Bali is a province of Indonesia and the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. Located east of Java and west of Lombok, the province includes the island of Bali and a few smaller neighbouring islands, notably Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan. The provincial capital, Denpasar, is the most populous city in the Lesser Sunda Islands and the second largest, after Makassar, in Eastern Indonesia. Bali is the only Hindu-majority province in Indonesia, with 83.5% of the population adhering to Balinese Hinduism.
Bali is Indonesia’s main tourist destination, which has seen a significant rise in tourists since the 1980s. Tourism-related business makes up 80% of its economy. It is renowned for its highly developed arts, including traditional and modern dance, sculpture, painting, leather, metalworking, and music. The Indonesian International Film Festival is held every year in Bali. In March 2017, TripAdvisor named Bali as the world’s top destination in its Traveller’s Choice award.
Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, the area with the highest biodiversity of marine species especially fish and turtles. In this area alone, over 500 reef-building coral species can be found. For comparison, this is about seven times as many as in the entire Caribbean. Most recently, Bali was the host of the Miss World 2013 and 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group. Bali is the home of the Subak irrigation system, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also home to a unified confederation of kingdoms composed of 10 traditional royal Balinese houses, each house ruling a specific geographic area. The confederation is the successor of the Bali Kingdom. The royal houses are not recognised by the government of Indonesia; however, they originated before Dutch colonisation.
The island of Bali lies 3.2 km (2.0 mi) east of Java, and is approximately 8 degrees south of the equator. Bali and Java are separated by the Bali Strait. East to west, the island is approximately 153 km (95 mi) wide and spans approximately 112 km (70 mi) north to south; administratively it covers 5,780 km2 (2,230 sq mi), or 5,577 km2 (2,153 sq mi) without Nusa Penida District; its population density is roughly 750 people/km2 (1,900 people/sq mi).
Bali’s central mountains include several peaks over 2,000 metres (6,600 feet) in elevation and active volcanoes such as Mount Batur. The highest is Mount Agung (3,031 m, 9,944 ft), known as the “mother mountain”, which is an active volcano rated as one of the world’s most likely sites for a massive eruption within the next 100 years. In late 2017 Mount Agung started erupting and large numbers of people were evacuated, temporarily closing the island’s airport. Mountains range from centre to the eastern side, with Mount Agung the easternmost peak. Bali’s volcanic nature has contributed to its exceptional fertility and its tall mountain ranges provide the high rainfall that supports the highly productive agriculture sector. South of the mountains is a broad, steadily descending area where most of Bali’s large rice crop is grown. The northern side of the mountains slopes more steeply to the sea and is the main coffee-producing area of the island, along with rice, vegetables and cattle. The longest river, Ayung River, flows approximately 75 km (47 mi) (see List of rivers of Bali).
The island is surrounded by coral reefs. Beaches in the south tend to have white sand while those in the north and west have black sand. Bali has no major waterways, although the Ho River is navigable by small sampan boats. Black sand beaches between Pasut and Klatingdukuh are being developed for tourism, but apart from the seaside temple of Tanah Lot, they are not yet used for significant tourism.
Subak irrigation system
The largest city is the provincial capital, Denpasar, near the southern coast. Its population is around 491,500 (2002). Bali’s second-largest city is the old colonial capital, Singaraja, which is located on the north coast and is home to around 100,000 people. Other important cities include the beach resort, Kuta, which is practically part of Denpasar’s urban area, and Ubud, situated at the north of Denpasar, is the island’s cultural centre.
Three small islands lie to the immediate south east and all are administratively part of the Klungkung regency of Bali: Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. These islands are separated from Bali by the Badung Strait.
To the east, the Lombok Strait separates Bali from Lombok and marks the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia. The transition is known as the Wallace Line, named after Alfred Russel Wallace, who first proposed a transition zone between these two major biomes. When sea levels dropped during the Pleistocene ice age, Bali was connected to Java and Sumatra and to the mainland of Asia and shared the Asian fauna, but the deep water of the Lombok Strait continued to keep Lombok Island and the Lesser Sunda archipelago isolated.
In 1963 the Bali Beach Hotel in Sanur was built by Sukarno, and boosted tourism in Bali. Before the construction of the Bali Beach Hotel, there were only three significant tourist-class hotels on the island. Construction of hotels and restaurants began to spread throughout Bali. Tourism further increased on Bali after the Ngurah Rai International Airport opened in 1970. The Buleleng regency government encouraged the tourism sector as one of the mainstays for economic progress and social welfare.
The tourism industry is primarily focused in the south, while also significant in the other parts of the island. The main tourist locations are the town of Kuta (with its beach), and its outer suburbs of Legian and Seminyak (which were once independent townships), the east coast town of Sanur (once the only tourist hub), Ubud towards the centre of the island, to the south of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, Jimbaran and the newer developments of Nusa Dua and Pecatu.
The United States government lifted its travel warnings in 2008. The Australian government issued an advisory on Friday, 4 May 2012, with the overall level of this advisory lowered to ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’. The Swedish government issued a new warning on Sunday, 10 June 2012 because of one tourist who died from methanol poisoning. Australia last issued an advisory on Monday, 5 January 2015 due to new terrorist threats.
Kuta Beach is a popular tourist spot in Bali.
An offshoot of tourism is the growing real estate industry. Bali’s real estate has been rapidly developing in the main tourist areas of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Oberoi. Most recently, high-end 5-star projects are under development on the Bukit peninsula, on the south side of the island. Expensive villas are being developed along the cliff sides of south Bali, with commanding panoramic ocean views. Foreign and domestic, many Jakarta individuals and companies are fairly active, investment into other areas of the island also continues to grow. Land prices, despite the worldwide economic crisis, have remained stable.
In the last half of 2008, Indonesia’s currency had dropped approximately 30% against the US dollar, providing many overseas visitors improved value for their currencies.
Bali’s tourism economy survived the Islamists terrorist bombings of 2002 and 2005, and the tourism industry has slowly recovered and surpassed its pre-terrorist bombing levels; the longterm trend has been a steady increase of visitor arrivals. In 2010, Bali received 2.57 million foreign tourists, which surpassed the target of 2.0–2.3 million tourists. The average occupancy of starred hotels achieved 65%, so the island still should be able to accommodate tourists for some years without any addition of new rooms/hotels, although at the peak season some of them are fully booked.
Bali received the Best Island award from Travel and Leisure in 2010. Bali won because of its attractive surroundings (both mountain and coastal areas), diverse tourist attractions, excellent international and local restaurants, and the friendliness of the local people. The Balinese culture and its religion are also considered as the main factor of the award. One of the most prestigious events that symbolizes a strong relationship between a god and its followers is Kecak Dance. According to BBC Travel released in 2011, Bali is one of the World’s Best Islands, ranking second after Santorini, Greece.
In August 2010, the film Eat Pray Love was released. The film was based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love. It took place at Ubud and Padang-Padang Beach at Bali. The 2006 book, which spent 57 weeks at the No. 1 spot on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list, had already fuelled a boom in Eat, Pray, Love-related tourism in Ubud, the hill town and cultural and tourist centre that was the focus of Gilbert’s quest for balance through traditional spirituality and healing that leads to love.
In January 2016, after musician David Bowie died, it was revealed that in his will, Bowie asked for his ashes to be scattered in Bali, conforming to Buddhist rituals. He had visited and performed in a number of Southeast Asian cities early in his career, including Bangkok and Singapore.
Since 2011, China has displaced Japan as the second-largest supplier of tourists to Bali, while Australia still tops the list while India has also emerged as a greater supply of tourists. Chinese tourists increased by 17% from last year due to the impact of ACFTA and new direct flights to Bali. In January 2012, Chinese tourists year on year (yoy) increased by 222.18% compared to January 2011, while Japanese tourists declined by 23.54% yoy.
Bali authorities reported the island had 2.88 million foreign tourists and 5 million domestic tourists in 2012, marginally surpassing the expectations of 2.8 million foreign tourists.
Based on a Bank Indonesia survey in May 2013, 34.39 per cent of tourists are upper-middle class, spending between $1,286 to $5,592, and are dominated by Australia, India, France, China, Germany and the UK. Some Chinese tourists have increased their levels of spending from previous years. 30.26 percent of tourists are middle class, spending between $662 to $1,285. In 2017 it was expected that Chinese tourists would outnumber Australian tourists.