These are Bali’s top 9 holiday experiences. Don’t waste your holiday partying – do these instead.
Bali. It’s Indonesia’s wild child, the party zone that lures tourists from around the world with Bintang and beachside cocktails.
A Bali holiday is days in the sun and nights in the club, an adults-only getaway that’s more like a week of dancing-til-you-drop than an actual vacation.
What if we told you there’s a different Bali out there?
A Bali that rejects its tacky tourist reputation, a Bali that is ancient temples and dripping jungle and heart-pounding adventures?
A Bali that is mysterious and vibrant and richly authentic, that still gives you that raw thrill of exploration, the kind of place that you go for a week and come back to for a month?
That’s the Bali we want to show you, so we’ve lined up our top nine most incredible Bali attractions – if you’re visiting Indonesia, these bucket-list items need to be on your itinerary. Are you ready?
9 Best Things to Do in Bali
1. Visit Ubud Royal Palace
The cultural epicentre of Ubud District, the Ubud Royal Palace (Puri Saren Agung) was originally home to the region’s ruling family; it was built between 1800 and 1823.
Now, the intricate architecture of the palace has become one of Bali’s most famous landmarks, and is a must-do for holidaymakers.
A narrow footpath traverses its lily-covered moat, guiding visitors towards the towering main building – if you visit at night, you’ll see the its façade illuminated by soft, golden lamps.
For those wanting live entertainment, check out the nightly gamelan orchestras, which are a fascinating display of traditional Balinese culture.
2. Visit Pura Gunung Kawi
Pura Gunung Kawi was originally built in the 11th century, and visiting this ancient temple complex is like taking a step back in time.
Although it features a fairly standard temple courtyard and grand pavilion, it also has five candi (stone reliefs that serve as shrines) that have been carved into the mountainside as a tribute to King Anak Wungsu and his queens.
A number of nearby caves were originally used as meditation sites, and, as you walk along lichen-stained paths on the fringes of the jungle, it’s hard not to feel a sense of primal awe.
Be aware that the sacred nature of Gunung Kawi requires traditional clothing – sarong and sashes are available for hire at the temple’s entrance.
3. Climb Mount Agung
The highest point in Bali, Mount Agung is considered sacred in traditional Balinese culture. It’s also an active volcano – there have been multiple eruptions throughout the last two centuries, and it regularly emits drifting plumes of smoke.
A number of trekking companies run tours of the mountain, but the climb isn’t exactly easy. Depending on the route you choose, a summit ascent can take between 3 and 5 hours, with a round-trip time of between 6 and 10 hours.
Although the hike is challenging (and requires a good level of fitness), the amazing views at the top will make all the pain and sweat worthwhile.
4. Visit Goa Gajah
Goa Gajah, ‘the Elephant Cave’, is an ancient temple carved directly into a hillside in Ubud. It isn’t actually a cave full of elephants, but you’ll still want to visit – the narrow stone corridors and intricately-carved façade are truly unique.
Visitors enter by walking through the gaping mouth of a Balinese demon. Inside, there’s several tiny alcoves with statues dedicated to Shiva and Ganesh. The temple also has a communal bath, filled with tiny fish and fed by water-pouring statues.
Although Goa Gajah doesn’t have spectacular views or lively entertainment, this small, silent cave is fascinating in its own way – you’ll definitely walk away with a few great photos.
5. Visit Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
If you type ‘Balinese temple’ into Google, the first images you see will be of Pura Ulun Danu Beratan – this stunning lakeside temple has captured the imagination of photographers and tourists for decades.
Beautifully-maintained and framed by the Bedugal mountain range, it’s reflected in the lake’s mirror-like waters, creating a fascinating optical illusion – the buildings appear as though they’re floating.
If quiet contemplation and pretty photos aren’t your thing, you can also tour Lake Beratan via motorised boat, traditional jukung, or jet-ski.
6. Visit the Ubud Monkey Forest
A spiritual and ecological centre for nearby Padangtegal, the Ubud Monkey Forest is home to roughly 600 long-tailed macaques which roam through the vine-choked jungle and mossy temples.
Don’t bring loose items into the forest, because these mischievous primates are known for stealing belongings and pulling visitors’ hair.
You can also view (but not enter) the forest’s three temple complexes:
- Pura Dalem Agung, the main temple, dedicated to Shiva
- Pura Beji, dedicated to Gangga and used for ritual cleansing
- Pura Prajapati, dedicated to Prajapati, and the site of mass cemetery cremations held every 5 years
If you’re looking for an authentic Bali holiday experience that pairs culture with the outdoors, the Ubud Monkey Forest is a perfect addition to your bucket-list.
7. Visit Uluwatu Temple
Pura Luhur Uluwata, or Uluwatu Temple, is a seaside temple often considered to be one of the sad kahyangan, the holiest places in Balinese traditions.
Perched on a cliff roughly 70 metres above pounding waves, the temple commands majestic views of the ocean – it’s the perfect place to get those stunning Bali photos you’ve been waiting for.
Like the Ubud Monkey Forest, it’s also home to a band of long-tailed macaques, who love to pillage unwary tourists. It’s possible to retrieve stolen items by ‘bartering’ with the monkeys – they’ve learned to return belongings if you bribe them with fruit, although experts suspect that this only encourages their thieving behaviour.
8. Walk through the Tegalalang Rice Terraces
These famous rice paddies use the traditional Balinese irrigation system known as subak. The result?
Grassy terraces, verdant with new crops – an iconic Bali holiday attraction that’s become globally-renowned.
The paths along the edge of the terraces mean you can actually explore the rice paddies fairly thoroughly, although different sections are preceded by ‘check-points’ where the villagers will ask you for donations, so, the further in you go, the more you’ll end up shelling out.
Because the terraces are so popular with tourists, it’s a good idea to visit as early as you can to avoid the crowds.
9. Zip through the forest at Bali Treetop Adventure Park
You might’ve been on treetop challenges in the past, but have you done it in Bali? With seven different circuits, including two designed for young children, the Bali Treetop Adventure Park is adrenaline, exercise and exploration all rolled into one.
Get a sense of Bali’s natural spaces as you break a sweat running across monkey bridges and scaling ladders. If you’re truly adventurous, try the Black Circuit with its Tarzan swings and terrifying zip-lines.
Bali Bonuses: Our Best Bali Holiday Experiences
10. Pura Besakih
If you’ve been to Bali before, you were probably wondering why the island’s most sacred temple wasn’t on our list. It’s okay, we didn’t forget – we just believe in saving the best until last.
Clinging to the slopes of Mount Agung, this sprawling temple complex spans six terraced levels. Its heart is Pura Penataran Agung, which features a padmasana, or lotus throne – you’ll also see the temple’s iconic candi bentar (split gateway) silhouetted against the sky.
If you visit one temple on your holiday to Bali, Pura Basakih should be it.
11. A Balinese Floating Breakfast
If you need a break from all the heart-pumping bucket-list experiences we’ve listed here, there’s no better way to do it than with a Balinese floating breakfast.
Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like – a delicious, chef-prepared breakfast with either Traditional or Western cuisine, floating on the surface of your private pool.
This ultra-luxe experience is complemented by amazing views of nearby jungle. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
You’re probably wondering where you need to go to enjoy a floating breakfast. The answer’s easy: it’s available at Wyndham Dreamland Resort Bali, for just IDR 200.000-++ (AUD 21.00)* and IDR 250.000-++ (AUD 25.00)* respectively.
Enjoy an acai bowl or munch on gado-gado rolls with peanut sauce in your whirlpool as you watch the sunrise.
*Prices valid as of October 2019.