With a reputation as being one of the most beautiful and diverse tourist spots in Asia, Bali attracts over 1,000,000 visitors a year from all around the world.
Geographically, Bali lies between the islands of Java and Lombok and is one of more than 17,000 islands that make up the Indonesian Archipelago. Bali is small, stretching approximately 140 km from east to west and 80 km from north to south. Running east to west and slightly off center, are a string of volcanic mountains, the tallest recently active being Gunung Agung, which reaches 3,142 in at its highest point and last erupted 1963.
Lying just 80 south of the Equator, Bali boasts a tropical climate with just two seasons a year and an average annual temperature of around 280C. The rich volcanic soil and healthy monsoon season make this island extremely fertile and a range of crops are grown here. The wide, gently sloping southern regions play host to Bali's famed terraced rice paddies, among the most spectacular in the world. In the hilly, northern coastal regions, the main produce is coffee, copra, spices, vegetables, cattle and rice.
The Balinese people have strong spiritual roots and despite the large influx of tourists in recent years, their culture is still very much alive. The main religion is Agama Hindu Dharma, which arrived in Bali with the spread of Hinduism through Sumatra and Java during the 11th century. Although originally from India, the Balinese religion is a unique blend of Hindu, Buddhist, Javanese and ancient indigenous beliefs, with customs that are very different from the traditional form of Hinduism practiced in India today. With the arrival of Islam in neighboring Java during the 15th century, a large number of courtiers, artists, musicians and craftsmen fled to Bali, creating an artistic renaissance.
Naturally creative, the Balinese have traditionally used their talents for religions purposes and Most of the beautiful work to be seen here has been inspired by stories from the Ramayana and other Hindu epics. The incredibly colorful cremation pyres and the everyday offerings to the Gods, placed inside every shop and business, are made with precision and an eye for beauty.
The majority of Bali's population of 3,000,000 live, for the most part, in tight village communities with large extended families. The largest towns are; the regional capital Denpasar, population 250,000, and Singaraja in the north. The main tourist area is Kuta, situated near the airport. During the tourist boom of the 70's, this small village became a major attraction because of its famed white sand beaches, the surf, and stunning sunsets.
Today, Kuta is a major hustling and bustling resort town, with hundreds of hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. Those in search of a little peace and quiet tend to head for the more sedate resorts of Sanur and Candi Dasa, on the east coast, or Lovina in the north. Another major resort on the southern-most peninsula of the island, Nusa Dua, caters for the more up-market crowd, and is home to almost all of the bigger 5-star hotels, as well as one of Bali's golf courses, the Bali Golf & Country Club. The central village of Ubud, in the hilly region of Gianyar, bas also recently blossomed as a tourist attraction and is now considered to be the artistic and cultural center of Bali.