Bali is one of those islands that that conjures up thoughts of beautiful beaches, tropical forests, historic temples and incredible volcanic vistas… and rightly so, it’s gorgeous!
For so many reasons, Bali really surprised me. For the longest time, I thought of Bali just as a beach holiday, not that there’s anything wrong with that but my assumption was based solely around it being a place to chill out and sip some fruity cocktails while enjoying some well-earned rest and recuperation… but Bali is so much more. There’s never anything wrong with a nice chilled holiday at the beach but after a few days, I’m always itching to explore… and guess what, Bali is the perfect island for this! 🏝
Whether it’s your first visit to Bali, or you’re a seasoned regular, the island is crammed full of amazing sites you have to experience. So what are you waiting for, grab your cocktail of choice (pour me a Moscow Mule, please), plan your itinerary and make sure to include some of these amazing things on your itinerary for Bali.
Where To Stay?
Bali has literally hundreds of places you can call home, from tree top Airbnb’s, stunning tropical forest hotels or beach front luxury apartments. Bali has it all. One of the things I love most about Bali is that it’s an island that caters for all budgets, it doesn’t matter if you’re deciding on a shoe-string budget or splurging on a little decadence for your trip – you’ll find your own slice of Bali that is perfect for you.
If you want to stay away from the larger crowds, you might want to look at some of the countryside retreats that are perched around Ubud. You’ll find a whole array of gorgeous retreats and tranquil hideaways that are just too perfect to ignore.
Bali is a pretty easy island to travel around, with a number of options available to us visitors;
- Hire a tour guide and car: Bali tour guides tend to have their own car that’ll take you around your desired route of the island. You can organise half day or full-day excursions and completely tailor most of the tours to what you want to see. Best of all, it’s all on your schedule and really comfortable, too. Just be warned that traffic can get high on the roads after 6 pm so expect some delays after this point. 🚘
- Hire a bike: If you’re feeling confident, hop on board your own bike to see the island – not for the faint hearted, the Balinese roads have a reputation for some pretty big pot holes, so drive with caution, helmet and of course, with insurance! 🏍
What to see?
1.) See the gorgeous rice terraces
The Bali Rice terraces are an iconic site that you’ve gotta see when you’re in Bali and there’s two you really should consider.
One gorgeous site to visit is the UNESCO World Heritage Protected, Jatiluwih rice field which is almost smack-bang in the centre of the island. It’s best to get here on a pre-planned excursion, renting a car/bike or organising drivers in your hotel/lodging.
The latter sounds pretty decadent, but you don’t need to be dripping in diamonds to hire a driver in Bali, especially if you’re sharing with friends and/or significant other. I think, we paid our £30 for a whole day for a driver and car and had the most amazing day exploring the island. 🌾
The second site to visit is the Tegalalang Rice Fields that is pretty close to Ubud. Although these Rice Fields are a popular choice to see, it’s still worth stopping off for an exploration of the area. If you want to avoid some of the crowds, head here in the early morning or visit Jatiluwih rice fields instead.
Oh yes, make sure to pack a few coins for the land owners to cross their bridges near the rice fields,
2.) Visit Nusa Penida Island
A short speed boat ride from Denpasar (Sanur port), Nusa Penida Island is one utterly beautiful little island to visit. Away from the crowds and beach bars of Bali, the island is an authentic slice of island life in the region.
It’s best not to expect smooth roads and I guarantee you’ll come across a few hair-raising drops whilst you’re driving but it’s totally worth it – this island is stunning.
Make sure to visit Manta Bay or Kelingking Beach and enjoy the dramatic views of the coastline or head over to Pasih Uug Beach where you might even spot a few turtles, too.
3.) Watch the sun rise over a Volcano
Bali is a volcanic hot bed of geothermal activity, making places like Mount Batur so special for us travellers to see. There’s a whole heap of ways to see Mount Batur, with one of the best being a sunrise hike that’ll leave in the wee hours of the night. You won’t be disappointed by the sunset views. 🌋
If you’re feeling like a full day hike, make the trek to the edge of the crater for a unique vista across the island. You can easily arrange a hiking guide once you arrive in Bali (especially if you’re staying in a hotel).
Just make sure to pack some comfortable hiking boots and plenty of water for this trek!
4.) Visit Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
Goa Gaja (or Elephant Cave) is well over 1,000 years old and a must-see UNESCO world heritage site in Indonesia. Spend an hour or so wandering around this relatively compact site, visit the cave itself and see the bathing pools that were only recently discovered… I say recently, it was 60 years ago but in the life of the Goa Gaja, it’s pretty recent!
It’s pretty close to Ubud, so no long or exhausting treks are needed to get here.
5.) Explore The Hindu Temple on a volcano
Perched on the side of Mount Agung, one of the islands volcanos is Pura Besakih Temple is Bali’s largest Hindu temple that’s over 1,000 metres from sea level. There are around 23 temples that make up the site with the most prominent being Pura Penataran Agung.
The whole site is awash with a deep and very long history. We were told that there’s been some form of a temple or worshipping happening at this spot for a whopping 2,000 years!
One thing to consider is that you might be accounted for extra money (on top of about 60,000 rp.) when you enter, this is apparently not official or organised by the temple and actually illegal. It’s just wise to know before you head across and to keep your wits about what you should and shouldn’t be paying for.
6.) Visit Temple at Monkey Forest Sanctuary
This monkey filled reserve and Hindu temple site is perched pretty close to Ubud and one of the more popular sites to see in the area. Consisting of around 3 Hindu temples, you’ll see almost 700 years of history through the trails that run through the park.
Of course, as it names suggests, it’s also filled with a huge array of monkeys. Now, on the whole, it’s worth remembering that these monkeys are wild so their interaction with humans is very much to gain food – if you have food, expect attention – if you don’t stand a safe distance from mothers with new borns and keep interaction to a sneaky photo of these gorgeous monkeys.
Like I said, this site is pretty popular with visitors, so make sure you arrive early if you want a less crowded experience.
7.) See the impressive Pura Ulun Danu Beratan
Perched on the shores of Lake Bratan, Pura Ulun Danu Beratan is one pretty Hindu site you should definitely see in Bali. Built to provide offerings to the water and river goddess, this impressive site is well worth seeing if you’re in the area. You’ll probably spend around 30-60 minutes here and it’s a great pit stop along the way to the very north of the island.
If you fancy a longer stay, hire one of the speed boats that’ll allow you to explore so much more of the area.
8.) Try some traditional Balinese coffee
Bali has a whole host of coffee plantations that make an epic brew for us travellers to enjoy and one that’s perfect for a little afternoon pick-me-up. There are literally hundreds of intimate coffee tasting venues dotted around the island. One of my favourites is Seniman Coffee Studio that serves some of the best coffee on the island… I remember drinking an incredible coconut coffee that was sooooo good I had to have two.
One thing to steer clear of is Luwak Coffee, this is the coffee that is produced by Asian Civets that eat the coffee bean and poop it out. 💩
After this, it’s cleaned and often prized as one of the most expensive coffees in the world. You can easily grab a cup when you’re in Bali but the whole process is often fraught with animal cruelty, tiny cages and a pretty awful life for the civets who are naturally isolated and very shy in the wild (take a look at Peta’s article here).
Think twice before taking a sip.
9.) Wonder at Nungnung waterfall
Nungnung waterfall is a pretty special place, you won’t find hoards of visitors here, Nungnung waterfall is largely untouched by the big groups of visitors that want to experience a little slice of Bali. The closest town is Plaga in the north and it’s well worth going on a guided tour to find this epic waterfall, especially if you’re travelling from the south of the island.
Make sure to pack some comfy shoes and plenty of mosquito repellent, you’ll be in the thick of the jungle and walking down a fair few steps to reach Nungnung waterfall. The best things are never easy, right?
10.) Swim at Tegenungan Waterfall
Within the general area of Ubud, Tegenungan Waterfall is the perfect place to escape the towns and hilltop villages that surround the area. Head over here to witness one of the islands most powerful waterfalls where you can actually bathe in the river below.
Don’t forget to pack plenty of sun block and remember no diving, the water looks pretty deep here but it actually doesn’t go deeper than around 1.5 metres!
11.) See Tibumana waterfall
Probably one of the islands lesser-known waterfalls, Tibumana is one of my favourites that you should definitely see. It’s certainly not the tallest or biggest waterfall in Bali but I assure you it’s impressive. The great thing about getting here is that you don’t need to do some epic, all-around-the-world-trek, to reach the falls, it’s tucked away about 5 minutes from a small parking bay itself!
The waterfall itself is around 60 minutes from the centre of Denpasar (a little less on a motorbike) with the entrance fee being less than £1 ($1 USD). The waterfall is totally off the regular trail that visitors tend to follow but one you should definitely see.
12.) Watch the sunset at Tanah Lot
Tanah Lot is a tiny rocky outlay perched off the mainland of Bali and easily reached via the rocky path that reaches over to Tanah Lot itself. This is one of the most popular temple sites to see in Bali, so be prepared for some large crowds that can be avoided by visiting first thing in the morning.
Yes, you will be surrounded by lots of visitors and yes, there are lots of little stalls and restaurants that have popped up to accommodate them but don’t let that put you off this lovely site, especially at sunset!
13.) Gorge on Balinese cuisine
Bali has a whole heap of delicious Indonesian food for us travellers to try. Head over to some of the islands food markets that are in almost every town, or try some local bites at a warung (kind of like a small cooking shed) that line the streets and roads.
Make sure to try dishes like Lawar (made from coconut and meat), Sayur Gondo served with Sambal Matah and Betutu which is an extra spicy dish of either chicken or duck.
You won’t be disappointed with the food on this island!
14.) Explore the gorgeous Munduk waterfall
There’s a whole array of crisscrossing jungle trails around Munduk that you won’t want to miss, especially when they include an iconic waterfall. The trails themselves range in length and can be a little tough as far as hikes go. Some of the longer ones will need a little more prep, so if you’re thinking of a day hiking the area, make sure to hire a knowledgeable guide.
The hike to the waterfall can be around half a mile down, which is great when you’re going down but going up is a totally different kettle of fish… though, totally worth it! The hike is pretty steep and it can get a little treacherous if the grounds are wet, so take care where you walk.
15.) Explore the Bajra Sandhi Monument
Relatively new, as monuments go, in Bali – Bajra Sandhi Monument is a great place to see. Perched in front of the Bali Governor’s Office in Denpasar, it’s a great place to explore the heritage of this wonderful island.
If you’re looking for a tasty bite to eat, head over to Sangsaka Restaurant that’s in the Seminyak district. Balinese fine dining at it’s best! Make sure to try the langoustine Pangsit with a rujak sauce!
16.) Visit the Water temple of Tirta Empul
This Hindu water temple is close to the town of Tampaksiring and within easy reach of Denpasar when travelling by car/bike. Take a wander around this sacred site and witness the purification baths that people take when visiting the temple, which sits at the source of the Pakerisan river.
With over 1,000 years of history, it’s one of Bali’s most impressive water temples you should see.
17.) Surf at Balangan Beach
More suited to surfers than swimmers, Balangan Beach is a beautiful bay to enjoy when in Bali. A little away from the bustling road, Balangan Beach is the perfect place to spend a relaxing afternoon on the shore. You’ll find a few rustic cafes and some beach huts serving local foods that you’ll want to gorge on after all that sea air.
Make sure to take in the view from the craggy rocks and cliffs that overlook the beach itself. It’s gorgeous when the sun begins to set.