Bali, the ‘island of Gods’, is 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, breathtaking rice terraces, ancient palaces and temples in the hinterland to the stunning beaches, spas and magnificent hotels that line its coast, Bali remains a favourite for many travellers from around the world. The island’s beaches, spas and luxurious accommodations are its main attractions but plan plenty of time to explore the sights and experience the intriguing culture Bali has to offer. Here’s a guide with the main Bali attractions for first-time visitors:

A brief guide to Bali

Rice terraces at Tegallalang.


Balinese are gracious and laid-back people who are proud of their customs and traditions that stem from a localised version of Hinduism. When visiting Bali, take the time to see how various rituals are woven into the every day lives of the Balinese (such as the daily offerings to the Gods in little bamboo baskets at every doorstep, wondrous cremation ceremonies and spectacular dance performances such as the kecak and legong). Their craftsmanship is legendary. Evidence of this mastery can be found throughout the island in the form of ornamental gateways into homes, richly decorated temples and palaces, and art galleries that sell a myriad of batik paintings, wood carvings, stone sculptures, and intricate glass and ceramic ware, and jewellery.

A silver craftsmith at work.



Bali’s main beach areas are Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, Sanur and Nusa Dua. The Kuta-Seminyak-Legian stretch is by far the most popular, especially among surfers. This stretch has a broad range of accommodations for all budgets, and is chock-full with restaurants, beach clubs, bars, discos, shops, supermarkets, travel agents, car and moped rentals, banks, spas and every other imaginable facility.

Sunset at Seminyak beach.
Sunset at Seminyak beach.

Nusa Dua is a more serene area with breathtaking five-star hotels, beautifully-manicured gardens and a pristine, sheltered coast. The spectacularly situated Uluwati temple is close to Nusa Dua. Built on a cliff, the views are quite phenomenal (beware of the monkeys!).

Between Nusa Dua and the airport is a stretch of sand called Jimbaran where you can enjoy a seafood dinner at one of the many restaurants lining the beach. Do not miss this experience. Get in before the sun sets, order a cold drink, wriggle your feet into the cool sand and be awed by a brilliant sunset, then tuck into a fresh lobster platter by candlelight!

An amazing sunset in Jimbaran, Bali.

Lovina Beach, located on the island’s northern coast, is another popular beach area. Just off the beach are several coral reefs that are ideal for snorkelling.


It’s very easy to hire a car and a driver for a very reasonable rate either via your hotel or the hotel personnel (someone always has a family member who is a taxi driver/tour guide) for a day or several days. An alternative is to rent a small jeep and drive yourself around (though the Indonesian style of driving might frighten some!).

A village temple.

If you’re staying at one of the beach areas, I strongly recommend making a day trip to Ubud, Bali’s centre of arts and crafts. If you have the time, it’s actually better to spend a few days there as there is quite a lot to see and do and 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.

Rice terraces in Ubud.

Though relatively small, Ubud is home to temples, palaces, 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. I can also recommend a visit to the Monkey Forest for some lovely walks through the lush green forest and to observe the antics of those mischievous monkeys. You can also find a vast variety of handicraft and jewellery shops and stalls throughout the town, and at the Ubud Art Market. Being the cultural capital of Bali, there are various dance performances and ceremonies at the many temples or artistic centres (for example, check out the cultural programme at the Puri Saren Agung). I can recommend the kecak (fire), legong and the Ramayana ballet performances. Check at the tourist office for the times and places.

A ceremony in Ubud.
Ubud Palace.

If you’re on your way to Ubud from Kuta, you may pass the small town of Batubulan (literally, ‘moonstone’). This small town hosts the largest collection of stone carvings I have ever seen and makes for a fascinating stop, if only to admire the many forms of carvings (from Balinese gods to fountains and animals…it really is quite astounding).

Another town that is worth a visit is Klungkung (Semarapura), the former royal capital. The town is home to the beautifully ornate Kerta Gosa (Palace of Justice) – the frescos there are especially striking. Next door, you’ll find the Bale Kambang (floating pavilion) which features ornamental ponds filled with water lilies and lotus blossoms, and an exquisite staircase. Close to Klungkung, in the town of Gianyar, you’ll find the Bali Bird Park. About 20 km from Klungkung rise the gorgeous pagodas of the temple complex of Besakih. Known as the ‘Mother Temple of Bali’, this temple complex is spectacularly situated at the foot of Gunung Agung, Bali’s highest peak.

Besakih temple complex at the foot of Gunung Agung.

The volcano Gunung (Mount) Batur and its crater lake is another highlight of a trip to Bali. 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. On clear days, the views from here of the volcanos (Gunung Batur and Gunung Abang) and the crater lake are truly breathtaking. For the adventurous visitors, it is possible to climb Gunung Batur – 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.

Gunung Batur

The most popular tourist attraction in Bali is Tanah Lot. At first sight, it’s little more than a temple on a rock at sea but the place has a certain magical quality to it. Maybe it’s the shape of the rock or the way the graceful temple stands proudly on an edge, with a cluster of trees partially concealing its full structure. The magic of Tanah Lot comes to life at sunset – hordes of tourists make this pilgrimage every day but don’t be discouraged by the throngs of people, the sunsets here are some of the most spectacular you’ll ever see.

Tanah Lot at sunset.



23 Responses

  • […] Eugene and I absolutely love Bali and we make it a point to choose the β€˜Island of Gods’ for our bestie getaway every few years. Eugene and I both have family in Malaysia so we always […]

  • Hi Keith – I wish I had found this post before visiting Bali in December last year. Still, what I found myself makes me totally agree with you that it is definitely worth visiting and a unique place. Tanah Lot is definitely magical!

  • Hey! We’re in Bali. Love your post – it’s detailed yet handy. We definitely enjoyed our time in Ubud. Agree with you on staying a few days because there is so much to do. Great place. πŸ™‚

  • Hi Alina,
    A week to 10 days in Bali should be sufficient to see the major sights and get a good feel of the place as well as have some chill time on the beach! If you want to really explore the island, you could easily spend a month there! I’ve been to Bali many times and there’s always something new to see.


  • I so much want to go to Bali! So many great stories I’ve heard or read about it! And your article just feeds my craving. I sure hope I get there some day and experience it all πŸ™‚ How long should the minimum vacation in Bali be to get a chance to experience it properly?

  • There are so many accommodation options in Bali that it’s hard to choose. I would suggest choosing an area of Bali first (e.g. Kuta), then researching the options in that area. Good luck with your search.


  • where si the best place to stay at BALI?..the cheapest for a singl person?

  • HARLOW, sound like tourist guide. Great blog entry babe! Enjoyed reading it and learnt so much from it. Can’t wait to go back again!

  • Hi, I am the one who wrote a comment with a nick “indonesia vacations” in your other blog “”.
    Wow, you have so many interesting blogs, it always nice to share the experience with others πŸ™‚
    Speaking about bali, there are lots of places to visit in Bali. I must say that Bali is my fav spot in Indonesia. I visit Bali once in a year πŸ™‚
    Keep posting and sharing ^_^

  • Woww everyone seems to enjoy Ubud. Yes, my Bali is splendid, gorgeous, marvelous!! And yes, of course Babi Guling Ibu Oka is a must to eat in Ubud, but did you also try Nasi Ayam (hot & spicy chicken rice) Mardika in Kedewatan? If not, we can go there when you’re in Bali. Me, as your private (cantik) driver :p


  • Thanks for a wonderfully informative post. I’m already bookmarking Nusa Dua as my slice of heaven. And also shopping at Batubulan for stone carvings that i can take home with me.

  • Thanks for your comments D&D & Jen!

    Jen: and I didn’t even mention the fab Balinese furniture. You’ll definitely need a whole container to ship back the awesome stone carvings, fabrics and furniture! πŸ™‚


  • We loved staying at Ubud. We climbed Gunung Batur from there, Went to Ulu Watu, The rice terraces and the Former Royal Capital. We hired a very reasonable private driver to take us everywhere for a few days. I highly recommend seeing the island that way.
    Kuta was great too, but Ubud was so much better:)

  • Thanks for your comment Lori. Hope these tips are handy and that you’ll have a great time there!


  • Great post! We are headed there in a couple of months and chose to stay in Ubud. We can only fit in three nights and now that I’ve read your description of all the small towns I’m already wishing we could stay longer!

  • This is a great information for Bali. I have yet made it there but it’s on my list near the top. Since it’s not too far from Bangkok, I hope I can do the side trip during one of my Thailand visit. Sigh… So many places, so little times. πŸ™‚

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