So you’re planning a trip to Bali and want to know the absolute must see places to maximize your time on this paradise island?
Famous for its stunning natural icons, rich culture and colorful traditional arts, Bali is certainly an island of unmatched natural beauty. From the mountainous wild jungle terrains of Bedugul, to the spectacular waterfalls of GitGit, and romantic candlelit dinners (read most romantic dinners in Bali) on the beaches of a sleepy fishing village, there is so much to do beyond the street stalls of Kuta.
Made up of 9 regencies, this island may be small, but it is full to the brim with cultural attractions. If time’s not on your side, it can be confusing to know exactly where to go and what to do.
So we have saved you the time and compiled all of the most interesting destinations of each regency. Leaving you to relax and enjoy your stay.
Regency of Bangli
The Regency of Bangli boasts the Kintamani region, a landscape of spectacular beauty located in the highlands of North Western Bali. Here you can find the mesmerising active volcano, Caldera; the highest point on the island, Batur Mountain; and the biggest deep crater lake in Bali, Batur Lake.
This peak is an absolute haven for those who love to hike. To climb Mount Batur will take you roughly two hours and you will undoubtedly find many local guides to help you on arrival. There are two great climbing tracks to choose from; Puri Jati or Toya Bungkah. Your best bet, despite both of them averaging the same length, is the Toya Bungkah track, as it guides through beautiful lush forest that provides shade from the hot Bali sun.
The Puri Jati track, on the other hand, will see you crossing lava fields where there is no shade at all. It’s also set in uneven terrain making it a little more difficult to hike. Irrespective of the track you choose to embark on, the scenery and landscape below will not fail to amaze.
You don’t have to be super fit to hike the mountain, though there are points throughout the climb where it gets a little steep and slippery. Always pay attention to where you step and bring lots of water. One you reach the top, you’ll find a small hut where you can purchase a well deserved snack or drink to refuel.
Try fried eggs cooked right from the steam vents of the volcano on a lava heated rock.
You will also have the opportunity to look inside the craters if your guide assures it is safe. It’s a surreal experience to look into those deep craters, remembering you’re standing on an explosive, very alive volcano.
Hot tip: Wake up early for the 4am sunrise climb! Hit the summit just in time for the sun to begin rising over the beautiful valley. Just remember to wear a jacket as it gets chilly up there. You should also avoid climbing the mountain in the wet season which is between October and late April.
There is also a gorgeous cycling and hiking track which has recently opened in the traditional village of Buahan. Spread throughout thick jungle and beautiful greenery, you will see the agriculture and vegetable farms throughout the village. Stop for a chat with locals or spend the night.
Mount Batur is located one and a half hours drive from Denpasar Airport.
Batur Natural Hot Springs
Since you’re in the area, try bathing in the natural Hot Springs of Kintamani. It is a deeply enriching and relaxing experience. Take in the panoramic view of the Batur crater lake as you surrender to the therapeutic warmth of the natural hot spring waters against your body.
Sitting at the foot of the active volcano, Mount Agung, is the beautiful deep crater lake, another very popular and must see attraction on the island. Jump in a boat and travel to the other side where you will find Trunyan village, home to the Balinese Aga people.
The best time to visit is during the day, when the landscape is clear and visible. There is a beautiful restaurant overlooking the lake where you can enjoy both the view and a delicious Indonesian buffet lunch. The drive is breath taking – the perfect spot to grab some photos.
Conveniently, there are a lot of tours available including guided canoeing and cultural village trips, where you get to really experience the local traditions and see the landscape close up. The Kintamani region itself is made up of several small and beautiful villages including Songan and Abang – you won’t regret paying them a visit.
Regency of Tabanan
The Tabanan regency is one of the most popular tourist areas in Bali. With attractions like the famous Tanah Lot temple, Lake Bratan and the perfect rice terraces of Jati Luwih, it’s no surprise this area draws in the crowds.
Located in the South of Bali, Tabanan is made up of eight sub districts, each offering something unique to see. This is a great area for family holidays or for couples to indulge in relaxation. With plenty of luxurious hotels and restaurants on offer, you’ll be more than a little bit spoilt for choice.
Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot is a beautiful Hindu temple that sits perched on a rock offshore, in the sea off Tabanan. This shrine is a significant place of spirituality and prayer for the Hindu people of Bali, making it a must see icon.
The most visited temple on the island of Bali, its charm lies in its unique architectural structure and the charming way it’s framed in the foreground when the beautiful orange sun sets behind it. The coastline and the waves are also a spectacular sight to see.
As a tourist, you can view Tanah Lot from a raised cliff. It is only when the tide is low that you can you walk to its base. However, to enter the temple is forbidden to foreign visitors as it is a highly sacred place.
The best time to visit Tanah Lot Temple is, of course, sunset – but be warned it will be super busy! If you want to avoid the tourist rush, you must come early in the morning and if you want to catch the sunset, sit to the east. If you’re lucky, you might catch the cultural offerings and the proceedings of prayer ceremonies.
You should also take the time to wash your face and hands in the natural holy water of the surrounding ocean. It is believed that by doing so the Gods will answer your prayers, just remember to make a donation.
There are copious amounts of lovely restaurants and cafes to enjoy. Take a well deserved break while you eat and look out upon the picturesque ocean with the wild waves crashing upon the temple shrine. Many of these cafes offer a great angle and position from which to capture that perfect landscape picture. While in the area, pay a visit to the local markets and souvenir shops to grab some gifts for all those unlucky friends that couldn’t join you on your trip to Bali!
A beautiful afternoon trip and a nice way to spend an evening. Worth the time it takes to get there.
Entry fee: To enter Tanah Lot is 30,000 rupiah for an adult and 15,000 for a child ($1.50-3).
How to get there: There are several organised tours to Tanah lot temple, or you could simply hire a driver to take you there. It takes about 40 minutes from Sanur or one hour from Kuta, but keep in mind there may be traffic. The drive is beautiful as you will pass through many rice patties and traditional villages. You can get there by following the main highway between Denpasar and Singaraja.
Other great things to see while in this area…
Nirvana Bali Golf Club: If you’re a golf fan, opposite Tanah Lot you will find the Nirwana Bali golf Club, a great value for money course that has been rated in the top 100 gulf courses in the world. It has scenic views with holes positioned right on the coastline and lush grass throughout the whole field. It also features great teachers with plenty of experience. If you have time to spare, be sure to hit up this golfer’s haven.
The Lush Rice Terraces of Jatiluwih
Rice Terraces that impress the hard-to-impress.
Located in the village of Jatiluwih, part of Tambanan district, these rice terraces run all the way from the slopes of Mount Batukaru down to the coast.
This is one of the best places in Bali to see lush green rice terraces, and also a fantastic place to take photos due to the absolutely breathtaking scenery. Jatiluwih is also well known for its organic agricultural system. Because of its ideal location inside the plateau of the mountain, it has naturally superb conditions for growing crops and food.
The area is irrigated using a communal water system created locally by the Balinese. You will find Jatiluwih north of Tambanan, roughly fifty five minutes drive from Kuta.
Mount Batukaru and its Surrounding Rainforest
Mount Batukaru is the second highest mountain in Bali, reaching a point of 2,276 meters. Surrounded by mysterious protected rainforest, it is home to several species of wild animals, including the famous Luwak, a cat like animal which produces Luwak Coffee by eating and excreting the beans. If you’re game, it’s said to be one of the best coffees in the world (and also one of the most expensive!).
The temple of Batukaru is another secret gem hidden within the forest, which can be reached via the village rice terraces. This is an important directional shrine built during the Tabanan Dynasty.
To climb Mount Batukaru will take roughly three hours, making it best to leave quite early in the morning to complete the hike.
If you intend to explore the forest and hike Mount Batukaru, you will be able to find guides in the region which will charge a small fee to take you around for the day. There are also many organised tours you can tag on to, including the Waka Land Cruise (although it’s a little on the pricy side).
Not a lot of people visit this area so you shouldn’t be overwhelmed by crowds, unlike many of the other beautiful attractions in Bali. We suggest you lap up the peaceful serenity while you can!
Amazing Crater Lakes and Ulun Danu Temple of Bedugul
Roughly two and a half hours from Legian area, Bedugul is a stunning highland village in the mountains. This area has three natural crater lakes – Lake Beratan, Buyan and Lake Tamblingan – and on the shore of Lake Beratan sits the magnificent Ulun Danu Temple.
The crater lake of Beratan offers an opportunity to try out many water sports, including speedboat rides, jet-skiing and parasailing. You can also hire a paddle boat or a speedboat to explore a little wider. Bedugul also boasts a gorgeous botanical garden with native animals and beautiful flowers and trees.
Pacung is the name of the mountain resort region of Bedugul. Here you will find the Tabanan Hot Springs, The Bali Butterfly Park, as well as Alas Kedaton Monkey Forest.
If golf is more your thing, swing a few holes down at the Bali Handara Golf and Country Club situated in the mountains.
Finish off your trip with a dip at the famous Balian Beach, a visit to the glorious Git Git Waterfalls, or a quick shop at Bedugul Traditional Market in Candikuning.
Uluwatu Sea Temple and Taman Ayu Water temple
Uluwatu Temple (Pura Luhur Uluwatu) is a captivating and enchanting directional Hindu sea temple perched on a steep cliff, overlooking the magical coastline of southern Bali. Its strategic location on the Southern Peninsula is believed to help protect Bali from the evil spirits of the sea.
The best views of the Uluwatu temple are from the northern and southern sections of the surrounding areas. “The Bukit”, as the region is sometimes referred to, offers some of the nicest beaches and restaurants on the island, as well as some of the greatest waves for those who live to surf.
Hot Tip: There are hundreds of monkeys in the area – avoid having food in your pockets!
Entry Fee: 20,000 RP per person. And if you want to watch “The Kecak/Fire Dance”, a traditional cultural show, the price is 70,000 RP.
It will take you approximately one hour and fifteen minutes to drive here from Kuta. Take the road through Kedodongan and Jimbaran Hills to get there. On your way, stop over to Taman Ayun Temple in Mengwi (Mengwi water temple). Often noted as one of the most beautiful Temples on the island, it was built during the Mengwi Empire and gracefully honors the Gods of all the Hindu temples in Bali.
There is a lovely garden filled with frangipani trees, fish ponds and waterway canals. Enter over a bridge that directs you to gorgeous ornamental gates, leading to yet another courtyard of the Taman Ayun Temple.
Besakih “Mother” Temple
The spiritual center of the Balinese people, the Besakih Temple (Besakih Pura) is a world heritage site and the most important complex of temples in Bali. Located in the Regency of Besakih, on the east coast of the island, this shrine is perched 1000 meters high off the ground of the slopes of the majestic Mount Agung Mountain.
A gloriously beautiful spiritual site with a calming and lovely ambiance, Besakih Temple is made up of seven levels and a high case of stairs. Great architecture representing the Balinese culture and well maintained, this is a glorious backdrop for Mount Agung Volcano.
It is suggested that Besakih Temple is the only temple in Bali which permits a Hindu of any caste to pray. Because of this, there are over eighteen different areas within the temple structure dedicated to different caste groups.
Hot tip: Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and hawkers, and to make the most of the gorgeous mountain views. A guide is not necessary, but if you would like one, they are available on site.
Mount Agung Volcano
Mount Agung, also known as “Mount Holy”, is not only the principal active volcano of Bali, but also the very highest point on the island.
To climb Mount Agung is a challenging and steep endeavor even for the most daring hikers, but very worthwhile. It takes roughly three and a half hours to reach the summit and is best climbed very early in the morning so you can watch the sun rise and take in the beautiful view. Going down is a lot harder and is often slippery, but if you are fit and assertive, it is a great hike.
Hot Tip: Make sure you have a capable guide. The cost of a guide will also cover breakfast and snacks, as well as transport there and back. Also be very careful climbing and always watch where you step, especially in the early hours of the morning or late at night when visibility is obstructed. There are several areas on the climb where the rock faces have little area to grip onto.
If you’re a lover of water sports, another fun thing to do while in the area is to head on down to The Telaga Waja River and experience white River Rafting.