Though Bali is just one of Indonesia’s 18’307 islands, it stakes a rightful claim as being its most beloved. World-renowned for its geographic splendour, of pristine, golden sands, coral reefs, volcanic mountains and iconic rice paddies, it’s also home to religious sites, lively bars, electric, eclectic nightlife, and shopping options until the sacred cows come home.
With such a varied, veritable feast of activity on offer, it’s best to draw up a focused itinerary if you’re to get the most from the Island of a Thousand Temples. We’re here to help with that; here’s our 8 IDEAL, iconic things to do in Bali.
Being an island (nicknamed the Last Paradise, in fact) Bali’s perimeter is blessed with some truly gorgeous stretches of sand. Of course, it all depends what you’re looking for here, but whether that’s hedonism, water sports or laid back family time, Bali has got you covered.
For something off the beaten track, head to the island’s east coast, and more specifically, to Pasir Putih in Candidasa. Or if you’re seeking nightlife, bars and restaurants which look over the water, then Kuta is your best bet. Sitting on the island’s south, it’s one of the more touristy spots on the Balinese coastline, but with that development comes plenty of amenities and action. It’s also great for surfing and has several beginner’s surf schools in the area.
Of, if you’re looking for somewhere truly unique and still (surprisingly) largely undiscovered, then the island of Nusa Penida, just thirty minutes from Bali by ferry, boasts a truly secluded beach. Characterised by a crystal bay that is palm tree-lined, the thousand island viewpoint, and the stunning Atuh beach, the island is ideal for snorkelling and diving enthusiasts in particular. You’ll need to book for the ferry trip online to be able to get the best deals; look for ones which go from Padang or Sanur orts in Bali, as these are the quicker journeys, and should set you back around £22 each way.
EXPLORE BALI BY SCOOTER
If you want to explore Bali, one of the best ways to do so is by scooter. The wind in your hair, the sense of freedom, the ability to traverse paths untrodden…it’s definitely worth getting over that initial fear of mounting the steel horse and just embracing the hair raising thrill of it all.
There are numerous scooter rental companies all over Bali, making them easy to come by and granting you access to the most secluded tourist locations on the island. Be warned that some of these companies are a little unscrupulous and scams involving lost or stolen bikes and extortionate charges do occur. If you’re staying in a 5 star Bali hotel or resort with concierge service, ask them to help you arrange some wheels from a reputable company. They’ll only be too happy to oblige.
STAY IN A TREEHOUSE
In Bali, you’ll find types of accommodation suited to all budgets. Treehouse rentals are common in Bali and are a fantastic experience for anyone who loves to be out there amongst nature. Made from bamboo and often housed high in the tropical lowland rainforests, staying in one will give you a whole new perspective on the unique biodiversity of the island. Many of the best are found near Kuta, on Balangan beach and its surrounding area. Alternatively, there are several luxurious treehouse hotels on the island of Nusa Penida that we mentioned earlier.
VISIT THE ULUN DANU BERATAN TEMPLE
If you want to explore the religious side of Bali, and gain deeper clarity about the culture of this beautiful place, the Beratan temple is one of the best places to do so. As one of the most magnificent, influential pagodas in Indonesia, this floating temple is located off the shores of Lake Bratan in the heart of the island amongst lush jungle. On a particularly hot and humid Balinese day, the temple’s location 3600 feet above sea level can be a blessed relief.
GO TO THE GATES OF HEAVEN
You asked for iconic things to do in Bali and a trip to see the sacred volcano Mount Agung framed between Bali’s “Gates of Heaven” at Lempuyang Temple is a must. Located within the slope of Mount Lempuyang in Karangasem, Pura Lempuyang is considered one of the most revered temples in Bali. It’s believed to predate the majority of Hindu temples on the island and is one of the Sad Kahyangan (six sanctuaries of the world) which are the six holiest places of worship in Bali.
Sitting at a cool 1175 meters above sea level, you have to climb a challenging 1700 steps to reach the temple. If you’ve already done your research on Pura Lempuyang, no doubt you’ve seen the ethereal images on Instagram of a stunningly pristine body of water reflecting the sky and gates; don’t be fooled – it’s just a piece of glass under an iPhone. While it doesn’t make the temple any less stunning, is it proof Instagram influencers are ruining everything? Perhaps.
VISIT THE MONKEY FOREST IN UBUD
If you love nature and in particular, monkeys, then you have to visit the Ubud monkey forest (known as the Mandala Suci Wenara Wana or Sacred Monkey Forest) whilst on the island. Within, you can enjoy close interaction with these smart, sweet animals all while contributing to the animal’s welfare and conservation. There are 700 monkeys in total, and for good measure, 186 different tree species.
Just ensure you keep your bag closed and avoid wearing hats or sunglasses as these guys love a souvenir of your visit. At IDR 80’000, which is just £5, it’s a snip, and all profits go towards keeping the animals safe and free. There really is no reason not to.
TAKE A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
Floating over the rice fields, rainforests, and mountains aboard a hot air balloon while in Bali offers a chance to see this great island from a whole different angle. The best place to do so is actually Ubud, where you found us frolicking with monkeys in the previous paragraph. From here (via the skies of course) you’ll take in the tropical rainforests of Ubud below – look out for those monkeys! – as well as Mount Agung and the expansive north east coastline.
SAMPLE BALINESE CULINARY DELIGHTS
When the air is this fresh, the soil this natural and the vegetation this abundant, foodies are in for a treat. Indeed, the culinary delights here are one of the top reasons to visit Indonesia, and more specifically, Bali. Tropical fruit is everywhere, and you have to get stuck into the King of Fruits, durian, whilst on the island; a creamy, pungent joy.
Most roadside fruit vendors will also stock mangosteen, the bulbous, curious looking fruit which yields the sweetest nuggets of flesh. In terms of health, the fruit has for centuries been believed to alleviate skin conditions. Perhaps the most healthy, delicious thing you can try in Bali is tempeh, which is cooked, fermented soybeans similar to tofu, but higher in protein and fibre.
But that’s enough of the healthy stuff. If it’s pure indulgence you’re after, Indonesian desserts are a joy. You’ll find Pisang Goreng everywhere; fried, local unripe bananas served with palm sugar syrup and sprinkled with flaked coconut or sesame seeds. It’s just delicious. And for the spice lovers, sate sticks (not the same as satay, but rather minced chicken wrapped around lemongrass and grilled) and Nasi Goreng (fried rice served with spicy dips and other delicious morsels) will keep you well and truly satisfied. Selamat Makan!