Feeling overwhelmed with planning your Bali itinerary? Look no further! Here is my personal travel guide for you, with tips on things to do and where to stay in Bali...
How to describe Bali in a few words? Imagine lush vegetation, endless rice terraces, white and black beaches, world-class surfing, ancient culture, countless temples and volcanic mountains. And all of this can be found on one tropical island: Bali. Tell me about any other island that has as much to offer as this paradise island! Tough call.
Bali became so popular because it has something for everyone. You'll find all kinds of travelers there, from the backpackers who travel all across Southeast Asia, the spiritual yogis, luxury travelers, families, divers, surfers...
They all come to Bali, mainly for one reason: It's an excellent value for a good price, and the variety that Bali has to offer is unlike any other tourist destination in the world.
But Bali isn't perfect. The island has been overrun by mass tourism over the past years. The good news is that Bali is a huge island, it takes over three hours to drive from the southern tip to the North. You can still find less touristy spots in Bali and enjoy a laidback lifestyle far away from the crowds.
Let me take you on a virtual trip. If you have no time to read the whole article, give me at least three minutes of your attention and check out our video above. It's all filmed in Bali, made with love and it will give you a good impression of Bali within seconds. You can thank me later... :)
Top Things to do in Bali
Still there? Awesome. Let's get into the details! I spent in total six weeks on the island. During my trip to Bali I visited Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu, Nusa Dua, Uluwatu, Ubud and the island Gili Air (the last one is not part of Bali anymore, but it's easy to reach. More on that later).
Let's talk about activities and sightseeing in Bali, what to see and where to go. Bali is a huge island with an endless list of places to visit and things to do. If you're traveling to Bali for the first time and aren't sure where to start, this list might be helpful.
Without further ado... Here are the best things to do in Bali - I hope you'll include some of them in your Bali itinerary...
01 | GET LOST IN THE
ANCIENT TEMPLES OF BALI
Believe it or not, but there are thousands of temples in Bali. You don't need to visit all of them, but make sure to explore a few of these peaceful places. The most impressive temples are Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Saraswati, Bedugul, and of course the Besakih temple, the holiest of all of them. Dress modest and cover your knees and shoulders when visiting the sites.
02 | TREK A VOLCANO
There is nothing more magnificient than reaching the top of a volcanic mountain and witnessing the sunrise! If you're in a good shape and physically fit, you should hike one of Bali's volcanoes. You can't get closer to heaven.
There are four volcanoes in Bali: Mount Agung, Mount Batur, Bratan, and Mount Merbuk. Keep in mind that all of them are active, don't trek without a guide. I recommend to go with TripGuru, they offer the Sunrise Hike to Mount Batur several times per week.
I think the most beautiful one is Mount Batur, with breathtaking views over a caldera lake. You can reach the top (1.717m) within a 2-hours hike.
03 | EXPLORE THE ENDLESS
RICE TERRACES OF BALI
Bali wouldn't be Bali without the lush rice terraces in all shades of green. You can find rice paddies with breathtaking panoramic views all over Bali, most in rural areas around Ubud. The most famous rice terraces are the ones in Tegalalang, a half hour north of Ubud.
I recommend to hire a motorbike and drive yourself to the rice terraces. The ride itself will be amazing. You'll get the most spectacular views during sunset or even better, during sunrise. Come as early as possible to avoid the crowds. The pictures above were taken at Tegalalang, early in the morning before 6 AM. Was it worth it to get up that early? You bet...
04 | LEARN SURFING
When people think about Bali, surfing is one of the main reasons to visit this island. Bali offers world-class surfing opportunities, but it's also one of the most affordable places in the world to learn surfing. The waves in Kuta are perfect for beginners, as they break over soft sand, not corals.
There are plenty of excellent surf schools along Kuta Beach that offer professional lessons. If you're on a budget, just walk along the beach and you'll meet local guides who are happy to teach you how to surf for a small fee. Advanced surfers should check out Uluwatu, Canggu and Nusa Dua for the perfect wave.
05 | INDULGE IN
HEALTHY FOOD IN UBUD
You can't leave Bali without visiting Ubud, the spiritual center in the island and the place to get healthy and in shape! Ubud is also the place to do yoga, but let's focus on food because I rather eat than do funny poses (no offence to the yoga people. Yoga is awesome!).
Ubud is home to countless amazing restaurants. Without doubt, the best food in Bali can be found there. Indulge in healthy and delicious food in Ubud: vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, raw, organic, microbiotic - you name it!
My favorite places to eat in Ubud were Seeds of Life (for raw food), Seniman (for the best coffee in Bali), Warung 9 (super cheap vegetarian buffet), AA Juicery & Cafe (yummy breakfast bowls incl. rice paddies views), Dayu's Warung (gluten-free), Kafe Ubud (great burgers, also vegan options), and Clear Cafe (microbiotic and raw choices). Enjoy your meals and eat without guilt!
06 | GET CLOSE TO
That's one of the most adventurous things to do in Bali! Don't miss out on an encounter with these amazing creatures and visit the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud!
OK, upfront, these cute furry animals can actually get very evil. Keep a safe distance to them and make sure to attach everything properly to your body. Anything that's loose (like sunglasses or a hat) will get stolen by a monkey in no time. The monkeys grab everything they can.
I witnessed a monkey grabbing an Ipad and walking with it under its arm away, like a boss. After throwing several bananas at the monkey, it finally released the Ipad. Here is another hilarious video of a guy who's GoPro got stolen in Bali by - guess what: a monkey.
By the way, if Ubud is not on your way, you can see plenty of monkeys around the Uluwatu Temple, too.
07 | VISIT A TRADITIONAL
BALINESE DANCE SHOW
The Balinese people love dance and drama. It's no surprise that you can find ritual shows with dancers in spectacular costumes almost everywhere in Bali, whenever there is a festival celebration. Some travelers might be lucky and stumble into one of these vibrant dance performances during their Bali trip.
One of the most popular performances is the Kecak Dance Show in Uluwatu, including scenic views over the ocean. The male dancers are seated in a circle and do sounds just with their mouths, while the female dancers do an incredible show, using all parts of their bodies, moving their eyes and performing impressive hand gestures. The performance is happening every night at 6PM.
08 | ENJOY THE BALI BEACHES
(OR EVEN BETTER: ESCAPE TO NEARBY ISLANDS)
Ok, let's be completely honest, Bali does not have the greatest beaches, compared to the Philippine beaches. However, some are worth mentioning. The best beaches in Bali are Mengiat Beach, Geger Beach, Jimbaran Beach, Legian Beach, and the beaches around Sanur. If you don't have much time, you can easily explore Bali's best beaches in a full day tour.
If you're dreaming of picture perfect white sandy beaches and azure waters, you'd better leave the main island of Bali and hop on a boat to nearby islands. Popular getaways are Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and of course, the Gili Islands (photo above). Geographically, the Gilis are not part of Bali, but still close enough to get there quickly by speedboat (2 hours). I definitely recommend to go there for a couple of days, but check weather conditions before you go, you don't want to be on the water when it's pouring...
09 | SHOP
UNTIL YOU DROP
Bali is a shopping paradise. You'll find anything from fake surfwear and cheap sun glasses to high-end designer label outlets. I have to admit that shopping is usually not one of my favorite things to do. But the bargains and deals you get in Bali are crazy and hard to resist. I bought the cutest dresses for IDR40,000 (~US$3) in the streets of Kuta (Poppies Lane).
You need to bargain hard, though. One day we wanted to buy some board shorts for my boyfriend in one of the tourist shops along Jl. Legian in Kuta. The stallholder quoted us IDR100,000 (~US$7). We showed no interest and when we left, the shop owner yelled at us "take it for IDR10,000 boss!" - Deal.
The best locations for shopping are Jl. Legian and Kuta Square in Kuta, Bali Collection in Nusa Dua and the Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. Happy shopping!
The Samabe Bali Suites & Villas in Nusa Dua
10 | TREAT YOURSELF TO A LUXURY RESORT:
THE SAMABE BALI SUITES & VILLAS
Yes, you read that right. These are your dream Bali holidays, so why don't you treat yourself a little bit? I'm not saying you should splurge for 3 weeks in a 5-star villa, but you can start with an extended weekend or a couple days... You deserve it!
I decided to surprise my boyfriend for his birthday and took him to a fabulous resort. We stayed three nights at the gorgeous Samabe Bali Suites & Villas, located in Nusa Dua. This was one of the most extraordinary hotels I have ever stayed in. It was the perfect place to celebrate in style and relax in an amazing environment.
The Samabe offered us a luxury and spacious villa with private pool, our own butler and mesmerizing ocean views to die for. The staff was wonderful and made us feel welcome from the second we arrived.
Our stay at the Samabe was beyond all our expectations - We actually spent a lot of time filming there, watch our video Bali though our eyes, skip to 00:56 and watch until 01:50 to see our favorite footage of this fantastic resort.
Bali Hotels - Where to stay
There is an incredible selection of hotels in Bali in all price ranges. The good news is, you can find really good bargains for luxury resorts in Bali.
Is Bali on a budget possible? Absolutely! Try Airbnb and rent a private room or bungalow from the locals. Here are $30 travel credits for your first booking!
During my six weeks in Bali, I stayed at different places, from budget to luxury (see above) - almost all of the places were awesome! Here is a list of my favorite Bali accommodations:
The Grand Mirage Resort & Thalasso Bali in Nusa Dua
- from US$69/night for a double room
The Grand Mirage Resort in Nusa Dua invited us for four nights to test their hotel and enjoy their facilities. Yep, sometimes I love to be a travel blogger and get to enjoy staying in lovely hotels.
The Grand Mirage is in fact a grand Hotel: it's 22 years old and has more than 300 spacious rooms, almost the size of a suite. The hotel can get very crowded, but we got a beautiful seaview room with breathtaking ocean views that made up for it. The hotel is a great choice for families, too; they have a playground and a large pool with a shallow area, perfect for kids.
It's a beachfront hotel and I was excited to see that they offer free kayak rental and other stuff for watersport activities. We took advantage of the free kayaks, and it was loads of fun. I also enjoyed one of their relaxing beach massages and walked an hour through their aqua medic pool with heated seawater.
The Grand Mirage organized a trip for us to the Devdan Show in the evening. The show gives a glimpse of Balinese culture in a highly entertaining way with incredible dancers and acrobats. If you stay at the Grand Mirage, don't miss out on this amazing performance! Bring a jacket, it's indoors and quite chilly.
The Pavilion Hotel Kuta
- from US$14/night for a double room
First of all, I wouldn't recommend to stay in Kuta unless you have to. But if you have to, the Pavilion Hotel Kuta is an excellent choice. This hotel is a hidden gem and made our time extremely enjoyable. It's pretty much in the center of Kuta, but in a small side street, so it was quiet for most of the times.
The hotel has a shared pool, surrounded by a lush garden. I felt like being in a jungle, while having a swim. Rooms were new and spotless, much better than some of the 4-star hotels I've stayed at, and this place has only 2 stars. I found it through Agoda, because it had excellent reviews and was listed among the best rated hotels, combined with the lowest rates.
TIP: It's cheaper to book the Pavilion Hotel through Agoda rather than just walk in. We booked one night online and the next day we wanted to extend and just pay for another night by the reception. However, the rate they quoted us was higher than the rate on Agoda. So we kept booking online. Every night we booked another night, for 4 days in a row!
I also noticed that when you book on Agoda less than 24 hours prior to arrival, the room rates drop dramatically. We paid between $14-$20/night for a room with AC and TV. I highly recommend this place if you stay in Kuta.
Views from the Ganesha Ubud Inn
- from US$14/night for a double room with breakfast
If you're looking for a budget place in Ubud with breathtaking rice field views, this is for you! The Ganesha Ubud Inn is a beautiful resort, perfectly located in a small side alley along the popular Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. Try to get a room on the upper floor, they views are absolutely stunning.
- from US$10/night for a double room
This was the first place we stayed after our arrival, when we spent two nights in Canggu. I found the Balibbu Guesthouse on Agoda. It's a pretty new guesthouse, simple and basic rooms, but clean and equipped with A/C and spacious bathrooms for a really good price. The owner Made is a friendly local and organized a cheap pick-up for us from the airport.
Bali Weather - When is the best time to go?
Bali's dry season is from April to September, weather-wise it's the best season to go, but also the most crowded time. You get much better deals if you travel during low season from January to March or between October and November. However, expect heavy rainfalls as this is the wet season.
The island is close to the equator line, which means you have a hot climate all year long, mostly above 30 degrees Celcius. Bali is hot. Always. Now you know.
Flights to Bali
The easiest way to travel to Bali is by plane. Bali has an international aiport in Denpasar (DPS). Most major airlines, but also plenty of low-cost carriers are offering Bali flights.
Before you start searching dozens of airline websites, take it easy and use a flight search engine that will compare all airlines and show you the lowest air fares to Bali. I highly recommend Kiwi.com to find the cheapest flights to Bali.
I hope you'll have a fabulous trip to Bali!
And above all the things I mentioned here,
don't forget to meet and interact with the locals.
The Balinese are such a kind people.
Talk with the hotel staff and eat where the locals eat.
You'll surely learn something new.
If you're still reading, I'd like to say thanks for coming to my blog and staying here until the end of this article. I appreciate! If you find this blog post helpful, please share it, pin it, tweet it, or bookmark it.
Thank you and happy travels!
I was invited to the Samabe Bali Suites & Villas and to the Grand Mirage Resort. All opinions are, as always, my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabrina Iovino is the founder of JustOneWayTicket.com. She's half German, half Italian and has traveled to more than 50 countries around the globe. She feels weird to write about herself in the third person, so she'll switch now. Phew...much better! Let's restart:
Hi, I'm Sab! This is my blog and I write about the things I love. Mostly.
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