There’s a reason why so many people who have been to Bali don’t want to leave. Simply put, it’s amazing! I was blown away by its cultural richness, festivals, green fields, traditional dances, the many temples, food and of course the friendliness of its people. However, there’s also the other side of the island (very few areas) which some people, unfortunately, tend to focus on.
Like in any other touristic place, there are some areas and things you’re going to want to avoid, such as Kuta which is indeed a bit tacky and in all honesty could appeal to bogans, few hawks trying to sell you all sorts of stuff! (if you say “no, thank you” they go away), drunk Aussies (easy to avoid if you go during low season) and yes, lots of freestyle driving, especially motorcycles. But hey! after all, it’s still a developing country and you need to go with an open mind. I like to focus on the positives and geez! there are lots! you just need stop listening to people telling you otherwise and follow some advice. This Bali travel guide makes the island justice, as it’s packed with tips and some of the best places to visit – most of them off the beaten track.
1. Go trekking in the jungle and cool down at a waterfall
I’d recommend Tegenungan Waterfall near Ubud and Munduk Waterfall and trek in North Bali for a proper jungle trekking and adventure.
2. Experience a Balinese dance
The best place to experience this is in Ubud at the Lotus Pond in the Puri Saraswati Temple by the Cenik Wayah Dance Group. Chances are they will perform different dances in one presentation for you to enjoy.
3. Dip into some hot springs
The sacred hot springs ‘Air Panas’ of Banjar is set in the midst of the jungle. With two public pools of sulfuric water from a volcano in which you can swim and relax away for as long as you want.
4. Forget about Kuta and Seminyak
Instead, go to Dream Beach or Padang Padang. Cleaner, less touristy and crowded. However, if you have the budget for it, and want to pamper yourself for a few days you should know Seminyak has some of the best luxury spa-resorts on the island, and the food and service are super high-end. I can recommend staying at Th Seminyak Hotel & Spa, you won’t regret it.
5. Walk along the rice paddies
There are so many around Bali but the best ones to visit are located in Jatiluwih and Tegallalang. Just be careful and stick to the paths.
6. Pay a visit to the twin lakes of Danau Tamblingan and Danau Buyan in Northen Bali
Chances are you will pass by these lakes on your way to Ulun Danu Temple. The view from the top of the mountain is epic.
7. Check out the Balinese art of Batik and traditional weaving
It’s a great opportunity to see how clothes are actually made, and the techniques behind painting over fabrics which are called Batik, as well as to understand the patience, artistry and effort required to create these beautiful garments.
8. Ubud, its vibe and energy make you want to stay there
You can never get bored in Ubud. It has become this renowned centre for mindfulness and yoga practising across the globe. There’s many yoga centres, spas, delish cafes with amazing vegan and vegetarian options, art galleries and museums, such as Agung Rai Museum, incredibly beautiful, visiting the jungle, Pura Saraswati Temple (shown below) wood carving and rafting just to name a few.
Also, if you’d like to stay here I’d highly recommend staying at TejaPrana hotel, you can have your own private infinity pool overlooking the jungle canopy. Epic!
9. Take a trip to the Gili Islands
Probably, some of the best advice this Bali travel guide has to offer is a short trip to the Gili islands which are only an hour away from Bali by boat. It is the perfect get-away from the chaos and party atmosphere found in Southern Bali if what you’re looking is some peace and quiet.
Best island for that is Gili Air, super quiet, nice beaches, also there are NO cars nor motorbikes, just carts pulled by horses like in the Middle Ages. It does feel like travelling back in time.
10. Do some scuba diving and snorkelling
Heading off from the south is great if you’re also looking for a more chilled and quiet atmosphere combined with a bit of diving or snorkelling. The best spots are in Menjangan in the North of Bali or even Gili Air in the Gili Islands, where there’s a spot called Turtle’s Paradise, you can imagine the rest. There are dozens of scuba diving academies you can choose from but I highly recommend AUS Diving Academy Gili Air, super friendly and professional.
11. Go dolphin watching in the North of Bali
Chances are you will get lucky and see them if you go with a guided tour at Lovina Beach.
12. Visit the 9 directional temples and learn about its importance to the people of Bali
Balinese temples are on everybody’s list when heading to Bali. However, if you have the chance try to visit the most important ones that protect the island from evil spirits and are located in very particular locations, such as cliffs, caves, sides of mountains. Remember there are nine of these!
13. Try the amazing local food and tropical fruits Bali has to offer
There are so many great dishes in Bali. You can tell it has a bit of an influence from China and India but still, they have kept their unique identity and flavours. Best thing I tried was Cap Cay, Vegetarian Sate and Nasi Goreng.
Bali Travel Guide top tips :
- Best time to travel in my opinion is end of Feb-March and April, which is technically the rainy season. However, the rain usually stops in February and it’s a bit cooler than in high season (Jun-July-Aug). Also, a major plus is that the island won’t be as packed, and the accommodations and attractions are cheaper.
- Expect to bargain. And I mean a lot! Never pay what sellers ask for on the first approach.
- Buy a sarong (beach wrap). regardless of gender, you’re going to need one when visiting most Hindu temples in Bali.
- Always carry change, it’s good karma to leave a small donation at temples and other places.
- Be careful with the monkeys and never feed them. They are wild and unpredictable animals. I’ve seen how they steal sunglasses, caps, baby shoes or in fact anything that’s within their reach.
- Transportation in Bali in inexpensive but traffic is hectic. I highly recommend hiring a private driver and arranging the price/rate per hour beforehand rather than picking up taxis or even renting scooters and cars. Top drivers, I encountered on the island: Putu (+62 813 37193721) and Made Happy (+62 8133 7385274) honest, knowledgeable, speak great English and charge sensible prices.
- Distances in Bali, especially North to South can be quite big (Around 4 hours by car) Therefore, I suggest you explore areas according to where on the island you’re staying. Leave Kintamani, Mount Batur, Lovina Beach etc, for when you’re actually staying in the north.
- Be sure to check out the calendar of festivities and religious ceremonies in Bali. There are celebrations going on every time of the year which can be quite incredible to experience if you happen to be there at the right time.