We have been to Bali twice, and the first question I get from friends and readers is: is still worth to travel to Bali? My answer: Yes, but you need to know how to enjoy the best of Bali. The island of Gods has been the perfect summer travel destination for years and because of this many areas are too developed and too touristic. However, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Bali, places to see and experiences to have.
Let’s get it straight, Bali is not only Kuta Beach or Uluwatu. There are other amazing beaches around, nice villages with lovely people and stunning nature. So if you are planning your trip to Indonesia follow our travel guide to the best of Bali and I’m sure you gonna fall in love with this island too!
Bali is famous for the perfect waves, rice fields, volcanos, Hindu temples, yoga, meditation and delicious food. Off course, you want to enjoy all these attractions, but at the same time you wanna have a taste of local Bali, a more authentic and unique Balinese experience. I totally understand you, that’s why we decided to share our personal experiences and our favorite things to do in Bali.
Where to stay In Bali? Where is the best place?
Before choosing the best accommodation in Bali you need to think about the best area to stay in Bali. My tip is to choose the location based on the type of experience you want to have.
[click on the name of the area to see some hotels suggestion]
- Kuta Beach: touristy, too busy, too noisy, too many drunk people and groups of tourist. I’m not a big fan of this area but there you can find the big hotel chains, popular resorts and shopping malls.
- Denpasar: too busy. It’s the business center of the island, with heavy traffic and far from the beach.
- Legian Beach: it’s like Kuta, with less clubs and bars.
- Seminyak: the trendy side of Bali with top restaurants, fancy beach bars, boutique hotels and local designers. It’ busy but it’s good and has an interesting vibe. It’s booming now.
- Canggu: this is the hipster side of Bali. Lovely cafes and charming restaurants. Surf beach, quiet village and there are rice fields everywhere. There you can get a taste of local life. We lived there for two months and loved it!!
- Sanur: it’s nice, the beach is good, but I think it doesn’t have too much character.
- Ubud: is the hippie part of Bali. Yoga studios, raw food restaurants and meditation retreat. Ubud is zen!
- Uluwatu: favorite spot among surfers and those looking for stunning cliff views.
The Best Things to do in Bali
Before listing places to visit and attractions, let’s talk about things to do in Bali, experiences that you can only have in the Island fo Gods.
> Surf in Bali: from beginner to pro
Bali is the perfect surf destination, and you must surf in Bali. Travel to Bali and not catching a wave is the same as going to Rome and don’t see the Pope. There is no excuse!!
I have never surfed before and I had a blast! I got scared. I laughed. I caught a wave. I felt. I repeated it. I got exhausted. I surfed! One of the best places to learn how to surf in Bali is Kuta Beach [a bit overcrowded with people learning, what can be dangerous too]. Legian and Seminyak are good too. The less crowded options are Batu Bolong and Olds Man, both of them in Canggu, 40 min. driving from Kuta.
If you are like Rob, an experienced surfer, you can catch waves all around Bali. Show your surf skills at Uluwatu, Padang – Padang, Bingin, and Dreamland. Or you can go to Keramas and Balangan Beach that are not so crowded. Rob have surfed in all them, and for him ride the waves on those beaches is one of the best things to do in Bali
> Climb Mt. Batur and Watch the Sunrise From the Top of a Volcano
One of the best experiences we had in Bali. No doubt, climbing the Mount Batur during nighttime is one of the best things to do in Bali, and you won’t regret it. Mount Batur is on the north part of the Island, you can choose a tour that will take you all the way there and also guide you through the climbing, or you can drive to the little village on the foot of the volcano and hire a guide there.
The trekking starts at 3 – 3:30AM, the climbing to the last summit of Mt. Batur takes about 2:30 hours [the craters is 1,717 above sea level]. You need to hurry up, otherwise you gonna miss the incredible sunrise above the clouds!
The way up is hard, I’m gonna be honest with you, specially the last part between the two summits [we are used to run and trek but in certain parts my legs were tired]. But don’t give up, use all your energy to climb, it’s worth it! If you think you gonna take more than 3 hours to trek the volcano, talk to the tour operator to start your ascent earlier. When you arrive on the top of Mt. Batur you will be rewarded with an orange sunrise, hot coffee, a simple breakfast and off course one of the best views of Bali!
If the photos weren’t enough to convince you, watch our video climbing Mt. Batur and see how gorgeous that place is.
> Stay Zen in Ubud
One of the unique things to do in Bali is to visit Ubud and connect with your spirituality. You can do that in many ways: meditation classes, yoga classes, spa sessions, trekking the Campuhan Ridge Walk, visiting temples or relaxing in a hotel.
Most of the people go to Ubud to visit the Art Market, the Ubud Royal Palace Puri Saren Agung and the Ubud Monkey Forest. Of course, you must visit them all, but the most important thing to do in Ubud is to stay zen!
> Eat Delicious and Healthy Food
Balinese food is delicious, a mix of flavors and fresh ingredients. Paradise for meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans. Eating is one of the top things to do in Bali. Doesn’t matter what you like or dislike, there is always a restaurant, a small bistrô or a family Warung ready to satisfy your cravings for delicious and healthy food.
Fish and seafood are always fresh in Bali! If you are vegetarian then you must try the local tempe with peanut sauce. Carnivorous can go for beef rendang and chicken satay, they are the best sellers. And don’t forget to try the traditional Nasi Campur, our favorites is at The Piring Daun Restaurant.
Juices made with vegetable and spices like ginger and turmeric, are a big thing in Bali and breakfast are serious business. You gonna find mouthwatering menu serving from eggs ‘n’ bacon, to smoothie fruit bowls that taste like heaven.
> Work in the Rice Padi and Learn How to Cook Balinese Food
One of the unique things to do in Bali is to attend a cooking class, but not a normal one. To experience the best of Bali go on Rumah Desa tour. Learn how to craft the traditional baskets used for offers, how to prepare Balinese food and spices, the coconut oil process and how to plant rice. It’s a hands-on experience, an awesome way to get close to the real life in Bali and meet locals.
I had an amazing time learning about the ingredients, chopping and slicing vegetables, helping to prepare our delicious meal. While Rob was having fun in the fields, planting rice and even riding a cow.
> Beach Hopping
Bali is a huge island and to see the best of it you need to move. Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are the traditional busy beaches. Sanur is another famous beach, specially for those who want calm sea and a relaxing time. The beaches close to Uluwatu are perfect for surfers, and most of them are hidden at the end of long and curvy roads.
One of the best things to do in Bali is to rent a motorbike [or a scooter] and go beach hopping. One day you can explore the southwest coast, from Kuta Beach go west, passing by Canggu and arriving in Tanah Lot. Next day head northeast, passing by Sanur, Keramas and White Sand Beach. On the other day go further south and explore all the beach on the way from Kuta to Uluwatu. Be prepared to drive up and down hill, get stuck in crazy traffic jams, and also to see incredible beaches and talented surfers.
> Best Sunsets in Bali
The last unmissable thing to do in Bali is also one of my favorites, catch the sunsets! There are many places where you can enjoy the daily spectacle. The last time we visited Bali [and stayed there for two months] almost every day we stop whatever we were doing to drive around and find a perfect spot to watch the sunset. So here is a list of our favorite ones:
Uluwatu Temple – Tanah Lot Temple – Berawa Beach – Batu Belig Beach [at the 707 Batu Belig beach bar] –
The Lawn at Olds Man Beach, Canggu – The rice fields around Canggu area.
We are done with experiences, unique things to do in Bali, moments that you can only have in this incredible island. Now it’s time to talk about the unmissable tourist attractions in Bali. Some of them despite being fantastic, are very touristy, but you can’t leave the islands of Gods without visiting them.
Best Attractions in Bali – Place to Visit
Bali is called the island of Gods and it’s easy to understand way. In every corner you will find a temple and offers to many Gods. The Hinduism is not only a religion there, also the way of living and how the Balinese society is organized. The Balinese architecture in the temples is stunning, with delicate wooden carving, huge sculptures and flowers ornaments. No doubt the top attractions in Bali are the temples, and here is a list of the ones you must visit.
> Uluwatu Temple and the Kecak Dance
You can’t leave Bali without going to Uluwatu, go watch the sunset and the Kecak dance performance. The fire dance happens daily from 6:30PM and has the sunset as the background. The entrance fee to Uluwatu is 30,000IDR and the Kecak Dance ticket 100,000IDR. Arrive before 6PM and get the best seats, also be aware of the monkeys around the temple, they love to steal phones, cameras, sunglasses, bottle of water and anything that is shiny.
> Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
Located in Bali central highlands, the temple is one of the most visited places in the island. The architecture and the lake Beratan are majestic. It’s not an easy place to go, you will need to book a tour to Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, or you can venture yourself going there by scooter.
> Purify yourself at Tirta Empul Temple, the Water Temple in Ubud
My favorite temple in Bali, love to see the people doing the water purification ritual, the kids being blessed and the possibility to be part of it. Even being one of the top tourist attractions in Bali, it is so organized and welcoming that you feel good to be there. The temple is open from 9AM to 7PM, go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the big groups of tourist. Entrance fee: 15,000IDR and includes the sarong to get in the temple.
> Sunset at Tanah Lot Temple
This is one of the most known temple in Bali, it’s right on the shore of the beach, with waves breaking on the rocks and the sun setting in the background.
> Besakih, The Mother Temple
This s biggest and the most important temple in Bali. It sits at the foot of Mount Agung, the highest mountain in the island, and it’s a complex of different temples and shrines located 1000 meters above sea level.
Besakih temple is stunning, but also very touristy and hassle guarantee. Sad to say that, but the amount of people trying to charge you for “official tours”, the “temple guardians” that asked for money, ladies renting sarongs for an outrageous price, and “must buy, must have” are too tiring. From the moment you arrive near the temple you are bombed with questions, prices, “must have and must do”, today is a religious holiday “you must buy this’…
The Temple is stunning but is so hard to pass by all these annoying tourist traps that by the end you just want to leave the place instead of visiting it.
> Bali Rice Fields, the famous one and our little secret
The rice paddies are part of Bali culture and way of living. In Kuta Beach and other developed areas they don’t exist anymore, but if you venture yourself a little further into Bali’s countryside you can enjoy the endless fields with all shades of green.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces in Ubud is the most famous and most visited rice fields in Bali. It’s not so authentic anymore, but you still can enjoy the view and take some nice shots. But if you really want to visit the traditional rice paddies, with empty roads and no tourist, you must drive towards Tanah Lot Temple, pass by Canggu village, and then turn at Jl. Raya Sesseh road. Drive until the end, when the rice fields reach the empty and stunning beach. This place is gorgeous, so please keep it in secret…
Those are the best places to stay in Bali, choose the one suits your style of traveling and book a hotel. There is an infinity option of hotels, resorts and guesthouses in Bali, from a couple of dollars to hundreds of bucks per night. The best websites to search and book a hotel in Bali are Agoda and Booking.com, we use them and recommend.
How to get to Bali and how to get around?
Bali has a busy international airport, to find the best flights, prices and connections use Skyscanner. You can compare the prices during the whole month and choose the cheapest dates to fly.
To get around Bali is a bit trick. Traffic is heavy, and if you rely on taxis you gonna spend precious time stuck in traffic jams. The best option is to rent a scooter and explore the island on your pace. You can rent a motorbike in any tourist agent near your hotel, it’s super easy. But be careful, some roads are in bad condition, tourists drive like crazy, and some traffic rules just don’t exist there. Always wear a helmet and don’t forget your travel insurance. We use World Nomads, every time we need we were covered.
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This is just a small picture of all the great things to do in Bali, we didn’t explore the north and west part of the island yet, so we definitely go back for more. And once we discover new places and local experience we gonna share with you.
Hope you liked our personal travel guide to Bali. Follow our tips and recommendations for the best things to do in Bali and be sure you gonna have an amazing time. The Island of Gods is waiting for you, go and enjoy it!
Need more Indonesia Travel Tips? Check out our blog posts and adventures in this wonderful country:
> Cruising & Trekking in the Borneo Jungle: Tanjung Puting National Park and the Wild Orangutans
PS: This trip was partially organized by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism. As usual, doesn’t matter who pays the bill, you receive my honest opinion and impression.