Anyone who has been to Bali can attest to its natural beauty, glorious history, and incredible and vibrant nightlife. Known as the Island of Gods, Bali is a tropical haven with mesmerizing landscapes and captivating beaches.
But there’s more to Bali than its beach clubs, resorts, rice fields, and flourishing forests. Imbued with rich culture, there are numerous must-visit sites and attractions in Bali that will immerse you in the island’s cultural and religious offerings.
Everywhere you look in Bali, there are temples and traditions performed by locals – that’s because Balinese people are in touch with their spirituality making their culture omnipresent. Furthermore, when you ask locals about their practices, they won’t shy away from explaining it and helping you understand.
People in Bali welcome those who take an interest in their culture, so long as they are respectful and their intentions are pure. They want nothing more than to satiate curious minds. If you desire an authentic Balinese cultural experience while visiting the country, let this guide help you take on that journey to see Bali for all its spiritual glory.
Participate in a water cleansing ritual in Tirta Empul
Water cleansing rituals are deeply significant in Balinese Hindu culture. The ritual is done to cleanse the soul of impurities and negative elements, thus allowing the regeneration of good energy and invoking inspiration for day-to-day living
It is believed that the spring water at Tirta Empul offers healing properties. This belief originated from a legend of a king who did not believe in Hinduism. Still, he quickly became a passionate devotee after witnessing the power of Tirta Empul, a creation of the Hindu god Indra.
Foreign tourists are welcome to partake in the water cleansing ritual in Tirta Empul. Visitors must cover their knees and shoulders before entering the temple to participate. The temple offers sarong rentals for a small donation if you need the proper attire
There are changing rooms and lockers inside the temple where you can leave your belongings before proceeding to the main pool, where the cleansing ritual occurs.
When ready, take your place in the line to be cleansed by each pool spout. As you face a pool sprout, you are encouraged to make a prayer, wash your face three times, and submerge your head in the spring water three times. Repeat the process at each spout with the exemption of the last two, as those are reserved for burials.
Witness the Kecak Fire Dance at Uluwatu Temple
Balinese culture emphasizes dance as an integral part of their expression of art and religion. Dance is a form of connecting with gods, so they are usually performed during religious festivities in temples around the island.
Kecak is a spectacular dance routine performed at the Uluwatu Temple. A group of men and boys conduct this performance in traditional sarongs, chanting loudly and raising their hands while sitting in a circle with a flame in the middle.
To truly enjoy and see the magnificence of the Kecak Fire Dance, you must watch it at a specific time when the sun sets. The Uluwatu Temple sits on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean. The vast orange sky and the sound of waves crashing against rocks below give the performance more drama and allure when witnessed during the sunset.
The Kecak dance tells the tale of Prince Rama as he fights an evil king to retrieve the captive princess Shinta. Though men traditionally perform the dance, a female-led group in Ubud also conducts the routine in a more serene environment.
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Enroll in a Balinese cooking class
Cooking Balinese cuisine is as highly rewarding as consuming them. Food plays a vital role in Hinduism, as certain dishes must be prepared during important religious festivals. There are also food specially cooked as offerings to the gods.
Balinese cuisine is a fusion of Indonesian, Chinese, and Indian influences. In Hindu beliefs, beef is considered sacred and is rarely consumed. But rice is a staple in every Balinese home.
You may enroll in any Balinese cooking class you find nearby, but the best ones are those hosted and conducted by a Balinese family. Cooking classes by a Balinese family offer an authentic experience as they take you through an extensive day in their household.
You start with visiting a local market and shopping for fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices – all will be used as ingredients. Then, back home, you will start to prepare everything and learn the process of Balinese cooking using traditional techniques and tools, like a wood fire oven.
The people who teach you will guide you and explain each part of the cooking process while integrating talks about daily Balinese family life and customs. Once done preparing the food, you will all sit together and enjoy the fresh meal you prepared with them as you converse and learn more about modern Balinese life.
Watch the Sunset over Tanah Lot
Located on the Bali coast in Tabanan, Tanah Lot is a famous rock formation that’s frequently visited by tourists and locals alike. The site is more of a scenic viewpoint in Bali than a cultural destination. However, its history gives it a deeply religious significance.
On top of the rock formation is a temple that plays a crucial part in Balinese mythology and has influenced Hinduism for generations. Tanah Lot is one of seven sea temples on the coast of Bali that’s very much worth seeing.
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When visiting Tanah Lot, you may participate in a short ritual before climbing the steps to the rock formation’s higher grounds. There are people by the steps under the rock formation who will teach you how to do the ritual. Basically, you wash your face with water from the spout and say a simple prayer. They will then place rice on your forehead and tuck a flower over your ear as a blessing.
Once done, you may walk up to see the temple closer and take photos. After that, you can walk back to the rock formation base, where you can watch the sunset over the ocean. Witness as the sky changes color from light to dark with the beauty of Tanah Lot in full display.
Walk around Ubud
Ubud is known as the cultural capital of Bali. It is the epicenter of Balinese culture and offers numerous sites and attractions for those who want an immersive and authentic cultural experience in Bali.
Exemplary Balinese architecture is found in Puri Saren Agung, also known as the Ubud Royal Palace. The building features fantastic carvings and charming courtyards, making it a significant historical landmark in Ubud. If you wish to tour the palace, you may do so for a reasonable price.
Near the Ubud Royal Palace, you may buy souvenirs and decorations at the Ubud Art Market. You will find a hefty collection of genuine Balinese silk scarves, handmade bags, baskets, and more
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a famous nature reserve and temple complex in Ubud, often visited by over 10,000 tourists a month. It is home to approximately 340 monkeys. Here, you can walk around and enjoy the serene atmosphere.
While visiting the Monkey Forest, you must follow the guidelines and rules to ensure a calm and spiritual experience. Do not stare at the monkeys and respect their space. Do not take close and flash photos of all monkeys, especially baby monkeys, as it may trigger the adult monkeys to be protective and hostile. Finally, maintain a calm and quiet composure to avoid alerting the monkeys around you.
Meanwhile, to see more Balinese artistry, you must visit the Agung Rai Museum of Art, the Museum of Puri Lukisan, and the Museum Rudana. These museums are some of the most impressive in terms of art collection and architecture.
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If you decide not to partake in any of the mentioned activities, simply touring Ubud will suffice, as each piece and corner of the town is ingrained with culture. Take your camera and snap photos as you walk through the spirited streets. If you’re lucky enough, you may find some locals willing to share the town and the island’s history.
Every stay from The Luxury Signature‘s collections of luxury villas in Bali affords you dedicated access to our Guest Experience concierge service to help you plan out the most authentic Balinese experiences.