Picture a dream destination. You’re on the balcony of your private villa, looking out to a stunning sunset, lulled by the sound of waves accompanied by the gentle chants of a traditional song, on a land bathed in years of history. In the distance, the silhouette of a cliff topped with a temple, a temple with carvings of myths from centuries past. Around the corner, a spa set in nature, a stretch of restaurants serving spicy flavours, a stretch of beach with ladies doing yoga on one end, and boys revving jet skis on the end. That is Bali.
About Bali, Indonesia
This volcanic island off the coast of Indonesia has been idealised by the population as the image of Paradise for years, and with very good reason. Lush greenery speckled with Frangipani, ultramarine beaches and some of the friendliest locals and richest experiences around; Bali should definitely be on your to do list.
From ancient temples, underwater adventures and palm trees swaying in the breeze, Bali is an idyllic destination for anyone looking for a relaxing break or an exciting adventure (or a bit of both!). We’ll guide you through the must-see and top things to do in Bali, as well as share some insider information on great places to stay, how to get around and what to eat.
Weather in Bali
The temperatures in Bali remain relatively similar throughout the year, a comfortable yet enjoyable 30°C, but the rain is far more temperamental. From October to March torrential rainfall and frequent storms make Bali rather undesirable for tourists. Dry season, from April to September experiences some humidity, but is most definitely the best time to visit Bali.
Bali Tourism Guide
Top Places to Visit in Bali
Without sounding too clichéd, there is genuinely an insurmountable number of things to do in Bali. We’re going to give you a run-down of the must-sees, top places to visit and a few other intriguing things to get up to in Bali. But Bali is a favourite tourist destination for a reason. It is rich with attractions, some more touristy than others. It’s easy to happen upon something unexpectedly interesting, so be open to exploring yourself and you will find lots of wonderful things to appreciate on this Indonesian island.
Perched precariously on the edge of cliff, overlooking the crashing waves is Uluwatu Temple. The temple is considered to be one of 6 spiritual pillars in Bali, and strategically guarded by the monkeys that reside in the surrounding forest. It is one of the most popular places to visit in Bali, especially when the sun sets. Sunset is one of the most stunning bursts of orange you’ll ever see.
Regardless of where the sun is in the sky, the temple is a great place for those looking to explore Balinese culture. There are daily Kecak dance performances, as well as a chance to marvel at ancient Balinese architecture. Kecak dance performances are held just before sunset at 6-7pm, but watch out for those territorial monkeys as they are pros at swiping tourist’s possessions. (If it happens to you, trade with the monkeys using treats such as nuts or bananas). There is no public transportation to take you to the temple, so it is best to order a pre-arranged taxi to take you to and from the destination.
CC 2.0 / Sean Hamlin
Other notable temples that should be on your list of things to see include Besakih Temple and Tanah Lot Temple.
Besakih Temple has been known as Bali’s ‘Mother Temple’ for over 1000-years, and holds the title proudly on its fine sculptured features. Located up Mount Agung this temple is considered to be a special pilgrimage by the Balinese people. The temple is made up of seven different areas, known to represent the seven layers of the universe, however only the Pura Besakih part of the temple is open to anyone regardless of background or religion (others are reserved for pilgrims).
Tanah Lot is an incredibly important landmark for Bali; it is located on a rock formation in the middle of the water, constantly being berated by crashing waves. Visitors are unable to enter the sacred grounds, but just being able to take in the surroundings from this iconic temple is more than enough. Plus, you’re guaranteed to feel like a true free-spirit climbing around this mini- island, located just off the Beraban Village.
Ubud Monkey Forest
As you’ll soon learn, Bali is abundant with monkeys! Lying in the Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary inhabited by grey-haired macaques. Don’t be fooled by their big eyes and plush fur, these monkeys are greedy devils and will take your belongings before you’ve even noticed.
As mentioned before you can try and barter for your belongings with treats, but best to just keep them close. A visit to this sanctuary is as exciting as it is entertaining, however just keep an eye out for these cheeky devils, and remember they’re live animals.
You may notice the monkeys are in some of the carvings around the temples. It’s quite cool to see something etched in history, still very much alive today.
Elephant Safari Park
If monkeys are not your thing you’d rather rub shoulders with gentle giants, then visit the Elephant Safari Park. This park is operated by Bali Adventurer tours and offers visitors a chance to explore the Balinese jungle on the backs of these magnificent animals. The park is open from 8am-6pm and is located in the village of Taro, around 30minutes north of Ubud.
The luxurious Elephant Safari Park Hotel is located right next to the park so you’re sure to be close-by to all the fun adventures.
Bali Safari and Marine Park
CC 2.0 / William Cho
The Bali Safari and Marine Park is home to over 60 species, including endangered creatures such as the Orang Utan, Komodo Dragon and Bali Mynah. Jump aboard a special safari bus and view exotic creatures such as Himalayan bears, wildebeest and lions (as well as many more) in vast enclosures that replicate their natural habitat.
Alternatively, get personal with baby Orang Utans, feed the animals and watch exciting animal shows. This is a wonderful opportunity to spend a great day out with family and friends; as well as the animals the park has a mini-theme park, great restaurants and cultural areas where you can find out more about Bali and its heritage. The park is open from 9am-7pm, and only costs start from around 3,500 rupees per person, depending what you want from your day.
Amazing Beaches Near Bali
There are three desert islands off the coast of Bali: Gili T, Gili Air and Gili Meno.
Each island offers something different for tourists, so there is something for everyone. Surrounding these islands are all manner of exotic sea creatures and swimming in the warm waters is an adventure in itself.
All motorised transport is banned on the islands, so the only way to get around is by foot, bicycle or hitching a ride in one of the pony-carts (their version of a taxi!). All of the islands are accessible by boat, there are plenty of operators on the mainland (mainly leaving from Pandang Bai) and between the islands.
The largest of the three islands attracts many a tourist looking for all sorts to do. It is definitely a place where you can party, but is also a great place for those looking to dive into the waters and swim with the fishes! Other activities, besides exploring the island, include riding horses along the beach and pitching up with a BBQ to watch the sunset over Paradise. There are several bars that really liven up the evening on the island, it is definitely considered to be a party-like island once the sun goes down, so bring your dancing shoes.
This island is far more peaceful and less popular than Gili T; it really is for those looking to put their feet up, relax and bask in their surroundings. The island is so small that it is easy to trek around in approximately 2.5hrs, but make sure you pack adequate supplies as this path truly is off the beaten path. There are plenty of chances to go snorkelling and spot the turtles that call these waters home.
As with Gili Air, this island is nowhere near as bustling as Gili T and for this reason is popular with those looking to escape the real world or honeymooners looking for seclusion.
More Things to do in Bali
Tegallalang Rice Terraces
There are a number of rice paddies in Bali, but Tegallalang provides the most awe-inspiring view of Bali.
This iconic area of Bali is owned by the friendliest of farmers who invites you to try his green coconut drink and explore his ancient lands for only a small fee. This truly is a prime photography location, and you’ll have the opportunity to explore the nearby village of Pakudui where you’re guaranteed to find a great souvenir.
Nature in Bali
We haven’t even scratched the surface of all the wonderful things Bali has to offer its visitors. Other attractions include the Bali Zoo or Atlas Pearl Farm where you see how the Pearls for jewellery are cultivated.
There are a great number of trekking activities, such as visiting Blahmantung Waterfall and swimming in its waters or really getting underwater and going for a SeaWalk on the bed of the Balinese waters.
Water plays a huge role in your visit to Bali, additional to all of the previously mentioned activities, you can learn to surf in Pandang Pandang or watch the dolphins in Lovina.
If you’re looking to taste Balinese culture in an alternative way, head down to the Ubud Art Market where you can shop for all manner of things, from silks to hand-crafted goods. Recognise the place when you get there? Well that’s because it featured in Hollywood blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love.
Finally, make sure you head to Arma (Agung Rai Museum of Art) and spend an afternoon looking at some of the most colourful, fascinating and avant-garde pieces you’re likely to ever come across. Not to mention the museum itself is a set in a beautiful, dense, tropical forest.
“Gorgeous temples steeped in rich Hindu culture, a playground for ocean adventures, especially surfing, kite surfing and scuba diving, action packed volcano treks, immense bargain shopping opportunities at its various local markets and a tranquil atmosphere amidst paddy fields and forests, Bali is so much more than a cliché beach and honeymoon destination!”
By Sankara, Founder of www.beontheroad.com
What to Eat: Food in Bali
Although part of Indonesia, the food in Bali is not exactly the same as you get on the mainland. Each Indonesian Island comes with its own culture and heritage that influences their dishes, and there are a few in Bali we wouldn’t want you to miss. We’ve compiled a quick checklist of a five dishes we thoroughly recommend you try when exploring the island; whether it be on the streets or in one of Bali’s many fine restaurants.
Famous Balinese Food
One particularly famous Balinese dish is called Lawar, this is a combination of coconut, garlic and chill mixed in with either pork or chicken meat.
Nasi Ayam or Nasi Campur is Bali’s main rice dish and is a combination of rice and meat; this can be chicken or perhaps try yours with tuna or tofu if you do not eat meat (ask for extra samba if you like yours spicy!).
Try the visually stunning, iconic Bebek Betutu. A whole chicken or duck filled with traditional Indonesian/Balinese spices, wrapped in banana leaves and then slowly baked buried in a coal fire for over 6 hours!
If you are a meat eater, then a trip to Bali would be incomplete without tucking in on some Babi Guling; this is slow, spit-roasted pork that has been stuffed with a multitude of spices including turmeric, pepper and lemongrass. We have it on good authority that Ibu Oka in Ubud is the best spot in town to try this dish.
On little wooden skewers you will find Bali’s delicious sates, these skewered meats are usually served with a spicy sauce having been marinated in spices. You can get sates consisting of chicken, goat, tofu, pork and many more. Additionally, there is sate lilit, which is Bali’s own twist on this famous dish; they are fairly similar but are made of minced meat and covered in grated coconut. Then there is the final surprise, they are actually grilled on charcoal, and instead of skewers they use bamboo, lemongrass or sugarcane.
Other notable dishes that you can find around Bali include, tempe and tahu, pepes and tum, and delicious types of freshly caught seafood that you can pick up from many spots around the beaches in Bali (but you’ll find the best seafood around Jimbaran Bay, like Ikan Bakar).
Warongs in Bali
For an authentic experience of Balinese food in a restaurant we suggest heading to Warong Legong in Blahbatuh, The Samaya in Ubud or Merah Putih in Seminyak. All of these restaurants come highly-recommended by other travellers and provide excellent service as well as delicious food.
If you are looking for some tastes of home and want to try some Indian food in Bali, we recommend trying Chula known for serving the best Indian food in town, or Mid Point who serve large portions of Southern Indian cuisine at very reasonable prices.
“Bali is famous for its offerings of vegetarian food, but these aren’t always traditional dishes. To taste the essence of Bali, don’t shy away from local eateries known as warungs. There you’ll find local foods like Bali Sate Lilit (meat skewers), Nasi Ayam (chicken rice) and Bumbu Bali (fish in Balinese sauce).”
By A&Z, Founders of www.bkpk.me
Bali nightlife offers a different perspective to Balinese culture; they know how to throw a party in tropical Paradise. The rules of the night are fairly relaxed in Bali, with no official closing times, clubs have been known to have their music still blaring as the sun comes up! Bali is a fairly safe destination, and girls out alone will be okay, but be wary as with any area popular with tourists. There are still some dodgy characters that will approach you on the streets, don’t buy anything off them.
It’s unlikely you’ll have to look hard at all to discover an exciting night out in Bali (unless you’re deep in the jungle), but here are a few of our favourites that we thought we’d share with you.
Party in Sky Garden
Sky Garden is probably the most well-known spot for tourists, but nonetheless an exciting experience and a great night out. This isn’t your typical club, but rather a labyrinth of different pubs, clubs and dining spots all under one roof, or on top of it! The top floor is home to a huge buffet with a seemingly unending array of scrumptious foods to try, and for a very small fee this is all yours for an evening! This is a great place to meet people if you are travelling alone, but as always be aware and smart about your surroundings. — Jalan Legian No. 61, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Uptown Bar, Jenja
Jenja is a more uptown sort of establishment, it has a classy bar and restaurant upstairs that leads you carefully down its winding staircase into a club where you can spend the rest of your night dancing away. It serves a spectacular array of Asian dishes that have been highly-reviewed by its visitors, and staff are always on hand to give recommendations or mix up your favourite cocktail. (Only open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10pm-2am). — Jl. Nakula Barat 18, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia
La Favela Seminyak
La Favela in Seminyak is more a bar than a nightclub, but it’s such a great spot to have drinks with friends or family and spend your evening talking and making your next travel plans! The decor of the restaurant is so soothing and ups the ambience, but if you really want to see something special, spend your evening in its beautiful garden under twinkling fairy lights. — Jalan Kayu Aya No.177X, Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia
As previously mentioned it would be hard to not stumble across somewhere fun in Bali at night, but if you are in need of more advice locals (especially taxi drivers) are really knowledgeable about these things and happy to share their honest recommendations. Alternatively, as your hotel staff if they have any suggestions; locals are always the best resource for knowledge about untapped destinations!
Where to Stay in Bali: Bali Hotels
CC 2.0 / Vin Crosble
There are 12 main areas of Bali, each with their own particular advantages and each catering something beautiful to any traveller. The main places for tourists include: Ubud, Kuta and Legian, Seminyak and Lovina. However, don’t panic, even if you are not residing in one of those areas, it is really easy to get around, and there’s always the option to stay in different places owing to the reasonable rates of stay for hotels in Bali.
To provide a little guidance and a few ideas, we’ve shared a little bit of information about the different hotels in Bali within different price ranges.
Luxury Hotels in Bali
If we could spend the rest of our life at the Viceroy in Bali, we’d definitely feel as though we’d reached heaven (average 42,658 rupees per night)! With a fully functioning spa and a divine restaurant this hotel really is the definition of luxury. It is a family-friendly destination and within 5km are many popular sights, including the Ubud Royal Palace, Ubud Market, Pura Taman Saraswati, Seniwati Gallery of Art by Women and Puri Lukisan Museum.
Royal Pita Mahah
Other luxury hotels that our guests have reviewed highly include the Royal Pita Mahah (average 20,642 rupees per night) or the Hanging Gardens of Bali (average 6,971 rupees per night). Both of these hotels provide high-quality luxury for those wishing to get a true tropical spa experience and are located nearby to many popular sights, including the Sacred Monkey Sanctuary and the Ubud Market.
These are just a few of the luxury hotels in Bali, there are so many more for you to explore and to help you out we’ve created a list of our 9 favourite luxury hotels in Bali.
CC 2.0 / ChippedMug
Mid-Range Hotels in Bali
CC 2.0 / Sean McGrath
Ayung Resort Ubud
If your budget is more in the middle range, there are still a huge number of hotels you can choose from to suit your budget. The Ayung Resort Ubud (average 6,971 rupees per night) is exceptional and places you right in the lap of luxury. From outdoor swimming pools, deep bathtubs, childcare services, free Wi-Fi and more, there is hardly anything you could want for at this hotel. If you do need anything though the staff are very helpful and always on hand to share any advice or guidance you could possibly need.
Buried in the hills of Bali lies the Alila Ubud (average 12,858 rupees per night); this artistic, sophisticated hotel with an infinity pool that lasts for days keeps your trip to Bali private and peaceful. Alternatively The Westin Resort – Nusa Dua Bali is an elegant and sleek hotel in Bali with many amenities that will keep guests entertained, including tennis courts and swimming pools (average 10,226 rupees per night).
Budget Hotels in Bali
Even the budget hotels in Bali are beautiful. The Green Garden Hotel in Kuta (average 4,649 rupees per night) is home to a full-service spa, its own restaurant, free Wi-Fi and many more comforting amenities to make your stay as pleasant as possible.
Or you could try something different and stay in your own private guesthouse at the Pajar House Ubud (average 2,563 rupees per night). These guesthouses provide access to a pool, deep tubs to soak in and are a short distance away from many key sights such as the Botanic Garden Ubud, Ubud Market, and Ubud Royal Palace.
The full list of areas in Bali are as follows: Kuta and Legian, Sanur, Ubud, Nusa Dua, Seminyak to Canggu, Amed, Candidasa, Tanjung Benoa, Jimbaran Bay, Lovina and Pemutaran. To look at more hotels in the different areas, simply click the link below and find the perfect place for you!
Getting Around: Transport in Bali
Getting around Bali is simple and there are plenty of options beyond just getting a taxi.
However, taxis usually are the most reliable source of transport (besides by foot), but metered taxis are not common in all areas of Bali. You can expect to find them in South Bali and Denpasar, but not in Ubud, and they are relatively cheap; a 7km journey will usually only cost around 280-300 rupees.
As with any taxi journey, watch out for those who don’t use a meter or other scammers offering to show you around Bali at a low price – it is unlikely any of this is true. One of the most reputable taxi companies in Bali, that have been well-documented by many travellers, is the Bluebird Taxi Group.
Watch out though, the success of this company has led to many less honest drivers decorating their car like a Bluebird taxi and scamming tourists. The number for Bluebird Taxi Group is +62 (0) 361 701 111, they also have a handy mobile app that you can download for free and order your taxi that way.
Other Modes of Transport
We do still recommend jumping in a taxi rather than other public transportations such as Bemos (mini vans) or dokars (pony carts, except when unavoidable on the Gili Islands). However, if you’re willing to try something a bit different, you could pick up an Ojek – a type of motorbike. Avoid these in the main, busier towns but out in the countryside, they are a safer to take.