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Java & Bali

These Indonesian islands have long been on the wish lists of many travellers, from backpacking revellers to those looking for something a little more spiritual. And it's not hard to see why, as a destination, they have taken on an almost pilgrimage-like status, boasting bustling inland towns and secluded coastal settings alike.

Highlights of any time spent in this part of the world include the plentiful Candis, or temples, which, while paying homage to an eclectic mix of religions, predominantly illustrate the history of Buddhism and Hinduism through intricate stone carvings, the brooding volcanic angst of Mount Bromo and the palm-adorned beaches that denote Bali especially as a tropical paradise.

Geography & History of Java & Bali

Java lies between Sumatra, Bornea and Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. It's the 13th largest island on the planet, comparable in size to Britain but born of fierce volcanic activity in the area millions of years ago, sometime after the Miocene era. Archaeologists believe human activity in this region of Indonesia dates back around 1.7 million years and that a fairly complex societal structure arose quite early due to secluded micro-environments within tribal boundaries. This meant that bartering for different commodities evolved here sooner than it may have in other parts of the world. In more modern years, both Java and Bali have a history of religious tolerance, with communities made up of Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims from between the 10th and 16th centuries. Following the Colonial period of the 18th and 19th centuries, Christianity was also thrown into the mix. The population of Java now stands at around 145 million people, making it the most populated island on Earth, home to 57% of all Indonesians.

Bali is just two miles east of Java and the islands are separated by the Bali Strait, though Bali is smaller and with far less population density than Java. Again, it is a volcanic destination with active volcanoes not a rare sight to be able to witness. Surrounded by delicate coral reefs, the beaches to the south feature textbook white sand while those to the north are uniquely adorned with the black sand characteristic of such a volcanic region.


For a relatively small nation Java has a surprising degree of variance when it comes to climate, with mountainous regions being decidedly cooler than the humid environment needed for rice cultivation. Overall however, temperatures range from 22 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees Celsius, though highs of 34 are not uncommon during the dry season. The south coast is notably cooler than further inland and the north coast. The wet season starts in November and ends in April, and during this time most days will experience a short, sharp burst of heavy rainfall that will give way to sunshine again relatively quickly.

Bali's weather doesn't differ too much noticeably, though it is slightly warmer year-round (averaging 30 degrees Celsius) and a touch more humid. Again monsoon season runs from about October to April with most rain falling between December and March. If you're visiting in this period, waterproofs are a must, even though you will dry quite quickly if you're caught out in a storm. Again, elevated positions are prone to much chillier temperatures so if you're spending any time in the mountains we would recommend layers, enabling you to regulate your temperature accordingly. Of course sun cream is a must and we would suggest using nothing less than factor 50, just to be on the safe side. Hydration is also very important, especially in more humid regions where you may not notice how much fluid you're losing.


Thanks to the familiarity of holiday makers, and a history of integrated communities, Java and Bali's cultures are very inclusive and fairly liberal. Bali has long been an artist's retreat and traditional music and live performances are still very popular and easy to come by. Java is also incredibly proud of its creative background, especially when it comes to literature. On both islands a mix of languages are spoken - the three main ones on Java being Javanese, Sudanese and Madurese, while on Bali you're most likely to hear a mix of Balinese and Indonesian. The prevalence of tourists however means that English is also widely spoken (to varying degrees of fluency) and understood.

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