You’re looking for a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the 9 to 5. You’re looking for a way to blow off some steam after a hefty period of university deadlines and exams. You’re looking to discover a new and interesting culture. You’re looking for an island getaway. Enter Bali – an island in Indonesia, known for its volcanic, jungle landscapes, powder-white beaches and smattering of temples.
Keep reading for the top places to visit in Bali, for a variety of different reasons!
When you’re looking to find your inner peace – visit Ubud
From yoga retreats to health food cafes, art markets to tranquil temples, Ubud is a Balinese town travellers often find themselves wanting to stay in for longer – pulled in by the allure of peaceful discovery. Located in the central foothills of the Gianyar district, the best time to visit Ubud is between June – September, during the dry season. Although this is a popular haunt for tourists, Ubud has retained an authentic feel, as you can see traditional Balinese culture at every turn: colourful offerings dotted along the streets, art markets selling local crafts, traditional dance festivals, and intricate stone temples like the Goa Gajah (elephant cave), and spiritual yoga classes.
When you’re looking for some good surf – visit Kuta
Kuta is on the west coast of Bali, located in the Badung Regency (and just a short distance from Seminyak). The area has seen a drastic transformation from its quiet roots and is now one of the most popular beach resort destinations for tourists. One of the more commercial areas of Bali, you’ll find tons of nice hotels, cafes, restaurants and street vendors. The surf is a major draw for amateur and beginner surfers: it’s a laid-back atmosphere, no pressure, lots of opportunity to train up, and a constant change in wave types. If you’re looking to learn, this is the place; there are lots of surf schools in the area, ready with a helping hand (and a decent wave). Grab a few bintangs, kick-back on the golden beach, surf a few waves and watch the sunset.
The best time to visit Kuta for surfing? Anytime from March to November for the winds – although best to avoid monsoon season and visit sometime before October.
When you’re looking for your next Instagram shot – visit Tegalalang
You’ve seen it. That classic Bali shot of girl/guy standing with their back to the camera, looking out over emerald green rows of rice paddies, palm trees, and even the odd worker in their traditional gear. That’s the iconic Tegalalang Rice Terrace (it’s in Ubud, but we thought it deserved its own mention – also it’s a 25-minute drive from the centre of Ubud). Its terraced look isn’t just there for a good photo though, it’s a Balinese irrigation system called Subak, and is the reason the site was awarded UNESCO Heritage Site status, due to the ancient farming practice which is based on a Hindu philosophy of maintaining harmony between humans, the environment and their spirituality – and also makes Balinese farmers the most successful rice growers in the country. There’s no entry fee, but locals in nearby shacks will ask for a donation to walk around the paddies, so bring some cash.
Best time to visit Tegalalang Rice Terrace? Early in the morning – it’s the best time to avoid the crowds as well as the heat. Plus, imagine the sun rise over those majestic paddies.
When you’re looking for a coastal getaway – visit Jimbaran
Head south of Kuta and you’ll find yourself in a coastal fishing village, with a long golden beach, calm waters and all the fresh seafood you could ever want. A popular hotspot for wealthy celebrities, luxurious villas and resorts can be found hiding in the coconut palm groves, and the nightlife is more sophisticated than some of its neighbours’. Think cocktail sundowners on a roof terrace, world-class beachside seafood restaurants, and panoramic drink and food venues.
Backpackers doing the Bali trail tend to head to Jimbaran to visit the Uluwatu Temple: a spiritual temple (one of the most important in Bali) that dates back to the 11th century, overlooking the sea atop a steep cliff.
It’s best to visit Uluwatu Temple at sunset (preferably between the months of March-September for clear skies) not only for the awe-inspiring views, but also for the Uluwatu Kecak Dance, scheduled after the sunset. It’s not spiritually significant, however it’s a glimpse into the dance culture of Bali.
When you’re looking for a high-end retreat – visit Seminyak
If you’re looking for a bit of a reprieve between the toilet holes in the floor and the uncomfortable dorm beds, then head to Seminyak for a little luxury. In Bali, a high-end stay is still affordable, and you can find some 5* resorts for the price of 3* in another country! A shopping haven, with luxury beachside resorts and cosmopolitan bars, you’ll get your flashpacking fix from Seminyak. Potato Head Beach Club is a popular hotspot for tourists: where you can drink cocktails out of coconuts, sunbathe for hours, and take a dip in an infinity pool that overlooks the ocean.
Don’t worry – although the lifestyle is a little more western than some other areas of Bali, you’re not far from some spiritual temples: Pura Masceti, which is an agricultural temple used by farmers, and Pura Petitenget, which is a sea temple. And yoga is just as prominent here as everywhere else – so you can truly unwind and relax if that’s what you’re looking for.
Although not technically Bali, the Gili Islands are just a short trip away, and tend to form part of a travellers Bali itinerary, so we’re cheating and including them. Don’t sue us.
When you’re looking for a party – visit Gili Trawangan
Gili T as it’s affectionately known by travellers, is one of the islands of the Gili archipelago, located near the coast of northwest Lombok, and takes about 30 minutes to get to by speedboat. With palm-fringed snow-white beaches, crystal clear and calm waters, and the perfect sunset viewing spots, it’s one of the most popular places for tourists to visit in Bali. Out of the three Gili Islands (Trawangan, Air and Meno) Gili T is well-known for its nightlife – backpackers flock to the island with the promise of a paradise island getaway by day, and the chance to dance til dawn at night. It’s the best of both worlds!
When you’re looking for a community vibe – visit Gili Air
Gili Air is the closest of the three islands to Lombok mainland, and is perfect for the budget traveller looking for the paradise island break of their dreams. You can walk around the island in about 2.5 hours, which gives you an indication of the close-knit community life that Gili Air offers. If you really want to escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland, or the backpacker parties of Gili T, head to Air.
Stay in accommodation on the beach or in the coconut groves – no fancy resorts and villas here. It’s all about authentic living. Try your hand at diving, with one of three dive schools on the island, or kick-back with a cocktail in one of the local bars. Gili Air has the right mix of authenticity, island lifestyle, buzzy local bars and watersports: for the traveller who wants a bit of everything but doesn’t want to get smacked in the face with commercial tourism.
When you’re looking for a castaway experience – visit Gili Meno
The smallest of the three Gili islands, Gili Meno is the quietest of the three islands, favoured by honeymooners, mature travellers, or backpackers who are just looking for a detox from hectic budget travel life. Much like its counterparts, Meno also offers palm-fringed beaches and coral-filled waters – the southeast stretch is known as the best beach of the Gilis. You’ll find more upmarket accommodation here, rising with the influx of honeymooners, with a new beach-side condo project due to take over the west coast in 2020. Slow-paced island life is the major draw here, less about the nightlife, and more about drinking under a bamboo shack on the beach and taking in the ocean views with your evening dinner.
If you want to tick off a few places in one trip, then the answer could be a group tour – where you travel with like-minded travellers, tick off all the highlights, and occasionally visit sustainable community projects. We’ve got tours that span 2 to 40 days – check them out here.
If you’d rather sort out your trip on-the-go, but looking for some packages that sort out your flights and accommodation, we’ve got beach escapes for stays around Bali.