Introducing Tulamben

he big attraction here is the wreck of the US cargo ship Liberty – among the best and most popular dive sites in Bali. Other great dive sites are nearby, and even snorkellers can easily swim out and enjoy the wreck and the coral. Tulamben’s beachfront is quite different from other beach resorts – heavy, black, round boulders and pebbles make it unappealing for sunbathers or casual swimmers. Services beyond the hotels are few.

Introducing Ubud

Perched on the gentle slopes leading up towards the central mountains, Ubud is the other half of Bali’s tourism duopoly. Unlike South Bali, however, Ubud’s focus remains on the remarkable Balinese culture in its myriad forms.

It’s not surprising that many people come to Ubud for a day or two and end up staying longer, drawn in by the rich culture and many activities. Besides the very popular dance-and-music shows, there are numerous courses on offer that allow you to become fully immersed in Balinese culture.

Sensory pursuits are amply catered to with some of the best food on the island. From fabled world-class resorts to surprisingly comfortable little family-run inns, there is a fine choice of hotels. Many places come complete with their own spas, for hours or days of pampering packages.

Around Ubud are temples, ancient sites and whole villages producing handicrafts (albeit mostly for visitors). Although the growth of Ubud has engulfed several neighbouring villages, leading to an urban sprawl, parts of the surrounding countryside remain unspoiled, with lush rice paddies and towering coconut trees. You’d be remiss if you didn’t walk one or more of the dozens of paths during your stay.

Introducing Padangbai

Located on a perfect little bay, tiny Padangbai is the port for ferries between Bali and Lombok, and passenger boats to Nusa Penida. It is also a popular place to break a journey and relax while you plan your assault on Bali or Lombok (depending on which way you’re heading), and it’s a smaller, quieter, more beachy option than Candidasa. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from one end of town to the other. Take time to choose one of the many places to stay and eat; they’re all very close together.

Introducing Danau Bratan Area

Driving inland from the humidity of southern Bali, you gradually leave the rice terraces behind and ascend into the cool, damp mountain country around Danau Bratan. This lovely area is an excellent place to relax and use as a base for hiking around the lakes and surrounding hills.

The neighbouring towns of Candikuning and Bedugul have a picturesque temple, botanical gardens and a colourful market where you can buy the local fruit that grows in profusion. Thankfully, the area lacks the tourists and touts found around Gunung Batur, though Sunday and public holidays are usually very busy with local visitors.

In the west, the area around Munduk is great for trekking and you can enjoy views all the way down to the north coast.

Introducing Candidasa

Tourist development ran amok in Candidasa and now there’s shoulder-to-shoulder development, an unattractive proposition for many. The main drawback is the lack of a beach, which, except for the far eastern stretch, has eroded away as fast as hotels were built. Most of the coastline has breakwaters, so you can’t even walk along it. The main drag is noisy and doesn’t get sea breezes.

Despite all this, Candidasa is much less hectic than South Bali and is often as sleepy as the lotus blossom–filled lagoon. Many find it a fine base to explore eastern Bali and there are some good restaurants. It’s popular with divers and snorkellers, although beach-lovers will prefer Padangbai.

Introducing Amed & the Far East Coast

This once-remote stretch of coast, from Amed to Bali’s far eastern tip, has reached that nefarious critical mass where it becomes a destination just because of its size. Yet unlike some other places on the Bali coast, it is holding onto the charms that drove the development in the first place.

The mostly arid coastline has superb views across to Lombok and behind to Gunung Agung. Hotels, restaurants, dive operators and other facilities serve visitors who come to enjoy the fine scenery, the relaxed atmosphere and the excellent diving and snorkelling.

Amed itself has no standard tourist centre but is instead a series of small villages in scalloped inlets. It’s the perfect hideaway if you want to simply stay put and never leave your village.

Introducing Nusa Lembongan

The most developed island for tourism is the delightfully laid-back Nusa Lembongan, which is free of cars, motorcycle noise and hassles. It has a local population of about 7000 people, mostly living in two small villages, Jungutbatu and Lembongan. Tourism money means that the power now stays on around the clock.

Introducing Kuta

Kuta is Bali-on-a-budget, a raucous, infamous holiday enclave dedicated to fun and sun. A bustling network of narrow lanes lined with bars, losmen (basic accommodation), and stalls piled high with fake surfwear, dodgy DVDs and lurid football shirts, Kuta is all about bacchanalian nights and rampant commerce. Prepare yourself for plenty of attention from the shopkeepers and armies of hawkers that comb the streets here.

Yet a few steps away, Kuta’s raison d’ĂȘtre remains as wonderful as ever, as another set of perfect rollers washes over its magnificent golden sands. And while subtlety is not Kuta’s strength, the resort retains a slice of Balinese charm – incense wafts down the gang and offerings of flower petals are laid out each morning to placate the Hindu gods.

And if you’ve had your fill of Kuta’s frenetic energy, consider shifting just up the coast to the less manic surrounds of Legian or stylish Seminyak with its designer bars and legendary clubbing scene. Both are continuations of the same strip that creeps up the coastline; the further north you get from central Kuta, the less built-up and more exclusive the area becomes. But even in the heart of Seminyak there are a few budget hotels, and some terrific, authentic warung.

Following the bombs of 2002 and 2005, the area is not quite as busy as it used to be, but the locals remain upbeat, and stylish new places are emerging. So if you’ve spent weeks hiking the jungle trails of Kalimantan or thirsting for a bar in deepest Papua, Kuta could be ideal for a few nights R and R, for this is where Indonesia slips on its boldest board shorts and really lets its hair down.