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.
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
- 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).
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.
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.