With its friendly, hospitable population, warm oceans and delicious food, Bali is a super-popular destination. If you want to score good prices for accommodation and flights, very soon after Christmas is the time to start planning your cool-season visit.
Hot-spots such as Kuta and Ubud are often brimming over with tourists and while many visitors to the island enjoy the buzz and excitement of swimming, eating out and shopping with the crowds, others look for a quieter Bali where everyday life carries on as it has for centuries. If you fall into the latter camp, step out of Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, meet your pre-arranged driver and car, and head to Amed.
Rather than being a single location, Amed is actually a long stretch of stunning coastline in the east of Bali, and comprises several small fishing villages. If you’re a snorkeler, the village to head for is Jemeluk, 3 hours drive from Denpasar. Book any one of a number of charming accommodations (we recommend Sama Sama Café and Bungalows), collect your snorkel and mask from your hosts, and step off-shore into a magical underwater world. Stingray, octopus, lionfish and innumerable other tropical delights await. Best of all, because you’re so close to the water, you can enjoy several excursions onto the reef each day, and rest up in between.
In the evening, those visitors who have discovered this charming village, make their way to Sunset Point at the south-east end of the bay and up a short hill. At the top, a café provides a cool drink to sip while you perch on the headland to go on sunset watch. When darkness falls, meander back to Jemeluk where a string of tiny restaurants open on dark to serve satays, creamy coconut curries, and mouth-watering tempeh.
Day tripping from Jemeluk is easy when you hire a motor scooter in the village, and take the road south-east for 2km to an intersection leading inland on Jalan (street) Bunutan-Bangle. To tour slowly up this narrow sealed road is to find yourself in the heart of rural Bali. Rice paddies, coconut palms, waterfalls and simple farmhouses dot a landscape filled with iridescent butterflies and bright birds.
Returning to the main coast road, continue south-east over hilly (but sealed) terrain to where painted wooden outrigger canoes are hauled up on the beach beside remote fishing villages untouched by tourism. On your way home, be sure to stop at one of the warungs (roadside stalls) for a nasi lemak.
For a more ‘town’ experience, take your scooter 6km south-west to Culik traditional village market. Arrive early, and don’t be afraid to venture right inside the covered market to where local breakfast treats await.
If your motor scooter skills are up to it, continue on along a busier road for another 10 km to Lempuyang Temple. One of the most famous temples in Bali, and frequented by locals as well as travellers, Lempuyang is situated on a mountaintop so prepare for an ascent of 1720 steps. There are plenty of stopping-off places on the way up, and so many sights to see. Avoid the heat of the day by starting the climb as early in the morning as possible.
When you’ve done all the scootering you want to, more snorkelling awaits you back in Jemeluk. Nothing could be more relaxing than a stay of 4-5 days in this quiet Balinese paradise.