Top 30 Things To Do in Bali

Discover spiritual retreats, lush jungles, and pristine beaches in Indonesia's tropical paradise.

West Parker
West Parker
July 18, 2024

Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, beckons travelers with its intoxicating blend of natural beauty, rich culture, and spiritual energy. As you step off the plane, the warm, fragrant air hints at the adventures that await. From mist-shrouded temples perched atop volcanic peaks to pristine beaches lapped by turquoise waters, Bali offers a sensory feast that captivates even the most jaded globetrotter.

But Bali's true magic lies beyond its postcard-perfect scenery. It's in the genuine warmth of a villager's smile, the hypnotic chants of a Hindu ceremony, and the artful precision of a traditional dance performance. This Indonesian island effortlessly balances its ancient traditions with a vibrant contemporary scene, creating a destination that feels both timeless and thrillingly of-the-moment.

Whether you're seeking spiritual enlightenment, heart-pumping adventure, or simply a slice of tropical paradise, Bali delivers in spades. So grab your sarong and slip off your shoes – it's time to discover why this small island looms so large in the traveler's imagination.

Explore the Mystical Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple silhouette against orange sunset sky, waves crashing on rocky shore in Bali, Indonesia
Tanah Lot at sunset is pure magic. Pro tip: arrive early to beat the crowds and get the best photo spots!

Perched on a rocky outcrop jutting into the sea, Tanah Lot Temple is the stuff of travel dreams. As waves crash against the base of the temple, sending up plumes of salty spray, you'll feel transported to another world. This 16th-century Hindu pilgrimage site is particularly magical at sunset when the fading light paints the sky in hues of gold and pink, silhouetting the temple's tiered roof against the colorful backdrop.

Arrive early to beat the crowds and take a leisurely stroll along the beach. Keep an eye out for the holy snakes that, according to legend, guard the temple from evil spirits. While non-Hindus can't enter the main temple, the surrounding area offers plenty of vantage points for stunning photos and quiet contemplation.

Key Information:

  • Location: Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan Regency, Bali
  • Hours: 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM daily
  • Admission: IDR 60,000 (approximately $4 USD)

Why Visit: Witness one of Bali's most iconic and photogenic sights, combining natural beauty with spiritual significance.

Insider Tip: Visit during low tide to walk across to the rock base, where you can receive a blessing from the temple priests.

Discover Serenity at Tirta Empul Temple

Visitors participating in purification ritual at sacred pools of Tirta Empul temple, Bali, with ornate stone carvings
Joining the purification ritual at Tirta Empul was a humbling experience. Remember to bring a sarong and be respectful of local customs.

Step into a world of spiritual purification at Tirta Empul, a sacred water temple that's been drawing pilgrims for over a thousand years. The temple's centerpiece is a series of fountains fed by a holy spring, believed to have curative properties. Watch as locals and visitors alike wade into the cool, clear pools, dunking their heads under each fountain in a ritual cleansing ceremony.

The temple complex is a masterpiece of Balinese architecture, with intricately carved stone walls and pavilions surrounded by lush gardens. Take your time exploring the courtyards, inhaling the scent of incense and soaking in the peaceful atmosphere. If you're feeling adventurous, you can participate in the purification ritual yourself – just be sure to follow local customs and dress appropriately.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring, Gianyar, Bali
  • Hours: 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM daily
  • Admission: IDR 50,000 (approximately $3.50 USD)

Why Visit: Experience a living piece of Balinese spiritual tradition in a stunning natural setting.

Insider Tip: Bring a change of clothes if you plan to participate in the purification ritual, and hire a local guide to explain the significance of each fountain.

Wander Through the Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Lush green Tegalalang Rice Terraces in Bali, with palm trees and traditional farming huts visible
The Tegalalang Rice Terraces are even more stunning in person. I couldn't stop taking photos of all the different shades of green!

Prepare to be awestruck by the emerald-green beauty of the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. These cascading fields, sculpted into the hillsides over generations, showcase the ingenuity of Balinese farmers and their ancient subak irrigation system. As you meander along the narrow paths between terraces, you'll feel like you've stepped into a living postcard.

Early morning is the best time to visit when the rising sun casts a golden glow over the landscape and before the day's heat sets in. Keep your camera ready for the perfect shot, but also take time to chat with the local farmers – they're often happy to explain their traditional farming methods. For the adventurous, several swings and photo platforms offer a bird's-eye view of the terraces (for a small fee).

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Raya Tegalalang, Tegalalang, Gianyar, Bali
  • Hours: Open 24 hours (best visited from 7:00 AM - 6:00 PM)
  • Admission: Free (donations appreciated for path maintenance)

Why Visit: Experience one of Bali's most stunning landscapes and learn about traditional Balinese agriculture.

Insider Tip: Wear comfortable shoes with good grip – the paths can be slippery, especially after rain.

Climb Mount Batur for a Breathtaking Sunrise

Group of hikers silhouetted against colorful sunrise sky at the summit of Mount Batur volcano, Bali
That 2 AM wake-up call was so worth it for this view! Tip: bring warm layers, it gets chilly at the top.

Challenge yourself to an unforgettable adventure by hiking up Mount Batur in time for sunrise. This active volcano offers a relatively easy trek that rewards you with panoramic views of misty mountaintops, the shimmering Lake Batur, and the surrounding countryside bathed in the soft light of dawn.

The hike typically starts around 2:00 AM, and you'll climb by flashlight under a canopy of stars. As you near the summit, the sky begins to lighten, revealing the breathtaking landscape around you. Once at the top, warm up with a cup of hot coffee or tea and a simple breakfast cooked using the volcano's steam – a truly unique experience. Keep an eye out for the local monkeys that often visit the summit, looking for treats from hikers.

Key Information:

  • Location: Kintamani, Bangli Regency, Bali
  • Hours: Treks typically start at 2:00 AM for sunrise arrival
  • Price: Varies by tour operator, usually around IDR 350,000-700,000 ($25-50 USD)

Why Visit: Witness a spectacular sunrise from Bali's most accessible volcano and enjoy a unique breakfast experience.

Insider Tip: Book with a reputable guide and wear layers – it's cold before sunrise but warms up quickly once the sun is out.

Immerse Yourself in Ubud's Art Scene

Vibrant display of traditional Balinese artwork and crafts at Ubud Art Market, with colorful textiles and wood carvings
Ubud's art scene is a feast for the eyes. I could spend hours browsing these stalls and chatting with the talented local artists.

Ubud, Bali's cultural heart, is a haven for art lovers and creatives. Start your artistic journey at the Ubud Art Market, where you can browse a dizzying array of handmade crafts, from intricate wood carvings to colorful textiles. Then, dive deeper into Balinese art at the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), which houses an impressive collection of traditional and contemporary works.

For a more hands-on experience, sign up for a workshop to learn traditional Balinese painting or wood carving. Many local artists open their studios to visitors, offering a chance to see masters at work and perhaps purchase a unique piece directly from the creator. End your day with a visit to one of Ubud's many galleries, where you might stumble upon the next big name in Indonesian art.

Key Information:

  • Location: Ubud, Gianyar Regency, Bali
  • Hours: Vary by venue, but most are open from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Free for markets, varies for museums and workshops

Why Visit: Immerse yourself in Bali's rich artistic heritage and perhaps discover a new creative passion.

Insider Tip: Visit the Ubud Art Market early in the morning to avoid crowds and get the best deals on souvenirs.

Relax on the Pristine Beaches of Nusa Dua

Pristine white sand beach in Nusa Dua, Bali, with turquoise water and row of colorful beach umbrellas
Nusa Dua's beaches are postcard-perfect. The water is so clear you can see fish swimming around your feet!

When it's time to unwind, head to the sun-soaked shores of Nusa Dua. This upscale enclave on Bali's southern peninsula boasts some of the island's most beautiful beaches, with powdery white sand and calm, crystal-clear waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Unlike the more crowded beaches in Kuta or Seminyak, Nusa Dua offers a tranquil escape where you can truly relax and recharge.

Spend your day lounging on a beach chair, taking refreshing dips in the ocean, or trying your hand at water sports like stand-up paddleboarding or jet skiing. As the day winds down, indulge in a beachfront massage as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean. For a taste of local life, wander down to the public beach where you might catch sight of traditional jukung fishing boats coming in with the day's catch.

Key Information:

  • Location: Nusa Dua, Badung Regency, Bali
  • Hours: Beaches are accessible 24/7
  • Admission: Free for public beaches, some areas may require a small parking fee

Why Visit: Experience some of Bali's most beautiful and well-maintained beaches in a serene setting.

Insider Tip: Walk north along the beach to find the Water Blow, a natural rock formation where waves create impressive splashes – a great photo op!

Explore the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

Long-tailed macaques sitting on ancient stone temple structures in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Ubud, Bali
The monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest are cute but cheeky! Keep your belongings close and don't make eye contact with them.

Step into a world where nature, spirituality, and mischievous macaques collide at the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud. This lush forest is home to over 700 grey long-tailed macaques, who roam freely among ancient temples and towering banyan trees. As you wander along the shaded paths, you'll feel like you've entered a real-life Indiana Jones movie set.

While the monkeys are undoubtedly the star attraction, take time to appreciate the forest's other wonders. Three Hindu temples dating back to the 14th century are scattered throughout the grounds, their moss-covered stones creating an atmosphere of mystery and reverence. The forest itself is a vital conservation area, preserving rare plants and serving as a natural laboratory for researchers.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali
  • Hours: 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM daily
  • Admission: IDR 80,000 for adults, IDR 60,000 for children (approximately $5.50 and $4 USD)

Why Visit: Experience a unique blend of nature, culture, and wildlife in the heart of Ubud.

Insider Tip: Keep your belongings secure and avoid bringing food – the monkeys are skilled thieves and can be aggressive if they smell snacks.

Catch a Wave at Uluwatu Beach

Surfers catching waves at Uluwatu Beach, Bali, with dramatic limestone cliffs in the background
Watching the pro surfers at Uluwatu is mesmerizing. Even if you don't surf, the beach views are worth the trip down the cliff.

Surf enthusiasts, rejoice! Uluwatu Beach is your ticket to world-class waves and stunning coastal scenery. Tucked beneath towering limestone cliffs on Bali's Bukit Peninsula, this beach is renowned for its consistent left-hand breaks that attract surfers from around the globe. Even if you're not ready to hang ten, the beach's dramatic setting and laid-back vibe make it worth a visit.

To reach the beach, you'll descend a long staircase cut into the cliff face – a journey that's half the adventure. Once on the sand, find a spot to spread out your towel and watch the surfing action. As the day progresses, make your way to one of the clifftop warungs (local eateries) for a cold Bintang beer and a front-row seat to a spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean.

Key Information:

  • Location: Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali
  • Hours: Accessible 24/7, but surfing is best during daylight hours
  • Admission: Free, though you may need to pay a small parking fee

Why Visit: Experience one of Bali's most famous surf spots and enjoy breathtaking coastal views.

Insider Tip: If you're not an experienced surfer, stick to watching from the beach – the waves here can be powerful and the currents strong.

Indulge in a Traditional Balinese Spa Treatment

Traditional Balinese spa treatment setup with massage table overlooking lush green rice fields in Ubud, Bali
There's nothing like a traditional Balinese massage with this view. I feel relaxed just looking at this photo!

After days of exploring, treat yourself to some pampering with a traditional Balinese spa treatment. These time-honored rituals go beyond mere relaxation, aiming to restore balance to body, mind, and spirit. From fragrant flower baths to invigorating body scrubs and soothing massages, you'll emerge feeling rejuvenated and deeply connected to Bali's healing traditions.

Many spas offer signature treatments that incorporate local ingredients like coconut, coffee, and exotic spices. For a truly authentic experience, try a Balinese massage, which combines gentle stretches, acupressure, and aromatherapy to melt away tension. For the ultimate indulgence, book a multi-hour spa package that includes a variety of treatments, often in a stunning setting overlooking rice fields or the ocean.

Key Information:

  • Location: Throughout Bali, with many luxury options in Ubud and Seminyak
  • Hours: Typically 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM, but vary by spa
  • Price: Ranges from IDR 150,000 ($10 USD) for a basic massage to IDR 2,000,000+ ($140+ USD) for luxury packages

Why Visit: Experience Bali's ancient healing traditions and achieve deep relaxation.

Insider Tip: Book your spa treatment for the day after a long hike or surfing session to soothe sore muscles.

Marvel at the Cliffside Uluwatu Temple

Ancient Uluwatu Temple perched on cliff edge with dramatic ocean views, Bali, Indonesia
Uluwatu Temple at sunset is a must-see. Stay for the Kecak fire dance performance - it's unforgettable!

Perched dramatically on a steep cliff 70 meters above the roaring Indian Ocean, Uluwatu Temple (Pura Luhur Uluwatu) is a sight that will take your breath away. This ancient Hindu pilgrimage site is one of Bali's most important spiritual landmarks, believed to protect the island from evil sea spirits. As you explore the temple grounds, you'll be struck by the raw power of the location – waves crashing far below, sea spray carried on the wind, and an endless expanse of ocean stretching to the horizon.

Time your visit for late afternoon to catch the daily Kecak fire dance performance at sunset. This mesmerizing spectacle, performed on a clifftop amphitheater with the temple and setting sun as a backdrop, tells the story of the Ramayana through rhythmic chanting and dramatic gestures. It's a cultural experience you won't soon forget.

Key Information:

  • Location: Pecatu, South Kuta, Badung Regency, Bali
  • Hours: 7:00 AM - 7:00 PM daily
  • Admission: IDR 30,000 (approximately $2 USD), additional fee for Kecak performance

Why Visit: Experience one of Bali's most dramatically situated temples and witness a unique cultural performance.

Insider Tip: Watch out for the mischievous monkeys that inhabit the temple grounds – they're known for snatching visitors' belongings.

Dive into the Vibrant Underwater World of Amed

Vibrant coral reef and tropical fish seen while snorkeling in the clear waters of Amed, Bali
The underwater world in Amed is incredible. I saw more fish species in one snorkel session than I could count!

Escape the crowds and discover a diver's paradise in the laid-back coastal village of Amed. This stretch of Bali's northeast coast is renowned for its excellent snorkeling and diving sites, including the famous USS Liberty shipwreck. The clear waters teem with colorful coral gardens and an abundance of marine life, from tiny nudibranchs to majestic manta rays.

Even if you're not a certified diver, you can still experience the underwater wonders. Snorkel right off the black sand beaches to see vibrant reef fish, or take a traditional jukung boat to nearby sites like the Japanese Shipwreck. For a unique photo op, head to the Jemeluk Bay Underwater Gallery, where submerged statues create an otherworldly scene.

Key Information:

  • Location: Amed, Karangasem Regency, Bali
  • Hours: Diving and snorkeling possible year-round, best conditions from April to November
  • Price: Varies by activity, from IDR 100,000 ($7 USD) for snorkel rental to IDR 1,000,000+ ($70+ USD) for dive trips

Why Visit: Experience some of Bali's best snorkeling and diving in a relaxed, less touristy setting.

Insider Tip: Stay for sunset and watch local fishermen head out in their colorful jukung boats – a quintessential Bali scene.

Witness the Majesty of Sekumpul Waterfall

Towering Sekumpul Waterfall in Bali with person for scale, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation
The hike to Sekumpul Waterfall is challenging but so worth it. The power of the falls up close is awe-inspiring.

Prepare to be awestruck by the raw beauty of Sekumpul Waterfall, often called the most beautiful waterfall in Bali. Hidden away in the island's lush northern highlands, Sekumpul isn't just one waterfall, but a series of seven cascades tumbling down a verdant cliff face. The journey to reach the falls is an adventure in itself, involving a trek through jungle paths, across streams, and down hundreds of stairs.

As you approach, the sound of thundering water grows louder, building anticipation. When you finally catch sight of the falls, the payoff is immediate – sheets of water plummet from heights of up to 80 meters, creating a misty veil that catches the sunlight. Take a dip in the refreshing pool at the base of the main fall, feeling the spray on your face and the power of nature all around you.

Key Information:

  • Location: Sekumpul Village, Buleleng Regency, Bali
  • Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM daily
  • Admission: IDR 20,000 for self-guided, up to IDR 125,000 for guided treks (approximately $1.50 - $9 USD)

Why Visit: Experience Bali's most spectacular waterfall in a pristine jungle setting.

Insider Tip: Wear sturdy shoes with good grip and be prepared for a challenging hike – the effort is well worth the reward.

Shop Till You Drop at Seminyak's Boutiques

Stylish boutique storefront with modern Balinese-inspired design in fashionable Seminyak area, Bali
Seminyak's boutiques are dangerously good for my wallet but great for my wardrobe. So many unique pieces you can't find anywhere else!

Fashion enthusiasts and shopaholics, rejoice! Seminyak is your ultimate retail therapy destination in Bali. This trendy area is home to a plethora of chic boutiques, concept stores, and designer showrooms that showcase both international brands and local Balinese talent. Stroll down Jalan Laksmana (also known as Eat Street) and Jalan Raya Seminyak to find everything from boho-chic beachwear to handcrafted jewelry and stylish home decor.

Don't miss iconic Seminyak shopping spots like Karma Koma for resort wear, Magali Pascal for French-inspired feminine pieces, or Biasa for luxurious linen clothing. For unique souvenirs, check out Kevala Ceramics for beautiful handmade pottery or Sensatia Botanicals for natural skincare products. Between shopping sprees, refuel at one of the area's trendy cafes or beach clubs.

Key Information:

  • Location: Seminyak, Badung Regency, Bali
  • Hours: Most shops open from 10:00 AM - 9:00 PM daily
  • Price: Varies widely, from affordable local brands to high-end designer items

Why Visit: Discover Bali's fashion-forward side and pick up unique, stylish souvenirs.

Insider Tip: Visit during the end-of-season sales (usually January and July) for great deals on designer items.

Experience a Traditional Balinese Dance Performance

Colorfully costumed Balinese dancers performing traditional dance at night with ornate temple backdrop in Ubud, Bali
The grace and precision of Balinese dancers is mesmerizing. Each hand movement tells a story - it's like watching a living work of art.

Immerse yourself in Bali's rich cultural heritage by attending a traditional dance performance. These intricate, highly stylized dances are more than mere entertainment – they're a living link to the island's Hindu traditions, often telling stories from ancient epics like the Ramayana. From the graceful movements of the Legong to the dramatic mask work of the Barong, each dance is a feast for the senses.

One of the most mesmerizing performances is the Kecak or "Monkey Chant" dance, typically performed at sunset at the Uluwatu Temple. Picture this: a ring of bare-chested men chanting in harmonic unison, creating a hypnotic rhythm as costumed dancers enact scenes from the Ramayana. The firelit setting and ocean backdrop add to the magical atmosphere, making for an unforgettable evening.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various venues throughout Bali, including temples and cultural centers
  • Hours: Usually in the evening, around 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
  • Price: Varies by venue, typically IDR 100,000 - 150,000 ($7 - $10 USD)

Why Visit: Witness a captivating display of Balinese artistry and cultural storytelling.

Insider Tip: Arrive early to get a good seat, and bring a light jacket as open-air venues can get cool in the evening.

Cycle Through Scenic Rice Paddies

Group of cyclists on narrow path winding through lush green rice paddies in rural Bali
Cycling through the countryside is the best way to see the 'real' Bali. We stumbled upon this beautiful view just around a random corner!

Trade the bustling streets for serene countryside views on a bicycle tour through Bali's iconic rice terraces. Push off down quiet village roads, feeling the warm breeze on your face as you pedal past emerald fields and swaying palm trees. These guided tours often take you through traditional villages, offering glimpses of daily Balinese life that most tourists miss.

Many tours start in the cultural hub of Ubud and wind their way through the surrounding countryside. You might stop to learn about traditional farming methods, sample tropical fruits straight from the tree, or visit a local family compound to see how Balinese people live. It's a fantastic way to connect with the landscape and culture while getting some gentle exercise.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various routes, many starting from Ubud
  • Hours: Typically early morning departures to avoid the heat, around 8:00 AM
  • Price: IDR 400,000 - 600,000 ($28 - $42 USD) for half-day tours, including bike rental and guide

Why Visit: Experience Bali's stunning rural landscapes up close and personal.

Insider Tip: Choose a tour that includes a stop at a local warung (family-run restaurant) for an authentic taste of Balinese cuisine.

Brave the Bali Swing for Epic Views

Tourist swinging on giant swing with panoramic views of lush jungle valley in Ubud, Bali
The Bali Swing is equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. The views make it totally worth facing your fear of heights!

For an adrenaline rush and Instagram-worthy photos, head to the famous Bali Swing in Ubud. Soar high above the lush jungle canopy, with sweeping views of the Ayung River gorge and distant rice terraces. As you swing out into the void, suspended by sturdy ropes, you'll feel a thrilling mix of fear and exhilaration – and perhaps a new appreciation for Bali's natural beauty.

The original Bali Swing has inspired numerous copycats, but it remains the most popular due to its picturesque setting and variety of swing options. Besides the main swing, you can try out nests, heart-shaped photo frames, and other Instagram-friendly props scattered throughout the property. For those less keen on heights, the venue offers plenty of ground-level photo opportunities with stunning backdrops.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jl. Dewi Saraswati No.7, Bongkasa Pertiwi, Abiansemal, Badung Regency, Bali
  • Hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM daily
  • Admission: IDR 300,000 - 550,000 ($21 - $39 USD), depending on package chosen

Why Visit: Get your adrenaline fix and capture unbeatable photos of Bali's lush landscapes.

Insider Tip: Wear comfortable clothing that allows for movement, and consider visiting early in the day to avoid long queues.

Savor Balinese Cuisine at a Local Warung

Assortment of traditional Balinese dishes served on wooden table at local warung (small family-owned restaurant) in Bali
Eating at local warungs is the best way to experience real Balinese flavors. This nasi campur was bursting with spices and so cheap!

No trip to Bali is complete without diving into the island's rich culinary traditions. While there's no shortage of high-end restaurants, some of the most authentic and delicious food can be found at local warungs – small family-run eateries that serve up homestyle Balinese dishes. These humble establishments offer a true taste of the island's flavors and a chance to eat like a local.

Must-try dishes include nasi campur (a mixed plate of various small dishes), babi guling (succulent spit-roasted pig), and bebek betutu (slow-cooked duck in aromatic spices). Don't shy away from the fiery sambal condiments – they're an essential part of the Balinese flavor profile. Wash it all down with a refreshing es teh (iced tea) or kopi Bali (strong Balinese coffee).

Key Information:

  • Location: Throughout Bali, with many popular options in Ubud and Denpasar
  • Hours: Vary, but many open from early morning until late evening
  • Price: IDR 20,000 - 50,000 ($1.50 - $3.50 USD) for a typical meal

Why Visit: Experience authentic Balinese flavors and support local family businesses.

Insider Tip: Look for warungs that are busy with locals – it's a good sign that the food is fresh and delicious.

Take a Sunrise Hike Up Mount Agung

Silhouette of hiker at Mount Agung summit with sweeping views of Bali island and surrounding ocean at sunrise
Reaching the summit of Mount Agung was the hardest and most rewarding thing I've done in Bali. The 2 AM start was brutal but so worth it!

For the ultimate adventure seekers, conquering Mount Agung – Bali's highest and most sacred volcano – is a must-do. This challenging trek rewards early risers with one of the most spectacular sunrise views in all of Indonesia. As you climb in the pre-dawn darkness, guided by headlamp, anticipation builds for the moment when the first rays of sun break over the horizon, illuminating the island below.

The hike is not for the faint of heart, requiring a good level of fitness and usually starting around midnight to reach the summit for sunrise. But standing atop the "Navel of the World," as Balinese Hindus consider Mount Agung, watching the new day dawn over Bali, is an experience that will stay with you long after you've left the island.

Key Information:

  • Location: Karangasem Regency, East Bali
  • Hours: Treks typically start around midnight for sunrise arrival
  • Price: IDR 700,000 - 1,000,000 ($50 - $70 USD) for guided treks

Why Visit: Challenge yourself to climb Bali's highest peak and witness a truly epic sunrise.

Insider Tip: Check the volcano's current status before planning your hike, as it's occasionally closed due to increased activity.

Unwind at a Yoga Retreat in Ubud

Group yoga class in progress in open-air wooden pavilion surrounded by lush tropical vegetation in Ubud, Bali
Morning yoga in Ubud is the perfect way to start the day. The sounds of the jungle really add to the zen atmosphere!

Ubud has long been Bali's spiritual and wellness hub, attracting yogis and spiritual seekers from around the world. Embrace this side of Bali by joining a yoga retreat or simply dropping into one of the many daily classes offered throughout town. Whether you're a seasoned practitioner or a curious beginner, you'll find a style and level to suit you.

The Yoga Barn is one of Ubud's most famous yoga centers, offering a wide variety of classes in a beautiful jungle setting. For a more immersive experience, consider a multi-day retreat that combines yoga with meditation, healthy eating, and other wellness activities. As you flow through your practice, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and the sounds of nature, you might just find that inner peace you've been seeking.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various studios in Ubud, with The Yoga Barn being one of the most popular
  • Hours: Classes typically run from early morning to evening
  • Price: IDR 130,000 ($9 USD) for drop-in classes, multi-day retreats vary

Why Visit: Nourish your body and soul in Bali's spiritual capital.

Insider Tip: Many studios offer community classes at discounted rates – a great way to sample different styles and teachers.

Explore the Hidden Beaches of Nusa Penida

Just a short boat ride from Bali lies the rugged island of Nusa Penida, home to some of the most stunning and secluded beaches in the region. This less-developed island offers a glimpse of old Bali, with dramatic landscapes, pristine waters, and a sense of adventure around every corner. Rent a scooter and set off to discover hidden coves and jaw-dropping viewpoints.

Don't miss Kelingking Beach, with its T-rex shaped cliff formation and secluded strip of white sand. Brave the steep descent to the beach or simply admire the view from above. Other must-visit spots include the natural infinity pool at Angel's Billabong and the crystal-clear waters of Atuh Beach. For a chance to swim with gentle giant manta rays, take a snorkeling trip to Manta Point.

Key Information:

  • Location: Nusa Penida, southeast of mainland Bali
  • Hours: Ferries run frequently from Sanur, Padang Bai, and Kusamba
  • Price: Ferry tickets around IDR 150,000 - 300,000 ($10 - $20 USD) round trip

Why Visit: Discover some of Bali's most spectacular coastal scenery away from the crowds.

Insider Tip: Hire a local guide for the day to navigate the island's rough roads and find the best secret spots.

Learn to Cook Balinese Specialties

Tourists learning to prepare traditional Balinese dishes in outdoor cooking class surrounded by tropical garden in Bali
Taking a cooking class was such a fun way to learn about Balinese culture. Now I can make my own satay at home!

Bring a taste of Bali home with you by joining a traditional cooking class. These hands-on experiences typically start with a visit to a local market, where you'll learn about the fresh ingredients that form the backbone of Balinese cuisine. Under the guidance of a skilled chef, you'll then prepare a range of dishes, from fragrant curries to spicy sambals.

Many classes take place in beautiful settings, like organic gardens or traditional Balinese compounds, adding to the authentic feel. As you chop, grind, and stir, you'll learn about the cultural significance of different dishes and the complex spice blends that give Balinese food its distinctive flavor. The best part? Sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your labor at the end of class.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various locations, with many options in Ubud
  • Hours: Typically half-day classes, often starting in the morning
  • Price: IDR 350,000 - 700,000 ($25 - $50 USD) per person

Why Visit: Learn to recreate your favorite Balinese dishes and gain insight into local food culture.

Insider Tip: Choose a class that includes a market tour for a more immersive cultural experience.

Chase Waterfalls in the Munduk Highlands

Tourist admiring tall waterfall cascading down lush green cliff in Munduk region, Bali
The Munduk region is a hidden gem in Bali. We had this stunning waterfall all to ourselves for almost an hour!

Escape the heat and crowds of southern Bali with a trip to the cool, misty highlands of Munduk. This picturesque region in north-central Bali is known for its lush forests, coffee plantations, and most notably, its stunning waterfalls. A day spent chasing these cascades will reveal some of Bali's most enchanting natural beauty.

Start with the twin falls of Banyumala, where two streams of water tumble side by side down a rocky cliff face. Next, seek out the hidden gem of Munduk Waterfall, nestled in a verdant valley and reached via a scenic trek through clove and coffee plantations. Don't miss the majestic Golden Valley Waterfall, where you can cool off with a refreshing swim in the natural pool at its base. The cooler climate and breathtaking scenery make Munduk a perfect respite from Bali's busier areas.

Key Information:

  • Location: Munduk, Buleleng Regency, North Bali
  • Hours: Best visited during daylight hours, typically 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Admission: Varies by waterfall, typically IDR 10,000 - 30,000 ($0.70 - $2 USD) per person

Why Visit: Experience Bali's lush highland landscapes and discover some of the island's most beautiful waterfalls.

Insider Tip: Combine your waterfall chase with a stay at one of Munduk's eco-lodges for a full immersion in Bali's mountain scenery.

Witness the Spectacle of Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Panoramic view of UNESCO-listed Jatiluwih Rice Terraces with traditional subak irrigation system visible, Bali
The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces seem to go on forever. It's amazing to think this landscape has been cultivated for centuries.

Prepare to be awestruck by the expansive beauty of the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site that showcases the ingenuity of Bali's traditional subak irrigation system. These emerald-green terraces stretch as far as the eye can see, creating a mesmerizing patchwork across the landscape that seems to change with every shift of light and shadow.

Take a leisurely walk along the well-maintained paths that wind through the terraces, breathing in the fresh mountain air and listening to the gentle rustle of rice stalks in the breeze. You might spot farmers tending their crops using age-old techniques, offering a glimpse into Bali's agricultural heritage. For the best views, head to one of the hillside restaurants overlooking the terraces and enjoy a meal with an unbeatable backdrop.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jatiluwih, Penebel, Tabanan Regency, Bali
  • Hours: Open daily from 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: IDR 40,000 ($2.80 USD) per person

Why Visit: Experience one of Bali's most impressive landscapes and learn about traditional Balinese agriculture.

Insider Tip: Visit early in the morning or late afternoon for the best light for photography and to avoid the midday heat.

Embark on a Street Food Adventure in Denpasar

Busy night market food stalls with variety of local dishes and street food in Denpasar, Bali
Denpasar's night markets are a food lover's paradise. I tried so many new dishes - the satay lilit was my favorite!

Dive into Bali's culinary scene with a street food tour in Denpasar, the island's bustling capital. While often overlooked by tourists in favor of beachside resorts, Denpasar offers some of the most authentic and diverse food experiences in Bali. From sizzling satay skewers to steaming bowls of bakso (meatball soup), the city's street food scene is a feast for the senses.

Join a guided tour or explore on your own, starting at the lively Pasar Badung market where locals shop for fresh ingredients. Sample classic dishes like nasi campur (mixed rice plate) and soto ayam (chicken soup), or be adventurous and try local specialties like bebek betutu (slow-cooked duck) or lawar (minced meat salad). Don't forget to cool down with a glass of es cendol, a sweet drink made with coconut milk and green rice flour jelly.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various locations throughout Denpasar, Bali
  • Hours: Best in the evening, from around 6:00 PM onwards
  • Price: Budget around IDR 100,000 - 200,000 ($7 - $14 USD) for a full evening of sampling

Why Visit: Taste a wide variety of authentic Balinese and Indonesian dishes in a lively local setting.

Insider Tip: Look for stalls with long queues of locals – it's a sure sign of good, fresh food.

Discover Bali's Underwater Temple at Pemuteran

Submerged Buddha statue surrounded by colorful fish and coral growth in underwater temple garden, Pemuteran, Bali
Snorkeling at the underwater temple in Pemuteran felt like discovering a lost world. The mix of art and marine life is so unique!

For a truly unique diving or snorkeling experience, head to the quiet coastal village of Pemuteran in North Bali. Here, just offshore, lies an extraordinary underwater site: a submerged temple garden. This artificial reef project, initiated to promote coral growth and marine conservation, features stone statues of Buddha, temple gateways, and other structures that have become home to a variety of marine life.

As you swim among the statue-covered seabed, you'll feel like you've discovered a long-lost civilization. Schools of colorful fish dart between the stone figures, while coral slowly reclaims the structures. Even if you're not a diver, the site is shallow enough for snorkelers to enjoy. The calm waters and unique underwater landscape make this a memorable addition to any Bali itinerary.

Key Information:

  • Location: Pemuteran, Gerokgak, Buleleng Regency, North Bali
  • Hours: Diving and snorkeling trips typically run throughout the day
  • Price: Varies by operator, around IDR 500,000 - 1,000,000 ($35 - $70 USD) for a guided trip

Why Visit: Experience a one-of-a-kind underwater attraction that combines art, spirituality, and marine conservation.

Insider Tip: Stay in Pemuteran for a few days to explore other fantastic diving and snorkeling spots in the area, including Menjangan Island.

Unleash Your Inner Artist at a Batik Workshop

Tourist learning traditional batik fabric dyeing technique, applying wax to cloth in workshop in Bali
Learning batik was harder than it looks, but so rewarding! My finished piece isn't perfect, but it's a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

Immerse yourself in Balinese artistry by trying your hand at batik, a traditional fabric dyeing technique. In a batik workshop, you'll learn the intricate process of creating patterns on cloth using wax resist and dyes. It's a meditative and rewarding experience that allows you to create a unique souvenir to take home.

Start by selecting your design – traditional motifs often include flowers, leaves, and geometric patterns. Then, using a special tool called a canting, you'll apply hot wax to the fabric to create your design. After the wax has dried, you'll apply dyes to the fabric, with the wax-covered areas resisting the color. The process can be repeated to create multi-colored designs. At the end of the workshop, you'll have your very own piece of batik art to remember your time in Bali.

Key Information:

  • Location: Various locations, with many options in Ubud and Seminyak
  • Hours: Workshops typically last 2-3 hours
  • Price: IDR 300,000 - 500,000 ($21 - $35 USD) per person, including materials

Why Visit: Learn a traditional Indonesian art form and create a personalized souvenir.

Insider Tip: Wear clothes you don't mind getting a bit messy – working with dyes can sometimes lead to splashes!

Experience Nyepi, Bali's Day of Silence

Deserted street with traditional Balinese offerings during Nyepi Day of Silence in Bali, Indonesia
Experiencing Nyepi in Bali was surreal. The entire island shuts down for 24 hours - it's the quietest day you'll ever have!

For a truly unique cultural experience, plan your trip to coincide with Nyepi, the Balinese New Year and Day of Silence. Unlike raucous New Year celebrations elsewhere, Nyepi is observed with a day of complete quiet, reflection, and inactivity. For 24 hours, the entire island shuts down – no flights, no traffic, no entertainment, and even no leaving your accommodation.

The day before Nyepi is marked by colorful parades featuring large, demonic effigies called ogoh-ogoh, representing negative forces. These are ceremonially burned in the evening, symbolizing the purification of the environment. Then, as Nyepi begins, the island falls silent. From your hotel balcony or garden, you'll experience a Bali free from the usual hustle and bustle, with skies so clear you can see the Milky Way. It's a powerful reminder of the island's deep spiritual roots and a chance for personal introspection.

Key Information:

  • Location: Island-wide
  • Date: Varies each year according to the Balinese calendar (usually in March)
  • Price: No additional cost, but book accommodations well in advance

Why Visit: Witness a unique cultural tradition and experience Bali in a state of complete tranquility.

Insider Tip: Stock up on snacks and books the day before, as all shops and restaurants will be closed during Nyepi.

Take a Scenic Drive Through West Bali National Park

Wild deer grazing in forest clearing at West Bali National Park, with lush tropical vegetation in background
Spotting wildlife in West Bali National Park felt like being on a safari. We saw deer, monkeys, and even caught a glimpse of the rare Bali starling!

Escape the well-trodden tourist paths and explore the wild beauty of West Bali National Park. This vast protected area covers Bali's northwestern tip, encompassing diverse ecosystems from rainforest and mangroves to coral reefs. A scenic drive through the park offers a chance to see a side of Bali that many visitors miss.

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife as you wind through the park's roads. You might spot the rare Bali starling, monkeys swinging through the trees, or even a deer darting across the path. Stop at the mangrove forest boardwalk for a short trek, or pull over at one of the many viewpoints for panoramic vistas of the coastline. If time allows, take a boat trip to Menjangan Island for world-class snorkeling among pristine coral gardens.

Key Information:

  • Location: Jembrana and Buleleng Regencies, West Bali
  • Hours: Open daily from 6:00 AM - 6:00 PM
  • Admission: IDR 200,000 ($14 USD) per person for foreigners

Why Visit: Experience Bali's untamed natural beauty and diverse ecosystems away from the crowds.

Insider Tip: Hire a guide for a better chance of spotting wildlife and accessing the park's more remote areas.

Structuring Your Bali Adventure: A 7-Day Itinerary

Now that we've explored some of Bali's best offerings, let's put it all together into a week-long itinerary. This plan balances cultural experiences, natural wonders, and relaxation, giving you a taste of everything Bali has to offer. Remember, this is just a suggestion – feel free to adjust based on your interests and travel style.

Days 1-2: Ubud and Surroundings

  • Start your Bali adventure in the cultural heart of Ubud
  • Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
  • Explore the Tegalalang Rice Terraces
  • Take a Balinese cooking class
  • Enjoy a traditional dance performance in the evening
  • Insider tip: Start your second day with a sunrise yoga class at The Yoga Barn

Days 3-4: Beach Time and Water Adventures

  • Head to the coast for some sun and sea
  • Relax on the beaches of Nusa Dua
  • Take a day trip to Nusa Penida for stunning coastal views and hidden beaches
  • Try your hand at surfing in Uluwatu
  • Watch the sunset and Kecak fire dance at Uluwatu Temple
  • Insider tip: For a special dinner, book a table at a clifftop restaurant in Jimbaran for fresh seafood with a view

Day 5: Cultural Immersion

  • Visit Tirta Empul Temple and participate in a purification ritual
  • Explore the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
  • Take a batik making workshop
  • End the day with a traditional Balinese spa treatment
  • Insider tip: Visit Tirta Empul early in the morning to beat the crowds and have a more serene experience

Day 6: Adventure Day

  • Start early with a sunrise trek up Mount Batur
  • Cool off with a visit to Sekumpul Waterfall
  • Swing over the jungle canopy at Bali Swing
  • Insider tip: Bring a change of clothes for after your Mount Batur hike – you'll appreciate fresh clothes for the rest of your adventures

Day 7: Relaxation and Reflection

  • Spend your last day unwinding and soaking in Bali's spiritual atmosphere
  • Take a morning yoga class
  • Visit Tanah Lot Temple
  • Enjoy a leisurely lunch at a organic cafe
  • End your trip with a sunset dinner on the beach
  • Insider tip: Leave some time for last-minute souvenir shopping in Seminyak's boutiques

Remember, Bali is an island that rewards slow travel. Don't try to cram too much into each day – leave time for spontaneous discoveries, lazy afternoons by the pool, and those magical Bali moments that aren't planned. Whether you're seeking spiritual enlightenment, adrenaline-pumping adventures, or simply a beautiful place to relax, Bali offers it all. So pack your sarong, open your heart, and prepare for an unforgettable journey in the Island of the Gods.

Embrace the Spirit of Bali

As your Bali adventure comes to an end, take a moment to reflect on all you've experienced. From the vibrant coral reefs of Amed to the mist-shrouded temples of Ubud, from the thundering waterfalls of Sekumpul to the sun-soaked beaches of Nusa Dua, you've journeyed through a land of extraordinary diversity and beauty.

But beyond the stunning landscapes and exciting activities, the true magic of Bali lies in its spirit – the warmth of its people, the richness of its culture, and the sense of peace and harmony that permeates every aspect of life here. It's in the gentle smile of a farmer tending his rice field, the graceful movements of a traditional dancer, and the quiet dedication of a priest preparing temple offerings.

As you return home, carry a piece of Bali's spirit with you. Perhaps it's a newfound appreciation for living in the moment, inspired by the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana – the harmony between humans, nature, and the divine. Maybe it's a commitment to finding beauty in everyday rituals, or a desire to approach life with more gratitude and mindfulness.

Remember, the 30 experiences we've explored are just the beginning. Bali is an island that reveals its secrets slowly, rewarding those who return with deeper insights and new discoveries each time. Whether you've checked off every item on this list or barely scratched the surface, there's always more to explore in Bali.

So as you bid farewell to the Island of the Gods, don't say goodbye – say "sampai jumpa lagi" (until we meet again). Because once you've experienced the magic of Bali, you'll always feel its pull, calling you back to its shores for another adventure.

Final Tips for Your Bali Journey

Before you go, here are a few last pieces of advice to make the most of your Bali experience:

  1. Respect local customs: Bali is a deeply spiritual place. Always dress modestly when visiting temples, and be mindful of local traditions.
  2. Learn a few Indonesian phrases: A simple "terima kasih" (thank you) goes a long way in making connections with locals.
  3. Stay hydrated: Bali's tropical climate can be deceptively draining. Always carry water with you.
  4. Be sun-smart: The equatorial sun is strong. Use plenty of sunscreen, even on cloudy days.
  5. Try the local food: Don't stick to familiar dishes – Balinese cuisine is a adventure in itself!
  6. Bargain with a smile: Haggling is expected in markets, but always do it with good humor and respect.
  7. Go off the beaten path: Some of Bali's best experiences are found in its less touristy corners.
  8. Take it slow: Don't try to cram too much into your itinerary. Bali is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace.
  9. Be a responsible traveler: Support local businesses, respect the environment, and be mindful of your impact.
  10. Keep an open mind and heart: Bali has a way of surprising you when you least expect it. Embrace the unexpected!

Whether you're watching your first Balinese sunset, tasting your first bite of babi guling, or feeling the first rush of riding a wave in Uluwatu, savor every moment. Your Bali adventure is more than just a trip – it's an opportunity to see the world, and yourself, in a new light.

Selamat jalan! (Have a good journey!)

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:41 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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