Balinese culture guide

Set apart from the rest of the Indonesian archipelago as its only remaining Hindu society, Bali still retains a traditional charm where religion and ritual are at the heart of daily life. Worship has changed little in centuries and is as enduring as ever. The island boasts over 20,000 temples and vibrant religious celebrations and processions are almost a daily feature.

Art, music and dance is a prominent feature of daily life and is the most accessible aspect of Balinese culture. High reverence is afforded to Bali’s spectacular natural attractions and lakes and mountains are considered to be the abode of the gods. They are also the lifeblood of rural life and provide water for the island’s very complex irrigation system for rice cultivation.


Best explored in its historic temple festivals, Balinese Hinduism is a unique mix of ancestor worship and colourful purification rituals with fascinating cultural references...more

Dance & drama

The exotic dance dramas of Bali offer an evocative introduction to island life featuring ancient Hindu mythology, haunting melodies and offers great entertainment for all ages...more

Art & literature

Bali’s artistic heritage is rich and diverse and combines everything from fine art, sculpture, wood carvings and ceramics with opportunities to purchase some authentic crafts...more

Balinese food

Balinese food is bursting with flavour, encompassing a rich variety of spices and sauces. Extravagant signature dishes include slow roasted pork and crispy duck plus plenty of seafood...more

Balinese etiquette

Away from the brash seaside resort of Kuta, Balinese society remains extremely traditional and so it can be very easy to unwittingly cause offence through inappropriate behaviour...more

Speak Indonesian

Although the vast majority of Balinese people speak English extremely well, Bahasa Indonesia is one of the world’s simplest languages so why not master a few basic phrases...more

Bali culture guide - Indonesia's Hindu island of handicrafts

Most people still reside in large family compounds which provide shelter for several generations. From the cradle to the grave, every landmark in a Balinese person’s life is commemorated with lavish rituals including coming of age, marriage and extravagant funeral rites.

This is where you will find some of Bali’s most evocative temples which also host the most lavish festivals in the Balinese religious calendar. Balinese culture is open and accessible to all and perhaps the greatest attraction of all is the irrepressible Balinese people themselves.

Today’s art scene is just as dynamic and arty Ubud in particular is filled with imposing art museums and avant garde artists’ studios. Take part in any number of workshops and demonstrations or simply browse around countless galleries of traditional and international exhibits. 

A great way to learn about Bali before you arrive, or even whilst relaxing on the beach, is the authoritative yet entertaining book Secrets of Bali, Fresh Light on the Morning of the World by Jonathan Copeland and Ni Wayan Murni. Unpretentious and easily readable whilst still encyclopaedic in its coverage, this book includes everything about Balinese life from religion, festivals and offerings to architecture, history, culture, music and dance. Available from Murni’s Warung Shop in Ubud, Bali, all good bookshops and on line. Email:

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