Have you still not been to magnificent Bali? Well, that’s unusual! Because everybody’s been now. But don’t worry, we are here to help you: we can give you some advice on what to see on this beautiful island!
Of all the islands of the Indonesian archipelago, Bali certainly wins the record for being the best-known and most visited by tourists and travellers from all over the world. It lies between Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, and Lombok, another small gem. Bali is not as famous for its sea – some islands definitely deserve more attention – but its real attraction is yoga, meditation, rice paddies and temples.
Unlike the rest of Indonesia where Muslim prevails as the most practised religion, Bali has a Hindu majority. For this reason, it enjoys the charm of Southeast Asia’s hinterland, with the typical temples and architecture of these lands. Surely green is the dominant colour in this land. From the intense jungle to the more variegated shades of the rice paddies. Last but not least Ubud, the island’s nerve centre, where many gravitate for yoga and meditation.
Best plaes to visit in Bali: the temples
The first attraction to see in Bali? Obviously the temples. There are about 20 thousand spread over the island – an incredible number, but do not worry: you needn’t visit them all! However, we recommend some that should not be skipped!
Also known as Besakih Mother Temple, it is the largest and most sacred Hindi temple in Bali. It is located on the slopes of Mount Agung and is a complex of 23 temples – with Pura Penataran Agung being the most prominent. The entrance is majestic, with a two-leaf portal called Candi bentar.
Ulun Danu Bratan
Another iconic and super-photographed temple is Ulun Danu Bratan, approx. two hours from Ubud. Its beauty lies in the fact that the temple is reflected on the waters of Lake Bratan, inside the caldera of an extinct volcano. Unsurprisingly, the temple is dedicated to the goddess of water and this lake is a crucial water reserve in the area. When to visit? If you can, early in the morning, when it is not overrun by tourists and you can experience the true peace of this place.
It is not just a temple to see, Tirta Empul is an experience in itself. There is a sacred spring and the Balinese periodically bathe there to purify themselves. The name means “sacred spring”: even travellers can immerse themselves in the tanks and take part in the ritual. We strongly recommend you take this stage: it is the perfect way to get in touch with this country’s spirituality and culture. Definitely one of the most fascinating places to visit in Bali!
You’ve probably already heard about this temple: this is the gate of Bali’s paradise – one of the most Instagrammed places on the island. The temple is incredible, packed with decorations and statues, and it is one of the most sacred in Bali, built to protect the island from evil spirits. To earn paradise though… you have to struggle a bit! Indeed, to reach the famous door you have to climb 1,700 steps. Is it worth it? Of course: from the door of paradise the view is definitely heavenly!
If you’re in the Seminyak area of southern Bali, check out the Uluwatu Temple. Perched on a promontory overlooking the sea, this temple is quite popular – and not just for tourists! En route, you will come across more than a few monkeys: they are reasonably friendly… but not too much! The most popular time to come here is certainly the sunset, spectacular seen from the temple. Of course, don’t expect to be alone: at this time Uluwatu is quite crowded!
This temple really fascinates everyone for its location: Tanah Lot is perched on an island not far from the east coast of Bali. It was built in honour of the Hindu gods of the sea and the serpents who seem to inhabit the cave near the temple, who keep evil spirits at bay. When the tide is out, you can easily reach it on foot from the mainland. This place is highly suggestive, especially at sunset – so, once again, be prepared for a crowd of tourists, but believe us, it is one of the must-visit places in Bali.
This is not a temple but an ancient royal palace. However, we include it in our list of places to visit in Bali because this place is really unique. The real beauty is the park, full of ponds with lotus flowers and carp, fountains and statues of Hindu gods. We shouldn’t need to tell you: do not leave your camera at home!
Best places to visit in Bali: Ubud
What else can you visit in Bali if not the magnificent Ubud? The beating heart of the entire island and a must for every traveller. Keep in mind that Ubud is highly touristy – so if you’re looking for an experience with locals, then look elsewhere. However, this town is the perfect taste of Indonesian culture – and some of its natural beauties.
Bali is also perfect for relaxing – and not just staying in one of the many resorts overlooking the jungle. Here you can find spas where you can enjoy regenerating massages or various yoga and meditation centres where you can find your inner balance. Ubud is also beloved for its markets: you can find numerous products of local craftsmanship, from typical clothes to terracotta statuettes.
The first stop we recommend you take when you reach Ubud is the rice terraces. Rent a scooter – the easiest way to get around! – and set off from the most famous terrace, the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Explore it on foot and, if you can, come here at dawn, the most magical time to visit this place.
The Monkey Forest is a super touristy place – but don’t be discouraged! Undoubtedly worth a visit, not only because everywhere you can find incredibly evocative ancient Balinese statues, but especially for the local monkeys. They’re friendly and always ready to take a selfie with you. However, pay attention to your belongings: the monkeys love taking souvenirs at the expense of tourists!
Goa Gajah, the elephant cave
Goa Gajah is a Hindu temple located near Ubud. Don’t expect to see elephants though: we still don’t know why it bears this nickname, but we like it just as it is. Compared to other temples, Goa Gajah is quite macabre: the entrance is made up of a face carved into the rock, whose open mouth acts as a door. Definitely not welcoming! However, we recommend you visit it anyway, especially for its originality!
The Royal Palace
An unmissable excursion in Ubud is a trip to the Royal Palace, an incredible example of 19th-century Balinese architecture. Known as the Puri Saren Ubud Palace, it is the official residence of the royal family of Ubud and is located right in the centre of the town. Why don’t you come here to watch Gamelan, a Balinese dance show? It’s a perfect way to embrace this island’s culture.
Campuhan Ridge Walk
If the crowd of tourists that usually populates Ubud starts to get a bit cramped, then seek shelter in nature. You can walk the Campuhan Ridge Walk, a walk of about 9 kilometres surrounded by greenery. Here you will have the opportunity to admire the Balinese landscapes, crossing small villages, rice paddies and Templar complexes. A view of Mount Agung will constantly accompany you, breaking the horizon. When should you come here? To experience the absolute peace of these places, come at dawn.
Swings in the jungle
A classic when talking about Ubud – or Bali in general – is to take a ride on a swing, soaring over the jungle. We are sure you must have seen a couple of photos on Instagram! There are several swings scattered throughout Bali but if you want to stay close to Ubud you can go to Zen Hideaway, a structure surrounded by greenery. You can’t miss it among the places to visit in Bali!
Things to see in Bali: volcanoes, rice paddies and waterfalls
Undoubtedly nature is the highlight of Bali. From the jungle that almost seems like it’s breathing in the early morning to the composed and tidy terraced rice paddies, the volcanoes that dominate the horizon, the hidden waterfalls… There are numerous places of interest: if you love nature, Bali is perfect!
Gunung Batur and Gunung Agung
Spotting them on the horizon fills you with awe: the Gunung Batur and Gunung Agung volcanoes are two giants that stand out against the sky. If you love hiking, you can consider an excursion to one of the two volcanoes. The routes are of average difficulty, but if you are used to walking you should not have any trouble. The view obviously rewards all the effort made!
Jatiluwih rice paddies
We have already mentioned rice paddies near Ubud, however, there are many terraces scattered throughout the island. The beautiful rice paddies of Jatiluwih Worth are another place that’s worth a stop. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the most among the most evocative in Bali. They are slightly out of the way compared to Ubud – about two hours by car – but absolutely worth it!
The best places to visit in Bali? Of course, you can’t miss a stop in Gitgit, the highest waterfall on the island! This place is incredible: the waterfall is immersed in the jungle and to reach it you have to take a short hike through the green. The water dives into some natural pools where, depending on the season, it is also possible to bathe: do not forget your swimsuit!
Sekumpul and Nungnung Falls
What do Sekempul and Nungnung Falls have in common? They are quite difficult to reach and, for this reason, they are definitely not crowded. If you love hiking and are not shy about exerting a little effort, we recommend you visit them. They are small jewels of rare beauty, surrounded by greenery: nature here releases all its strength and assisting you is magical. Then the effort is rewarded by a nice fresh bath… how can you say no?
Places to visit in Bali: the sea and beaches
Last but not least to see in Bali is… the sea, of course! It should be said that white postcard beaches with crystal clear water can be found in other parts of Indonesia, but Bali can also keep up. Especially when it comes to water sports!
Let’s start with Bali’s most famous beach, Seminyak. Here travellers and tourists come not only to relax on the beach but also to have a little party – the nightlife is not bad at all! Seminyak is a very wide beach, with numerous clubs overlooking the sea – umbrellas and sunbeds accompanied by a good cocktail… paradise!
Uluwatu, on the Bukit peninsula, is the most popular destination for surfers. Here the waves are high enough, so it’s definitely not a place to take the first lesson. If you don’t feel confident on a board, you can still choose from some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, including Padang Padang, Bingin or Balangan. Then there is also the previously mentioned temple – perfect for a breathtaking sunset!
If you are looking for something authentic, then Kuta is surely not your cup of tea. Literally invaded by tourism, over the years what was a simple beach has become the Mecca of Bali tourists converging here from all over the world. If you’re looking for a place to party and live a bit of nightlife, then Kuta is definitely for you. You can learn how to surf – the waves here are more forgiving – and in the evening you can get wild in some clubs. But by no means is it the authentic face of Bali!
The sea near Bali: Nusa Penida, Lombok and the Gili Islands
Bali is in a fairly strategic position when it comes to travel in Indonesia. Near the island, we find other islands of great interest, such as Lombok, the Gili or Nusa Penida. You can take ferries and organise one or more day trips. If you love snorkelling, we recommend you opt for the Gili Islands, three small terrestrial paradises that hold treasures under the surface of the water. In Nusa Penida you can experience a wilder Indonesia: here there are mostly dirt roads and nature dominates the landscape. One stop not to be missed? The beach of the T-Rex, which has the unique shape of a dinosaur!