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, 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 dwell on.
The more tacky touristy areas like Kuta which in all honesty could appeal to bogans. It’s dodgy hawks trying to sell you all sorts of stuff! (if you pay no mind they go away), drunk Aussies (easy to avoid if you go during low season) and yes, lots of free-style driving, specially motorcycles. But hey! after all it’s still a developing country and you need to go with that mind set. 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 good old travel advise.
This guide is packed with tips, suggestions 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 some real adventure.
2. Be amazed by the beauty of a traditional 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 for you to enjoy.
3. Dip into some hot springs
The sacred hot springs ‘Air Panas’ of Banjar are 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, Seminyak has some of the best luxury spa-resorts on the island, and the food and service is top class. I can recommend spending a pamper day at The 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 being made, and the techniques behind painting over fabrics, as well as to understand the patience, artistry and effort required to create these beautiful garments.
8. Walk around Ubud, there’s something about it that makes you want to stay there.
You can never get bored in Ubud. There’s so many activities you can do. To name a few: yoga sessions, spas, eat at delish cafes with amazing vegan and vegetarian options, art galleries, museums (I highly recommend Agung Rai, incredibly beautiful), wood carving, rafting and so on.
9. Do some scuba diving and snorkeling
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 snorkeling. The best spots are in Menjangan in the North of Bali and the Gili Air Island. There are dozens of scuba diving academies you can chose from.
10. Take a trip to the Gili Islands
Perfect way to get away from the chaos and party atmosphere found in Southern Bali. Best island for that is Gili Air, super quiet, nice beaches, a bit more Muslim, no cars or bikes, just carts and horses like in the Middle Ages.
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 in 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’s 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.
- 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, major plus is that the island won’t be as packed, and accommodations and main activities will be cheaper.
- Expect to bargain. And I mean a lot! Never pay what sellers ask for on the first approach.
- Buy a sarong. It doesn’t matter if you’re man or a woman, 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 kinda cool but ultimately they’re wild and unpredictable. I’ve seen how they steal sunglasses, caps, baby shoes or in fact anything that’s on 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 to explore areas according to where in 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’s always celebrations going on which can be quite incredible to experience if you happen to be there at the right time.