Got your travel buddy, booked your tickets and read Bali on a budget for first timers? Time to find out what are the best touristy and less touristy places to visit during your first time in Bali. No matter if you are heading over for a few days or a few weeks, you will find plenty to do from this list I have put together based on my personal experience! Let’s get right into it!
1. Gili Islands
The highlight of my two week trip to Bali earlier this year was undoubtedly the two days I spent on Gili T and Gili Air. Paradise beaches, snorkeling off the beach and budget friendly scuba diving during the day, most magical sunsets and parties at night! Cheap street food and fresh seafood to begin with then finish the night off bar hopping into the early hours. Definitely a must if you want to get a feel of the true island life.
Not yet visited by the hordes of tourists, but an absolute must for your gateway to the Gilis! Enjoy spectacular views of Mount Agung, the highest and holiest mountain in Indonesia while staying on a beach hut and snorkeling off the beach. This together with a quiet village life and amazing restaurants, beach bars and cheap mani-pedis? This is what I call a holiday! Amed is amazing for scuba diving and wreck diving. Going underwater is not your idea of fun? Maybe hire a local fisherman to take you out on the water instead for those amazing volcano views!
Do not miss the cultural heart of Bali. Start your day with a healthy breakfast bowl, followed by a yoga classbefore heading over to check out the most Instagrammed Tegallalang rice paddy fields. Why not join a cooking class or learn pottery or jewelry making in between the temple visits? Be sure to pay a visit to the cheeky monkeys in the Monkey forest. For the art lovers, Ubud is a dream come true-there is plenty of museums to choose from and you are also in the right place for the luxurious villas with infinity pools. Don’t forget to check out the Tegenunugan waterfall and enjoy the many beautiful restaurants, cafes and pop up shops.
4. Campuhan ridge walk
The free and easy nature trek is popular among many visitors to Ubud. The nine kilometre round-hike provides a great retreat from the hustle and bustle and presents the most pristine hillside vistas in the region. The best time to enjoy the walk is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the weather is cooler and the sky shows off its best hues. Make sure to drop into the amazing Karsa Café for a refreshing drink and beautiful views over the lush green rice fields. The fishponds surrounding the Balinese huts in the restaurant are sure to keep you entertained. On your way, you will also pass some of the most expensive restaurants and resorts in the area. Get on the track from the entrance to the Ibah Resort. Bear to the left to walk down the path leading to Campuan River gorge and Temple, using the lower bridge to cross the river. Keep the temple to your left and river to your right by simply following the path that leads out of the trees and upwards along the Campuan Ridge.
5. Tirta EmpulTirta Empul is a famous Balinese water temple, a short drive away from Ubud. The temple compound consists of a bathing structure, famous for its holy spring water, where Balinese Hindus go to for ritual purification. The temple pond has a spring which pours out fresh water regularly, considered holy by the Balinese Hindus. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu. On a hill overlooking the temple, a modern villa was built for President Sukarno‘s visit in 1954. The villa is currently a guest house for important guests. For most of the time, Tirta Empul is believed to be a source of clean water. However, the water quality began to deteriorate due to contamination from surrounding areas. As of August 2017, visitors are urged not to use the facilities on-site due to E.coli contamination caused by nearby residents dumping their garbage carelessly onto open water.
6. Mt Agung
I am sure you have heard of the sunrise volcano trek to Mt. Batur, and yes it is beautiful, but also very crowded. Instead, if you have the stamina and the determination, climb on top of the highest volcano in Bali. The overnight trek takes as long as 6-12 hours to complete and the views are worth it all in the end. It is generally recommended going with a guide as people have been said to die hiking alone every year, yet if you are experienced enough, it should be doable without one. You can find a local guide from the trail head for as much as 800.000 IDR for two or book a guide through your accommodation with transport to the trail head and back for twice as much. Every guide should provide you with a head torch (as you are climbing in the darkness of the night), breakfast, water and snacks. Hiking boots and go pros are mandatory, hiking sticks aren’t. Send me photos when you’ve done it!
7. Taman Ujung (The Water Palace)
The magnificent water palace in Bali’s East is the sister site of Tirta Gangga. The complex consists of various large pools and historic structures set against the eastern shoreline the backdrop of Mount Agung. The beautiful palace has suffered near destruction in 1963 following an eruption of Mt Agung and also weathered an earthquake in 1979. Restoration efforts have made it the most beautiful place I saw in Bali. If you have blonde hair or have light skin, expect to be posing on a lot of photos with the mostly local tourists visiting the palace. This is a place you could easily spend hours upon hours taking in all the surrounding beauty.
8. Pura Agung Besakih (The Mother Temple)
Pura Besakih is the most important and the largest and holiest of temples of the Balinese Hindu religion. The temple complex is perched on 1000 meters up the side of Mount Agung, boasting 23 separate, but related temples. Built on six levels, terraced up the slope and dating back to 2000 years, this is the single most important temple you will visit when in Bali. The holy place is popular for many different types of ceremonies, some as often as every six months, every year, every five years, every ten years and every one hundred years based on Balinese calendar. When buying your entry ticket, you will be assigned a “free” local guide who provides some interesting insights to the Balinese Hindu religion and the history of the temple complex for a tip in the end.
9. Tanah Lotphoto credit: Exotissimo Travel
A rock formation and home to the pilgrimage temple Pura Tanah Lot. The “Land in the sea” is located 20 km from Denpasar. The sea temple is a holy place for worshiping the Balinese sea gods. The area is heavily commercialized and you are expected to pay at least 60.000 IDR to enter the area. With plenty of street vendors and restaurants in the area, expect to be bargaining for some souvenirs. The place is an incredibly popular tourist and cultural icon for photography. The best photos are taken during the sunset.
10. Uluwatu Temple
Another beautiful temple with dramatic coastal views, sitting on the edge of a 70 meter high cliff. Beware of the monkeys who inhabit the area, they are notorious for snatching visitors belongings. (Yup, I can vouch for that after having to fight over my flip flops with an aggressive macaque.) They are then persuaded into trading the items for fruit that locals are readily selling to tourists that have lost their sunnies or go pros. Scientist and experts on primate behavior have conducted studies on the monkeys in the area and have collected data suggesting that they learn bartering behavior. (WOAH!) This trade is passed down to the young offsprings. New groups of monkeys introduced into the area quickly adapt and learn the new skill from the locals who benefit financially.
I hope you have enjoyed my TOP 10 things to do in Bali and that everyone will find something from this list for their first time to the island of gods. Let me know in the comments, where would you like to go and why? If you already have been to Bali and would like to add something to this list, I want to hear from you! Please leave me a comment with your favourite place in Bali.
In case you missed, do check out my tips on how to visit Bali on a budget for first timers.
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