Bali’s mystic charms are timeless, but now the island’s resorts are making cultural relevance a priority, promising unique entrée into local art and architecture, cuisine, and traditional medicine. The trend of conveying “Bali-ness” arguably started at Amandari, which opened in 1989 and still has some of the island’s best cultural programs. The highlight is the cooking class: it begins with a trip to a nearby market and culminates in a seven-course feast overlooking the Ayung River Gorge. Guests at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, in Ubud, can spend the day with local farmers, learning about the island’s ingenious subak irrigation system. On the southwestern coast, set between green rice fields and a black-sand beach, is Alila Villas Soori. Its proximity to Tanah Lot Temple—Bali’s most dramatic religious site, poised on a rocky headland that becomes an island at high tide—means guests can get there before the crowds. The three resorts run by the Komaneka group—whose owners also founded Ubud’s Neka Art Museum—showcase eclectic contemporary Balinese art; the latest and most lavish, Komaneka at Bisma, is a veritable gallery unto itself.
Bali Affordable Tip: Even on an island where humble rural lanes lead to luxurious, $600-a-night resorts, there are wallet-friendly options. Try Desa Seni, a village-style resort of thatched-roof villas in the southern part of the island. 13 Jalan Subak Sari, Pantai Berawa, Canggu; 62-361/844-6392; doubles from $185.
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