Jimbaran and The Bukit Peninsula – Bali’s Southern Belles

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While Bali is perhaps best known for its verdant and picturesque rice-terrace landscape, The Bukit Peninsula possesses a very different kind of beauty. Towering limestone cliffs, thick coastal forest, timeless fishing villages and legendary surf breaks typify this rugged lemon-shaped headland marking the island’s most southerly point.

A narrow land bridge separates the sprawling southern plains of Bali from The Bukit, and it’s here that you’ll find the peaceful fishing community of Jimbaran. The wide, gentle curve of Jimbaran Bay is protected by a reef, which creates a calm lagoon of sparkling turquoise water. Safe swimming conditions and beautiful soft white sand make this lovely beach a hit with families. Colourful jukung (traditional fishing boats) rest on the sand, and casual restaurants line the beach. Jimbaran’s nightly seafood barbecues regularly top ‘must do’ lists in Bali. Choose your fish or seafood, then take a table on the beach while it is basted in Jimbaran’s famous spice mix of garlic, black pepper, kaffir lime leaves and chilli, and grilled over coconut husks. Those in search of a finer dining experience and bespoke cocktails can head up to the fabulous beach club, Sundara, tucked into the corner of the bay, while foodies shouldn’t miss Cuca, one of the island’s most innovative restaurants.

Situated on the gentle rise of Jimbaran Hill, with charming views over the bay, (best enjoyed from a roof-top Jacuzzi,) the light and spacious Villa Aiko is well set-up for families. Nearby are two more fabulously equipped villas, each with ocean views and walking tracks down to the beach: Villa Jamalu is equally suited to jetsetters in search of a luxury pad and families looking for a quite holiday retreat, while the popular, highly contemporary Villa Adenium boasts a massive gym and games room.

Further up the hill is the area known as ‘millionaires row,’ an exclusive neighborhood boasting million-dollar views and some of the island’s most exclusive villas. Early mornings reveal central Bali’s dramatic chain of volcanoes, while evenings see the island’s southern plains ablaze with twinkling lights. The Longhouse clings to the mountainside, with a stunning design by renowned Balinese architect Popo Danes, and bedrooms showcasing some of the many rich cultures of the Indonesian archipelago.

Back on the coast, golfers can play a round at the New Kuta Golf Course, which tops a scenic headland within the Dreamland estate. Make sure to take a pit stop at hole 15 for drinks and snacks. Bingin Beach is nearby, offering a perfectly preserved slice of old school Bali with its atmospheric warungs (local restaurants) and homestays tumbling down the cliffs to a pretty cove. While cheap and cheerful beachside homestays are popular with surfers, the upper reaches of the Bingin cliffs are home to the gorgeous Villa Bayuh Sabbah. This classic villa sits in sprawling tropical gardens and comes with a gym and tennis court.

Must-try restaurants in the vicinity include Les Sols Calcaires, serving up classic French food and fine French wines in a wonderfully rustic setting. Those looking for a lively sundowner can head to El Kabron, a hip cliff club serving up sangria, paella, and the perfect gin and tonic.

Heading down the coast, the road winds through a rural forested landscape. Surfers and day-trippers flock to Padang Padang, with its stunning rock formations and sandy beach, while Uluwatu is a world-famous surfing mecca. Stop off at one of the warungs nestled into the soaring cliffs to watch the waves peel across the ocean, or join the party on the sprawling deck at Single Fin on Sunday evenings. Uluwatu is also home to The Istana, the ultimate in Bali luxury villas and a popular choice for weddings due to its devastatingly romantic setting right on the cliffs.

The mighty Hindu sea temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, lies at The Bukit’s south-westerly tip and is one of the island’s most important temples, dedicated to Rudra, the god of storms and wind. It towers high above the crashing waves, and sets the scene for a nightly kecak dance (trance fire dance) at sunset. The monkeys can be very cheeky here and are known to steal, so hang on to your cameras, phones and wallets!

Small country roads crisscross The Bukit leading to a smattering of secluded luxury homes, such as Villa Indah Manis and Bulan Madu, a serene tropical haven with views over forested hills and out to the ocean beyond. Continuing to the east coast of the peninsula you will come to one of Bali’s most impressive beaches, Pandawa, reached by a road sliced into the towering limestone cliffs. Look out for the immense carvings that represent figures from the Hindu epic, Mahabharata on the way down. Blinding white sand meets gleaming turquoise waters at Pandawa, and a number of warungs serve fresh seafood and Indonesian favourites. Head left from the car park to avoid the weekend crowds, or better yet, book a stay at one of the three villas that make up the spectacular Pandawa Cliff Estate. This cliff-top haven offers unrivalled luxury, state-of-the-art facilities, superb service and views to-die-for.

A new by-pass, and roads considerably less congested than those around Seminyak and other popular Bali tourist destinations, make Jimbaran and The Bukit Peninsula very convenient for visitors arriving at the international airport. Whether searching for a peaceful family vacation, a romantic getaway, or the perfect wave, these spectacular southern regions offer an inspired choice for a Bali holiday.

A well seasoned travel writer, Alison arrived in Bali in 2008 and never got around to leaving. Trading global nomadic journeys for explorations of a culinary kind, she now writes about the island's ever-evolving dining scene. Alison also returns regularly to Fiji and has just completed her first book, Kava, Cannibals and Curses, about her time living with a traditional community in the remote Yasawa Islands.

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