This summer I spent two weeks in Bali - Indonesia.
Besides being blocked four days in Kuala Lumpur due to a Volcanic eruption in Java that cancelled multiple times my flights, I was able to spend what I can recall as my best vacation ever.
Bali is a truly magical place. The Indonesian isle seems suspended in time.
There are so many things to do and so many breathtaking locations to see that, for the first time in my life, I can't wait to go back.
For those who know me, I often fine-tune my stays so to get the most out of my trips.
I hope you will find very useful the following list of "can't be missed locations" I wrote down.
Before leaving buy a guide, I warmly suggest the Bali & Lombok guide by Lonely Planet. The guide offers great highlights and tips on Bali, the Gili Islands and Lombok.
Divide your stay in to two distinctive areas: Discover and Relax.
Bali is outstanding when it comes down to relax and shift away from all the stress you may have. There are some truly unique locations that can't be missed. And fortunately for you wallet, most of them are cheap.
For the purpose of this guide I'll split the guide in to three parts. One for each location where I stayed. They all served as great starting points for my daily tours.
There is one thing you'll learn to hate in Bali: Traffic.
If you stay away from Seminyak things do get a bit better, however, when moving around, keep in mind that you'll spend far too much time blocked in the traffic.
Wherever you decide to stay, find a driver and bargain a bit to get a good deal on a personal driver for the whole day for less than $30.
If you, like me, landed in Bali after an extremely long trip, you should be craving for some relax.
Nusa Dua, located in the south-est area of the island, is probably the most tourist area of the island. The main difference between Seminyak, another tourist-only location, is that Nusa Dua is mainly an enclave of luxury resorts. Spending three days here means rejuvenating. I wouldn't do anything besides relaxing at a day Spa (such as the Jari Menari) and possibly going snorkelling.
Manta Ray bay
I suggest waking up at least one day early, get a taxi to Sanur and find a boat to Nusa Peninda.
Most likely you'll spot some mastodontic Manta Rays.
A remarkable experience.
If you're lucky enough you might even spot Mola molas (Sunfishes).
Their characteristic body shape is unique and is about the most peculiar sight you might encounter while diving.
The Secret Waterblow location
Envision majestic Indian Ocean waves crashing against rock cliffs – have you ever seen a waterblow in person? Visit the hidden rock cliff in Nusa Dua to witness one of nature’s prettiest sights.
Location: Nusa Dua Beach, Semenanjung Nusa Dua, Badung, Bali 80517 - Located near Hotel Grand Hyatt, find the wide grass field, then follow the path to the waterblow entrance.
Where to stay
The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa: Ideally situated in Bali’s southern peninsular of Nusa Dua, the Laguna Bali offers exceptional tropical paradise experience with unrivalled beachfront sophistication and authentic Balinese hospitality. The visual delight of the Great Indian Ocean meets an uninterrupted stretch of pristine white sand beach provide the setting for a tranquil collage of vivid tropical gardens and sparkling lagoons.
Stretched over 5000 square meters and entwined by seven turquoise blue lagoons and pools, this historic Nusa Dua resort offers 287 alluring guest rooms, suites and palatial villas with large private pools, showcasing contemporary interpretation of indigenous architecture. Modern conveniences of complimentary Wi-Fi and on-call 24-hour Butler service completes an inspired stay.
The heart of Bali. Try to stay here as more as possible. You'll not regret it.
Located amongst rice paddies and steep ravines in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency, Ubud is one of Bali's major arts and culture centers.
Get to know the surroundings, have dinner in one of the many restaurants. Relax a bit and if you get there early enough go to see the Kekak Dance at the Ubud Palace.
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
The Ubud Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and Hindu temple complex in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Its official name is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary(Balinese Mandala Suci Wenara Wana), and its name as written on its welcome sign is the Padangtegal Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The Ubud Monkey Forest is a popular tourist attraction and is often visited by over 10,000 tourists a month.
The Monkey Forest lies within the village of Padangtegal, which owns it. The village's residents view the Monkey Forest as an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation center for the village.
Elephant Cave Goa Gajah
Known as the "Elephant Cave", Goa Gajah seems strangely free from elephants until you realize it takes its name from its proximity to the Elephant River. Goa Gajah's key attraction is the menacing entrance to the cave - the surrounding rock has been carved into a face, mouth agape.
The interior of the cave features a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha and a worship area devoted to the Hindu god Shiva. Goa Gajah probably dates back to the 11th century, and is mentioned in a poem that dates back to the 1300s.
After enjoying the Goa Gajah ask your driver to travel towards the Tegenungan Waterfall. Just remember to bring your swimming suit. Head down the numerous steps and you’ll be greeted with a magnificent view of the waterfall.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, or Pura Bratan, is a major Shivaite and water temple on Bali, Indonesia. The temple complex is located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedugul. It's probably among the most popular temples in Bali and you'll be surrounded by swarms of tourists. But if the weather conditions are great, be sure to take back home some outstanding photos.
Batik, wood carving and Kopi Luwak coffee
I'm sure you crave to find some souvenirs to take back home. Ask your driver to head up to a Batik shop. The word batik originates from the Javanese tik and means to dot. To make a batik, selected areas of the cloth are blocked out by brushing or drawing hot wax over them, and the cloth is then dyed.
Right after that you may decide to visit a wood carving center and gaze upon the wonderful art of carving wood sculptures.
Last but not least, you can't miss a visit to a coffea plantation.
Sip on a wide variaty of teas and try the Kopi Luwak Coffea. Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, refers to the coffee that includes part-digested coffee cherries eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet. Sounds disgusting, but it's not that bad after all.
Tegallalang Rice terraces
Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud is famous for its beautiful scenes of rice paddies involving the subak (traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system), which according to history, was passed down by a revered holy man named Rsi Markandeya in the eighth century. Tegallalang forms the three most splendid terraced landscapes in Ubud's shared region, with the others being in the villages of Pejeng and Campuhan.
Tegallang alone has an outlook that spreads down before you and away to the rice terraces on the slopes across the valley. The high roadside location is cool and breezy and it is a well-known spot for tourists to stop and take photos. Painters and nature lovers also enjoy visiting this spot, and there are numerous art kiosks and cafes near the ledge offering their ware.
Location: North of Ubud - Tegallalang is half an hour's drive north of Ubud. From the main Ubud art market, head east to the large statue intersection and head further up north.
Located about a mile south of Tampaksiring, Bali's "Valley of the Kings" is located in a ravine between ricefields. The Pakerisan river flows through this ravine, and the cliffs flanking the river feature shrines carved into the stone honoring kings and queens from the 11th century. The Balinese - big believers in the holiness of water - believe that the river sanctifies Pura Gunung Kawi.
The sacred spring that feeds Tirta Empul provides holy water for priests and bathing for ordinary Balinese, who believe that a dip hereabouts can bring good fortune and health. An offering must first be made at the temple before you can climb into the long main pool to bathe and meditate.
Location: Near Tampaksiring, accessible via Ubud. The temple can be visited together with Pura Gunung Kawi nearby.
Looking for a unique experience? Mount Batur volcano is one of the sacred mountain according to Hindu believe. Mount Batur is located in Batur village, Kintamani District, Bali, Indonesia. Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is 1717 m above sea level can be summited by physically fit hikers in around 2 hours.
Mount Batur Bali is an active volcano that draws tourists in with both beauty and promise of Bali adventure Tours. We offers climb Mount Batur Bali to enjoy an unforgettable sunrise from the top of an active volcano. Spectacular scenery and the vibration of the sacred earth filling your mind and soul as u served by tasty morning breakfast cooked by the steam of the active volcano.
Pura Besakih is a temple complex in the village of Besakih on the slopes of Mount Agung in eastern Bali, Indonesia. It is the most important, the largest and holiest temple of Hindu religion in Bali, and one of a series of Balinese temples. Perched nearly 1000 meters up the side of Gunung Agung, it is an extensive complex of 23 separate but related temples with the largest and most important being Pura Penataran Agung. The temple is built on six levels, terraced up the slope. The entrance is an formed by a Candi Bentar (split gateway), and beyond it the Kori Agung is the gateway to the second courtyard.
Where to stay:
Four Season Sayan: Recognised as one of the world’s very best resorts on Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List 2012, Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan provides the peaceful paradise you need to really get away from it all. Explore this season’s special offers and exclusive packages to plan a retreat that includes ayurveda-inspired spa treatments, authentic local cuisine, and a two-level pool that follows the natural contours of the sacred Ayung River.
Pro Tip: If you're travelling with your loved one, book a romantic dinner on the top of the lily pond. It was the peak of our vacation.
Hanging gardens of Ubud: Located just 30-minute drive from the Ubud’s town center and nestled deep in the heart of Ubud’s rich rainforest preserve, this enchanting five star luxury resort on 3.2 hectares has 44 private suites and individual villas, each enhanced by its own granite infinity pool, rippling into the jungle below.
Each villa is designed with traditional Alang Alang thatched roofs in complete harmony with nature. In 2014, TripAdvisor and Condé Nast Traveller named our Twin-Tiered Cascading Pool as the World’s Best Pool, and number one honeymoon destination in Bali by Condé Nast Traveller. Hanging Gardens Ubud, Bali recognized as number one in the list of the 40 Most Unique Pools From Around The World by Architecture and Design in 2015.
Pondok villa Sebatu: You don't have to spend an enormous amount of money to fully enjoy Ubud. Many resorts and villas are very wallet friendly. My choice goes to Pondok Villa Sebatu. Pondok Sebatu Villa Ubud Bali is one of the Joglo Style Villa In Ubud, Located in a historical village Named Sebatu Village, Tegalalang, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali with famous temple called Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is both a major Balinese temple - one of the six sad kahyangan revered by all Balinese - and the site of a nightly kecak performance that re-enacts the Ramayana through chanting half-naked men, masked actors and a dramatic fire-dance.
Location: eleven miles south of Kuta. 8°49'37.7908"S, 115°5'4.5722"E (Google Maps)
Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot stands on a rock some distance from the shore, towering over the sea. Access to the temple is limited to low tide; even so, this picturesque temple is barraged by visitors.
Location: Accessible via Ubud or Denpasar. The temple can be visited together with Pura Taman Ayun nearby.
Taking the concept of "on the rocks" to a whole new level, this innovative open-top bar is perched on natural rock 14 meters above Jimbaran Bay and accessed via an inclinator that traverses the cliff-face. Rock Bar is located along the 1.3 kilometer coastline of AYANA Resort and Spa Bali, a 90-hectare property featuring 78 private luxury villas and a 290-room hotel. It has been heralded as Bali's best bar and one of the world's best, by authoritative sources including CNN, Forbes.
Location: AYANA Resort and Spa Bali - Jl Karang Mas Sejahtera, Jimbaran - Bali, Indonesia – 80364
Clubbing in Kuta
Kuta rose to international fame from surfing hype and its golden sand beach, but once the sun sets you’ll find an exciting nightlife scene with its wealth of bars, clubs and sunset chill-out spots. Some are outright late clubbing venues that are open as late as 04:00 in the morning, while others are great bars that transform into livelier spots with exhilarating dance floors and resident and international guest DJs spinning their best beats to a play of colourful lasers.
View a selection of the top 10 nightlife clubs on Bali-Indonesia: http://www.bali-indonesia.com/top10/top10-nightlife-kuta.htm
Tegal Wangi Beach
Soak in a ‘Jacuzzi’ on the Tegal Wangi Beach
Another wonder of nature that should not be missed – make your way to Tegal Wangi Beach. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by this gorgeous escape.
Location: Jalan Pura Tegalwangi, Badung, Jimbaran - Walk down the hill from Pura Tegalwangi
Where to stay
Ayana: The award-winning AYANA Resort and Spa Bali is a world-class destination resort located on 90 hectares of cliff-top land perched above Jimbaran Bay, just 10 kilometers from Bali airport.
AYANA’s majestic sunsets and ocean-front views are complemented by white-sand beach and shared facilities as Bali’s only integrated resort with RIMBA Jimbaran Bali.
A must-see, even if you're not staying there.
It's the first time I travel somewhere and the minute I get on the return flight I think: I can't wait to be back here. Bali for me evokes thoughts of a paradise. It's more than a place: it's a mood, an aspiration, a tropical state of mind.