80 Breathtaking Facts About Bali: The Island of Gods

Fun and interesting facts about Bali Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia, is one of the world’s most enticing and culturally rich islands. What is the small but significant island of Bali known for? In this article, you’ll uncover heaps of fun and interesting facts about Bali, the “Island of Gods.”

General Facts About Bali

  • Bali is one of 17,508 islands in Indonesia, the 4th most populated country on Earth.
  • Bali is east of Java, where Indonesia’s capital (Jakarta) is located, and west of Lombok, a slightly smaller island.
A map of Bali

Bali has a population of 4.3 million.

  • Bali’s capital and largest city is Denpasar. With 1 million residents, it is home to a quarter of the island’s population.
  • Bali is also a province that includes the main island of Bali plus around 30 small islands off its coast. It is one of 34 provinces in Indonesia. 
  • Bali’s islands cover an area of 5780 km2 (2232 mi2), about half the size of Jamaica. 
  • Bali is the westernmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands, an archipelago that stretches 1900 km (1190 mi).
  • Bali sits 8.5 degrees south of the equator, similar to the southern end of the Amazon Rainforest.
The coast of Uluwatu, Bali from above
Bali from above
  • Bali is antipodal to Venezuela.
  • Bali has a tropical climate, with a monsoon season from October to April.
  • Balinese and Indonesian are the main languages spoken in Bali, but English and Chinese are also very common.

Random Interesting Facts

  • Bali is the only Hindu province in a country that is primarily Muslim.
  • Bali is only 2.4 km (1.5 mi) east of Java at their closest point. The government has considered building a bridge to connect the two islands, but hasn’t due to the cost.
Sunset over the volcanoes of Bali, as viewed across the water from Lombok
The volcanoes of Bali viewed from Lombok, across the Wallace Line
  • The Wallace Line runs through the 35-km (22-mi) strait between Bali and Lombok. It marks the meeting point of the Asian and Australian continents, with distinctly Asian flora and fauna on the Bali side, and Australian flora and fauna on the Lombok side.
  • Bali’s highest point, the peak of Mt. Agung, is 3,031 m (9,944 ft), similar in height to Zugspitze, the tallest mountain in the German alps.
  • Experts believe Mt. Agung is likely to have a major eruption in the next 100 years.
Mt. Agung in Bali erupting
Mt. Agung in a recent eruption
  • Mount Batur and Mount Bratan are two other active volcanoes on Bali. Batur has a huge (4240 acre) lake in its crater, as well as four villages on its rim.
  • Because of Bali’s volcanoes and high mountain range, the island has highly fertile soil and enough rain to support agriculture of rice, coffee, vegetables, and cattle.
  • Tourism makes up 80% of Bali’s economy. 6.3 million tourists visited Bali in 2019, more than the island’s entire population. Australians are the top visitors, followed by Chinese.
  • Bali won the top spot in TripAdvisor top global destination (Traveller’s Choice) in 2017 and 2021.
Sun chairs and a small pool overlooking the sea on Bali
A tourist resort on Bali
  • Bali was also named one of the best islands in the world by Travel and Leisure and Condé Nast (for another top-rated island, see these facts about Santorini!)
  • Bali is part of the Coral Triangle, a 5.7 million km2 (2.2 million mi2) region with the world’s greatest diversity of marine species. The island is surrounded by oral reefs.
  • Bali used to have leopards and tigers, but both went extinct in the early 20th century.
Rice terraces in Bali
The famous rice terraces of Bali
  • Besides the main island, Bali province’s second largest island is Nusa Penida. Southeast of Bali, it is 209.4 km2 (80.8 mi2) and famous for its scuba diving sites and bird sanctuary. Despite its size, visitors can manage to see the main sights of Nusa Penida in one day. Off its coast are two smaller islands, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Lembongan, famous for its beaches.
  • Kuta is considered Bali’s backpackers’ mecca. It has a high concentration of bars, nightclubs, hotels, and other tourist amenities. It is very close to Bali’s airport, so airplanes can be seen taking off and landing from the main beach. It was also the site of the Bali bombings (see history section).
  • Bali is said to have the world’s highest density of spas, with over 1200 of them on the small island.
  • The sand of Lovina Beach is black, as it was created from volcanic rock.
A black sand beach on Bali
A volcanic black sand beach on Bali
  • Around half the tourists that come to Bali go to Ubud, an inland town famous for its rice terraces, attractive accommodations surrounded by rice paddies, arts, yoga studios, vegetarian restaurants, and spas.
  • The Ubud Monkey Forest is home to over 1000 monkeys, most of which are not squared of humans and known for climbing on and stealing food from them.
Two monkeys in the Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest
  • The former royal baths of Tirta Gangga are a popular tourist attraction, as are the Air Panas Banjar hot spring, where hot spring water comes out of the mouths of stone naga.
  • Pura Goa Lawah (Bat Cave Temple) is home to thousands of bats. Locals believe the cave also contains a river of healing waters and a huge crowned snake.
  • In the 2006 book and 2010 film Eat, Pray, Love, the star (played by Julia Roberts) visits Bali for the “love” portion. She spends time in the town of Ubud, which resulted in a tourist boom to the area.
Bats in a cave at Pura Goa Lawah in Bali
Bats in Pura Goa Lawah, the Bat Cave Temple
  • Bali hosted Miss World 2013. It had the largest turnout of any international beauty contest to date. Megan Young of the Philippines was the winner.
  • When David Bowie died in 2016, he asked for his ashes to be scattered in Bali.
  • Bali is said to have a “garbage emergency.” Indonesia is one of the world’s largest creators of plastic pollution, and many beaches in Bali are strewn with it.

Balinese Cultural Facts

  • Bali is an artistically rich island, with unique art forms including painting, sculpture, woodcarving, poetry, handcrafts, dance, and various other performing arts.
  • Bali is also known for its traditional gamelan music, which is also common in Java. The music often accompanies traditional wayang (puppet theater) performances.
Two hands of a Balinese person playing a gamelan instrument
Gamelan performer in Bali
  • 87% of Balinese practice Balinese Hinduism which combines indigenous animistic beliefs with Indian Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • Officially, Indonesia only allows monotheistic religions, but it is flexible with Bali, and considers Balinese Hindusim monotheistic, even though there are many gods and goddesses.
  • Bali has an Indian-style Hindu caste system. It affects the language people use, names they choose, jobs they get, and who they marry.
  • Balinese temples, called puras, exhibit unique architecture. They are open air spaces with their most sacred space on the mountain side. They are often the focal point of colorful festivals.
Besakih Temple Bali
Besakih Temple is on the slope of Mt. Agung, the country’s highest mountain.
  • Besakih Temple is Bali’s most sacred temple. It is built on the slop of Mt. Agung.When lava from the 1963 eruption of Agung (see history section) missed the temple by mere meters, the Balinese considered it a divine intervention.
  • Two other iconic Balinese temples are the lakeside Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Pura Tanah Lot, which occupies a rocky outcrop on the sea.
  • Balinese make small offerings called canang sari daily, traditionally by women. They are little bundles of flowers, cash, and other objects on banana leaves or other types of leaves. They can be seen left everywhere, such as temples, shrines, entrances to houses, etc.
Canang sari offering on the ground in Bali
Offerings called canang sari can be seen everywhere.
  • There are dozens of traditional festivals throughout the year in Bali. Many festivals comes with noisy parades in which large statues and other offerings are carried in the streets.
  • The Hindu New Year, called Nyepi, is celebrated in spring with a day of silence. The next day is celebrated with a “festival of kisses” called Omed-omedan.
  • On the Galungan and Kuningan festivals, large, curving bamboo poles decorated with bamboo leaf ornaments called penjor are erected all over the island.
  • Balinese cremations, called ngaben, are elaborate ceremonies that involve burning the body is a tall cremation tower.
Monster statues in a parade in Bali
Statues being carried in a Balinese parade
  • Traditional Balinese clothing for women includes a kebaya (thin, long-sleeved top), often with a corset beneath, a prada (cloth belt), and a kamben (sarong). Men usually wear a kamben (sarong), a buttoned shirt, and an udeng (cloth headdress) on their heads.
  • Many clothes in Bali are dyed using the batik method, originated in Java.
  • Black and white checkered fabrics are also commonly worn and displayed as a part of religious ceremonies.
A man and a woman wearing traditional clothes in Bali
Traditional clothing of Bali
  • Bali has its own script, which is used to write the Balinese language, and is descended from Brahmi script of South India.
  • Bali has a traditional calendar called tika, which has 30 weeks. It is often drawn on wood panels.
  • Bali has a unique cuisine. Rice is the staple and is accompanied by vegetable, meat, and seafood dishes, but never beef. Common ingredients include garlic, chilis, shrimp paste, tempe, tofu, and curry spices.
  • Babi Guling, whole pig roasted over a fire, is a popular local dish.
A batik rug with several Balinese dishes on it
Traditional cuisine in Bali
  • Bali produces kopi luwak, one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Coffee cherries are fed to civets and then collected from their dung before being brewed. It can sell for up to $100/kg (farmed) or $1300/kg (wild).
  • Balinese babies are not allowed to touch the ground for their first 105 days of life.
  • Most Balinese are given the same names: Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut, for first, second, third, of fourth-born in their family, respectively.

Historical Facts About Bali

  • Bali and Java were connected until the end of the last ice age.
  • Austronesian people first inhabited Bali as early as 2000 BCE, coming from Taiwan and populating numerous islands in Southeast Asia and across the Pacific Ocean.
Water spouts pouring water into a temple in Bali
Water spouts into a Balinese temple
  • Hinduism arrived in Bali as early as the 1st century CE.
  • By around 1000 CE, Bali was an independent kingdom whose people practiced Hindu-Buddhism. The name Bali was already being used at the time.
  • Portuguese were the first to lay eyes on Bali in 1512.
  • When the Hindu Majapahit Empire empire on Java fell in 1520 and many people fled to Bali.
  • Bali’s various Hindu kingdoms remained independent for hundreds of years and developed a distinct Balinese identity and culture.
Royal baths, Tirtagangga, Bali
The former royal baths at Tirta Gangga
  • Dutch influence increased on Bali in the mid 19th century, and they formally took over the island in 1906. Hundreds of Balinese committed mass suicide.
  • In the 1930s, anthropologists and artists were attracted to the island and its unique culture, followed by Western tourists.  
  • The 1932 film Virgins of Bali, which contained numerous scenes of topless Balinese women, played a huge role in attracting tourists to Bali.
  • Japan occupied Bali during WWII.
  • After WWII, the Dutch made Bali a part of the State of East Indonesia. In 1949, Bali became a part of the newly independent Indonesia. In 1958, Bali was designated a province of Indonesia.
Bajra Sandhi Monument in Denpasar, Bali
Bajra Sandhi Monument in Denpasar honors the various struggles of the Balinese throughout history.
  • An eruption of Mt. Agung in 1963 was one of the most devastating in Indonesia’s history, killing over 1000, and causing many thousands to leave the island.
  • Tourism to Bali picked up again in the 1970s and skyrocketed from the 1980s onward.
  • On October 12, 2002, two bombs were set off beside popular night clubs in Kuta, killing 202 people, mostly backpackers. The bombs were carried out by a Islamic terrorist group in retaliation for the government’s support of the United States’ War on Terror and Australia’s role in East Timor.
Bali bombing memorial
The Bali Bombing Memorial in Kuta
  • In 2004, on the second anniversary of the attack, a memorial with a list of all the victims was erected on the site of Paddy’s Pub, one of the night clubs, with a traditional Hindu ceremony.
  • On October 24, 2008, three of the bombers were executed by firing squad.
  • Mount Agung erupted several times between 2017 and 2019. Over 100,000 people were forced to evacuate numerous times.
  • On October 14, 2021, Bali reopened its doors to fully vaccinated tourists. By late 2022, the tourist arrivals were even higher than before COVID.

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