Central inland Bali takes in a pretty route dotted with artisan villages en-route to Ubud, the artisan hub of Bali. Ubud and surrounding countryside offers things to do in Bali for every interest – for arts and culture lovers, bird watchers, foodies, photographers, shoppers, adventure seekers, wildlife enthusiasts, Ubud truly offers something for everyone. Ubud is also a world renowned mecca for holistic medicine & spa facilities. Ready for a break from the beach? Put bud and its stunningly beautiful landscapes on your list of things to do in Bali – it won’t disappoint!
Things to do in Bali: shop for silver jewellery in Celuk, famous for quality & great value!
Over the years Ubud has become the cultural and artistic centre of Bali. The route to Ubud itself takes in several villages which each specialising in various handicrafts: Tohpati for Batik art, Batubulan for stone carving, Celuk for gold and silver craft, particularly jewellery, Mas for wood carving (the nearby villages of Kemenuh, Tengkulak and Pujung are also devoted to wood carving). And, of course, the Ubud to Pelitan tourist area is famous for its art and galleries, though you’ll also find all manner of handicrafts within Ubud itself. Start browsing at the traditional Art Market (Pasar Ubud) and then explore the streets radiating out from it, which are lined with the wares of various artisans.
Historically, generations of artisans made their living supplying Bali’s noble and priestly class, to order and with little artistic licence or choice. This probably explains how Bali artists and artisans became known for being able to replicate just about anything. So don’t assume what you see is all that’s on offer – if you can provide a picture, you can probably get it made. However, whilst consumer demand continues to drive creative expression, there is an increasing trend toward ‘artistic integrity’ and if you are a serious art collector, you’ll also find find works from world renowned Balinese and international artists on display in Ubud.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the Ubud Art Market
Ubud does more than display and sell its artisans’ wares. If you’re creatively inclined, you might enjoy one of the many handicraft classes on offer. Here are just a few examples of the variety of classes available:
Things to do in Bali: Take a craft or art class in Ubud
ARMA (Agung Rai Museum of Art): Offers cultural workshops in painting, Balinese batik, woodcarving, offering-making, Balinese cooking, basket weaving, Balinese architecture, gamelan and Hindu religion. Classes are available for children as well as adults.
Bali Centre for Artistic Creativity (BCAC): Offers classes, courses, workshops, seminars and instruction to individuals and groups interested in discovering, developing or extending their artistic creative talents and skills. A very wide range of people take classes or courses at BCAC, from the actress Julia Roberts and family, to teachers, engineers, plumbers and electricians, and psychologists!
Chez Monique (Silver): At least two expert silversmiths facilitate each class to ensure maximum attention is given to each student. Each class includes ten grams of silver – enough to make a ring or a pendant.
Studio Perak (Silver): A creative, fun and relaxed space specialising in Balinese silver-smithing. Try the art of silver smithing with a half-day course and create a piece of silver jewellery of your own design, in just three hours!
Pranoto’s Art Gallery: A lively, active gallery, hosting life-drawing model sessions and private painting lessons, run by a charming Javanese painter and his Australian wife. Life drawing sessions: Wed 10am -1pm, Sat 10am-1pm. You need to have your own materials for these classes.
Threads of LIfe Gallery: Introduces textiles and cultural history from across Indonesia, displaying various ikat, batik and other weaving techniques. Focusing on Bali and Nusa Tenggara, the class also explores the ritual use of textiles.
Sari Api Ceramic Studio: An open-air ceramics studio, equipped with 3 electric wheels, a large gas-fired downdraft kiln and plenty of workspace. Full 8-session courses or half-day workshops, with classes for children as well as adults.
Things to do in Bali: Take in a Balinese dance performance in Ubud
The variety of dance performances on offer in Ubud reflects the great richness of Balinese dance forms and styles. The Legong, Barong, Kecak Fire & Trance, Janger, Jegog, Ramayana Ballet and Wayang Kulit, to name just a few, are all performed here. The Wayang Kulit is a particularly interesting form of puppet theatre which employs light and shadows. The puppets are crafted from buffalo hide with movable limbs and are mounted on bamboo sticks. When held up behind a piece of white cloth, with a lamp used for back lighting, the puppet’s shadows are then cast up onto the screen, ‘performing’ the story in clever silhouette.
Although dance styles and forms vary markedly, the stories expressed usually revolve around the eternal struggle between good and evil, with the hero ultimately triumphing (with a little divine help), over demonic spirits, reflecting the fundamental importance of karma in Balinese culture and religion. Whilst the highly dramatised and mythologised stories can seem a little simplistic, the touch of humour that usually finds its way into most performances is suggestive of greater subtlety – perhaps the Balinese are telling us that the pursuit of good karma also means a life lived with joy?
If you’d like an insight into Balinese culture as expressed through dance, note that performances in Ubud are usually conducted in the evening.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the many art galleries and museums in Ubud
Museum Puri Lukisan: Displays fine examples of all schools of Balinese art. The museum’s collection is well curated and labelled in English. It also has a book shop and cafe and the lush grounds and gardens alone are worth a visit.
Neka Art Museum: Created by a private art collector and dealer and quite distinct from the Neka Gallery It has an excellent and diverse collection and is a great way to learn about the development of Balinese art.
Agung Rai Museum of Art: Founded as a museum, gallery and cultural centre, it’s housed in several traditional buildings set in gardens with water coursing through channels. It’s collection includes many masterpieces by local and international artists.
Blanco Renaissance Museum: Once the home of Spanish artist, Antonio Blanco, who specialised in illustrated poetry and erotic art.
Rio Helmi Gallery: Not a museum as such, but worth a visit for the world famous photograhic work of Helmi, renowned for his passionate pleas for the preservation of Bali in the face of massive change.
Museum Rudan: Features three floors containing over 400 traditional paintings and an adjacent gallery which sells paintings.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the temples around Ubud (above, Taman Saraswati Temple)
Taman Saraswati: This temple is worth a visit for its very pretty lotus pond. Waters from the temple at the rear of the site feed the pond in the front which overflows with pretty lotus blossoms. There are carvings which honour Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and the arts, who has clearly given her blessing to Ubud.
Ubud Palace: Still home to a royal family, it feels more like a family home than a grand retreat, especially as you can wander around at will. The royal temple is just to the north of Ubud and features some ornate features and carvings, with a particularly impressive gate.
Yeh Pulu: Set in rice fields in Bedulu village, en-route to Ubud, this is a quiet and peaceful temple with a distinctly spiritual atmosphere. It features 11th century carvings depicting ancient Balinese village life.
Gunung Lebah: Located about 1.5km west of the Ubud market, it’s worth seeing for the beautiful valley housing it, featuring the Cerik and Wos Rivers.
Things to do in Bali: Savour a fine dining & wine experience in Ubud
Bridges: Featuring amazing architecture of seven levels overlooking the jungle and river, and boasting an Australian gourmet chef and a cellar offering over 250 assorted wine labels from around the world. For anyone wishing a fine dining and wine experience in a gorgeous location, Bridges is the place to go.
The Samaya: A beautiful outside setting with lovely fine dining ambience, welcoming service and excellent chef. You’ll find a variety of freshly cooked dishes and good assortment of wines.
Bollero: A fusion of charisma and creative spirit. A quality dining experience with artistically presented, fresh food, and a wine cellar with a good selection of quality labels from around the world.
Ary’s Warung: Contemporary Asian cuisine in a modern Balinese Zen setting, with a relaxing lounge, well stocked wine cellar, cigar lounge, and terrace dining room. The quality menu uses only organic product.
CasCades: Set in a luxurious Balinese theme, and surrounded by lush tropical valley views, offers fine dining and an extensive wine list comprising over 160 quality wines from around the world.
Mozaic: Boasts a multi-award winning chef and wine list. The Viceroy Bar features some of the finest wines, cognacs, scotches, Japanese whiskies, spirits, and cigars in all of South-east Asia. The infinity pool near the restaurant also features a swim-up bar.
Lamak: Has a great bar, a sense of occasion and quality dining.
Things to do in Bali: Chill out in the eclectic cafe scene of Ubud
The streets of Ubud are a ramshackle mix of traditional Balinese architecture amidst ‘added on’ contemporary structures, creating an eclectic mix of styles which house a vibrant cafe scene to rival that of any Western inner-city cafe vibe. Offering pretty much any and every cuisine imaginable, from organic-raw to fried fish and chips, alfresco dining everywhere, cooling fans and comfortable lounging furniture, Ubud’s vibe is both urban and energetic, yet somehow laid back at the same time.
Feel like Japanese? Mexican? German? Name a cuisine and you’ll probably find it in Ubud, where people-watching over a cold beer or a latte is an entertaining activity in itself!
There is also a multitude of cafes throughout the surrounding countryside if you’re looking for a more tranquil vibe and stunning views.
Things to do in Bali: Take a cooking class in Ubud and discover authentic Balinese cuisine
The local food on offer throughout Bali is Indonesian, not authentic Balinese. Why is the local cuisine so elusive? Perhaps because its aromas, tastes and textures are a slow labour of love. Traditionally, the spice mixtures are blended in a stone pestle, meat is finely minced, vegetables are reduced to microscopic dimensions and all ingredients are mixed by hand. Short cuts just don’t taste the same!
One way to discover authentic Balinese cuisine is to take one of the many cooking classes available in Ubud. Here are just a few of the many on offer:
Paon Bali Cooking Class: Embark on a culinary adventure unlocking the secrets of authentic Balinese cooking, utilizing traditional ingredients and preparation methods, in a fully equipped community village kitchen. Your day starts early at the Ubud markets, where you can pick from fresh herbs & spices, crisp vegetables and choice cuts of meat, then discover how to create your very own delicious authentic Balinese dishes.
Payuk Cooking Class: See the unique Balinese culture and experience some thing different on the island through this home cooking experience. You’ll learn about Balinese spices and have an opportunity to cook authentic Balinese cuisine and taste delicious meals, guided by Balinese chefs.
Jamangan Bali Cooking Class: Includes a trip to the local market for fresh ingredients, a visit to a rice farmer to learn about their daily activities and then a cooking class in a Balinese house in a beautiful setting. All classes are conducted in English by Balinese chefs fully conversant with Balinese cuisine and culture. Guided by the chef, you will get to prepare the menu yourself and then savour the delight you have made for lunch or dinner.
Bumbu Bali: Learn to create a variety of delicious and authentic Balinese dishes, in accordance with local customs. The workshops are guided by Jero Kartika, the wife of one of the tjokordas of Ubud. You will receive a booklet of recipes, so you can duplicate the delicious results in your own kitchen. Classes daily from 9am-2pm.
Bumi Bali: Taught by Balinese chefs, classes include a guided visit to a traditional market. Practical cooking classes with vegetarian options that are ideal for both the chef and home cook.
Casa Luna: Learn complete recipes and how to use the exotic herbs and spices used in Balinese dishes.
Things to do in Bali: Pamper yourself in Ubud, world famous for natural healing and rejuvenation
Long before Ubud became a tourist mecca, people journeyed here from all over the world in pursuit of spiritual, physical and emotional healing. The very word ‘Ubud’ derives from ‘ubad’ – or medicine – referring to the healing herbs that grow wild around the rivers and forests.
For those seeking traditional Balinese healing, there are two distinct kinds of Balinese medicine men in Ubud: the ‘balian taksu’, a kind of shaman or trance medium (who goes into a trance to communicate with the spirit world, and frequently chases away unwanted influences this way), and the ‘balian usada’, who employs sacred medical manuscripts and uses massage techniques and traditional medicines made from plants and animals. The balian usada also works with a spiritual approach, drawing on intuition, visions, mantras and prayer to aid the healing process.
There are many medicine men in Ubud. Paying them a visit requires sensitivity and openness to the Balinese beliefs about the spirit world and the power of the invisible. You may need a dramatic leap of faith – the remedies can be unorthodox. Yet many visitors to Bali have found themselves cured by a local medicine man when no Western doctor was able to help.
Local healers operate either by a fixed fee or by donation. It’s best to ask in advance.
From these roots, Ubud has become a modern, world class centre for all forms of holistic healing, yoga, meditation, massage and relaxation. Modalities include just about every imaginable form of massage, chakra balancing, reiki, de-tox programs (from raw food regimes to colonics), Auryvedic medicine (a form of ancient Indian medicine), and a myriad of yoga and meditation classes and retreats. The lush green, tranquil surrounds of Ubud provide a setting in perfect harmony with nature for health & spa facilities. And the facilities on offer are endless – too many to list. But rest assured, Ubud can provide relaxation and rejuvenation breaks for every budget and time frame.
Things to do in Bali: Try a yoga class in Ubud and de-stress after a hectic day
If you want to really pamper yourself, a multi day experience at one of the luxury facilities will be an experience you’ll never forget, and may even transform your life! But even if you’ve only got a few hours and a limited budget, combining an active experience in the morning with a health or spa treatment in the afternoon, perhaps followed by a fine dining experience and a cultural show in the evening, is one of those things to do in Bali that will fully immerse you in the magic of Ubud.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the beautiful countryside of Ubud by foot
Ubud and the surrounding region abounds with walking and hiking trails, ranging from a kilometre or two to full day hikes which venture into steeper terrain. Grab a walking route map and explore the lush forest, flowing rivers, rice paddies and nearby villages at your own pace.
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy a stroll or picnic in the Ubud Botanic Gardens
Botanic Garden Ubud: Located on the road to Penelokan, 6 hectares of grounds makes for pleasant walking terrain through gardens devoted to various themes such as orchids, Bali grown plants like vanilla and cinnamon, flowering butterfly-friendly gardens, an enormous lotus pond, and much more. Discover the stories behind the plants that make Bali green.
If you prefer to do a guided walk:
Things to do in Bali: Learn about the medicinal plants and herbs in Ubud on a guided walk
Bali Herbal Walk: Enjoy a 3hr walk through lush Bali landscape during which medicinal and cooking herbs and plants are identified and explained in their natural environment.
Things to do in Bali: Try this pleasant & picturesque walk for bird lovers around Ubud
Bali Bird Walks: A gentle morning walk for bird lovers where you’re likely to see up to 30 of the 100-odd local species, including Indonesian endemics such as the Java Kingfisher, Bar-winged Prinia, Black-winged Starling, Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, and Java Sparrow. You will also see various butterflies, different types of rice cultivation, rustic temples and monuments, magnificent trees, stunning scenery, and wildflowers.
Things to do in Bali: Cycle through the beautiful countryside of Ubud and its surrounds
Cycling is a great way to experience Bali’s natural landscapes and village life up close, and to cover a lot more ground than you could on foot. Guided tours usually follow the route between Ubud and Kintamani (approx 26kms) and can be done in either direction, taking about 4-5 hours. However, it is possible to hire the gear and simply take off on your own on one of the many trails to choose from.
A popular choice for the active is to cycle from Ubud into the Taro region, ending the ride with a visit to the Taro Elephant Safari Park. However, the terrain is quite steep in places and unless you’re very fit, its probably a good idea to have your driver meet you at Taro, avoiding the need to cycle back. Even better, why not arrange to have your driver follow at a distance? That way, you can cycle as far as you feel like, and switch back to a vehicle whenever you please.
White Water Rafting
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy the thrills & spills of white water rafting near Ubud
White water rafting from Ubud is done on the Ayung River in the Taro region. Whether you are 5 or 65, a natural or a novice, white water rafting here is safe, exhilarating fun, and breathtakingly beautiful. There are many rafting operators but they all launch from the same point and follow pretty much the same route. The route includes a stop at a natural ‘swimming pool’, complete with waterfall, for a refreshing ‘shower’ and break.
We recommend Bali Adventure Tours because of its renowned safety record. It also offers ‘5 star’ service from the start to finish with fast walk-through equipment outfitting and access to the river via safe, engineered steps, complete with hand rails and scenic viewing platforms. Given you’ll traverse some 500-odd steps down to the launching point, this is quite a benefit. Lunch is always provided and included in the price, and rafting can be done in the morning of afternoon, before after lunch.
Whilst we recommend Bali Adventure Tours as the best, they are not the cheapest and there are several other rafting companies if you’re on a tight budget.
Things to do in Bali: Laugh at the antics of the mischievous monkeys near Ubud
Sacred Monkey Forest: Located at Padangtegal, very close to Ubud, and home to around 600 cheeky macque monkeys. The cool and dense swath of jungle houses three holy temples, serving an important role in the spiritual and daily lives of the village. The interesting Dalem Agung Temple, deep in the forest, has a real ‘Indianna Jones’ feel to it.
This sanctuary is also the site of several research and conservation programs. As the monkeys here are not as aggressive as in other parts of Bali, many research projects focus on interaction between the monkeys and humans. Don’t be surprised, or afraid, if a monkey chooses your shoulder or head as a handy vantage point, but keep loose objects secure if you want to keep them, and avoid prolonged, direct eye contact, which is perceived by monkeys as threatening. The Forest is monitored by numerous guides who’ll help ‘extract’ you should any monkeys want to get too friendly.
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy a pleasant guided walk for bird lovers in the countryside of Ubud
Bali Bird Walks: A gentle morning walk for bird lovers where you’re likely to see up to 30 of the 100-odd local species, including Indonesian endemics such as the Java Kingfisher, Bar-winged Prinia, Black-winged Starling, Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker, and Java Sparrow. You will also see various butterflies, different types of rice cultivation, rustic temples and monuments, magnificent trees, stunning scenery, and wildflowers.
Things to do in Bali: Delight at this bird show, staged nightly by nature
Petulu: Every evening around 6pm thousands of big herons and egrets fly here, about 25kms north of Ubud, squabbling over the prime perching places before settling into the trees beside the road and becoming a tourist attraction. The herons started their daily visits to Petulu around 1965, for no apparent reason.
Things to do in Bali: Feel the glow of an elephant’s cuddle at Taro, near Ubud
Taro Elephant Safari Park: About an hour’s drive north of Ubud, Taro’s motto is ‘the original and the best’, and if you’re looking for a magical, interactive experience with an elephant, we’re inclined to agree. Set in beautifully landscaped tropical grounds, the low entrance fee entitles you to spend as much time up close and personal with the elephants as you want. You can feed and cuddle them to your heart’s content (and no, you don’t have to buy the food to feed them), and their handlers will happily get them to pose with you for wonderful photo opps – including having an elephant don you with a flower circlet!
The same fee also includes a brief but entertaining show, featuring elephants doing maths, playing football and basketball, painting, and performing various clever stunts, with a little fun audience interaction thrown in. The Park also features a superb restaurant overlooking the park with great food at reasonable prices, and luxury accommodation. Elephant rides through the grounds and adjacent farmland are available at an extra cost and, for an additional fee, you can help wash the elephants at the end. The Park also runs night safaris – highly recommended for romance seekers!
Taro is a world-class, world-renowned facility and has been visited and endorsed by a multitude of celebrities and animal conservationists, including the late Steve Irwin. Some people who visit are disturbed to see ‘off duty’ elephants with a chain around their leg, but this is done for their own safety (and to prevent them devouring the entire landscape!). Most people come away entranced and convinced the elephants are happy and loved and well treated by their handlers. Taro started with an Australian man’s attempts to save a single Sumatran elephant and the fundamental conservation motivation continues to this day. Indeed, were it not for conservation based elephant tourism, the Sumatran elephant would be extinct in Bali by now. Taro must be doing something right as the Park’s record in successfully breeding elephants in captivity is second to none.
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy a day of themed wildlife experiences & fun at the water park
Bali Safari Marine Park is a more recent addition to Bali’s elephant conservation landscape and is situated more to the east and a little closer to Ubud than Taro. It is more like a zoo, elephant park and theme park combined, being home to hundreds of animals, including some rare and endangered species such as the Komodo, Orang Utan, and the Bali Mynah.
Whilst also at the frontline of wildlife conservation, this Park has more of a Disney feel, with its animal themed tours, aquarium, theatre and shows, and Water Park. It offers elephant rides and night safaris, but unlike Taro has no basic, low entry fee if you just want to mingle with elephants. All prices package various combinations of the Park’s attractions, so if you want to get value for your money, we recommend you plan for a full day visit.
If water sports and activities are for you, Nusa Dua and Tanjung Benoa should be on your list of things to do in Bali! Scuba diving for novices, ocean floor walking, para-gliding, jet-skiing, fishing trips, sailing cruises – you’ll find all this and more in Bali’s ‘water playground’ on the eastern side of South Bali. The western side of the South Bali peninsula follows a steep route taking in Jimbaran, famous for its beach dining, the panoramic views of GWK Park and the stunning cliffs of Uluwatu.
Things to do in Bali: Take in the beauty of the Uluwatu cliffs and temple
Located on the high cliffs of the very southern tip of Bali, Uluwatu is not a great distance from the Kuta area, but the drive can be quite long due to the steep single lane road and heavy tourist traffic. Perched on the sheer cliffs which drop precipitously into the clear blue sea below hangs Uluwatu Temple, a sprawling complex which, in parts, hangs right over the cliff edge.
You enter through an unusual arched gateway flanked by statues of Ganesha. Inside the walls of coral bricks are covered with intricate carvings of Bali’s mythological menageries. But the real attraction is the location.
To appreciate the stunning views, walk around the cliff to the left (south) of the temple. Watch out for the local monkeys, which are infamous for snatching spectacles, sunglasses, handbags, hats, and just about anything else they can get (it’s wise not to have food on you as this encourages unwanted grabbing and scratching at whatever is separating them from the food they can smell!).
Things to do in Bali: Watch a Kecak Dance from the Uluwatu cliffs as the sun sets over the ocean
One of the popular things to do in Bali is to watch the Kecak and Fire dance staged on the cliffs of Uluwatu at sunset. This cultural experience viewed against the backdrop of the sun sinking into the ocean from a perfect vantage point atop the cliff is a tour ‘standard’ for good reason, but if you’ve already seen a Kecak dance, or Balinese dance doesn’t appeal, you might prefer to just to take in the sunset from the cliffs – and even get a head start on the massive number of tour vehicles converging on the single lane road back to Kuta once the dance performance ends.
Things to do in Bali: Capture the panoramic views from GWK
En-route to Uluwatu and usually included as a tour stop on the way (while it’s still daylight), the views alone are worth the small entrance fee. Sited high above Bali’s southern peninsula, the sweeping view allows you to see the east and west coasts of Bali in one stunning panorama, taking in the eastern side of the peninsula to the western coast of Bali’s south. Views aside, the park’s main feature is a gigantic bust of God Wishnu, 145m high. A terraced stone pathway with views in every direction then leads you to a statue of Garuda, sited above expansive green lawns at the base of a lime stone quarry. Walk in the opposite direction to Garuda to the end of the manicured lawns and you’ll discover yet more spectacular views.
Things to do in Bali: Dine by candlelight on the ocean’s shores
Famous for its beach dining, a popular choice for dinner on the return from Uluwatu after sunset. Specialising in seafood, the restaurants line the beach with tables and chairs along the sandy coast in the evening as far as the eye can see. The atmosphere is both romantic and lively, with the gentle evening breeze, the soft, rhythmic sound of the nearby waves rolling in, candlelight, and live entertainment every several meters. The Jimbaran dining experience makes a lovely end to a day in the south of Bali – as long as you don’t mind company, as hundreds of people flock here to dine on the beach nightly.
Things to do in Bali: Choose your water sport or activity – Nusa Dua has them all!
Nusa Dua is the name of the peninsula that extends off the southern tip of Bali, but Tanjung Benoa, the northern part of that tip, is now a seaside resort in its own right. Famous for the luxury resorts which now proliferate the entire peninsula, the Nusa Dua-Tanjung Benoa area is also Bali’s water activities play ground.
Curious about whether you’d like scuba diving but not sure about investing in the lessons and licence? You can do a brief, shallow, guided dive here and because you only submerge about 10 meters, no licence is needed. Not exactly the real thing, but it provides the experience of breathing underwater and a way of testing if diving is for you. And feeding the tropical fish who’ll swarm you for the crumbs your guide will provide is enchanting. Another way to get a bit deeper without a dive licence is to do the underwater sea walk at Tanjung Benoa. Or get a bird’s eye view of the entire southern peninsula by para-gliding – an easy and safe activity that’s very popular. Of course, what would a trip to Nusa Dua be without the classic banana boat ride? And jet skiing is also a perennial favourite.
If boating seems more appealing than active water sports, the Nusa Dua peninsula has a multitude of things to do, from fishing charters to sunset sailing and dinner cruises, to combo trips with fishing and a romantic sunset dinner (to keep everyone happy!). Sheltered by the opposite islands of Lembongan and Penida, the absence of surf makes the area a great place to launch boats, so if the the things to do in Bali which interest you involve getting out on the water, head to Nusa Dua/Tanjung Benoa.
To the north of East Bali lies Bali’s spiritual ‘home’, Mount Agung and Bali’s ‘mother’ temple, Besakih. Along the route are a number of highlights which can be accommodated in a day tour. Majestic and hauntingly beautiful, if visiting temples doesn’t feature high on your list of things to do in Bali, Besakih is worth considering for the views alone. An alternative tour route taking in East Bali’s coast is a chance to venture a little off the main tourist trek. Apart from some world class snorkelling and diving sites, and access to nearby Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, the coastal area of East Bali contains a number of ‘hidden’ treasures waiting to be ‘discovered’.
Things to do in Bali: Visit Bali’s largest temple complex, Besakih
Besakih: The Mother Temple of Bali which all Balinese Hindus must visit at least once in their life. Situated approximately 1,000m up the slopes of the sacred Mount Agung, and accessible as a day tour, Besakih is a sprawling mass of 22 sanctuaries containing a befuddling array of over 60 temples and 200 distinct structures (a map is posted at the top of the road leading from the car park). Not only is the the temple complex visually stunning and culturally fascinating, its location affords spectacular vistas of the surrounding area. Built on a terraced site where prehistoric rites, ceremonies and feasts once took place, it is not difficult to imagine the site as home to the spirit of a great angry mountain which once took pagan sacrifices.
Numerous Ceremonies are held at Besakih throughout the year which visitors are welcome to watch. The walk from the car park to the entrance is long but well worth the effort. If you are going to visit just one temple whilst in Bali, we’d suggest Besakih.
Things to do in Bali: Explore Mount Agung, Bali’s spiritual home
Mount Agung: Towering 3143m, this is Bali’s highest strato-volcano. Its physical and spiritual presence is constantly felt throughout the island in all manner of day-to-day rituals. Hiking to the summit involves an arduous ascent of around five hours from Besakih and requires a guide. Of course, its not necessary to reach the summit to enjoy hiking in Mount Agung, but if you are interested in a summit hike, we highly recommend timing it for sunrise for a ‘once in a life time’ visual and spiritual experience.
Things to do in Bali: Find a bargain in quality silver jewellery at Celuk
Celuk: Bali’s largest and best known centre for silver and gold, particularly jewellery. Here, you can cut out the Kuta ‘middle-man’ and buy quality work at lower prices. Look out for stores a little off the main tourist drag – the quality and range is just as good, and the prices even lower, not just because they lack the street frontage, but also because they don’t pay as high a commission, or any commission, to tour operators.
Things to do in Bali: Visit Bali Zoo for wildlife galore & fun tree top adventures
Bali Zoo: Only 15 minutes drive from Ubud and situated on 22 acres of lush landscape in the art village of Singapadu. Bali Zoo is home to a diverse collection of more than 350 exotic animals, the majority of which are indigenous to Indonesia, including rare and endangered species such as the Sumatran Elephant, Sumatran Tiger, Orangutan, Sun Bear and Binturong. Bali Zoo also offers a range of tree top adventures including flying fox and swing bridges, with fun activities for all ages.
Things to do in Bali: Visit an art gallery at Batuan, East Bali
Batuan Village: Famous for Balinese artwork and located in the east, about 7 kilometers north of Denpasar and 10 kilometers south of Ubud. For over a thousand years Batuan Village has been associated with Balinese artwork and handicrafts.
A popular centre of the Bali arts, Batuan is known for its dancing and wood panel carvings, as well as paintings.
Things to do in Bali: Spend a day at the Bali Safari & Marine Park
Gianyar: The main attraction here is the Bali Safari & Marine Park, home to hundreds of animals, including some rare and endangered species such as the Komodo, Orang Utan, and the Bali Mynah.
This Park is a more recent addition to Bali’s elephant conservation landscape than the Taro Elephant Safari Park which is a little further north, and is more like a zoo, elephant park and theme park combined.
Whilst also at the frontline of wildlife conservation, this Park has more of a Disney feel, with its animal themed tours, aquarium, theatre and shows, and Water Park.
It offers elephant rides and night safaris, but unlike Taro, has no basic low entry fee if you just want to mingle with elephants. All prices package various combinations of the Park’s attractions, so if you want to get value for your money, we recommend you plan for a full day visit.
Things to do in Bali: Explore Saba beach, east Bali on horseback
Saba beach horse riding: Close to Gianyar on the east coast, a 3km stretch of black sandy beach provides fun horse riding adventures on a 10km coastal ride. A great way to enjoy Bali’s east coast with a gentle sea breeze blowing in from the ocean. Included in the tour are refreshments after you ride at stables set amidst a tropical plantation, and use of villa facilities including swimming pool.
Things to do in Bali: Get an adrenaline hit rafting the Telaga Waja River, east Bali
Telaga Waja River rafting:The Telaga Waja River, close to Besakih, has the most challenging and adrenaline fuelled rapids in Bali, being Grade 3 in the dry season and Grade 4 in the wet – and is still safe for beginners.
The Telega Waja white water rafting route runs about 13kms, passing green fields, valleys, cliffs and a waterfall. Although those who put white water rafting on their list of things to do in Bali are usually taken to the better known Ayung River, the Telega Waja is actually closer to reach, takes in some very beautiful scenery. and offers more challenging rapids. During the route you will encounter rapids as high as 5 meters and, similarly to the Ayung River operations, lunch is included in all tours.
Things to do in Bali: Discover the original Bali art style
Kamasan: Culturally important to Bali in that the various ‘traditional’ styles of painting in modern Bali derive from the Kamasan style, which in turn takes it patterns from ancient Java. Historically, artists from Kamasan were used by the many raja courts that existed on Bali up to the early twentieth century. The village also provided gold and silversmiths, dancers, musicians and puppeteers. The painters have a particular ward in Kamasan, the Banjar Sangging. The smiths are located in another ward, the Banjar Pande Mas.
Things to do in Bali: Explore Klungkung, once Bali’s highest seat of royal power
Klungkung: Colorful umbrellas made in Satria line the streets of this town, famous for its classic Balinese paintings which mostly depict the story of the epics like Mahabharata or Ramayana. These classical style paintings come from the frescoes of the Balinese Palaces, and can also be found at Klungkung Palace in the downtown area. Semarajaya Museum is also located in the area. The Klungkung market is great for textiles from the mountain villages and those further east.
Once home to the highest ruler in Bali, all that remains today of KlungKung Palace (Sermarapura) is the main gate that bears the date Saka 1622 (AD 1700), a floating pavilion (added in the 1940s), and Kerta-Gosa, the ancient court of justice for Bali.
Things to do in Bali: Explore Kerta Gosa behind a moat
Kerta-Gosa: Features ceilings of two pavilions, richly decorated with traditional-style paintings made by artists from the nearby village of Kamasan. It is the largest display of Kamasan-style paintings in Bali, showing well over a hundred images, Kerta Gosa also features a ‘floating’ house and garden in the middle of a pond (Taman Gili) and the Semarajaya Museum, featuring historic and pre-historic artefacts.
Things to do in Bali: Experience the tranquility of Taman Sari
Taman Sari Temple: a peaceful temple just north of Klungkung, surrounded by a mountain view. After climbing several stairs, in the outer yard, you’ll encounter the Ganesha statue pictured above, with inscription: DO NOT BE AFRAID OF LIVING, AS LONG AS ONE IS LIVING ACCORDING TO THE DHARMA – the central message of Bali and a reminder to us all, to be aware and to live consciously all the time.
Things to do in Bali: Venture off the tourist trek to AIr Terjun Kuning waterfall
Air Terjun Kuning: the name means ‘Yellow Waterfall’, and can be reached by road during a day trip to Besakih. Its a little off the usual tourist trek, and takes in pristine country side ending at a 25m waterfall which comes from the Tudad Menagit River and flows south. Very close by is a forest occupied by thousands of monkeys and accessible to tourists for a small fee.
Things to do in Bali: Experience the serenity of Penglipuran
Penglipuran Village: Located in the Bangli district, a ‘must see’ stop on any tour to Besakih. Despite its appeal to tourists, Penglipuran remains a living, breathing authentic and traditional Balinese village, untouched by modernisation. Visually beautiful, the architecture follows traditional Hindu geometric principles. In accordance with the many traditional beliefs and rules they live by, the villagers are extraordinarily open and welcoming to all visitors. It is impossible to visit this place and be untouched by its serenity and spiritual feel. At around 600-700m above sea level, the cooler air also makes for a refreshing stop on any trip to Besakih.
Things to do in Bali: Take in the stunning views from Kehen Temple
Kehen Temple: a very ancient temple located at the south foot of Mt Bangli, Kehen stands amazingly high with many stairs. Overlooking a smaller temple called Panyimpanan Temple, (considered to be a part of Kehen), its strategic location affords spectacular vistas of the surrounding countryside from every direction. Often referred to as ‘little Besakih’, it’s worth a visit for the views alone.
Things to do in Bali: See Goa Lawah, bat central!
Bat Cave (Goa Lawah Temple): named for the thousands of (protected) bats living in the cave’s ceiling and walls. There is also a beautiful beach south of the cave, which is dotted with huts built by locals who still make salt in the traditional way. On the east coast of Bali, the beaches are important for purification rites. On a clear day Nusa Penida Island can be seen from the shoreline.
Things to do in Bali: Take a ferry to Nusa Penida from Padang Bai
Padang Bai: Ferries to Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan leave from here. The ferry ride takes about an hour but watch out – except in calm seas, you’ll get soaking wet! Most tourists come here to get to Nusa Penida, but Padang Bai is a lovely destination in itself and often people are so enchanted with this lovely village, they cancel their island trip in order to spend a night or two here.
Things to do in Bali: Discover the secret beauty of Padang Bai
The main beach of Padang Bai is generally awash with colourful double outrigger fishing boats in the shape of a marlin. Either side of the main beach are two other hidden coves with nice, quiet white sand beaches. Blue Lagoon Beach is a great beach for snorkelling. The coral reef is right up to the shore and is very pretty. Be aware, at high tide there is no place for laying around at the beach. Bias Tugal Beach, also called Pantai Kecil (Little Beach), is a beautiful white sandy beach and the best beach in Padang Bai for swimming, though the currents can be strong.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the underwater wonderland around Padang Bai
There is good snorkelling in the bay, though the snorkelling at the Blue Lagoon or White Sand Beach is much better. Beware of the current and don’t snorkel alone – it’s easy to drift with the current and quickly find yourself far from the shore. Several small shops in the main street rent snorkeling equipment. They can also organise traditional jukung boats to bring you to the best spots. On a calm day expect lots of fish and great visibility. Padang Bai is also noted for its diving and the friendly dive centres are right on the beach with their own bars for after-diving refreshments.
If you need a break from the beaches, Padang Bai has five major temples: Pura Dalem, located downtown, Segara Temple, located next to the beach in between town and the main beach, Telagamas Temple, Silayukti Temple and Tanjungsari Temple, located in the eastern end of Padang Bai. Of the five, Silayukti is the most notable as one of the oldest extant temples on the island, dating back to the 11th century.
Padang Bai is a convenient base for a multi-day tour if you’re interested in exploring some of the wider attractions of East Bali. Accommodation tends to be quite basic and aimed at the backpacker market, but there are more upmarket options in town.
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy the pristine ocean, cliffs & caves of Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan: Nusa Penida was the once the island of exile for Klungkung’s criminals and home to the great fanged demon and the Dalem Peed temple, both associated with black magic. Now an increasing attraction for tourists, the islands still have limited facilities and accommodation for visitors, compared to the rest of Bali, but they offer great hiking with numerous caves to explore, excellent snorkelling, and world-class diving with coral gardens and challenging drift dives. Nusa Lembongan is connected to the smaller island, Nusa Ceningan by a long bridge, an island almost untouched by tourism and offering pristine landscapes and spectacular views.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the beauty of Nusa Lembongan
Things to do in Bali: Take a break from Kuta for Sanur’s quieter white sandy beaches
The eastern counterpart to Kuta (without the surf), a coral reef not far off shore does make a small wave break and also makes it possible to snorkel without boat access. White sandy beaches, dotted with resorts, bars, hotels, shops and markets – the vibe is a little more relaxed than the Kuta region with the tropical atmosphere of Nusa Dua. Standing on the shore, the big green island you can see on the horizon is Nusa Penida. You can reach the islands of Penida and Lembongan by ferry from here, and an express craft to Lombok Island (about 2 ½hrs) is also available from Sanur.
Sanur’s paved beachfront cycle-path stretches some 5 kilometres from the Jalan Mertasari area in south Sanur, north to the main beach at Jalan Hangtuah. This makes for a lovely scenic bike ride, especially in the early morning. Diving, snorkelling and all manner of boat trips are available from Sanur. Bikes, snorkels and masks can be easily hired from the beach.
Things to do in Bali: Discover ‘White Beach’, just north of Candidasa, a hidden gem in East Bali
The stretch of coastline from Manggis through the town of Candidasa itself and east to Bugbug is normally just referred to as Candidasa. This is a laid back, less touristy and very relaxing area of Bali. The black sand beaches are very narrow and often disappear altogether at high tide, but 5kms north east iof Candidasa is Pasir Putih, one of East Bali’s well-kept secrets, a long, white sand beach fringed with coconut palms. There are a few warungs (small shops) who rent sunbeds and umbrellas.
Things to do in Bali: Snorkel in Candidasa’s shallow waters for abundant coral & tropical fish
Candidasa offers good snorkeling with live coral in shallow waters. There are many small coves and bays to explore in this area. You’ll find many hawkers offering snorkeling tours to small nearby islands, Blue Lagoon and White Sand Beach. Or simply buy or rent a snorkel and mask in the town and snorkel near the beach.
Candidasa is also close to some of the most famous dive sites in Bali. Within one hour of Candidasa you will find the famous shipwreck USAT Liberty (Tulamben), Amed, Seraya (especially for muck-diving) and the nearby Padang Bai area. Along the front coast of Candidasa are the small islands of Biaha, Tepekong and Mimpang, with beautiful coral gardens. They offer superb but demanding diving which is only really suitable for more experienced divers. Currents here can sometimes be surprising.
Candidasa is also a good starting point for arranging a climb of Mount Agung. There are also numerous less arduous trekking options in the nearby hills.
Things to do in Bali: Visit Tenganan Bali Aga (tradtional) village
Located in the hills about 4kms from Candidasa, the strong community of Tenganan famously retains its ancient pre-Majapahit Balinese culture, known as the Bali Aga (literally, the original Balinese). There is another (distinct) Bali Aga community in the village of Trunyan on the shores of Lake Batur near Kintamani, but Tenganan is far more welcoming of outsiders.
The villagers maintain a strict adherence to ancestor worship, cosmology and other animist beliefs, as well as a rigid social organisation. Villagers must live inside the village and marry from within. Tenganan is closed to outsiders after dark. The dialect of Balinese spoken here is heard nowhere else. A local custom that has been become a popular tourist spectacle involves ritual blood sacrifice whereby combatants fight using thorned pandanus leaves, a ritual combat known as mekare kare and scheduled whenever there is an important temple ceremony in Tenganan. An elaborate feast follows.
Tenganan produces some of the finest woven basket-ware, and a fabled double weave ikat fabric, called Geringsing. This fabric is extraordinarily complex and fine pieces fetch enormous prices in the international markets. Collectors of Geringsing need very deep pockets.
Its possible to hike from this village to the stunning Tirta Gangga Water Palace, but we recommend using a local guide as the trail is not marked.
Things to do in Bali: Discover the beauty of Tirta Gangga Water Palace
Tirta Gangga Water Palace: A a popular side trip from the nearby coastal resort towns of Amed and Candidasa, sited beside the main road between these two locations. Tirta Gangga is a lovely maze of pools and fountains surrounded by lush gardens and stone carvings and statues. The centrepiece of the palace is an eleven tiered fountain, and the huge koi fish are stunning. You can bathe in the spring fed swimming pools for a small charge which is additional to the small entrance fee.
Things to do in Bali: Hike the postcard perfect rice terraces near Candidasa
The hiking around this area is excellent. You can just take a short stroll on your own along any well beaten track into the rice paddies or, for the more serious hikers, a full-on climb of nearby Mount Agung. The rice paddy terraces north of Tirta Gangga are stunning. Those postcard pictures of Bali rice terraces which you have probably seen are usually from photographs taken here.
Things to do in Bali: Visit Lampuyang Temple for its magnificent mountain views
Lempuyang Temple: is about 10 km east of Tirta Gangga on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang. This is one of the key nine directional temples on the island (the directional temples protect Bali from various directions). Park in the car park and walk up the steps to the temple. The lower temple is always open but the upper temple (at the top of the dragon staircases) is often locked, so it is best to go with a driver who will usually be able to arrange for the temple priest to open it up for you. It’s situated high up a mountain and there are magnificent sunset views at dusk.
Things to do in Bali: Visit the picturesque Taman Ujung Water Palace
Taman Ujung: Located southeast of Karangasem: A water palace not as spectacular as Tirta Gangga, but still a charming attraction.
Things to do in Bali: Access great diving and snorkelling from Amed
This once serene fishing and salt harvesting village has grown increasingly popular with tourists due to its stunning views of Mount Agung. Nonetheless, it retains the charm of a traditional and authentic fishing village, with the added bonus of abundant tourist facilities. Amed offers many nearby good dive sites, and is the most commonly used base for visitors wishing to dive the USS Liberty wreck at Tulamben. The black volcanic beaches with Mount Agung looming above make for an eerily beautiful sight as the sun drops behind the Mountain.
Traditional outrigger boats are available for fishing charters from the main beaches, normally involving early morning trolling for mackerel. Traditional sailing boats for diving, fishing, exploration, dolphin watching, snorkelling or just swimming and relaxing are also available for hire.
Accessible as a day trip, if you want to take advantage of the hiking, boating, diving and snorkelling opportunities that abound, we’d suggest an overnight stay. If you’re interested in touring from the east of Bali right across the northern coastal plains, a multi-day trip will give you the opportunity to explore a beautiful part of Bali away from the tourist hordes and off the ‘beaten’ trek.
West Bali is home to the iconic Tanah Lot in Tabanan, a tourist route with an array of sights and active things to do in Bali. The far west region between Negara and Gilimanuk, on the other hand, is a little off the usual tourist trek, but does have its attractions. West Bali National Park, a natural wonderland, is worth an over-night stay alone. And if you like the idea of’ taking the ‘path less travelled’, the far west affords an opportunity to experience a ‘different’ Bali with some unique cultural sights, including the exciting Makepung (bull racing).
Things to do in Bali: Feel the romance of Tanah Lot at sunset
Tanah Lot Temple: Probably Bali’s most visited temple, perhaps its most visited attraction, Tanah Lot has earned the name ‘iconic’. Mostly visited at sunset for the magical and romantic scene created as the sun slowly sinks into the ocean, projecting a glorious kaleidoscope of ever-changing the colour across the sky, and casting Tanah Lot in silhouette.
Tanah Lot is, however, well worth a tour during the day, even for a full day. The market complex is extensive with many vendors offering the same wares available in Kuta at lower prices, and a smattering of more up-market, Western type stores. You’ll also find a range of eateries and places to take a break and chill.
Swimming isn’t advisable with the vicious riffs and undertows created by the rock formations around Tanah Lot, but no harm in dipping a toe (maybe a little more) in the shallows to cool off.
Things to do in Bali: Explore Tanah Lot’s walking trails
The walking treks go on for miles and will keep you occupied for hours, giving you a variety of vantage points for the different viewing and photography perspectives of Tanah Lot. As an important and active temple, a day time tour of Tanah Lot may also reward with the spectacle of an elaborate ceremony in procession to the rock.
And, of course, to appreciate it’s name (Tanah Lot translates to floating temple), you need to see it at high tide when, seemingly cut off from its connecting rocks by the ocean, it certainly does look like a temple floating at sea.
Things to do in Bali: Stroll through Taman Ayun’s beautiful grounds
Taman Ayun Temple: Located at Mengwi village about 18kms west of Denpasar, Taman Ayun is a huge state temple surrounded by a moat and set in gorgeous landscaped gardens. Behind the elegant moat lies an outer courtyard, featuring expansive manicured lawns, sculptured hedges and tropical plants, and then an inner courtyard with a multitude of multi-tiered shrines.
Baha Village: A traditional village about 4km east of Taman Ayun, which is unique in the uniformity of the entrance gates of the family compounds. Combined with the traditional housing structure, this gives the village a fascinating appearance. The village temple is located at its southern end and is interesting for its ancient carvings.
Things to do in Bali: Make friends with an Iguana
Jaya Reptile Park: Located in Mengwi, the park covers more than 2 hectares of land and hosts many endangered species, such as the Komodo Dragon, and many kinds of crocodiles, pythons, cobras and various lizards. Visitors can watch ‘feeding time’ a snake and magic show, crocodile demonstrations, and a ‘Debus’ trance dance is also performed here.
Things to do in Bali: Visit Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest
Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest: A forest of about 12,000 hectares, and home to hundreds of monkeys and bats (which hang high up on the big trees and ‘sing’ with loud voices). The Dalem Kahyangan Kedaton Temple is located in the forest and is one of the more important and attractive temples amongst the thousands in Bali. It’s also very ancient, with pre-historic relics found here.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the unusal Sadha Kapal Temple
Sadha Kapal Temple: Interesting for its decorative carvings and famous for both intricacy and ingenuity. Originally a dynastic sanctuary of the Mengwi Royalty, it features a split gate, 16m high tower, and 64 stone seats (similar to megalithic ancestral shrines), which commemorate warriors who died in battle. The oldest of the Mengwi state shrines, this temple pre-dates Taman Ayun.
Things to do in Bali: Try a dirt bike adventure in the Tabanan region
The Tabanan area is the base for many dirt bike and ATV adventures, both fun things to do in Bali for the adventurous and suitable for most ages. Tabanan provides a multitude of terrains to explore, from sedate routes for novices to challenging options for the experienced.
Things to do in Bali: Explore Tabanan’s beaches & countryside on horseback
Horse-riding in this area is among favourite things to do in Bali, with tours including rides along the coast around Tanah Lot and through the countryside passing by rice paddies and rustic villages. Its possible to ride through the picturesque Bali rice terraces of Jatiluwih, situated on the slope of the southern part of Mount Batukaru in the north, all the way south to Tanah Lot for beach riding.
Things to do in Bali: Take a cyling tour, or just hire a bike and head off
Cycling is another great way to discover the natural environment around Tanah Lot and the Tabanan area. It also offers an opportunity for closer interaction with rural locals. Cycling is one of those things to do in Bali that is possible just about anywhere. There are numerous guided cycling tours available in the Tabanan area, or if you’d like to explore on your own, you can hire bikes and have them taken by your driver to wherever you want to start. It’s also easy to arrange meeting points in advance with your driver, so you can easily switch back to your vehicle when you’ve had enough.
Things to do in Bali: Surf Medewi or enjoy its secluded ocean sunset
Surfers looking for new challenges and escape from the over populated touristy vibe of Kuta have put Medewi Beach on the tourist map (just as they once did with Kuta!) Easily accessed from the Denpasar-Gilimanuk Road, a drive to Medewi Beach makes a nice road trip and the chance to see a path ‘less travelled’.
Perhaps for sun bathers, its black sand beaches would not put it high on their list of things to do in Bali. But if you’d like to experience a stunning surf ocean in a peaceful and serene location, Medewi has a lot to offer. The sun setting over Medewi is the same one setting over Kuta, only your more likely to feel you have it to yourself here!
Medewi’s increasing popularity with surfers has seen an expansion in the tourist facilities available, and you’ll find a host of restaurants, bars and hotels to suit every budget. This makes it both a beautiful and convenient place to stay if you’d like to explore the Bali’s far west for more than a day.
Things to do in Bali: View Java’s volcanoes from Gilimanuk
The far west of Bali is probably the least visited part of Bali. There are fewer historical sights, cultural performances and the landscape is more arid than the rest of Bali. However, the region does have its own appeal, with unique dance and gamelan forms, the exciting Makepung (bull racing), isolated, stunning sea temples, challenging surf, the vast natural wonderland of West Bali Bational Park, and a long stretch of coastal highway which affords endless views of a coast lined with rocky, black-sand beaches pounded by the surf.
Things to do in Bali: Take in a Jegog performance
The tradition of Jegog, a form of gamelan music played on instruments made of bamboo, originated in far west Bali. Although now found in other parts of Bali, you’ll find spectacular mastery of this cultural art form in this area.
Things to do in Bali: Take in magnificent ocean views while exploring Rambut Siwi
Rambut Siwi Temple:: Located near Negara near the Yeh Embang Village, a small shrine at the edge of the road welcomes visitors. Two hundred meters from the main road lies the main temple complex, perched high on a cliff at the edge of the ocean, affording magnificent ocean views. You can walk from one structure to another along a winding cliff top path, and you’ll also discover a labyrinth of stairways leading to various shrines.
When you reach the beach, look out for a cave in the cliff wall, marked by a small shrine at its entrance. At the mouth of the cave is a source of holy water, salt free despite its proximity to the ocean. Just beyond the cave, another stairway leads back up the temple.
A large open air performance pavilion and two gazebos set amidst lily ponds are excellent places to stop for a break and enjoy a panorama of rice fields and white wave crests rolling over the black sand coast line as far as the eye can see. For the views alone, if you plan to visit West Bali, put Rambut Siwi Temple at the top of your list of things to do in Bali!
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy the seclusion of West Bali’s surf beaches
Negara: Bali’s largest Western city. Travelling further west from Negara on, you’ll start to detect an increasingly Javanese feel to the area, as if the Balinese have relinquished this swath of land to the Javanese.
Things to do in Bali: Check out the local farming techniques
You’ll notice more mosques, Javanese-style wooden carts pulled by plodding water buffalo, and settlements are more likely to have typical Javanese names. However, Negara’s greatest attraction for visitors is Makepung, the sport of bull (water buffalo) racing, imported by the local Madurese population.
Things to do in Bali: Witness the exciting spectacle of Makepung
Having featured on a few Western documentaries, Makepung is increasingly making it on to tourists’ lists of things to do in Bali, and with good reason. It’s a very exciting and unique spectacle – and the water buffaloes are loved, not harmed. The water buffaloes (bulls) in each team are ranked prior to the race, and pitted against their counterpart on the other team.
In the yearly Makepung championship, two pairs run at a time, along a circuitous 4km route. Before the race, the bull’s horns are painted and their necks and harnesses decorated with silk ribbons. Each pair of bulls pulls a small two-wheeled cart (a modified ‘Cikar’) manned by a precariously balanced, brightly clad jockey. To gain speed the jockeys twist the bulls’ tails and lash their backs with whips, reaching speeds of up to 60kph (if you’re thinking ‘cruel’, think ‘horse racing’). Teams are judged for style, colour and strength, as well as speed, and the team with the most points takes the Cup. Championship times and place are available from the Dept of Tourism in Negara.
If you can’t time a visit to coincide with the official races, fortnightly races are also held for tourists on a special track near Perancak, 10km south of Negara. The course length and rules are identical to the real thing, but the competition lasts only an hour. You can also watch the rehearsals that take place every other Sunday morning.
There is also a cow race called the Magembeng which is more about the elegance and beauty of the cows rather than speed.
Things to do in Bali: Grab a fishing tip from the locals
Delod Berawah Village: Home to a sloping, black sand beach and a good location for recreation and swimming. On the northern side of the beach is a former rice field where traditional water buffalo races (Makepung) are regularly held.
Things to do in Bali: Watch local fishermen navigating traditional boats along the river
Perancak Temple: About 8 kms west of the Rambut Siwi Temple, Perancak Temple is interesting for its unusual construction from white rock, but its real appeal is its pretty location overlooking the Perancak River. Here, small traditional jukung and sampan boats can be seen quietly sailing between the coastal village of Perancak along the river towards Loloan, a unique Balinese village, being wholly Moslem and inhabited by Bugis seafarers who settled here at the end of the 17th century.
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy a picnic at pretty Perancak Temple overlooking the river
Things to do in Bali: Capture a unique photograph at Pengambengan Village
Pengambengan Village: A small fishing village, well worth a visit for the array of wonderfully colourful and uniquely styled boats at work here.
Things to do in Bali: See West Bali’s unique Christian communities
Blimbingsri and Ekasar: Both these villages are located near West Bali National Park and are unusual in that the inhabitants are mostly Christian, a rarity in Hindu Bali. A curious sight is the churches which are built in the Balinese architectural style, largely identifiable as Christian only by the crosses prominently perched atop the roofs.
The villagers have also incorporated Balinese culture and tradition into all their religious activities. For instance, on Christmas Day, the churches are decorated with Balinese decorations and people wearing traditional Balinese costume sing traditional Balinese songs.
There are both Protestant and Catholic sectors, which live side by side in harmony with each other, as they do and always have with the many neighbouring Moslem and few Hindu communities. It could be said that far west Bali presents a lesson for us all in religious tolerance.
Things to do in Bali: Stop at Bunut-Bolong for a cute photo opp
Bunut Bolong: A sacred and unique tree on the Denpasar to Gilimanuk road, about 86km north of Denpasar. Spanning both sides of the road, it has a massive archway cut through its centre to accommodate the two lane road – done because the spirits that reside in the tree refuse to move out and resisted all efforts to cut down the tree. The tree is guarded by the spirits of two tigers, symbolised by the statue on the south side of the tree – an impressive oddity that makes for a good photo stop.
Things to do in Bali: Catch the ferry to Java
Gilimanuk: Bali’s western gateway, runs ferries run between Java and here, with one leaving just about every minute. If you’re thinking of a shopping trip to Java, be warned – you might find slightly cheaper prices, but frenzied and congested Java makes Kuta seem like a serene village. On the other hand, if volcano exploration is high on your list of things to do in Bali, there are some quite spectacular volcanoes in Java, tours to which can be arranged from Bali, via the ferry from Gilimanuk.
You’ll find a wide range of mangrove, black sand, white sand, coral beaches in Gilimanuk and snorkelling from the shore gives easy access to an array of underwater coral.
Gilimanuk also features the Manusia Purba Museum, containing pre-Hindu, prehistoric artefacts which were found in an archaeological dig of the biggest necropolis found in Indonesia in Cekik. The ‘stars’ of the museum are two sarcophagus’s for a set of double jar burial, a unique burial system in which the second jar contains a skeleton of a man with hands tied behind his back, suggesting he was forcibly sent in to the afterlife to accompany the deceased in the first sarcophagus.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the natural wonderland of West Bali National Park
West Bali National Park: Covering more than 76,000 hectares, and spanning the west and north of Bali, West Bali National Park is a natural wonderland that would feature highly on a list of popular things to do in Bali, but for its distance from Kuta. Though reachable in a day, this wouldn’t leave time to really see much of the many natural gems hiding here.
If you have the time for an overnight stay, awaiting you is endless pristine forest and tropical jungle (home to an astounding array of flora and fauna, including rare species not found elsewhere in Bali), mountain streams, waterfalls, mangrove beaches with coral reefs off shore, hot springs, and more.
This massive national reserve can be accessed from Cekik of its western side, where guides are available for trekking, diving and snorkelling tours. You don’t need a guide to hike in the Park, and aren’t required to have one to enter, but they can make exploring a lot more interesting and informative.
Things to do in Bali: West Bali National Park – worth an overnight stay
Things to do in Bali: Lunch in the Kintamani caldera for stunning views
Kintamani tours are usually timed to arrive at the volcano around lunch time, enabling visitors to enjoy the surrounding panorama of the volcanic caldera and Lake Batur whilst relaxing over a leisurely lunch at one of the many restaurants sited around the Kintamani caldera.
Whilst this sort of tour is one of those ‘classic’ things to do in Bali, the charms of Kintamani up close can only be fully appreciated with a little more time for exploration. So you might want to consider spending a full day here or even an overnight stay, either instead of, or in addition to, the ‘standard’ type Kintamani tour, which devotes a lot of time to visiting a number of attractions along the route.
Things to do in Bali: Take some time and fully appreciate Kintamani
Of course, the major point of interest is without doubt the highland area around Kintamani, which is perched on the lip of Mount Batur’s crater and looks out over the spectacular crater lake, Lake Batur. The best view is from Penelokan, a little village to the west around the crater from Kintamani village, and from where the cone of Mount Batur smoldering away can be seen, as well as the black traces of past eruptions on the landscape of the crater. Penelokan is where most ‘standard’ Kintamani tours will take you as a viewing point.
However, despite the ever-present risk of eruption, the Kintamani caldera is well populated, and its villages, interesting sights, and many active experiences and adventures combine for an array of fun things to do in Bali.
Things to do in Bali: Visit Kintamani Village
Kintamani village: Located 1500 meters above sea level, with an average temperature of 24 degrees, is worth spending a bit of time at itself. Batur Temple, a huge complex of temples for the lake goddess, is perched on the crater rim in this village and takes time to fully explore, and the cooler temperature makes it pleasant to do so.
Things to do in Bali: Take in the eerie sight of Tegeh Koripan enveloped by mist
Tegeh Koripan: Beyond the village of Penulisan is an ancient and mysterious temple often hidden by mists and reached by a long flight of steps.
Things to do in Bali: Soothe away those aches after exploring Kintamani
Toya Bungkah: Taking a winding road which leads down into the crater to the edge of Lake Batur, you’ll find this complex of soothing hot springs on the edge of the crater Lake, which have been tapped off to create a magnificent spa complex.
Toya Bungkah can be included as part of a Kintamani day tour, but unless you structure a tour to spend a full day at Kintamani, there won’t be time for more than a fleeting look.
Toya Bungka is also a common overnight choice for those wishing to hike Kintamani at sunrise, and makes a perfect end to any hike with the warm, volcanically enriched waters soothing away the aches from your hike.
Things to do in Bali: Discover the unique and fascinating culture of Bali Aga
Trunyan Village: This traditional (Bali Aga) village lies on the bank of Lake Batur and is accessible only by motorised wooden boat from Kedisan Village. It takes about 30 minutes to cross the lake. The name Trunyan is derived from the smell of the fragrant tree of incence which grows in the village. The tree is of great cultural significance to the villagers because they ‘bury’ their dead by laying them on an open grave, faces open and covered only by white clothes, a unique burial method in Bali.
Be warned, some visitors report hostility from the locals, even though they depend on tourism for survival, and if you want a Bali Aga experience, the Tenganan Bali Aga near Casidasa in the east is known to be more welcoming of strangers. On the other hand, others rave about the alternative and stunning vantage point Trunyan offers for viewing the caldera and lake from a different perspective.
Things to do in Bali: Hike Kintamani to the summit or just take a stoll
Kintamani hiking: There are many walking treks around Mount Batur, which cradles the Kintamani Volcano. You can explore the lake area, any of the villages and the hilly terrain on foot with or without a guide, and maps of walking treks are available there. The Kintamani summit can be hiked any time of day, and doesn’t require a guide, but if you’re not an experienced hiker or want to do a sunrise hike (which requires an ascent by flashlight), we recommend using a guide.
Things to do in Bali: Experience nature at its best on the Kintamani summit at sunrise
If you want to experience the summit at sunrise, you will need to depart from the Kuta area around 1.30 – 2.00am, or stay overnight at Kintamani with a much later (but still pre-dawn) hike commencement. Your efforts will be rewarded with magical memories of an extraordinary sight – watching the sunrise from the summit is not only visually spectacular, most people can’t help but feel immersed in the mountain’s spirituality. Pre-dawn climbs also give you the best chance of avoiding the cloud which often envelopes the mountain from mid-morning onwards.
Regarded as an easy climb of about 2 hours, you don’t need to be in peak physical shape to complete this trek, but bear in mind you are still climbing and take your own physical health into account. There are two commonly used ascent routes. Both are about the same length, but by far the easiest is from Toya Bungkah itself, as more than half of the climb is through pleasant shady forest. The alternative route from Pura Jati is across ancient lava fields, where there is no shade whatsoever, and underfoot conditions can be harsh. Longer treks of up to 10 hours are also available. These get you right off the beaten path, and will appeal to more to serious trekkers.
Things to do in Bali: Cycle the Kintamani region
Kintamani cycling: A great way to see inland Bali up close and personal. Tour groups depart Kintamani mid morning and follow an undulating but mostly downhill route through the pleasant mountain and hill countryside between Kintamani and Ubud. Your guide will take you along quiet roads and back lanes, passing rice paddies and vegetable gardens, and through quaint rural villages.
Cycling offers an opportunity to engage with locals and witness the sights and oddities of everyday rural village life in a way often missed with car touring.
Taking in breaks along the way, including a lunch stop, cycling from Kintamani to Ubud with guide takes about 4-5hrs. Alternatively, bikes and equipment can be hired if you’d just like to cycle an hour or two on your own in the Kintamani region.
Things to do in Bali: See Kintamani from a different perspective
Kintamani canoeing: Trips launch on Lake Batur from Kedison Village, offering an alternative viewing perspective of the Kintamani caldera combined with an active adventure experience.
Things to do in Bali: Discover Kintamani’s hidden treasures (pic courtesy of Trip Advisor)
Kintamani canyoning: The ultimate outdoor experience for the very adventurous who want to get well off the tourist trek and discover the hidden heart of Balinese nature. Trips have to be booked before arrival, and can include abseiling, jumping and sliding down natural slopes, and swimming in white water of aquatic canyons.
Things to do in Bali for adrenalin junkies! (pic courtesy of Trip Advisor)
Things to do in Bali: Include a visit to Tegellalang rice terraces on your Kintamani tour
After leaving behind the traffic-congested Kuta-Denpasar area, the Kintamani route passes through lush, central Bali before taking in the scenic mountainous north east region, offering up along the way, a comprehensive taste of inland Bali in a day: cultural and artistic highlights, lush tropical forest, picturesque rice paddies and villages and, of course, shopping opportunities galore!
Things to do in Bali: Shop for traditional & contemporary stone work in Batabulan
Batabulan: A stone carving village, also stopped at for the Barong & Kris Dance performed here daily for tourists. This traditional Balinese dance is an insight into the pursuit of balance between good and evil which underpins every aspect of Balinese Hindu culture. Good is personified by the Barong Ketet, a strange, fun-loving creature in the shape of a shaggy semi-lion. Evil is represented by Rangda, a witch.
As is the case in most of the stories expressed in Balinese dance, with a little divine help, the hero ultimately triumphs over demonic spirits (a metaphor for the inherent goodness of mere mortals in perpetual battle with the temptations and weaknesses of the human condition?).
Things to do in Bali: Experience a fun & colouful cultural experience
After the dance, performers happily pose with audience members for photos. So it’s easy to view such cultural performances as solely ‘tourist-staged’ affairs, but Balinese dance is a central part of Balinese culture and dancers take their performances very seriously. The fact that they also earn a living at it, and happily accommodate tourists with photo opportunities, is simply a reflection of the tolerant and accepting attitude Balinese Hindus have for alternative belief systems.
Things to do in Bali: Find a bargain at Celuk, famous for its exquisite silver
Celuk: Bali’s largest and best known centre for silver and gold, particularly jewellery. Here, you can cut out the Kuta ‘middle-man’ and buy quality work at lower prices. Look out for stores a little off the main tourist drag – the quality and range is just as good, and the prices even lower, not just because they lack the street frontage, but also because they don’t pay as high a commission, or any commission, to tour operators.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the Art Market at Ubud
Ubud: Bali’s artisan-hub and a shopper’s paradise. From art to silver to stone to wood to batik, Ubud is home to the handiwork of some of Bali’s finest artisans. Its also world-renowned as a centre for physical and spiritual healing, and offers a range of active pursuits in its beautiful surrounding country side, as well as a vast number of dining options.
Things to do in Bali: Take a ‘green’ break in this enchanting monkey forest
Sacred Monkey Forest of Padantegal: the monkeys here are less aggressive than elsewhere in Bali (though still mischievous) and make for an entertaining stop just outside of Ubud. The forest houses three active temples – make your way to the one deep in the forest – it has a real ‘Indiana Jones’ feel to it.
Things to do in Bali: Try this famously expensive coffee & decide if it is special
Luwak coffee farm: These are farms where expensive coffee is produced from civet cat droppings. You’ll find them throughout Bali but the several in the Kintamani region are interesting for the additional crops harvested, such as passion fruit, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon grass, etc. Visits include free tasting of various flavoured coffee and tea, but you have to pay for the (pricey) Luwak coffee! Some people take exception to wild animals being caged to produce coffee, but coffee connoisseurs might want to add it to their itinerary.
Things to do in Bali: Learn about organic farming and the exotic crops grown in the region
Organic farm visits: a fairly recent addition to the eco-tourism landscape of Bali, these farms are usually stunningly pretty and it can be quite interesting, and educational, to learn how the local farmers keep their produce chemical free.
Things to do in Bali: Step inside a mountain and into a long distant past
Elephant Cave (Goa Gajah): Believed to be a very ancient Buddhist recluse, the monster’s head featured over the ornately carved stone entrance is said to resemble an elephant’s head (from a distance). Sited on the slope of a mountain, Goa Gajah features underground tunnels, elaborate stone carvings and attractive gardens. Some people find it interesting, others are put off by the ‘dank’ smell (perhaps unavoidable in an ancient underground labyrinth) and complain of overly aggressive touts (head down amd continue walking is the easiest way to minimise this nuisance – here, and anywhere else in Bali).
Things to do in Bali: Explore the central northern region of Bali
The Bangli area is actually part of the route to Kintamani and takes in many things to do in Bali that people like to include on a Kintamani tour. However, give some thought to how much time you want to spend driving as opposed to exploring when you’re adding stops to your itinerary.
Many of the attractions listed here are typically included on standard Kintamani tours, but this necessarily limits available time at the Volcano and its immediate surrounds.
If you want to appreciate a range of the attractions along the route and would also like to fully explore Kintamani itself, or try any of the activities on offer there, we’d suggest you consider an overnight stay or two separate day tours.
Things to do in Bali: Immerse yourself in the tranquillity of Penglipuran village
Penglipuran Village: Despite its appeal to tourists, Penglipuran remains a living, breathing authentic Balinese village, untouched by modernisation. Visually beautiful, the architecture follows traditional Hindu geometric principles. In accordance with the many traditional beliefs and rules they live by, the villagers are extraordinarily open and welcoming to all visitors. It is impossible to visit this place and be untouched by its serenity and spiritual feel. At around 600-700m above sea level, the cooler air also makes for a refreshing stop on any trip to Kintamani or Besakih.
Things to do in Bali: Explore Kehen Temple & take in the stunning views
Kehen Temple: a very ancient temple located at the southern foot of Mt Bangli, Kehen stands amazingly high with many stairs. Overlooking a smaller temple called Panyimpanan Temple, (considered to be a part of Kehen), its strategic location affords spectacular vistas of the surrounding countryside from every direction. Often referred to as ‘little Besakih’, it’s worth a visit for the views alone.
Things to do in Bali: Take a refreshing dip in the fountained bathing pools
Tirta Empul Temple: Usually included on the return trip in Kintamani tours as its complex of fountained bathing pools makes for a refreshing stop after a busy day. Divided into outer, middle and inner courtyards, Tirta Empul features impressive gardens, carvings, ponds, pools and fountains, as well as high standard tourist facilities and adjacent traditional markets.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the natural beauty of Tampaksiring
Tampaksiring: Home to Tirta Empul, this is also the site of the carved temples of Gunung Kawi. Tampaksiring is also of interest for the bone and coconut shell carving done here.
Things to do in Bali: Feed the fish at Gunung Kawi Sebatu
Gunung Kawi Sebatu: not a large temple by Bali standards, but one of the prettiest. Almost all the temple’s roofs are thatched of the black hairy part of the palm leaf. The shrine in the middle sits in a small pool surrounded by wall, giving the impression it’s floating.
The temple includes beautiful, spring fed, clear water ponds which visitors are welcome to swim in. The waters are regarded as holy and it is said feelings are healed here. Even visitors have said that upon entering with negative energy, the water turned from clear to milky white, and they exited feeling spiritually cleansed.
But whether you’re a skeptic or open to the mystical, it makes for a refreshing dip. And feeding the fish in the temple’s fountain is welcome and quite fun to do.
Things to do in Bali: Take a stoll amidst the picuresque Tegalalan rice terraces
Tegellalang Rice Terraces:: Postcard perfect rice terraces carved into the green undulating terrain make for a great photo opportunity on the return trip from Kintamani.
Things to do in Bali: Visit in the wet season for a fun & refreshing waterfall ‘shower’
Tegenungan Waterfall: Located at the Petanu River, about 20 minutes south of Ubud near Kemenuh Village. Its a low but impressively powerful waterfall in the wet season, and is set amidst a very green and pretty natural environment (probably not worth the stop in dry season).
There are separated male and female baths for swimming where the water comes down the hill, but you can reach the waterfall itself by taking a narrow path on the left side of the river. The water here is shallow and ropes attached to the rock help you get close enough for a ‘shower’ – as close to the waterfall as you want to venture.
Be warned there are many steps to descend to the base, but the waterfall makes for a refreshing final stop on the return from Kintamani, if your schedule permits.
Things to do in Bali: Venture off the tourist trek and discover this natural delight
Air Terjun Kuning: the name means ‘Yellow Waterfall’, and can be reached by road during a day trip to Kintamani or Besakih. Its a little off the usual tourist trek, and takes in some pristine country side ending at a 25m waterfall which comes from the Tudad Menagit River. Very close by is a forest occupied by thousands of monkeys and accessible to tourists for a small fee.
Sasana Badaya Art Centre: Supposedly a showplace for Balinese dance, drama, gamelan and the visual arts, this large arts centre is mostly quiet. But it’s well maintained, so it’s worth popping by in case one of the large ceremonies held here is on, or just to admire the grounds.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the Taro region of North Bali
Petang/Pelaga Village: Located approximately 32km north of Denpasar at 800m above sea level, and set in a beautiful rural landscape of native plants, horticulture, terraced rice fields and the Ayung River.
Things to do in Bali: Experience the thrills & spills of rafting on the Ayung River
Ayung River: home of most white water rafting operations in Bali – the only way to really appreciate the beauty of this river, which features several waterfalls, a river canyon of about 300m which is inhabited by thousands of bats, rare birds, monkeys, and a stunningly beautiful landscape. There are many rafting operators, though they all launch from the same point and follow the same route.
We recommend Bali Adventure Tours because of its renowned safety record. It also offers ‘5 star’ service from the start to finish with fast walk-through equipment outfitting and access to the river via safe, engineered steps, complete with hand rails and scenic viewing platforms. Given you’ll traverse some 500-odd steps down to the launching point, this is quite a benefit.
Lunch is always provided and included in the price and rafting can be done in the morning before lunch, or afterwards in the afternoon.
Rapids range from Grade 2 in the dry season to Grade 3 in the wet. Whether you are 5 or 65, a natural or a novice, white water rafting here is safe, exhilarating fun, and breathtakingly beautiful.
Whilst we recommend Bali Adventure Tours as the best, they are not the cheapest and there are several other rafting companies if you’re on a tight budget.
Things to do in Bali: Fall in love with an Elephant at Taro Elephant Safari Park
Taro Elephant Safari Park: About an hour’s drive north of Ubud. Their motto is ‘the original and the best’ and, if you’re looking for a magical, interactive experience with an elephant, we’re inclined to agree. Set in beautifully landscaped tropical grounds, the low entrance fee entitles you to spend as much time up close and personal with the elephants as you want. You can feed and cuddle them to your heart’s content (and no, you don’t have to buy the food to feed them), and their handlers will happily get them to pose with you for wonderful photo opps – including having an elephant don you with a flower circlet!
There’s nothing like an elephant’s trunk around your shoulder to feel really ‘cuddled’, and when you gaze closely into the eyes of these super intelligent creatures, something magical takes place within your heart!
The low entry fee also includes a brief but entertaining show, featuring elephants doing maths, playing football and basketball, painting, and performing various clever stunts, with a little fun audience interaction thrown in. The Park also features a superb restaurant overlooking the park with great food at reasonable prices, and luxury accommodation. Elephant rides through the grounds and adjacent farmland are available at an extra cost and, for an additional fee, you can help wash the elephants at the end. The Park also runs night safaris – highly recommended for romance seekers!
Taro is a world-class, world-renowned facility and has been visited and endorsed by a multitude of celebrities and animal conservationists, including the late Steve Irwin. Some people who visit are disturbed to see ‘off duty’ elephants with a chain around their leg, but this is done for their own safety (and to prevent them devouring the entire landscape!). Most people come away entranced and convinced the elephants are happy and loved and well treated by their handlers.
Taro started with an Australian man’s attempts to save a single Sumatran elephant and the fundamental conservation motivation continues to this day. Indeed, were it not for conservation based elephant tourism, the Sumatran elephant would be extinct in Bali by now. They must be doing something right as their ability to successfully breed elephants in captivity is second to none.
Things to do in Bali: Visit ancient Luhur Temple on Mount Batukaru
The Bedugul route offers up an array of scenic Bali touring in the Tabanan region and beyond, taking in picturesque rice terraces, rustic villages, Mount Batukaru, Bedugul, and stunning Lake Beratan. But scenic touring is only one of many things to do in Bali on offer along the Bedugul route.
Things to do in Bali: Make friends at the Sangeh Monkey Forest!
Sangeh Monkey Forest: The biggest and first monkey forest introduced as a tourist facility and unique in that it is set in a huge nutmeg forest. Nutmeg trees are not found anywhere else in Bali and their existence in this village remains a mystery.
Throughout the nutmeg groves and temple, tribes of monkeys dwell as honoured guests, but they’re also quite notorious thieves, so hold on to your sunglasses, caps and any other loose items.
Although the boldness of monkeys in Bali can be alarming, you can avoid any unpleasantness by not staring a monkey in the eye, which they perceive as threatening behaviour. If your not after a ‘close encounter’, it’s also a good idea to leave any food in your vehicle. They’ll smell it and this can encourage unwanted clawing at your gear.
Things to do in Bali: Discover the beauty of Tanah Wuuk, North Bali
Tanah Wuuk: : A beautiful river valley in Tukad Penet, about 1km north of the Sangeh Monkey Forest. It lies about 500m west off the main road, hidden behind rice fields. This green valley is very beautiful and tranquil. If you’re looking for relaxing things to do in Bali, it’s a perfect place for a picnic or gentle stroll through the river valley and Penet River.
Things to do in Bali: learn about local agriculture in Pelaga, North Bali
Nung-Nung & Pelaga Villages: About 45kms north of Denpasar, both villages are interesting if ‘agro’ or eco-tourism is one of the things to do in Bali which appeals. Farms cultivate vegetables, coffee, vanilla, corn and more, and offer instructional tours.
You’ll find The eco-driven horticulture of the area adds the beauty of the natural landscape and the farms have quite a charming atmosphere.
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy a natural shower at Nungnung in North Bali
Nung-Nung Waterfall: Accessible from the northern route to Bedugul, this 50m high waterfall lies at the end of short detour from the main road. It offers an excellent walking trail through almost unspoiled countryside. The 10km jungle trail from beginning to the base of the waterfall and back includes a number of steep steps, but it’s a rewarding hike.
Immerse yourself in the lush green foliage, boundless fresh air, the flow of the falls, perhaps the sound of bamboo gamelan playing from farmers’ huts, and then enjoy a refreshing dip in the natural pool at the base of the falls.
Hiking to the Nung-Nung waterfall is one of those lovely things to do in Bali which are both active and tranquil at the same time!
Things to do in Bali: Canoe or paddle on Lake Beratan in North Bali
Beratan Lake: Located just outside the town of Bedugul, the grounds around Beratan Lake are beautifully landscaped in a well developed tourist facility which affords magnificent views of the lake, the mountains behind, and the Ulun Danu Temple, shrine to the Lake goddess, which sits at the water’s edge.
The whole complex consists of four units surrounded by the Mount Mangu to the east, Mount Tertai Bang to the south and Mount Pohan to the east. The complex includes an extensive souvenir and clothing market, alfresco and indoor dining options and access to a range of activities, including fishing, paddle-boating and canoeing.
Visiting Lake Beratan is one of those things to do in Bali most people do only fleetingly, because of the distance and number of other attractions along the route. Once here, however, it’s quite likely you’ll wish you had more time to spend a few hours relaxing amidst its extraordinary beauty. So it might be worth considering two separate day tours if you want to fully appreciate the Bedugul route.Take a stroll or enjoy a picnic at North Bali botanic gardens
Bali Botanical Gardens: Located near Bratan Lake in a cool rain forest, a relaxing place to take a break or wander through the grounds, with an extensive array of native plants and collections from around the world.
Things to do in Bali: Take in the views of the twin lakes in North Bali
Twin Lakes (Buyan and Tamblingan): Located just north of Bedugul, worth the extra brief drive for the scenic viewing stop and photo opportunities. Local touts commonly frequent this stop offering giant pythons, bats and the like (quite tame) as props for your photos at a very small fee. Its rather worth it just for the experience of holding an extremely docile giant python, and does make for cute photos against a stunning background.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the traditional Bedugul market in North Bali
Bedugul: A traditional market town, supplying much of Bali’s fruit and vegetables. A visit to the Candi Kuning Market is a fascinating experience, and Bedugul also offers a range of good restaurants as an alternative to lunch at Lake Beratan.
Things to do in Bali: Discover Luhur Temple on Mt Batukaru, North Bali
Luhur Batukaru: An 11th century temple near Mount Batukaru, this is one of the directional temples (kayangan jagat) that protect Bali from evil spirits. The temple includes a 7-tiered meru in honor of the God of Mount Batukaru, Mahadewa, and is set in one of the most beautiful garden temples in Bali. The forest surroundings, serene atmosphere and silence add to the spiritual feel.
There seems to be a shrine around every corner of the complex and hidden away in the forest. A square pond to the east has a small island in the middle with a shrine which can only be accessed by local priests.
Things to do in Bali: Enjoy the spectacular views arround Jatiluwih, North Bali
Jatiluwih: A picturesque example of Bali rice terraces, and a site affording spectacular views. If you’d like to really take in the beauty of the surrounding country side, consider a 2hr horse ride from here all the way south to Tanah Lot on the coast for a bit of beach riding. This area is also home to Besikalung Temple, sited on the slope of the southern part of Mount Batukaru.
Things to do in Bali: Explore the Jatiluwih region in North Bali on a cycling tour
Another great way to really appreciate the beauty of this area up close is on one of the many cycling tours available. Cycling is one of those things to do in Bali that allow you closer interaction with more remote villagers.
If you’d prefer to explore on your own, it’s easy to hire bikes and take them with you by car to wherever you’d like to start from. You can arrange meeting points with your driver in advance, making a return trip unnecessary. This also allows you to switch back to your vehicle any time you decide you’ve had enough physical activity for the day!
Things to do in Bali: Try an ATV adventure in North Bali
If you’d like to include an adventure on your list of things to do in Bali, why not try an ATV experience available around the Tabananan region of north Bali. Its a fun and safe activity, and a chance to get really ‘off road’ and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Jatiluwih area of north Bali.
Things to do in Bali: Refresh & soothe yourself after a busy north Bali tour
Yeh Panas Hot Spring: Natural hot springs located on the slopes of Mount Batukaru at the village of Penatahan, and set amidst 2.1 hectares of tranquil terraced rice field by the banks of the Yeh Ho river. Yeh Panas features a complex of pools pumped with naturally hot and healing mineral water from deep within the earth.
The springs are hot because water seeps into the ground and is heated by magma, molten rock located beneath ground surface of the Earth. The Earth’s pressure then causes the water to again rise above the surface, forming a natural hot spring.
Amongst the natural pools you can choose to experience open cold or hot pools. If you’d like to feel like you have the whole place to yourself, and value seclusion when deciding on things to do in Bali, private pools are available for an extra charge.
Bali Butterfly Park: An extraordinary collection of colourful butterflies from all over Indonesia. The Park is dedicated to the preservation and study of butterflies, whilst also offering various handicrafts for sale made from butterflies and other insects! However, if you can get over the apparent contradiction, many people find it a quite magical experience.
Due to its distance from the Kuta area, tour operators rarely venture over the mountain passes separating this region from the south. As a result, fewer beggars and touts are found this far north, and so it offers a very different Bali experience to the touristy vibe of the south.
Most people who venture this far north come for the dolphins at Lovina. However, the area offers many things to do in Bali worth the extra time. And the winding coastal road offers dramatic and diverse ocean views, both east and west of Singaraja.
Things to do in Bali: Visit a Buddhist monastery
If you’re into road trips, and content to spend almost all of your time in a vehicle, it’s possible to tour far north Bali in a day. For that matter, it’s possible to traverse the entire circumference of Bali in a day. But don’t expect to spend much time outside your vehicle!
If you want to experience a range of things to do in Bali in its far northern region, consider a multi-day tour, or at least an overnight stay. This would open up for you the regions’ mountain hikes, rustic villages, waterfalls, hot springs, pristine marine and forest reserves, silversmiths, beach resorts of glistening black sand, a secluded coastline bordering a placid sea, world class diving and snorkelling destinations, distinctive temples seething with baroque carved figures, and a very different cultural landscape.
Things to do in Bali: Join the festivities in Singaraja
Singaraja: Bali’s largest northern city has a cosmopolitan air with many ethnic and religious minorities existing in harmony. Originally made Bali’s first capital by the Dutch, the city streets still feature a number of colonial buildings and Chinese temples.
Because of its geographic isolation from the densely populated south, the Singaraja region has developed distinct cultural differences in architecture, dance, art and social structures. For instance, the caste system is ignored and the social order is more family than communally oriented, as found in the south.
Things to do in Bali: Take a step into history at Gedong Kirtya
The Gedong Kirtya Library: Just outside the city of Singaraja, this historical oddity is worth a visit, being home to Bali’s largest collection of Lontar palm leaf books.
Things to do in Bali: Visit a royal family in their home!
The Royal Palace of Singaraja (Puri Agung Buleleng): Located close to the Lontar library, Gedong Kirtya, the palace is now open to the public and displays a number of pictures of Raja (Kings) of Buleleng in the old house where the Raja and his family used to live. The descendants of the Rajas still live here, so whilst perhaps modest for a royal palace, a visit is a chance to meet Balinese royalty.
Perhaps you’ll encounter H.R.H. Crown Prince Ngurah Ugrasena, grandson of the last Raja of Buleleng, Anak Agung Pandji Tisna. He ruled until 1950 and was also a well known novelist and the ‘founder’ of the tourist resort of Lovina.
Things to do in Bali: Take in a city tour
City statues of Singaraja: The city’s statues are many and are certainly very varied. Might we suggest a city tour with a traditional dokar (horse cart) – a perfect way to see most of Singaraja’s statues, and to absorb the atmosphere of the old town in an old fashioned way.
Singaraja Night Market (Pasar Anyar ): Located in the centre of the town, this market is certainly worth a visit, especially during the cool morning hours around sunrise. The market has two floors. Every morning hundreds of local people visit this rural market to shop for vegetables, fruit, fish, meat and offering flowers. You will also find a section here where you can buy clothes for real bargain prices (also open during day time).
Things to do in Bali: Refresh in the cool, natural spring water of Air Sanih
Air Sanih: Located 17 km east of Singaraja, this cool seashore destination has a tranquil black sand swimming beach. But the main attraction of Air Sanih is its natural swimming pool of fresh water filled from an underground spring. People believe that the water comes from Lake Batur, and there’s a temple by the pool dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Unlike most underground spring fed natural pools in Bali, the water is not hot, like Tanjar Hot Springs for instance. The cool, pure salt free water, fresh sea breezes and stunning vista over the Bali Strait make for a refreshing experience in a tranquil atmosphere.
Just 7km from Air Sanih is the ancient Ponjok Batu Temple, surrounded by hills, valleys and frangipani trees. Nearby the beach has freshwater springs which bubble up from the sand and run into the sea.
Things to do in Bali:See numerous waterfalls in one trail at Git-Git
Git-Git: About 11kms south of Singaraja, Gi-tGit is a 40m waterfall in a very pretty spot. The path is lined with souvenir stalls and persistent guides (which there is no need for – just say no and keep walking).
About 2kms from GitGit further up the hill, you can see another Git-Git multi-tier Waterfall, accessible by a good walking trek.
The path crosses a narrow bridge and follows the river past several sets of waterfalls through the verdant jungle. You’ll encounter numerous swimming spots along the trail.
Things to do in Bali: Rejuvenate in the healing waters of Munduk waterfall
Munduk: A 30m waterfall said to contain health properties. The high sulphuric content of the water is supposed to rejuvenate the skin and help with skin problems like dermatitis.
Visitors are welcome to swim in its waters, except when it’s raining – due to risk of landslide. There is a simple traditional hut near the waterfall, sometimes used by visitors for meditation after a visit to the falls.
Munduk village itself is situated on a hill 1500m above sea level and surrounded by breathtaking views, especially at sunset.
Things to do in Bali: Take a natural shower in the gentle cascade of Les waterfall
Les Waterfall: Located 38km east of Singaragja, this 30m waterfall overlooks green hills and untouched nature. The water follows a unique slope before landing in a pool at its base and, because it cascades from one rock to another before reaching the base, the ‘shower’ is gentler than other waterfalls, offering visitors a great natural massage from the gently pounding water.
Les Village also has a beach and snorkelling and diving access to a magnificent underwater wonderland.
Things to do in Bali: Experience a close encounter with a dolphin and fall in love!
Lovina: Located about 10km from the city of Singaraja, one of the more developed tourist destinations in the far north, and therefore offering a wide range of accommodation and restaurants for all budgets, an assortment of bars and a high standard of general tourist facilities.
Lovina is most known and visited for dolphin watching which, given the pre-dawn start, requires an overnight stay. As with all wildlife, there are no guarantees you will get to interact with or even see dolphins, but the chances at Lovina are pretty good!
Things to do in Bali: Soothe away your stress & aches at Banjar hot springs
Banjar Tega Hot Springs: Located about 10 kms from Lovina at Banjar Village, the hot spring waters are believed to be curative but, at a minimum, are certainly relaxing.
Eight carved sandstone ‘nagas’ spew water from a natural hot spring into the first pool, which then overflows (via the mouth of five more ‘nagas’) into a second larger pool. In a third pool, water pours from three meter high spouts to give a pummelling massage. The water is slightly sulphuric and pleasantly hot, so is perhaps more enjoyable in the morning or evening, rather than the heat of the day.
Banjar Hot Springs are best visited, if possible, during the week as the hot springs are very crowded by locals and visitors on weekends. Facilities include change rooms and a variety of shops and eateries, and the whole area is beautifully landscaped with lush tropical plants.
Things to do in Bali: Meditate at a Buddhist monastery in Hindu Bali!
Brahma Arama Vihara Buddhist Monastery: About 2 km from Tanjar Hot Springs near Tegeha Village. Not what you expect to see in a Hindu country, but Balinese Hinduism is actually a mix of Hindu, Buddhism and Animism, and the Buddhist influence is very strong.
The Monastery is colourfully decorated and features very bright orange roofs and Buddha statues, whilst the buildings feature Balinese decorative carvings. To the right on the top, you’ll see the small Borobudur, an area to relax and take in a beautiful view of Lovina Beach and the ocean.
This is an active monastery and visitors should respect the quiet required for the meditation practice occurring throughout. Like Hindu temples, a sarong is required to enter.
West Bali National Park: Covering more than 76,000 hectares, and spanning the west and north of Bali, West Bali National Park is a natural wonderland that would feature highly on any list of amazing things to do in Bali, but for its distance from Kuta.
Though reachable in a day, this wouldn’t leave time to really see much of the many natural gems hiding here. If you have the time for an overnight stay, awaiting you is endless pristine forest and tropical jungle (home to an astounding array of flora and fauna, including rare species not found elsewhere in Bali), mountain streams, waterfalls, mangrove beaches with coral reefs off shore, hot springs, and more.
Things to do in Bali: Explore West Bali National Park on horseback
Although parts of the park can be accessed by vehicle, you can explore deeper by hiking or on horse back. Various guided tours are available if you’d like expert commentary on the flora and fauna. These are usually offered from Labuhan Lalang. You don’t need a guide to hike in the Park, and aren’t required to have one to enter, but they can make exploring a lot more interesting and informative.
Though the surrounding coastal area is notable for its absence of hawkers, and its more relaxed spacious feel, you’ll still find a range of tourist facilities, including accommodation from budget hostel type to 5 star luxury villas, as well as bars, restaurants and shops – though don’t expect to see the variety of goods and extensive shopping markets which characterise the south. For some people, a Bali not dominated by tourist driven trade is a welcome and pleasant experience.
Things to do in Bali: Explore some of the best snorkelling in the world, safely and easily
Menjangan Island: A 30 minute boat ride from Labuhan Lalang, this island inhabited only by monkeys and deer (menjangan means deer in Indonesian) is part of West Bali National Park. But for the tyranny of distance, this home to some of Bali’s best best diving and snorkelling would surely be at the top of any list of things to do in Bali. If you have time for just one overnight tour whilst in Bali, we highly recommend including a snorkelling or diving adventure off Menjangan Island.
Snorkelling gear shops for renting equipment are available at Labuhan Laland, along with local restaurants and souvenir shops. Menjangan Isand has the best wall diving in Bali, with a very bright and colourful underwater world. Its sheltered position also means consistently calm and clear conditions provide great visibility – in a sea coloured as if copied from a post card.
Things to do in Bali: Discover an underwater wonderland
You’re guaranteed to encounter hordes of friendly, inquisitive tropical fish. And one of the great bonuses of snorkelling here is that the boats follow the current. So instead of having to expend any effort swimming, you can simply allow yourself to drift with the current knowing your boat is following safely behind, ready to pick you up any moment you wish.
Things to do in Bali: Drift with the tide while your boat follows
The reef extends from very deep to very shallow water, so you’ll find plenty of coral to explore just floating along the water’s surface, if you’re not comfortable holding your breath and swimming downward. Even the most nervous swimmers will find this a safe and comfortable way to explore the marine underworld. You are never very far from the shore of the island and your guide will happily stay close to your side if you wish.
Menjangan Island is home to an active temple, Pulaki, so you’re likely to see locals here if any ceremonies are underway when you visit, Pulaki is built on the side of a cliff facing the sea, and features an impressive statue of Ganesha (Elephant God) majestically perched cliff top. The island’s natural environment is arid and rather barren (for Bali), and the monkeys survive on the food given to them by sympathetic visitors, so share a crumb or two if you lunch here.
There sea between Menjangan Island and the mainland is home to many commercial fish farms. If your boat operator is happy to make a stop, the workers are friendly and welcoming with visitors and it can be quite interesting to see how these ‘farms’ operate.