Ten things to do in Bali

Bali, one of more than 14,000 isles in the Indonesian archipelago, is inhabited by warm and friendly people with a distinct Hindu culture, and exudes a charm and beauty that is truly unique. From its majestic volcanoes, verdant rice terraces, ancient palaces and temples in the hinterland to the stunning beaches, spas and magnificent hotels that line its coast, Bali offers a myriad of things to see and do for travellers from around the world.

Bali is one of my favourite places in the world to chill. There’s just something about the island that I find truly relaxing. I can go on endlessly about things to see and do in Bali but for this post, I decided to enlist the help of a local. My good friend, Gaby Suroto, agreed to collaborate. The result is an eclectic mix of tips from the perspective of a visitor (me!) and a local (Gaby). Here are our…

Ten Things To Do in Bali

1. Climb Mount Batur in the morning to see the sunrise. It’s not the highest mountain in Bali – at 1,717m, it’s dwarfed by Gunung Agung (3,142m), another active volcano and Bali’s highest peak. You approach the mountain via a village called Penelokan. Most climbing trips are arranged in the early hours of the morning to view the sunrise and for a stunning vista of Bali and the surrounding islands.

 

Fishing boats, Jimbaran, Bali

2. Enjoy an amazing seafood meal and breathtaking sunsets. The most popular places to tuck your feet into the sand and order a delicious seafood meal are along Jimbaran beach. I highly recommend The Beach House at Echo Beach. Located in Canggu, a stone’s throw away from the tourist areas of Kuta/Seminyak, The Beach House specialises in grilled seafood, a wonderfully casual, cocktail-infused atmosphere and fabulous sunsets.

3. Visit Bali’s capital of culture: Ubud. Ubud is probably the best place in Bali to really experience the centuries-old culture of this island. Surrounded by forests and verdant rice fields, Ubud oozes a unique atmosphere that is both soothing and intriguing. Though relatively small, Ubud boasts a wide range of art galleries and museums (my favourites are the Agung Rai Museum of Art and the Antonio Blanco Museum), spas (don’t miss the Bodyworks centre for a wonderfully therapeutic massage), restaurants (if you love roast pork, try the roasted suckling pig at Bu Oka) and hotels that suit all types of budgets. You can also find a vast variety of handicrafts and jewellery shops and stalls throughout the town (don’t forget to bargain! It’s part of the fun). Being the cultural capital of Bali, there are various dance performances and ceremonies at the many temples or artistic centres. Check at the tourist office for the times and places.

4. Pamper yourself at a Bali spa. Bali has always ranked as one of the Best Spa destinations in the world. The Ayana Resort (formerly Ritz Carlton) in Jimbaran was recently named as the Best Hotel Spa in the world by Condé Nast Traveler. It’s a stunning, albeit pricey, spa. Other options for a complete rejuvenating experience include:

  • Warm Stone Massage at Karma Spa (at both Karma Jimbaran & Karma Kandara)
  • Balinese Massage at Everyday Spa, Jl. Raya, Kuta 129 (next to KCBJ Tour & opposite Central Parking)

5. Go shopping in Batubulan. This extraordinary village features mile upon mile of shops selling silver ornaments and accessories, batik, wood and stone carvings, glassware and paintings. You can also opt to visit one of the silver (UC Silver is the most popular) or batik factories. If you have some silver jewellery that needs a good polish, just ask one of the workers and they would gladly polish it for a tip.

6. Watch an amazing Balinese cultural performance. See who wins between good and evil in a dance at a Barong Dance in Batubulan (on the way to Ubud) or, even better, watch it inside the royal palace of Ubud! To witness fifty shirtless men dancing & chanting while circling a fire and telling a Mahabarata story, head to Uluwatu for a Kecak Dance performance.

The daily Balinese music & dance performance schedule can easily be found online at most Bali travel websites. Here’s some basic information:

Barong & Keris Dance

  • Batubulan – daily at 9.30am (you can not be late, their shows are always on time)
  • Puri Saren, Ubud – Friday 6.30pm

Kecak

  • Best place : Uluwatu – daily at 6.30pm
  • Puri Agung, Peliatan – Thursday 6.30pm
  • Batubulan – daily 6.30pm

My favorite for a quick, fun and non-touristy show:

Balinese Music & Dance Performance : every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 3pm at Centro Department Store (yes! shopping and cultural activity at the same time!) located at the second floor of Discovery Shopping Mall, Kuta – the only beachfront mal in Bali. To mark the beginning of this performance hour, exactly at 3pm sharp, all Centro staff in orange uniforms dance to the beat of Jay Ho indian moves! It’s great fun to watch! I especially love their Belibis Dance (bird dance).

 

Bathing ritual at the Sacred Water temple

7. Go temple hopping! Bali is famous the world over for its beautiful temples. There are thousands of temples scattered across the island, from small temples in someone’s backyard to the large community temples with their elaborate wood and stone carvings. The most popular temples are in Besakih, Uluwatu (which features a dramatic clifftop location) and Tanah Lot (a very popular place to watch the sunset). My absolute favourite is the Tirta Empul or Sacred Water temple near Ubud.

8. Check out ‘Oleh oleh Khas Bali’ hyper store for a wide range of affordable Bali souvenirs. Instead of going to expensive art shops in a five star hotel or the Sukawati Art Market that is famous for its cheap, mass-produced paintings & Balinese accessories, another good option is to check out a Balinese souvenir hyper store, with its wide range of products, from Balinese snacks (peanuts, pies, chicken feet crackers, jackfruits chips, etc) to sarongs, spa products, t-shirts & boardshorts, paintings and much more. These hyper stores can be found in Kuta, Tuban, Jimbaran, and Denpasar. Recommended places include:

  • Khrisna: Jl. Sunset Road, left side of the road if you come from Kuta towards Seminyak
  • Larrisa: Jl. Raya Tuban, Kuta, opposite famous t-shirt company ‘Joger’
  • Erlangga: Jl. Nusa Kambangan, Denpasar (pass by Simpang Enam statue of Teuku Umar St, next to the Dunkin Donut shop)
  • Biarritz, Jl. Sunset Road, near the intersection of Kerobokan and Oberoi, left side of the road.

9. Do something adventurous! Don’t get lazy in Bali! Get wet, paddle hard, fill your holiday with action, fun, and adventure! There are many activities besides island touring that are suitable for the whole family. My favorite adventure tours in Bali are include rafting, cycling and 4WD trips.

Check out: SOBEK, a pioneer and one of Bali’s best tour operators; Adventure Tours; Ocean Walker (try BMR at Tanjung Benoa-Nusa Dua) or Sea Walker on Sanur Beach; or an ATV Ride.

10. Try Balinese culinary delights, try warung! Include a ‘Warung’ (a Balinese eatery) in your gastronomic itinerary. There are restaurant-style warungs (the touristy, i.e. expensive, option) such as the famous Warung Made (in Seminyak & Kuta), Warung Batavia and Warung Ocha.

For a more authentic Balinese warung experience, where you will sit with the locals and eat Nasi Campur (spicy and non-spicy varieties) and drink Balinese coffee for Rp 7,000 (about $0.70), I suggest you to try :

  • Warung Nikmat : Jl. Kubu Anyar, Kuta (they have more than 20 javanese dishes ready for you to choose) – lots of foreigners love the food!
  • Warung Sate Tuna Kartika, at Pasar Senggol, Jl. Uluwatu, Jimbaran, right before the Circle K 24h Mart (their tuna satay & soup are the best in Jimbaran)
  • Warung Rujak Bu Putu, Jl. Blambangan, Kuta, opposite a Chinese temple (love their Balinese hot & spicy fruit salad, it’s their specialty!)
  • Nasi Jinggo – costing only Rp 3,000 ($0.30!) you’ll get a small portion of steamed rice with shredded spicy roast chicken and fried noodles wrapped in banana leaf. Sit on the ground with the locals and experience the real Bali.

Search for hotels in Bali.

A special thanks goes to Gaby Suroto for sharing her Bali travel tips. Gaby is a Javanese living in Bali and enjoying the Balinese lifestyle. Gaby shares with her readers great tips and ideas about Bali and its beautiful beaches on Bee Amazing and Balinese culinary delights on Wisatakulinerbali. Gaby is a fervent lover of ice cream, sushi, chocolate and music. Follow @gabybali on Twitter!

Read other Velvet Escape posts on Bali:

Read other articles in the Velvet Escape Ten” series.

 

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20 Responses to “Ten things to do in Bali”

  1. Cheeky Travel Girl 24/04/2014 4:41 am
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    Great list! I didn’t do any treking or climbing mountains, but I did go rafting in Ubud and it was so much fun!

  2. Howie 21/07/2013 6:29 am
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    Loved the top ten… Thanks for sharing! Bali has always been in my top ten places to go, but I think it may have just moved up a few spots. I’m even looking into teaching there, and I’m poking around for work. I found a few leads on jobs, but haven’t quite locked anything down.

    Though it seems like lots to do, but I’m definitely more excited by beaches and spas. And the food! I work in a part of Taipei full of little Indonesian restaurants, and I’m craving the real thing. Price definitely seems right. Bali, here I come!

  3. Charu 07/11/2011 7:03 pm
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    I like the idea of indulging in sunsets, cuisine and cultural performances. I grew up in India and have lived there for years, but the far East and Indonesia are for me like “The Secret Garden”–places I’m putting on my bucket list. Thanks for the tips, Keith. See you on Twitter )

  4. rob hermans 29/10/2011 11:41 am
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    a…lovely Bali, Beautiful Bali! nice article keith, reminds me of my days in Bali. time to get back because I didn’t do all the ‘ten things to do..’

  5. Jane 21/06/2011 5:26 am
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    Opps sorry.. the previous comment needs to be edited. I meant not in Jimbaran, to watch Barong Dance for Free.. instead, it’s in Garuda Wisnu Kencana

  6. Jane 21/06/2011 5:23 am
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    I have to agree when you mentioned Jimbaran. I went there once and was really amazed by its beauty especially its sunset.
    As for Barong Dance, I went to watch it somewhere-I-don’t-know and had to pay around 8 dollars there. Next days when I made a tour to Jimbaran I was watching the dance for free. I don’t know if they have it regularly there or not but still it’s a good place as well to see it.

  7. Things to do in Bali 31/05/2011 7:18 pm
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    Really interesting post for people who want to see Bali and experience it

  8. LeslieTravel 05/12/2010 5:29 pm
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    Great tips! I want to see Bali and experience it for myself…

  9. Lilian 05/12/2010 5:27 pm
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    Wow! Such a coincidence. I visited many temples during my trip there. My favourite is the same as yours! I didn’t get to soak in the water but I did touch it. Very refreshing and cooling!

  10. velvet 17/11/2010 1:04 am
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    Thanks for your comment Marsha. I can assure you: Bali IS a seductive place. I recommend moving it a few notches up your list. :-)

    Cheers,
    Keith

  11. Marsha 17/11/2010 1:00 am
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    Bali sounds utterly seductive…definitely on my list of places to go….

  12. Life for Beginners 03/11/2010 3:14 pm
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    Ahh… waiting for the day I can make full use of this list. I can’t believe I’ve been to Europe and China and Japan but not BALI! Ga…

  13. lara dunston 28/10/2010 9:14 pm
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    Nice post! We spent two weeks in Bali this year for our Grantourismo project, living in a house on the edge of a village, surrounded by rice paddies, and loved it. Though must admit, we didn’t think Echo Beach was very good at all. Pleasant views, but full of expats/tourists, expensive for Bali, and little more than okay cafe food, but it certainly does suck in the tourists. Ubud was our favourite place of all – other than our own little village!

  14. Nomadic Matt 28/10/2010 2:08 pm
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    I love Bali. if it had better internet, i would live there.

  15. Adriana 27/10/2010 2:42 pm
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    I love this! and finally saw Eat, Pray, Love (the movie came out just a few weeks ago here in Brazil) and got very inspired by Bali!

  16. Echo Beach House 24/10/2010 10:24 pm
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    Really pleased you enjoyed your visit to us at Canggu, we love to hear personal views!

  17. velvet 21/10/2010 4:57 pm
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    Thank you Gaby for your wonderful contribution to this post! Next time I’m in Bali, you’re taking me to eat Ikan Bakar! :-)

    Hugs,
    Keith

  18. gabybali 20/10/2010 1:36 am
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    I knew how you love Jimbaran Sunset and the seafood market, Keith! Although for the locals, this is not the place for them to get a seafood, as we usually eat that at a Warung Ikan Bakar (Grill Fish local cafe) that can be found at almost every corner of the town. Next time you’re in Bali, I can take you to the Warung Ikan Bakar that has a Rp 10,000 (US$ 1 !) package that comes with : steam rice, 1 small grill fish (enough!), and cucumber slices with a hot & spicy sauce as the highlight of the dish! Thanks for letting me write about my lovely Bali, by the way that @BaliYummyBlog account has been closed as I want to focus to just one Twitter account, tweeting all about Bali. Cheers, Terima kasih banyak!

  19. Emiel 19/10/2010 8:01 pm
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    Dear Keith and Gaby,

    Nice to see you have combined your strengths to come up with this great post on Bali! I have been lucky to visit Bali last July and I’m happy to read about things we indeed experienced. I fully agree with Keith’s love for the Tirta Empul temple (Sacred Water Temple). This was one (maybe even thé) highlight of our trip! And don’t forget the Arma museum :)

    Emiel

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