3 Days in Bali: The Perfect Bali Itinerary

Immerse yourself in ancient temples, lush rice terraces, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture in Indonesia's island paradise. Follow this 3-day Bali itinerary for best results!

West Parker
West Parker
July 18, 2024

"You're going to Bali for only three days? That's barely enough time to get over the jet lag!"

That's what our friend Jake said when Sarah and I told him about our upcoming trip. I'll admit, he had a point. Bali is a dream destination with so much to offer that you could easily spend weeks exploring its diverse landscapes and rich culture. But sometimes, life (and our demanding jobs) only allows for a quick getaway.

So, we set out to prove Jake wrong and create the perfect 3-day Bali itinerary. And you know what? We did it. We managed to pack in breathtaking sights, mouthwatering food, and unforgettable experiences - all while avoiding the dreaded feeling of being rushed.

Now, I'm excited to share our carefully crafted itinerary with you. Whether you're on a whirlwind Southeast Asia tour or just squeezing in a long weekend, this guide will help you make the most of your three days in Bali. Trust me, by the end of your trip, you'll be planning your return visit before you even leave the island!

Before You Go: Essential Bali Travel Tips

Before we dive into the day-by-day itinerary, let's cover some crucial information to ensure your 3-day Bali trip goes smoothly.

Best Time to Visit Bali

Bali's tropical climate means it's warm year-round, but there are definitely better times to visit:

  • April to October: This is the dry season and the best time to visit. You'll enjoy sunny days perfect for beach activities and outdoor exploration.
  • July and August: Peak tourist season. Expect higher prices and more crowds, but also perfect weather.
  • November to March: The wet season. While you might encounter some rain, it's usually brief, and you'll benefit from lower prices and fewer tourists.

We visited in early May and found it to be the sweet spot - great weather, reasonable prices, and manageable crowds.

Visa Information

Good news! Many nationalities (including US citizens) can enter Bali visa-free for stays up to 30 days. However, always check the latest visa requirements before your trip, as regulations can change.

Getting Around Bali

Bali's traffic can be chaotic, so choose your transportation wisely:

  • Rental Scooters: The most flexible option, but only for experienced riders comfortable with local traffic.
  • Private Drivers: Our preferred choice for a 3-day trip. It's affordable and allows you to relax between destinations.
  • Ride-hailing Apps: Grab and Gojek are widely used and convenient for shorter trips.

We opted for a private driver and it was a game-changer. Our driver, Made (pronounced mah-day), became our unofficial tour guide, sharing local insights and helping us avoid tourist traps.

What to Pack for Bali

Bali's warm climate means you can pack light, but don't forget these essentials:

  • Lightweight, breathable clothing
  • Swimwear and beach essentials
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • A sarong or light scarf (for temple visits)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Power adapter

Pro tip: Pack a small backpack for day trips. It'll come in handy for carrying water, snacks, and your camera as you explore.

Where to Stay in Bali

For a 3-day trip, I recommend basing yourself in Ubud. It's centrally located, allowing you to easily explore both the cultural heart of Bali and the southern beaches. Here are some great options:

  • Budget: Gypsy Moon Bali - Charming, affordable rooms with a lovely pool.
  • Mid-range: Kajane Mua Villas - Beautiful villas surrounded by rice fields.
  • Luxury: COMO Uma Ubud - Stunning resort with world-class amenities.

We stayed at Kajane Mua Villas and loved waking up to the sound of birds chirping and the sight of mist rising from the rice fields. Pure bliss!

Safety Guidelines

Bali is generally safe for tourists, but it's always good to be prepared:

  • Common Scams: Be wary of overly friendly locals offering "special deals" or inviting you to their family's art shop.
  • Health Precautions: Drink bottled water and be cautious with street food.
  • Sun Protection: The equatorial sun is strong, so apply sunscreen regularly.
  • Cultural Etiquette: Dress modestly when visiting temples (cover shoulders and knees), and always remove shoes before entering homes or temples.

Remember, a little common sense goes a long way in keeping your Bali trip safe and enjoyable.

Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive into our action-packed 3-day Bali itinerary!

Day 1: Cultural Immersion in Ubud

Morning: Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Lush green Tegalalang Rice Terraces in Bali, with morning mist rising from the stepped landscape
Waking up at 5 AM was worth it for this view. The morning mist added an ethereal touch to the already stunning landscape.

Start your Bali adventure with a visit to the iconic Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Trust me, there's no better way to begin your day than watching the sunrise paint the emerald terraces in golden hues.

We arrived just before 6 AM, and the sight literally took our breath away. The early morning mist clung to the terraces, creating an almost mythical atmosphere. As we walked along the paths between the paddies, the only sounds were the gentle rustling of leaves and the distant call of roosters.

Don't miss the chance to try the famous Bali swing here. Yes, it's a bit touristy, but the views are absolutely worth it. Sarah's squeal of delight as she swung out over the terraces is a memory I'll cherish forever.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Raya Tegalalang, Tegalalang, Kec. Tegalalang, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80561, Indonesia
  • Hours: 6:00 AM - 7:00 PM
  • Admission: 15,000 IDR (about $1 USD)

Why Visit: Experience Bali's most photographed landscape and immerse yourself in the island's agricultural heritage.

Insider Tip: Arrive early to beat the crowds and catch the magical morning light. The best photos are taken from the western side of the valley.

Afternoon: Ubud Monkey Forest and Traditional Dance Performance

Long-tailed macaques lounging in trees at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud, Bali
These little guys are quite the characters! Just keep a firm grip on your belongings - they're as mischievous as they are cute.

After lunch, head to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. This nature reserve and temple complex is home to over 1,000 Balinese long-tailed monkeys. It's a unique opportunity to observe these fascinating creatures up close in their natural habitat.

As we strolled along the shaded pathways, we couldn't help but laugh at the monkeys' antics. They swung from trees, groomed each other, and occasionally tried to snatch snacks from unsuspecting visitors. (Pro tip: Keep your belongings close and avoid bringing any food into the forest!)

The forest itself is beautiful, with ancient temples covered in moss and vines. It feels like stepping into a real-life Indiana Jones movie. Just remember, as cute as they are, the monkeys are wild animals. Respect their space and follow the guidelines provided by the sanctuary staff.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
  • Hours: 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: 80,000 IDR (about $5.50 USD)

Why Visit: Experience Bali's unique blend of nature and spirituality while getting up close with its mischievous simian residents.

Insider Tip: Wear closed-toe shoes and avoid bringing any loose items. The monkeys are curious and quick!

Evening: Traditional Balinese Dance Performance

Colorfully dressed Balinese dancers performing traditional dance at Ubud Palace, showcasing intricate costumes and gestures
The precision of their movements was mesmerizing. Each finger and eye motion tells part of an ancient story.

Cap off your first day with a mesmerizing traditional Balinese dance performance. We attended a show at the Ubud Palace, and it was a highlight of our trip.

The intricate costumes, the hypnotic gamelan music, and the dancers' precise movements all come together to tell ancient stories of gods and heroes. I was particularly captivated by the Legong dance, where two young women moved in perfect synchronization, their fingers and eyes expressing emotions more eloquently than words ever could.

Key Information:

  • Location: Ubud Palace, Jl. Raya Ubud No.8, Ubud, Kecamatan Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
  • Hours: Performances typically start at 7:30 PM
  • Admission: 100,000 IDR (about $7 USD)

Why Visit: Immerse yourself in Balinese culture and witness an art form that has been passed down through generations.

Insider Tip: Arrive early to get good seats, and bring a light jacket as it can get cool in the evening.

Dinner at a Local Warung

Plate of traditional Balinese babi guling (roast pork) with crispy skin and sides at Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka in Ubud
This babi guling was a flavor explosion! The crispy skin and tender meat paired perfectly with the spicy sides.

For dinner, skip the touristy restaurants and head to a local warung. These small family-owned eateries offer authentic Balinese cuisine at very reasonable prices. We loved Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka, famous for its succulent roast pork.

The crispy skin, tender meat, and flavorful spices will make your taste buds dance with joy. Pair it with some sayur urap (blanched vegetables with grated coconut) and a cold Bintang beer for the perfect end to your first day in Bali.

Day 2: Beach Bliss and Sunset Magic

Morning: Relax at Seminyak Beach

Tourists relaxing on sun loungers under colorful umbrellas on the sandy shores of Seminyak Beach, Bali
Seminyak Beach: where beach clubs meet laid-back vibes. Perfect spot for sunbathing and people-watching!

After yesterday's cultural immersion, it's time to hit the beach! Head to Seminyak Beach for a morning of sun, sand, and surf.

Seminyak offers a more upscale and relaxed vibe compared to the party atmosphere of nearby Kuta. We loved starting our day with a beachside yoga class (many hotels offer these) before lounging on the soft sand and taking refreshing dips in the ocean.

If you're feeling adventurous, rent a surfboard and catch some waves. The instructors here are friendly and patient, perfect for beginners. Sarah and I attempted to surf, and let's just say there were more wipeouts than successful rides - but we laughed the entire time!

Key Information:

  • Location: Seminyak, Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia
  • Hours: Open 24/7
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: Experience Bali's famous beach culture and stunning coastline.

Insider Tip: For a unique experience, book a horseback riding session along the beach at sunset.

Afternoon: Water Sports in Nusa Dua

Parasailer gliding above turquoise waters off the coast of Nusa Dua, Bali, with beach visible in the background
Parasailing in Nusa Dua was exhilarating! The view of the coastline from up there is unforgettable.

After lunch, it's time for some adrenaline-pumping water sports in Nusa Dua. This area is known for its crystal-clear waters and wide range of aquatic activities.

We opted for parasailing and jet skiing, and it was an absolute blast! Soaring high above the turquoise waters, with panoramic views of the coastline, was an unforgettable experience. And zipping across the waves on a jet ski? Pure exhilaration!

If you prefer something more relaxed, you can go snorkeling or take a glass-bottom boat tour to see the colorful marine life.

Key Information:

  • Location: Nusa Dua Beach, Benoa, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia
  • Hours: Most water sports operators are open from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Prices vary by activity, typically ranging from 300,000 to 600,000 IDR ($20-$40 USD)

Why Visit: Get your adrenaline fix and create lasting memories with fun water activities.

Insider Tip: Book your activities through your hotel or a reputable tour operator to ensure safety and fair prices.

Evening: Sunset at Uluwatu Temple and Seafood Dinner in Jimbaran

Ancient Uluwatu Temple silhouetted against a vibrant orange and purple sunset sky, perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean
Uluwatu at sunset is pure magic. Just watch out for the cheeky monkeys trying to snag your belongings!

As the day winds down, make your way to Uluwatu Temple for a truly magical sunset experience. Perched on a cliff 70 meters above the roaring ocean, this ancient temple offers one of the most dramatic viewpoints in Bali.

We arrived about an hour before sunset to explore the temple grounds and watch the resident monkeys' antics (keep a close eye on your belongings!). As the sun began to dip towards the horizon, the sky exploded in a riot of oranges, pinks, and purples. It was one of those moments where you just stand in awe, trying to burn the image into your memory forever.

Key Information:

  • Location: Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia
  • Hours: 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM
  • Admission: 30,000 IDR (about $2 USD)

Why Visit: Witness a breathtaking Balinese sunset and explore one of the island's most important sea temples.

Insider Tip: Stay for the Kecak fire dance performance held nightly at the adjacent amphitheater. It starts right after sunset and is a mesmerizing experience.

Seafood Dinner in Jimbaran Bay

Candlelit table set for seafood dinner on the sand at Jimbaran Bay, Bali, with ocean and sunset in the background
Fresh-caught seafood, toes in the sand, and a stunning sunset - dinner doesn't get much better than this in Jimbaran Bay.

Cap off your perfect beach day with a seafood feast on Jimbaran Bay. This stretch of beach is lined with seafood restaurants where you can dig your toes into the sand while enjoying the catch of the day.

We chose Menega Cafe based on our driver's recommendation, and it did not disappoint. The grilled snapper, butter garlic prawns, and clams in Balinese sauce were all incredibly fresh and flavorful. Paired with a cold coconut and the sound of waves lapping at the shore, it was the perfect end to our beach day in Bali.

Day 3: Spiritual Journey and Natural Wonders

Morning: Tirta Empul Water Temple

Balinese worshippers and tourists participating in purification ritual at the sacred springs of Tirta Empul water temple
Participating in the purification ritual at Tirta Empul was a powerful experience. The cool spring water felt incredibly refreshing!

Start your final day in Bali with a visit to Tirta Empul, one of the holiest water temples on the island. This sacred site is believed to have curative properties, and many Balinese come here for purification rituals.

We arrived early, around 8 AM, to beat the crowds and the heat. After donning traditional sarongs (provided at the entrance), we explored the beautiful temple complex. The highlight was the main courtyard with its spring-fed pools. Here, devotees and tourists alike can participate in the purification ritual.

Sarah and I decided to take part in the ceremony. We joined the line, offered a prayer, and then submerged ourselves under each of the 13 waterspouts. The cool, clear water was incredibly refreshing, and there was something undeniably powerful about participating in a centuries-old ritual.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80552, Indonesia
  • Hours: 7:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: 50,000 IDR (about $3.50 USD)

Why Visit: Experience a sacred Balinese purification ritual and explore a beautiful ancient temple complex.

Insider Tip: Bring a change of clothes if you plan to participate in the purification ritual. While sarongs are provided, having dry clothes to change into afterwards is more comfortable.

Afternoon: Bali Swing or Coffee Plantation Tour

For the afternoon, you have two great options depending on your interests:

Option 1: Bali Swing

Tourist swinging on large wooden swing with panoramic view of lush Bali jungle and rice terraces in background
The Bali Swing isn't for the faint of heart, but the views are absolutely worth it! Felt like flying over the jungle.

If you're looking for some Instagram-worthy photos and a bit of an adrenaline rush, head to the Bali Swing. This tourist attraction features several giant swings that soar out over a lush jungle valley.

We couldn't resist trying it out, and I have to admit, it was pretty thrilling! As you swing out over the green abyss, you feel like you're flying. The views are spectacular, and it makes for some truly epic photos.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Dewi Saraswati No.7, Bongkasa Pertiwi, Kec. Abiansemal, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80352, Indonesia
  • Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: 300,000 IDR (about $20 USD) for unlimited swings and use of other attractions

Why Visit: Get your adrenaline pumping and capture some unforgettable photos.

Insider Tip: Wear comfortable clothes that you can move in. Skirts or dresses might not be the best choice for swinging!

Option 2: Coffee Plantation Tour

Variety of coffee samples and brewing equipment displayed on wooden table during coffee plantation tour in Bali
Tasting different Balinese coffee varieties was eye-opening. The local kopi luwak was... interesting, to say the least!

If you prefer a more relaxed and educational experience, take a tour of a coffee plantation. Bali is known for its coffee, particularly the famous (and controversial) kopi luwak, or civet coffee.

We visited the Satria Agrowisata Coffee Plantation and found it fascinating. The tour guide walked us through the coffee-making process, from plant to cup. We saw coffee cherries growing on the trees, learned about different roasting techniques, and got to sample a variety of coffees and teas.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Raya Sebatu, Sebatu, Tegalalang, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80561, Indonesia
  • Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Free (they make money from coffee sales)

Why Visit: Learn about Bali's coffee culture and sample some of the best beans on the island.

Insider Tip: While it's interesting to learn about, think twice before buying kopi luwak. The production process is often unethical, and many experts say it doesn't even taste that good.

Evening: Farewell Dinner in Canggu

For your last night in Bali, head to the trendy area of Canggu for dinner. This once-sleepy surf village has transformed into a hip enclave filled with cool cafes, boutique shops, and excellent restaurants.

We chose to dine at The Lawn, a beautiful beachfront restaurant with a laid-back vibe. As we sipped on tropical cocktails and shared plates of modern Indonesian cuisine, we watched surfers catch the last waves of the day and the sun set over the ocean. It was the perfect way to reflect on our whirlwind three days in Bali.

Stylish outdoor seating area with ocean view at The Lawn restaurant in Canggu, Bali, at sunset
The Lawn in Canggu is the perfect spot to unwind with a cocktail and watch the surfers catch the last waves of the day.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Pura Dalem, Canggu, Kec. Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
  • Hours: 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM
  • Price Range: 200,000 - 400,000 IDR per person ($14 - $28 USD)

Why Visit: Experience Bali's trendy side and enjoy a beautiful beachfront dinner.

Insider Tip: Make a reservation in advance and request a table on the lawn for the best sunset views.

Alternative Options for Different Traveler Types

While this itinerary offers a great mix of culture, nature, and relaxation, Bali has something for everyone. Here are some alternative suggestions for different types of travelers:

For Adventure Seekers

  • Mount Batur Sunrise Trek: Wake up early for a guided hike up an active volcano. The sunrise views from the summit are unbeatable.
Group of trekkers silhouetted against colorful sunrise sky at the summit of Mount Batur volcano in Bali
The 2 AM wake-up call was brutal, but this Mount Batur sunrise view made it all worthwhile. Absolutely breathtaking!
  • White Water Rafting: Take on the rapids of the Ayung River for an exhilarating ride through Bali's lush interior.
Tourists white water rafting through lush jungle canyon on the Ayung River in Bali, with guide steering raft
Ayung River rafting was a blast! The mix of adrenaline-pumping rapids and serene jungle scenery was perfect.

For Wellness Enthusiasts

  • Yoga Retreat: Spend a day at Yoga Barn in Ubud, taking classes and enjoying spa treatments.
People practicing yoga in beautiful bamboo and wood open-air studio at Yoga Barn in Ubud, surrounded by lush greenery
There's something special about doing yoga surrounded by Ubud's lush jungle. The Yoga Barn's atmosphere is incredibly zen.
  • Sound Healing: Experience a sound healing session at the Pyramids of Chi for deep relaxation and meditation.
Participants relaxing on mats inside large pyramid structure during sound healing session at Pyramids of Chi in Ubud, Bali
The sound healing session at Pyramids of Chi was unlike anything I've experienced. Felt totally rejuvenated afterwards!

For Foodies

  • Cooking Class: Learn to make traditional Balinese dishes at a cooking class in Ubud.
Tourists learning to prepare traditional Balinese dishes during a cooking class in an open-air kitchen in Ubud
Learning to make satay lilit was the highlight of this cooking class. Can't wait to recreate these flavors back home!
  • Night Market Tour: Explore the Gianyar Night Market for a taste of authentic local street food.
Busy food stalls with colorful displays and local delicacies at the bustling Gianyar Night Market in Bali
The aromas at Gianyar Night Market were intoxicating! So many delicious local treats to try - come hungry!

For Families

Sumatran elephant interacting with visitors during safari experience at Bali Safari and Marine Park
Getting up close with a Sumatran elephant was incredible. The Bali Safari Park does great conservation work!
Colorful water slides and pools at Waterbom Bali water park, with lush tropical vegetation in background
Waterbom isn't just for kids - we had a blast acting like big kids on these slides! Perfect way to cool off on a hot day.

Time-Crunched Traveler's Must-See List

If you're really short on time and want to hit the absolute can't-miss spots, here's a condensed itinerary:

  1. Tegalalang Rice Terraces: For iconic Bali views.
  2. Tirta Empul Water Temple: To experience Balinese spirituality.
  3. Uluwatu Temple at Sunset: For breathtaking coastal scenery.
  4. Ubud Monkey Forest: To see Bali's mischievous macaques.
  5. Seminyak Beach: For a taste of Bali's beach culture.

This hits the major highlights and gives you a good mix of culture, nature, and relaxation, even if you only have a day or two.

Practical Tips and Tricks

To make the most of your 3 days in Bali, keep these tips in mind:

  • Bargaining: Haggling is expected in markets, but do it with a smile and don't get too aggressive over small amounts.
  • Tipping: Not required but appreciated. 10% is generous for good service.
  • Temple Etiquette: Always cover your shoulders and knees, and remove shoes before entering temples.
  • Balinese New Year (Nyepi): If you visit during Nyepi (usually in March), be aware that the entire island shuts down for 24 hours. Plan accordingly!
  • Water: Stick to bottled water to avoid any stomach issues.
  • Language: Learn a few basic phrases in Bahasa Indonesia. A simple "terima kasih" (thank you) goes a long way.

The Magic of Bali in 3 Days

As our plane took off from Denpasar airport, Sarah and I looked at each other with tired but happy smiles. We had done it. In just three days, we had experienced the magic of Bali - from the lush rice terraces of Ubud to the golden beaches of Seminyak, from ancient temples to trendy restaurants.

Sure, there was so much more we could have seen and done. But isn't that always the case with travel? Instead of feeling like we missed out, we felt grateful for the experiences we had and excited for the ones still to come on our next visit. Because let's face it, once you've had a taste of Bali, you'll definitely want to come back for more.

So, to our friend Jake and anyone else who doubts whether you can truly experience Bali in just three days, I say this: You absolutely can. Will you see everything? Of course not. But you'll see enough to fall in love with this incredible island, its warm people, and its rich culture. And really, isn't that what travel is all about?

Whether you follow this itinerary to the letter or use it as a starting point for your own Bali adventure, I hope you enjoy your three days in paradise as much as we did. Selamat jalan! (Have a good trip!)

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 9:08 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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