriguing culture, and beautiful land and seascapes, that attracts those in search of an idyllic vacation; however, visitors are still advised to contact their foreign office for the latest travel advice before travelling to Indonesia, and Bali in particular.