Indonesia is the biggest archipelago in the world, so it comes as no surprise that its numerous islands are home to great beaches. Famous Bali is one example. It may be crowded and touristic, yet is still worth a visit for its great waves, temples, the turquoise tropical water and lush green jungles. Bali has been a dream of mine even before the stroke and I promised myself that I would explore it as soon as my condition will allow me to go. Five years later, I’ve finally seen what all the fuss around Bali was about. With a help of my dearest boyfriend Luka this dream island was our home for almost three weeks. This is my guide of the best places Bali has to offer.
- Tanah Lot
Our first stop in Bali was a small seaside town Seminyak close enough to the airport so the drive wasn’t too long (after a long flights and all the time difference that was important). We stayed there two nights, which was just enough to adjust to hot weather, different time zone and of course see the sunset on famous Double Six beach. Colorful beanbags and umbrellas are pretty to see. We’ve chosen Seminyak rather than crowded Kuta (although we stayed last night on Bali in too busy Kuta). Seminyak is also perfect for being close to the temple Tanah Lot.
Pura Tanah Lot, on the west coast, is one of Bali’s most important landmarks. It is also the most visited and photographed temple in Bali. Once you see the temple, you’ll understand why. The »floating« temple on the rock is amazingly beautiful. The sunset there is also supposed to be incredible. Tanah (earth) Lot (sea) means the small island floating on the sea.
As soon as you arrive at the car park near Tanah Lot (which by the way you have to pay – parking that is) it becomes obvious this temple is a must see in Bali. So many food and drinks stalls, souvenir shops, locals selling you different merchandise. Do not allow this to ruin your trip to the temple. The impressive Hindu temple dedicated to the god of the sea is best reached at low tide; when visitors can walk across the beach to the temple. At high tide, Tanah Lot is only accessible by boat.
From Seminyak we drove down south to see another famous and spectacular temple Uluwatu. On the way, we stopped to see the Dreamland beach. White sand, blue sea, paradise for surfers because of the big waves. Dreamland Beach is on the Bukit Peninsula and about 30-45 minutes south of Kuta. Note that this beach is touristic though, surrounded by many hotels. We spent the night in Padang Padang, another surfer’s paradise. The beach there is also beautiful one, go down to swim, surf or sunbathe in the morning, to avoid the low tide. Besides paradise beaches the south is worth visiting due to the temple Uluwatu. Famous Balinese temple is perched on a cliff on the southwest tip of the Bukit Peninsula. Pura Luhur Uluwatu is one of the most scenic temples in Bali as it overlooks the waves crashing into the rocks at the base of the cliff below. When entering you will have to pay the fee and will get a sarong to cover yourself. Beware of the monkeys that inhabit the temple and won’t think twice before stealing your belongings. Before entering Hindu temples, you’ll be given or will have to rent Sarongs in case you don’t have one with you.
Pura Luhur Uluwatu:
3. Ubud and surroundings
Ubud is considered as Bali’s cultural heart. It is a gorgeous mountainous town about an hour and a half from Denpasar. There is plenty to see in this popular destination, so we’ve stayed there for five days. The town is located in the cool mountains. In Ubud, there are hundreds of shops that sell antiques, woodcarvings, crafts, paintings and jewelry. Ubud is also mecca for all the healthy foodies with loads of delightful healthy, vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Even though healthy food is more expensive than local Indonesian food, it is still cheap. Food in Bali is cheap for Western standards. My favorite healthy restaurant/ coffee is Buda Bali. The cheapest way to get a happy belly is to eat in warung small local restaurants (in warung you don’t have to pay tax service). Be sure to try Indonesian dishes Mie Goreng (fried noodles with vegetables), Chicken satay (chicken on stick in special sauce), Nasi Campur (fried rice with tofu, vegetable, chicken, and boiled egg), Pisang Goreng (fried banana) … Everything is cheap; both of us had lunch (two mains and two drinks) for 5 euros. If your trip to Bali was inspired by Eat, Prey, Love be sure not to miss Ubud. Yoga Barn offers yoga practices. In Ubud you will be offered a taxi every step you take. If you want to relax after a long day of sightseeing, go to one of the many massage and spa center. You can spoil yourself with a full body massage for only 60 000Rp (around four euros). I’ve heard there is a nice spa resort in the end of the Campuhan Ridge Walk called Karsaspa Café, but we didn’t booked ahead and couldn’t get a free spot for a massage or a bath.
I have to mention one more thing about Ubud. We met a nice taxi driver Ariek Prima, who told us a lot about Bali, Balinese people in very good English and drove us around for a good price. I have to recommend him to you, contact him via Facebook, WhatsApp or call +6281236335583.
Do not miss going to the Campuhan Ridge Walk or Bukit Campuhan. If you’re looking for an escape from the busy streets of Ubud, go do free and easy nature walk in the pristine outback. The starting point of this trekking is at Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas and Spa. You have to walk pass Pura Gunung Lebah temple. Walking the Campuhan Ridge Walk is easy, the path is stoned. While walking you can enjoy the views of the jungle, rice tall grass, rice terraces and traditional Balinese architecture. The Campuhan Ridge Walk spans around nine kilometers. In the end, you can relax in Karsa Café. It is better to do the Walk early in the morning, though expect high temperature and getting sweaty any time of day.
Another famous stop near Ubud is Monkey Forest, known as the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. It is a popular attraction as the forest and is a home to monkeys. It is a natural forest sanctuary and a Hindu temple. It lies within the village of Padangtegal, but it can be reached by walking from Ubud. The Sanctuary is home to over 600 grey-haired long-tailed Balinese macaques. The monkeys are greedy and can be aggressive. They can jump on you from the tree. Keep your belongings close to you. While walking through the forest you can watch playful monkeys in their natural habitat.
If you’re stationed in Ubud and are a coffee or tea junkie, go to the free tasting in Ubud Sari Coffee Luwak Agrotourism. First, they will show you their plantation, different kind of coffee, ginger, cinnamon … The process of making famous Luwak coffee or Civet coffee was explained. Kopi Luwak or C, a cat like animal snacks on the ripest and only on the best coffee beans in the field. The cat eats the coffee berry but doesn’t digest the coffee bean, which is excreted in its poop. The poop is collected; the beans are washed and ground up. Luwak coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. Then comes the best part, when you can sample eight teas and coffees free, except you have to pay 50,000Rp. Luwak coffee, I have to admit is not so special, normal Bali coffee tastes just fine. When it comes to teas my favorite are ginger, mangosteen and lemongrass tea. At the end of the tour, you can also buy teas and coffees in a small shop.
Although beaches in Bali look like in paradise, you know white sand, green sea, coconut trees, it is not ideal for swimming. Bali is rather known as a paradise Island for surfers. The crashing waves are too rough for swimmers. Most of the accommodations have a swimming pool. Even though our hotel Gatra Guest House in Ubud was a lovely one (I would recommend it for its central location in the village and for the hospitability), it doesn’t have a pool. We decided to go swimming to a well-known Jungle Fish. You can walk there, but we took a taxi and enjoyed a couple of hours of swimming in the infinity pool in the middle of the jungle. Later we went for lunch to the vegan restaurant The elephant.
4. Jatiluwah Rice Terraces
If you do not have enough time, you can go only to the Tegalalang Rice Terraces near Ubud. However, if you have a day to spare, go to the greatest rice terraces. We went on a day tour called Bedugul tour from Ubud (you can book it almost on every street in Ubud).
Jatiluwah Rice Terraces stretches over 600 Ha. The site is one of the island’s must see natural panoramas. They are located about 700 meters above sea level in the highlands in West Bali. There you will find the largest and most picturesque expanse of paddies in Bali. If you’re looking for lush green views, this is the place to go. You can spend around 4 hours of walking the rice terraces. We were lucky we visited Bali during dry season, so we could enjoy green terraces in the sun and not in the deep water and mud, but the sun can get too hot, so it enables you to walk the whole route around the rice terraces. Even if you walk for only half an hour to an hour, you can see how the rice grows and see the farmers at work. Amazing views and a must in Bali.
5. Pura Ulan Danu Beratan
While doing the Bedugul tour you’ll drive north to the lake Beratan to visit, in my opinion, the most beautiful temple, Pura Ulan Danu Beratan. This iconic image of Bali is depicted on the 50,000Rp note. It is the location of the temple that makes it so famous and picturesque. The temple is surrounded by the lake while the mountain range of the Bedugul region hugs the lake. The ”floating” temple was built in the 17th century and it is dedicated to Dewi Danu, goddess of the waters. It is a popular and frequently photographed site due to the cool atmosphere of the Bali uplands. We visited the temple around the Ramadan, Muslim holiday (most of the Indonesia, except Bali is Muslim) and there was a big crowd of tourists visiting this popular site. It is still worth visiting.
6. Pura Taman Ayun
On the way from Ubud to Beratan, we stopped at the temple Pura Taman Ayun, which literally translates as ”beautiful garden”. It is situated in a beautiful park and was built in 1634. The huge royal water temple of Pura Taman Ayun is picturesque due to the beautiful Meru towers, pagoda-like shrines. Like many Balinese temple, Pura Taman Ayun is also entered through a traditional Balinese split gate. It is believed that if an evil spirit attempts to enter the temple by passing between the two halves of the gate, they will come together and crush the spirit.
7. Gili Air
We continued our way from Ubud to Padangbai. This fishermen or pirate village was only a one-night stop before we continued to the Gili Islands. What to say about Padangbai. Nothing much except to prepare to be offered a boat ticket to the island on your every step. I kept saying, ”we have a ticket already,« to stop them from selling another one to us (we actually had one). They are friendly, but by the end of the day, it gets annoying.
There’s not a lot to see or do in Padangbai, as it is mostly a point to get to the Gili’s. We spent the afternoon and evening walking down the beach, going to the Blue Lagoon beach. The next day they told us to be at a meeting point at 8.30 a.m., as we were supposed to leave together to the harbor at 9 a.m. Supposed to. However, in reality the boat left at 9.30. Being on time is not really a Balinese style, as we’ve already learned in previous week. I can totally get it. I can imagine myself staying in Bali for couple of weeks/months and adjusting to their slow and easy way of life. When we finally made it to the boat, I though ok, now I just have to sit down and relax. Boy was I wrong. First trouble was getting abroad since I am a disabled person (I have troubles walking I can’t move my left hand (because of the stroke 5 years ago – it didn’t stopped me from travelling cause I love it too much). I imagined I was going to simply step on the boat, but no. I had to make a very big step over some ropes on the bow of the boat. This wasn’t an easy step, but the staff was really friendly and helpful as one took my backpack and two of them held my hand and helped me make a step. Then another helped me step down the steps under the deck. A nice man helped me walked down the steps by holding my feet. We finally sailed, but after 5 minutes, the motor stopped working. »Oh my god, what else now, «we thought to ourselves. »Are we ever going to make to Gili’s? «. Well, after 10 minutes of all the crew fixing the motor we were on our way to the island again. Two hours later, we arrived on Gili Air. When you get out of the boat you will have to step in the shallow water, I recommend you wear flip-flops and have a backpack instead of a suitcase while travelling, especially if you will go on the islands. There are not many piers down the beach and you’ll have to drag your baggage on the sand. It is easier to carry a backpack.
The paradise Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small Indonesian islands near the coast of Lombok in Indian Ocean. Gili Trawangan is the largest and it’s known as a party island. Gili Meno is the smallest and the quietest the three and offers crystal clear water and idyllic secluded white beaches. Gili Air is the one closest to Lombok. Meno and Air are not only Gili, but also Chilly Isles where people go to relax. Gili Air is something between the hustle of Trawangan and quiet of Meno. While Bali is Hindu, Lombok and also Gili’s are Muslim.
Gili Air is still a quiet retreat. The island is excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving on the east coast. There is a coral reef, where you can enjoy watching turtles. The island is so small you can walk around it in less than an hour, but if you don’t feel like walking, the most popular way of transport are bicycles or cidomo (horse-drawn carriage) – motorized traffic is prohibited. There are many resorts, hotels or homestays on the island, also plenty of restaurants. On Gili Air, you’ll find peace and quiet, turquoise water, sea turtles, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. You can go snorkeling, diving or do Yoga in H2O Yoga and meditation Centre in the middle of the island. If you want to enjoy the sunset, note that in Indonesia the sun sets already around 6 p.m. due to the closeness of the Equator the day starts at around 6 a.m. and lasts around 12 hours. We stayed in a nice homestay (Damai Homestay); there are plenty of Warungs with traditional Indonesian food or seafood. You can go to Gili’s from Padangbai, Sanur, and Amed on Bali mainland or even from another island, Nusa Lembongan. One more surprising thing that happened on Gili to us. Everywhere we went people kept asking us ‘’Where are you from?’’ After couple of tries with the answer ‘’Slovenia’’, we just simply started saying ‘’Europe’’. However, in one Warung on Gili Air a young waiter asked ‘’Slovenia or Slovakia?’’ Wow were we surprised. 🙂
Nusa Lembongan was also our next destination, but getting to it was again another adventure (at least for me). First, we went with a small boat from Gili Air to Trawangan. On Gili Trawangan, we had to climb on the bigger boat and then rest of the tourists went walking on the side of the boat to the entrance on the back. Because I was too afraid of falling into the water bellow and hurting myself, I asked if I can enter the boat down the hole for the luggage on the front of the boat. Because I was the last one, we didn’t get a free seat (though we paid for one) and had to seat outside at the back next to the motors for the four-hour drive. The drive was ‘’bumpy’’, the sea was spraying on us; I was nauseas and had to throw up couple of times. Thankfully, the woman in the crew was friendly and took care of me. The drive was a nightmare but all was forgotten when we arrived on beautiful Nusa Lembongan.
8. Nusa Lembongan
We decided to make a short one night stop on Nusa Lembongan before going to Nusa Penida. It was a last minute decision; however, it turned out the best one. We booked a room in Dimol Garden Cottage Lembongan, one of the most beautiful accommodations that we stayed on Bali. The location is not the best, but you can rent a bike or a car with a driver that will take you around the island. Nusa Lembongan is a small island off the southeast coast of the main island of Bali. It is around 8km² in size next to larger Nusa Penida and the smallest of the three Nusa Ceningan.
If you are lucky to go to this paradise island Nusa Lembongan be sure not to miss Dream Beach. A wonderful secluded beach with white sand is located on the south coast. It is a perfect spot for watching waves and spending the whole day doing nothing, except relaxing, eating and drinking. Like in most places in Bali, be careful about entering the water due to the ridge and the strong current. Just a short walk from Dream Beach you’ll find breathtaking Devil’s Tears. The scene is spectacular. Here one can witness the power and majesty of the ocean and its tides. Gaze at the water splashing and waves colliding with the rocks in the bay. One of the most magnificent views and a must. From Nusa Lembongan you can cross a yellow bridge to its neighboring island of Nusa Ceningan. We crossed the bridge but didn’t have time to explore this small island.
9. Nusa Penida
Since I love cliffs, waves crashing in the rocks, crystal sea, adventures, spending my 30th birthday on Nusa Penida was a perfect fit. A short and cheap boat ride from Nusa Lembongan and we arrived on Penida. Most travelers visit Nusa Penida only for a day trips to go diving or snorkeling the pristine coral reefs. I can barely swim due to the stroke, yet alone dive, so discovering spectacular undersea life was not an option. Although the island still offers plenty of activities. Nusa Penida is still impressively untouristy and many say that Penida is as Bali was like back in the ‘70s before tourists discovered it. I was surprise that this little slice of paradise has manage to stay under the tourist radar. If beautiful landscapes, perfect beaches, breathtaking views from the edge of the cliff and Balinese culture are on the top of yours to see list, then I highly suggest visiting this paradise. The island is untouched; there are only two larger villages on it – Toyapakeh and Sampalan, where most of the boats from Bali arrive. We stayed in Penida dive resort in Toyapakeh. The resort is perfect if you want to go diving. I recommend bringing cash to the island from the mainland Bali, because the ATM do not always have money in it. We needed to go to Sampalan to withdraw it. On my birthday, I wanted to do a tour around the spectacular island. We rented two scooters with drivers. Renting motorbike without the driver would be much cheaper, but this way we did need to worry how to drive on dangerous roads and not to get lost. If you are not an experienced driver, I wouldn’t recommend driving on Penida alone. The roads get really bad and many tourists end up crashing their scooter. With a private drivers we didn’t had to worry, just making sure to hold on tight.
First stop was a beautiful Hindu temple Pura Ped or precisely called Pura Penataran Agung Ped. Then we drove to Broken Beach or Pasig Uug. The road to the Broken Beach was also “broken”; the ride was bumpy, though the view at the destination is worthy all the pain in the bottom. This stunning natural formation is not actually a beach, it is a natural bridge. A cliff right down the path from Broken Beach there is Angel’s Billabong – a little lagoon set in the middle of the black volcanic rock. Waves crash into the cliff and the water splashes into the lagoon. You can swim in this natural infinity pool, though be careful not to be swept out to the sea due to the powerful waves. Next stop was the reason why I wanted to experience Nusa Penida. Everyone who knows me, know I am crazy about cliffs. They are one of my favorite things (more about that some other time when I’ll blog about my time in Ireland and its amazing cliffs). Nusa Penida has many breathtaking views making it hard to pick a favorite. Well, this next one is mine. The cliffs form in a shape of a dinosaur’s head at Kelingking Secret Point Beach. Though Penida is not too touristy, at Kelingking cliff you can expect a big crowd. Just check the photographs below and you’ll understand why. This is the most photogenic spot I’ve visited on entire Bali trip. This viewpoint is prettier than on photos and it must be on your bucket list. The entire coastal area is beautiful as the white cliffs contrast dramatically with the turquoise blue waters. You can hike down the beach, but it’s supposed to be at least a 45-minute steep path. For us it was enough to just take it all in from the top. The view is worth the bumpy ride. Our last stop for a day was Crystal Bay with white sand beach. It is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving or simply enjoy swimming here. If white sand is not enough for you, limestone cliffs along with some rare karst formations will astound you.
This post made me SO excited to be in Bali next week! I plan to make it to most of these. I loved your description of Gili Air, that was my preferred island to visit. Was it easy to find restaurants and bars?