Bali is a paradise island situated in Indonesia, Bali is known all around the world as a tourist hotspot, and there are so many reasons why people are drawn to this beautiful tropical island. Bali is known as the island of the gods, as its a really holy place full of temples and shrines. Many locals put out daily offerings to the gods with beautiful flower petals arrangements and burn candles and incense.
The island has a rich and diverse culture and most days of the week you will witness a procession of locals heading towards one of the many temple ceremonies. Bali is covered in forested volcanic mountains, green rice paddies, beaches and has coral reefs surrounding the island. The island itself is very spiritual and draws visitors from all around the world who are seeking peace, yoga and meditation practises.
We only spent 5 nights in Bali which definitely wasn’t enough! We stayed in Ubud and did a day trip around some major sites around the island, but would definitely love to go back and spend longer exploring some different regions of Bali. Many people that visit Bali split their stay between different areas and divide their time between the beaches and the green forested areas in the centre of the island.￼ Bali has so much to see and do, you could spend weeks exploring its sites. In this quick guide are some of the main cultural sites and attractions to see if you’re limited on time.
Sights & Activities
Entrance Fee: 100,000 IDR
There are many places all around Bali that host ancient Balinese traditional dances and theatre shows. Many of these shows are artistic and express stories through the art form of dance and specific body movements with gestures being demonstrated using fingers, hands and eye expressions. These dances are truly unique to Balinese culture and are widely connected to the Hindu religion and Bali folklore. The dances all have different meanings and Balinese names such as Barong, Legong and Baris to name a few.
There are shows held all around the island but Ubud is a very popular place to view one of these performances due to it being the cultural and historical hub of Bali. There are shows every night in Ubud at several locations. I would suggest when travelling around Bali that you aim to see one of the shows in Ubud as they are frequent.
We went to one of the shows held every night at 19:30 at Ubud Palace, there is a different show every night which all perform various Balinese dance styles. The shows at Ubud Palace are only about £6 per person so really affordable. I really recommend spending one evening going to watch one of these shows as it’s great that these traditions are being kept going, they are truly unique and like nothing you have will have ever seen before.
Entrance Fee: 50,000 IDR
Goa Gajah is a Hindu temple and archaeological site located just outside of Ubud and is also known as the Elephant Cave due to its close proximity to the Elephant River. The site is said to date back to the 11th century, but with some fragment, relics found close by dating back even earlier! Entering through the face in the rock you step into a small cave which has some small statues and offerings, once you pass through the small narrow cave you come out to two bathing pools with statues. You only need approximately one hour or so to explore this historical site, it’s gardens and surrounding area. Go with knees covered or you can hire sarongs at the entrance. I really enjoyed visiting this site and if you can try and get there early to beat the crowds. We hired a scooter and drove to the temple as it isn’t too far from Ubud centre, however a lot of set day tours stop here too if you prefer booking onto tours.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces are located in the centre of Bali and span over 600 hectares of rice fields following the hillside of the Batukaru Mountain Range, they are part of UNESCO world heritage sites. You could easily spend a few days exploring this area of Bali as there are beautiful mountains, small villages and lots of great local restaurants.
We stopped here on a day tour we booked and stopped to admire the views and for some lunch. It started to rain heavily while we were there, so took the views in undercover. The terraces are stunning, and I honestly have never seen a more vivid shade of green in my life! This area is the very definition of rural Bali if you’re looking to escape the crowds then look into staying in the area at one of the many mountain retreats on offer.
If your staying in Ubud and don’t fancy venturing very far for rice fields, then not to worry as all around Ubud there are plenty of rice terraces with the most famous ones being Tegalalang Terraces. Many tourists don’t leave the resorts or beaches which makes the rice fields a great place to escape and explore in peace and quiet.
Entrance Fee: 80,000 IDR
The famous Monkey Forest is located in Ubud and is seen as an important spiritual and economic centre for the village of Padangtegal which also own the forest. Hidden in the forest are several ancient temples to visit as well. The forest is stunning and like many areas in Bali provides the most beautiful shades of green. The forest has a mysterious feel to it when wandering around and it’s great to watch the monkeys play. There is a large variety of species of trees as well as hundreds of monkeys that call this forest home. You can also feed the monkeys with fruits that you can purchase at the entrance too, do not take any food or drink from outside into the forest to ensure the monkeys don’t become aggressive to steal the food and also to ensure they are getting the correct diet of food. This was one of my favourite areas in Bali it had a really magical feel to the area and I loved watching all the monkeys and being amongst nature. If you’re in Ubud I personally think the Monkey Forest is a must!
Taman Ayun Temple
Entrance Fee: 10,000 IDR
Pura Taman Ayun is in the heartlands of Bali and situated approximately 30 minutes drive from Ubud. It is a huge royal water temple surrounded by a moat, it was the main temple of the Mengwi Kingdom which survived until 1891. The temple was built in 1634 and was renovated back in 1937. The temple is full of traditional Balinese architectural features which spread throughout the many shrines, buildings, courtyards and gardens. The name of the temple translates into a beautiful garden. The temple forms part of Bali’s UNESCO world heritage site. It’s well worth a visit, especially as it’s not too far away from Ubud if that’s where you are basing yourself for your trip.
Tanah Lot & Batu Bolong Temple
Entrance Fee: 60,000 IDR
Tanah Lot is a rock formation with a Hindu shrine dedicated to the Balinese sea gods, the temple forms an important aspect of Balinese mythology and spirituality. Tanah Lot is situated just offshore on the south east coast of Bali. It was created back in the 16th century by a Hindu priest. Some of the temple and rock has been restored, as they suffered badly from erosion from the large waves and high tides over the years. When it is high tide the shrine cannot be reached when it is low tide people can walk across to the rock formation and the low sea level exposes small caves and crevices.
The complex also has nearby shrines such as Batu Bolong Temple which is on the beach of Canggu, the name translates into perforated rock, as the name suggests it sits out into the ocean and the rock has a hole in the middle. This temple is popular with many Hindus who go there to pray daily.
These shrines are a must visit on any trip to Bali, I would suggest going early to avoid the crowds or try to be there for sunset, however it is much busier around that time. Unfortunately when we visited the heavens opened up and we got soaked, I would love to go back and revisit.
Ubud is the cultural hub of the island, full with beautiful Balinese buildings, temples and green spaces. The area surrounding Ubud is full of jungles and rice terraces. Ubud is a very on trend place with plenty of spas, yoga retreats, fashion and homeware boutiques not to mention there are lots of traditional arts and crafts available all around Ubud from local workshops and markets.
The village of Ubud is also a foodies dream with so many cute hipster cafes and restaurants to pick from. Ubud really has it all apart from the ocean, but it is the greenest place I have ever been to and has so much nature surrounding it. I would suggest staying in Ubud for a couple of nights on your trip to Bali at least, and if your not a beach lover you could easily spend your whole trip in Ubud and get out exploring all the temples and historic sites. You can base yourself in Ubud and do plenty of day tours around the rest of the island too.
Most days we would take our scooter out and go driving around the area stopping at temples and then in the afternoon grab some lunch and hit the local markets such as the Art Market (Pasar Seni), Street Market and the Traditional Market which are a few we visited! There are so many markets and also night markets to explore if your a shopaholic then leave plenty of room in your suitcase.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
Entrance Fee: 50,000 IDR
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is one of Bali’s most famous temples and is placed on Lake Beratan which is Bali’s second largest lake. It is in the highlands of the mountainous region of Bedugul, and the temple is dedicated to several Hindu gods. There are signs that the temple dates back as early as 1556, but was rebuilt in 1633. The gardens of the temple are stunning with gorgeous views over the lake, temples and mountains in the distance. It’s a really calm place to visit and much cooler with its mountain air. This was our first stop on our day tour around the island if your planning on visiting Ulun Danu Beratan Temple I would suggest booking a private driver or book onto a tour that stops there, as it’s high in the mountains it might not be the easiest drive for someone not familiar with the roads.
Transport & Getting Around
Getting around Bali is pretty easy and most locals and tourists tend to opt for scooters, as they’re quick and easy to get from a to b and cheap to run and hiring them doesn’t cost much at all. When hiring a scooter make sure to wear a helmet as there have been so many horrendous stories of tourists having accidents not just in Bali but all around South East Asia.
You can also hire bicycles around the villages but Bali roads aren’t for the faint hearted especially on a bike! Some are in quite a poor condition too, so speak to you accommodation provider who will be able to recommend good places to hire bicycles and some hotels even have them to hire out as well as scooters. There is public transport in the form of a van crammed with seats like a bus called bemos, these aren’t a popular choice with either locals or tourists as they run on a set route, and are few and far between as most people tend to opt for scooters or private drivers.
Bali is easily accessible by many flights that land into Ngurah Rai International Airport with flights from all over the world and Asia. You can also get boats to Bali from both Lombok and the Gili Islands with plenty of different options available.
As we were limited on time we booked a full day island tour through Perama Tours who are reliable and great value and are an Indonesian based tour operator. The tour we booked took us to Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Munduk Waterfall Valley, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Taman Ayun Temple, Tanah Lot and Batu Bolong Temple. They have a variety of tours available if you’re tight on time then booking day tours are a great way to get out and see everything you want to see and with the knowledge of a local.
Bali is an incredible place to visit and it is an extremely popular tourist destination so do go with an open mind and expect crowds. Don’t always go expecting you’re going to be the only one at a popular tourist spot, don’t let Instagram fool you! Many of these travel influencers that get these amazing photos will get up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds and a do a lot of photoshopping, so don’t be shocked if you go somewhere and it is heaving with people.
Bali is full of many religious sites and temples so dress modestly with shoulders and knees covered. A lot of the religious sites will allow you to hire sarongs to cover yourself too. Also note that many high end bars and restaurants have a dress code too, and beachwear in some places may not be allowed, check prior to going to certain places to avoid any disappointment.
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