An island of Hindu offerings, incense wafts through the air from the second you step off the plane, and colourful, eccentric-looking gods poke their head out of every taxi mirror, shop door and hotel lobby.
Most visitors focus their stay on the southern shores Seminyak for couples seeking luxury, and Kuta for raucous merriment and markets. These well-trodden, southern beaches are vast, yawning swathes of surf-crashed sand, alive with neon-hued aprs-surf nightclubs.
The party crowd is easy to avoid, however. Escapists make for the hidden coves of Bingin, where fierce waves have carved out a parade of cliff-skirted, white sand coves, with frothy shallows created by peeling barrels of surf on the horizon.
Things get wild on the tempestuous northern shore as inky black volcanic sands line the coast at beaches such as Lovina. For sunset, surf and swinging in hammocks, the tiny island of Nusa Lembongan, just off the east coast, is the beachy postcard many come to Bali expecting.
Others leave the coast all together to explore the verdant waves of rice paddies that undulate between the islands inland volcanoes and the slow beating heart of the island, sleepy Ubud. Here, craft-selling villages, Hindu temples and monkey-filled rainforests surround the spiritual soul of Bali.
Where to stay
Bali Uma Ubud (00 62 361 972448; comohotels.com/umaubud). This boutique hotel lies on the outskirts of Ubud, surrounded by gardens of banyan trees and coconut palms. It is furnished with huge pieces of Balinese furniture: antique carvings and giant sized, intricately carved teak sofas. Colonial-style, straw-thatched rooms look out onto the volcanic valley of Mount Batur. A popular activity involves a dawn hike up to the crater. Doubles from 243.
Nusa Bay Resort (00 62 361 484085). Roomy bamboo-thatched and pastel-brushed concrete villas overlook the silky white sarong of sand that is Mushroom Bay on Balis cheery offshoot isle, Nusa Lembongan. In keeping with the friendly vibe of the island, Nusa Bay is a place for mingling with fellow holidaymakers. Diners all squidge in together on the grand communal tables under the Indonesian village-style long house where Bintang and Arak (local beer and firewater respectively) flow into the early hours. Doubles from 78.
Whisper it quietly; Lombok has far prettier, quieter and whiter beaches than neighbouring Bali. While its profile may be lower, the island looms over Bali with its 13,200ft-high pinnacle, Rinjani. This is Indonesias second highest volcano no mean feat in such a ripped archipelago.
In the smoky shadows of this behemoth, the southern coast is licked with coconut-white coves and waves that draw discerning beach lovers and surfers respectively. For a Robinson Crusoe adventure, take your pick from any of the Gili Islands that dot along Lomboks north-eastern fringe a trio of tiny jungle-and-sand islands, haloed by kaleidoscopic coral reef all without cars, crowds or complexity.
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Indonesia's islands: a guide