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Founder Of World’s Most Famous Travel Guidebooks Shares Why Bali Is A Top Destination

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As the founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler celebrates fifty years since the first of his guidebooks was published.

The esteemed explorer has been reflecting on his favorite destinations. Of course, Bali features on the list. 

Sunset in Kuta Bali.jpg

In an article authored for the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveler Magazine, Wheeler shares his fifty all-time top travel destinations.

Broken down into categories like ‘five utterly weird destinations’, which includes the North Korean capital Pyongyang, and five ‘I’m not going there places,’ Wheeler’s reflections on more than fifty years of travel are wild and exciting. 

Of course, no mention of global tourism destinations would be complete without a mention of the Island of the Gods.

Wheeler is Australian, and Lonely Planet is a proudly Australian publication, although it is now US-owned. Ini Pantai Kuta 🌤 #pantaikuta #kutabeach #balikami #balikamicom ♬ original sound – Sevi

The South East Asia edition of Lonely Planet has been in print for fifty years now and has been revised across 19 editions.

For many backpackers heading to Bali before the rise of the internet, the Lonely Planet guide was the go-to companion for travel planning and is still a heavily relied upon source of information for travelers. 

So what does the founder of Lonely Planet have to say about Bali in 2023? Although he has traveled all over the world, there is still one small hotel in classic Kuta that captures his heart.

Poppies at Kuta Beach is one of the most famous hotels in all of Bali. Not because of its high-flying luxury, although it is incredibly comfortable, but because of its long and treasured history. 

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Langit cerah, semua indah! Hello from Kuta Beach-Bali 😉

♬ original sound – Melali Bali

Poppies, according to Wheeler, remains as charming and homely as ever, despite the rapid rise of tourism development in Kuta and the surrounding tourism resorts of Seminyak, Legian, and Jimbaran.

Wheeler describes a step through the gateway to Poppies to “that lush garden and suddenly the Kuta noise and confusion is a light year away.”

He notes that he has stayed at all manner of five-star establishments in Bali, including Jimbaran Bay, the Como Shambhala, the Amandari, and the Four Seasons Sayan, but that humble Poppies can keep up with the best of them. 

Poppies is famous amongst the first generation of holidaymakers and travelers in Bali, as for a long time, it was one of the only hotels in the Kuta Beach area.

Known to this day as ‘heaven in the heart of Kuta’, the quaint and charming Poppies offer guests that chance to stay in traditional holiday cottages in the truly boutique hotel complex. 

Open now for more than fifty years, the hotel cottages, pool, and gardens remains as lush and homely as they did in the 1970s.

The hotel was opened on the 12th of January 1973 by a local woman by the name of Zenik Sukenny, known as Jenik, with the support of some early visitors to Bali from the USA. 


Poppies have been welcoming guests, new and old, for over fifty years. The hotel employed over 120 staff, many of whom have been working for the company for over twenty years.

Poppies affords guests the timeless generous hospitality that the island of Bali is so well known for.

And with a team of staff so loyal to the company and the guests, returning visitors are welcomed by familiar faces. 


It is not only the founder of Lonely Planet who gives Poppies a huge thumbs up; the hotel has received the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for seven years in a row. 

As newly developed tourism resorts like Canggu and Uluwatu are attracting bigger and bigger crowds, areas like Kuta remain steadfast in their charm.

As perfect for a classic beachside vacation as it was fifty years ago, there is a lot to love about a stay in Kuta


The area is particularly popular with Australian tourists, who continue to be the most frequent visitors to Bali here in 2023, just as they were in the 1970s.

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Friday 7th of July 2023

Because there is no other place to go that's cheap and relatively safe.


Wednesday 5th of July 2023

We live 6 months out of a year just north of Ubud and I hope the Indonesian government gets serious about having quality vs. quantity tourism. Please raise the VOA to $100, that'll keep backpackers and the rift raft away. And while you're at it ban all Russians from entering. They are the root of the majority of Bali's problems.


Thursday 6th of July 2023


Australia, India and Chinese people have fun and leave after a while.

Russians are taking this place over. They are too cowardly to go and fight for their country. So they come here and bring all the same problems they have back home with them.

Soon we will live in a suburb of Moscow.


Thursday 6th of July 2023


Agreed,stop them from entering. They are uncivilised criminals who have no respect for life.


Thursday 6th of July 2023

@Kolohe, Backpackers and Riffraff spend more in Bali than You!


Wednesday 5th of July 2023

@Kolohe, Russians, creepy Indians, the Aussie Bogan brigade and the Chinese will have a much better holiday in Pattaya.


Wednesday 5th of July 2023

If the current crop of 'travellers' actually read lonely planet...

rather than the sordid fluffer trashy self promotion crap on the internet now, bali might still be alright!


Saturday 8th of July 2023


Do you know another adjective besides 'narcissit?

Obviously not a very educated person.


Wednesday 5th of July 2023

@Kazu, The narcissist brigade... Say no more

Wayan Bo

Tuesday 4th of July 2023

Wondering that he didn’t put in first place “Blue Ocean” in Seminyak. - It was once, nice that there are at least left some remaining’s, remembering also Made’s Warung near the Beemo Corner, and much later in 1990’s “Kayuapi”. - The Time Machine will be needed. - As ancient scientists say, there are many civilizations on another planets and that human race is composited of 22 elements that aren’t from planet earth. - Is anybody today remembering the legendary “Casablanca” in Kuta and his legendary founder.

J schneider

Tuesday 4th of July 2023