Denpasar is the capital of and major gateway to Bali, an Indonesian island and province that has taken off in the last few decades due to its cultural landmarks and stunning natural beauty (it’s part of the Coral Triangle). It was made even more famous by the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love. Denpasar isn’t the main spot for tourists, but the off-the-beaten path location is full of temples, museums, and amazing shopping — and close to the main tourist spots, in the south of Bali.
Denpasar has no shortage of sites, museums, cultural spots, and natural wonders to visit. One of your first destinations will likely be Puputan Square, named after a battle between the Dutch and the Balinese that took place in 1906. Located right by the square is Pura Agung Jagatnata, a beautiful government temple built in the mid 1950s. The temple is open to all to pray, and no matter what time you visit you will always see people doing just that. Next to Pura Jagatnata is the Bali Museum where you can learn about Balinese history. The museum is four buildings and designed to look like a palace or temple. When you’re ready to shop, visit Pasar Burung and Pasar Badung. Burung is a smaller market that sells live birds. Though you won’t likely be taking one of those home with you, it’s fun to go for the unique experience. Pasar Badung is the largest market on the island and sells everything from meat and fish, to fruit and veg, to spices and clothes. And, of course, don’t forget to visit one of the many nearby beaches.
Most tourism is centered in south Bali, near Denpasar. Perhaps the most popular tourist destination is the nearby Kuta, only 20-30 minutes away. Kuta is known for its partying and beautiful scenery, and because it is so close it is definitely worth a trip. Other day trips can be taken outside of south Bali, though it may be easier to book them through tour groups. Noteworthy places to see include the Kintamani mountain regions, home to the Kintamani volcano; Ubud, a city in the uplands known for its traditional crafts and dance; and the country’s terraced rice fields.
Denpasar is a sprawling city with accommodation located all over. If you plan to explore a lot of cultural and historic sites, try to stay near the center of the city, within walking distance of Puputan Square. If you’re looking more for a beach vacation, stay along Sanur Beach, a stretch of sand on the edge of the city. Though many of Bali’s beaches are known for their parties, Sanur is quiet and peaceful — the perfect place to station yourself for a relaxing vacation.
If you’re staying in a centrally located part of the city, walking is possible between your accommodation, restaurants, and tourist attractions. However, for those times when going on foot isn’t practical, it is usually easy to hail a taxi for a relatively inexpensive sum. If you’re feeling up to a challenge, however, you can also hail and hop on one of Bali’s bemos, mini buses the locals take as public transportation. Bemos are color coordinated according to their route but exactly where they’re going can be tricky to figure out. For natives, the cost for a ride is only around $0.30, but you may be charged more if you’re clearly a tourist. And, be warned, you might also find yourself sitting next to farm animals.
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