Central Bali South - The Plains
The south of Central Bali has so much activity and so many interesting places to visit! Ubud, Gianyar, Mengewi and Tabanan are important tourist centres, with many museums, markets and other local attractions, as well animal, bird and butterfly parks.
Ubud - North of the capital of Denpasar is the town of Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali and a favourite of those seeking inner peace and health. The Balispirit Festival attracts yogis, artists and writers from many fields. Tour the local temples and museums, explore the rich Balinese culture, try a cookery class, explore the bustling market or relax beside a sparkling pool in one of hundreds of top resorts in this lush green landscape. Art abounds in Ubud and its surrounding villages, each specialising in batik or fine art, wood or stone carvings, handicrafts or jewellery, silk goods or artistic crockery.
Goa Gajah or the "elephant cave" is one of Bali’s most historically significant sites - dating back to the 11th century, its origins are shrouded in mystery. It is situated near Bedulu village - some 26 km northeast of Denpasar, and close to Ubud and on the banks of the Petanu River.
Kokokan village, located near Ubud, is the natural habitat of the beautiful Kokokan Herons. Each day at about 5 or 6 p.m., thousands of white herons return to their nests in the trees near the main road. Twitchers can contact the local Bali Bird Watching Group. A hat is recommended - maybe even a plastic rain coat.
Ubud Monkey Forest is a natural reserve, located close to Ubud and run by the village of Padangtegal. The forest is home to about 340 macaque monkeys. There are also several temples to explore in the nearby forests. Children will love the monkeys - and will surely want to visit the Elephant Sanctuary, 16 km north of Ubud at Desu Taro. There they can enjoy a ride on one of these gentle giants. There is a 5 star 39 room hotel, the Elephant Safari Park Lodge, and bridal couples are brought to the wedding altar from their lodgings atop a "dressed" elephant – a very colourful and original way to begin married life! The park's 27 elephants were rescued when their natural habitat in Sumatra was destroyed by logging. If you stay over, kids can help wash the elephants - or get washed themselves, if the ellis are feeling naughty!
At the Botanic Garden in Ubud, pathways and steps join five hectares of natural ravines, home to an orchid garden, a vast collection of ferns, palms, bamboos and tropical trees, Bali’s first maze, an Islamic garden and other wonderful features.
Monuments in Ubud include the Monument of Puputan Badung, commemorating the royal family's decision to walk into a Dutch firing line rather than surrender.
Museums include the Ubud Palace, Museum Puri Lukisan and the Blanco Renaissance Museum.
Among the luxury resorts in Ubud are the world-renowned Amandari Resort (run by the same group as the Amankila in Candi Dasa), Kamandalu Resort & Spa, Pita Maha Resort of Tjampuhan, Pertiwi Resort and Spa, and the Villa Ubud Resort and Spa.
In the comfortable-and-inexpensive category, you will find hotels such as the Yulia Village Inn, the Padma Indah Cottages of the Rudana Museum, and Hotel Tjampuhan. Their rates vary from US$30 to US$90 a night.
Gianyar, east of Ubud, is rich in Balinese history, culture, dance and traditional Balinese art. Families will enjoy the Bali Safari and Marine Park, Mara River Lodge, Bali Bird Park and Bali Zoo. The varying shades of green, brown and gold adorning the area's abundant rice paddies make for one of Bali’s most beautiful sights - a bit like the patchwork of colour in the vineyards of France, or the Rhine Valley in autumn.
Sukawati Art Market in Gianyar is the largest of Bali's markets featuring handicrafts and traditional handmade products; you'll find it on the main road of Sukawati. The two-floor building is lively with tourists and locals every weekend, especially during summer and public holidays. The market sells everything from paintings to statues, traditional woven textiles, traditional kites, handmade bags, women’s accessories, shirts, jewellery, sarongs and Balinese ceremonial items - all at reasonable prices. Here's a tip: get there early, since they offer lower prices when the market opens at 09:00.
On the road south from Bedugul and west of Mengwi, look out for the Bali Butterfly Park near Sinkapadu. Close to Tabanan you'll find another botanical garden and a bonsai nursery.
In Tabanan you'll find Alas Kedaton, or "Holy Monkey Forest" - a small woodland measuring about 12 hectares. Here hundreds of monkeys and bats live high up in the trees. Within the Monkey Forest is the Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal Temple, a holy spring bathing temple, and one of the most important and attractive among Bali's thousands of temples.
Taman Ayun Temple, meaning "beautiful garden", is located in the village of Mengwi, 18 km west of Denpasar, and another of the most picturesque in all of Bali. The King of Mengwi, I Gusti Agung Anom, built its stately courtyards and moat in the year 1634. The temple contains both the royal family's ancestral shrines and the storied MERU Shrines to the major deities.
Nungnung Waterfall lies near the small village of Nungnung, about 40 km north of Denpasar. In addition to the 50-metre-high waterfall you'll see extensive rice terraces - and just past the intersection leading to the waterfall, one should walk about 2 km off the main road to pass through lush green woods and plantations.