Bali has it all - beautiful beaches, incredible food, culture and a never-ending list of areas to explore!
AsiaIndonesia14 days / September - October 2019
Highs & Lows
The Nusa Islands and the food. Bali is the place to go for affordable, healthy vegan options!
The crowds. Some of the attractions had a 2 hour + wait to take photos so I didn't bother.
Bali is top on my list of destinations I will always return to. After spending two months in Bali, I have put together a two-week itinerary that includes something for everyone, including culture, food, relaxation, nightlife, adventure and tons of insta-worthy photo ops! This itinerary also includes some of Bali's lesser-known hidden gems for those who are looking for a quieter getaway and exploring off the beaten path.
We'll start by visiting Bali's famous rice fields and learning more about Balinese culture in Ubud, climb an active volcano, chase waterfalls in Northern Bali, eat and surf in Canggu, explore the Nusa Islands and end our trip relaxing in Uluwatu at one of Bali's most famous luxury resorts.
Located in the center of Bali, Ubud is home to some of Bali's most famous attractions including the Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Monkey forest and Ubud Water Palace as well as hundreds of yoga retreats.
It's central location also makes it an ideal place to stay before hiking Mount Batur as it is only 1 hour away vs 1 hour and 50 minutes from Seminyak.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Bali's most popular attraction and largest rice field is a must-see - it is a truly awe-inspiring man-made wonder. As this place is extremely popular, I recommend waking up early and getting there 30 minutes before it opens to avoid the crowds. Once inside, you can pay around 250,000 IDR for the Bali jungle swing and feel like you are flying across the fields!
Bali Water Temple
Tirta Empul Water Temple is dedicated to the Hindu water God Vishnu and its purification pools are believed to cleanse the soul and ward off evil. Visitors to the temple can participate in the cleansing ceremony, which involves wading in the pool and submerging your head under the water that flows down. If you visit, make sure to bring a swimsuit or a change of clothes to wear under your sarong.
One of my favorite tours in Bali was a cycling tour with Bali Eco Cycling. This half-day educational tour takes you away from the tourist center to learn more about local Balinese culture by cycling through secret back roads and exploring the countryside. The tour stops at a coffee plantation to learn how coffee is made, a rice plantation, a local temple and ends with a group lunch of traditional Balinese food. Cycling through the countryside was a nice change of pace after visiting the major tourist destinations and offered a great insight into local Balinese life.
If you're looking for a challenge, hiking Mount Batur, an active volcano is well worth the effort! The most popular time to hike is just before sunrise. Note that you must hike Mount Batur with a guide (this is easiest if you book through a tour where they also pick you up). The hike is a few hours and I recommend wearing proper walking shoes and bringing a jacket for the top, as it is quite cold and windy.
Wind down at the end of the day by taking a yoga class at one of Ubud's many yoga studios.
Head up to Northern Bali and spent a few days relaxing at Munduk Moding Plantation Nature Resort & Spa, a luxurious resort overlooking a coffee plantation with one of the best infinity pools in Bali.
The drive from Ubud to Munduk Moding Plantation is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes however, there are several stops worth visiting along the way. Note there is an admissions fee at each of these sites.
Aling Aling Waterfall
If you're feeling adventurous, Aling Aling has 3 waterfalls you can visit, including a waterfall you can slide down and 5, 10, and 15-meter cliffs jumping platforms.
Leke Leke Waterfall
Nestled deep in the jungle, Leke Leke is worth the trek as it is a unique and beautiful waterfall surrounded by ivy.
Git Git Waterfall
Another stunning waterfall in Northern Bali. You can even swing into this waterfall!
Handara Golf Course Gates
Handara golf course has gates that look similar to the famous Gates of Heaven, without the crowds. These gates are a good alternative if you want a photo with the gates but don't want to spend several hours waiting in line.
Canggu is located south of Seminyak, a trendy area in Bali filled with luxury hotels and spas, popular restaurants and nightclubs and boutique shopping, and has a more laid back, beach culture vibe for those who want to relax and learn how to surf, while still being close to the action. I recommend spending a few days in Canggu and taking a day trip to Seminyak to visit their shops and beach clubs.
If you want to surf Canggu has plenty of surf schools as well as rental stalls located along the beach. Several hostels and Airbnb's also have in house surf instructors and can coordinate lessons for you.
Both Canggu and nearby Seminyak have everything from markets to local shops to high-end boutiques.
Eat and Drink
Canggu has tons of healthy, delicious, Instagram worthy cafes and beach clubs. I recommend the following restaurants and bars:
I Am Vegan Babe - My favorite for vegan food. They have a large variety of international and western-style vegan dishes
Motion Cafe - Healthy, fitness-oriented food, including all-day protein waffles
Give Cafe - Indonesian style vegan food, all proceeds are donated and you can choose where to donate the proceeds from your meal.
Crate Cafe - Very affordable and tasty western-style breakfast and lunch options
The Lawn - An all-day lounge/beach club on an expansive outdoor astroturf
La Brisa - A very popular beach club, it is expensive but is beautifully decorated and has a great view for watching the sunset
The Nusa Islands (Penida, Lembongan and Ceningan) are located just off the coast of Bali and offer stunning beaches and breathtaking views you won't find anywhere on the mainland. To get to the Nusa islands, you will need to drive to Sanur and take the ferry to either Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan. There are ferries that travel between Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan however, Nusa Ceningan is only accessible by motorcycle from Nusa Lembongan. Note that the roads on the Nusa islands are steep, bumpy, and not well developed. If you are not comfortable driving a motorcycle, there are several tour operators that will pick you up at the dock and take you around. Also, be prepared that the boat ride from Sanur to Nusa Penida can be extremely bumpy if you get seasick easily.
Nusa Penida is the largest and most developed of the three islands.
On the west side of the island, destinations to visit include Kelingking Beach, Crystal Bay (popular for snorkeling), Broken Beach and Angel's Billabong (a natural pool with rocks on either side).
The east side of the island is home to Diamond Beach and Atuh Beach. On the way to Diamond Beach, you can pay to swing over the ocean. and take photos in the nests suspended over the water.
It takes approximately an hour to drive from the west side to the east side of the island so I would recommend spending one day exploring the west side and another exploring the east.
Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan
Nusa Lembongan and Ceningan are connected to one another and can be visited together as a day trip from Nusa Penida.
Once you get there, visit the Devil's Tear and be mesmerized by the power of the ocean, drive across the yellow bridge to Ceningan Island, and have lunch overlooking the Blue Lagoon. There are several cute beach bars on the island where you can have a drink while sitting on a hammock over the ocean.
Recharge before you head home at Bali's 5-star Ayana Resort and Spa, located on a cliff overlooking Jimbaran Bay. The resort has its own private beach, multiple infinity pools, and 19 restaurants and bars, including the iconic Rock Bar.
The resort is close to Uluwatu, a stunning surf town known for its cliff-top views and pristine beaches. It is also a prime surfing destination for advanced surfers. Leave the resort for a day and head to Uluwatu to check out the following attractions:
A beautiful temple located on the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. There are also monkeys roaming around the jungle - great for photos but make sure to hold on tight to your phone, sunglasses and camera! Note that you will need to have your shoulders covered and wear a sarong to enter.
One of the most beautiful beaches on mainland Bali as well as one of Bali's most famous surfing destinations.
A popular rooftop surf bar and beach club with an incredible view for sunset.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
I would have stayed longer on Nusa Penida to go snorkeling and climb down to Kelingking beach (we ran out of time). I also would not have stayed at the Yoga Barn as it was expensive for what I got and Bali has lots of nice, affordable Airbnb's.
Anything go wrong during the trip?
My debit card got copied in Canggu when I withdrew cash (card skimmers are common on the ATM's there). My bank canceled my card and I was unable to withdraw cash for the rest of my trip. As Bali operates primarily in cash, I'd recommend withdrawing most of your cash when you arrive at the airport to avoid this, as well as having a backup card.
Rock Bar in Jimbaran Single Fins in Uluwatu I am Vegan Babe in Canggu Motion Cafe in Canggu Give Cafe in Canggu Kynd Cafe in Seminyak
Tips you would give a friend?
Hiring a local driver (ask a friend or ex-pat for recommendations) can be more cost-efficient than taking a taxi and they often can act as a tour guide/drive you around for the entire day. Bali also has lots of cute Airbnbs that are great affordable alternatives to hotels.
Pack a good pair of walking shoes/sandals and clothes that won't get ruined if you sweat. It can get really hot and humid. Also, take a jacket if you plan to explore the north of the island. Pack light for the Nusa Islands as your suitcase will need to be carried into the ocean and onto the boat.
Download Gojek (Bali's version of Uber) and Bluebird Taxi apps to book a ride from your phone. If you plan on renting a motorcycle, make sure you have an international driver's license. Police may pull you over and fine you if you are caught driving without one.
I arrived at the Gates of Heaven around 7:30 a.m. and there was already a 2-hour wait to take a photo so I left without one. The gates are 2 -3 hours from Seminyak/Kuta/Canggu so I'd only visit if you are staying close enough to get there very early.
I booked directly through Airbnb or Expedia.