So you know Canggu’s coffee shops like the palm of your hand and have Seminyak’s shopping scene down to a fine art. Weaving through the shortcuts of Umalas is a breeze and you can dissect the good from the bad in Kuta like nobody’s business.
Sounds like you need some time out from the well-trodden trails of the south.
…venturing around Bali is not just about escaping the crowds and the chaos.
Whether for a weekend or a few weeks, venturing around Bali is not just about escaping the crowds and the chaos. These are journeys made to deepen your cultural understanding and appreciation, replenish the soul and reignite your love for this incredibly diverse island.
Here, in no particular order, we round up some of the best destinations on the island to explore, with hand-selected accommodations options to boot.
Where to go: Amed, east Bali
If you’re not an avid diver or mountaineer, you may have crossed Amed off the to-do list. But on the stretch of land between the almighty Mount Agung and the lively coral filled ocean, a humble little town sits begging for visitors. With all the quaint fishing village charm one would expect from the east, Amed is a place to spend the weekend doing Yoga without the crowds, devouring your bodyweight in mahi-mahi and watching sail boats idle across the sea.
Where to stay: Villa Bukit Segara
The perfect place to take in the mellow magnificence of Amed is Villa Bukit Segara. Sitting right on the ocean, dolphin viewing from the infinity pool becomes just another addition to the tranquil daily agenda. An on-site bakery dishes up hot bread for breakfast and the gardens contribute to the extensive lunch and dinner menu. With the option to book just one of the 5 rooms privately or the whole villa, you are free to make this a cozy weekend away for two or grab the whole tribe and call Bukit Segara your own.
As seducing as the plush décor and homely vibes of the villa are, don’t forget your purpose here is to actually head outside and explore Amed. Sip Ayurvedic tea at Aiona Garden of Health, visit the salt plains, take a freediving course, then head back to Bukit Segara for cocktails in the backyard’s two-story treehouse.
For most travellers – as well as many Bali expats who don’t call Ubud home – Ubud is the tried and tested weekend away that never gets old. With an eclectic counter-culture, many of Bali’s most important religious sites, endless eating and shopping options, and a frightfully fun monkey forest, it’s not surprising the magic of this centrally located destination doesn’t diminish.
To put a new spin on your old faithful, get creative with your accommodation choices and make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes beyond the central hub of Ubud.
Where to stay: Michi Retreat
Michi Retreat is a perfectly peculiar place to lap up the creative energy Ubud is famous for. Owned by an 85-year-old Chinese / American artist (whose book collection is as jaw dropping as the retreat’s view of a valley), this space is home to an abandoned ceramics room, weekly Life Dance classes, and a small collection of wonderfully diverse characters. Each of the rooms found across the sprawling property are designed in the spirit of eras in time and destinations around the world. The China room balanced with feng shui and a futon bed and the 3 bedroom Nausicaa Suite jazzed up like a Mediterranean marvel are just two of the options on the globe trotting menu. Michi Retreat is currently transitioning into an artists’ village, so if you’re not of the creative caliber this may be your last chance to take a glimpse.
If seclusion and luxury are the aim of your game, look no further than Bidadari. Often ranking top place on Trip Advisor’s extensive list of villas in Bali, this is a place that manages to walk the fine line of retaining Balinese culture and radiating five-star appeal. With private infinity pools that overlook the dense surrounding jungle and a day spa that offers a riverside flower bath, a weekend spent seeing Ubud doesn’t even require departure from the retreat.
In the minds of most, Medewi is reserved for serious surfers: end of story. True as it might be that the region’s “perfect left” is the biggest draw-card, Medewi is also a great place to dabble in the authentic Balinese culture of the west without venturing too far from the south. Cycle through clove, coffee and cacao plantations; watch the famous Mekepung West Bali buffalo races; and momentarily name yourself a rice farmer – ploughing and planting a paddy on the back of a buffalo. An authentic weekend away if ever there was one.
Where to stay: Puri Dajuma
Puri Dajuma offers all of the above activities and so much more. Built with a mission to retain Balinese culture, everything from the cuisine to the architecture and the hospitality are infused with tradition. Just a quick scoot from Medewi’s waves and sitting right on the ocean, the location doesn’t get much better than this. Notable nearby activities include the sacred Bunut Bolong tree, hidden waterfalls, and the truly adventurous can even join a Puri Dajuma one day trip to East Java where they can trek to the top of the Mount Kawah Ijen volcano.
For those who know about it, the call of the Candi Dasa area could be minimised to Charlys Chocolate Factory; a coastal cacao farm where wooden tee-pee like huts produce organic almond milk chocolate and a giant swing that tumbles out of the palm trees induces childish squeals. Looking a little beyond the playtime, crystal clear beaches, sloping hinterlands and the mystifying Ujung Water Palace are what really seal the deal of Candi Dasa and its surrounds.
Where to stay: Villa Flow
Just on the outskirts of Candi Dasa, a culinary wonderland set in a decadent sprawling retreat by the name of Villa Flow can be found. Three course meals are whipped up on the harvest of their 2000 square metre organic garden, the same garden that makes the day spa’s natural beauty products. If Candi Dasa’s chocolate factory really sucks you in, Villa Flow also offers juice cleanse retreats along with holistic spiritual holidays and yoga and spa packages. Round off your stay with a massage by a Balinese priest and a local Balinese Yoga class. Or for those truly in need of healing, a melukat water purification ceremony may be in order.
If our stamp of approval on this divine retreat isn’t enough, perhaps their 3 nominations in the World Luxury Hotel Awards for Service Excellence will do the trick. Villa Flow is sure to remind you just how rejuvenating a weekend escape can be.
A little further along the western path from Medewi – sitting about halfway to the town of Gilimanuk where the ferry departs for Java – you will find Negara. With easy access to Taman Nasional Bali Barat (West Bali National Park), Menjangan Island and Medewi’s Beaches, Negara is a central hub perfect for exploring a bit more of West Bali than staying in Medewi offers. When you’re done with the trekking, bird watching, diving and surfing, explore the colourful markets ofNegara and visit the Perancak Hindu temple.
Where to stay: Bali Eco Beach House
With exposed wooden beams, thatched roofs and traditional fabrics, this double story beach-shack spilling with environmentally friendly Balinese charm makes the ideal castaway holiday. Upstairs offers one large king sized bed and enough day beds to sleep four; perfect for a family escape or a cozy weekend for two. Bali Eco Beach House‘s extensive environmental policies mean you can even feel good about travelling green.
Despite an earthquake in 1976 destroying many of its buildings, Seririt is a place where the Dutch colonial history of Bali can still be witnessed. It is also a town in close proximity to the Banjar Hot Springs, where mystical healing waters pour into pools from the mouths of stone naga at a temperature of 37 degrees celsius. But in reality, the reason you will really want to visit Seririt is neither the colonialism or the nearby hot springs. Rather, it’s the Ayurvedic utopia of Zen Resort.
Where to stay: Zen Resort
Built on sacred grounds that overlooks green planes crawling towards the ocean, Zen Resort honours its calm setting in every fine detail. An array of soul-healing spa treatments and a menu of world class dosha balancing meals make this one of the most authentic Ayurvedic retreats in South-East Asia. Without sacrificing the grounded and wholesome roots of the ancient Indian traditions, Zen feels like a lavish escape fit for Balinese royalty.
Somehow, despite technically sitting along the Bali tourist trail, Bingin seems completely removed from the hustle and bustle of Bali. If it’s an Ubud style weekend of RnR you’re craving but you can’t bear to leave the seaside behind, Bingin is where you need to be. Surf, swim, do yoga, eat copious amounts of earthly foods and avoid leaving the base of the cliff at all costs.
Where to stay: The Temple Lodge
Complete with thatched hut cabanas, an open air yoga studio dripping in sky flower vines, and a kitchen that knows how to master vegetarian, Ayurvedic and macrobiotic dishes, The Temple Lodge is the epitome of the Bingin vibe. Days can be spent lapping up the ocean views from the retreat’s infinity pool or soaking up the indulgence of the day spa, which boasts all natural ingredients (of course). Binging and The Temple Lodge equal soul pampering at its finest.
In all honesty, Mambal isn’t screaming for attention. It’s more of a “few rice fields and a couple of warungs” sort of area. But in the midst of Mambal, one of the most incredible spots on the island can be found…
Where to stay: Fivelements Puri Ahimsa
Fivelements is the unfathomable retreat known for its grand bamboo design, its award winning restaurant Sakti Dining Room, and its indisputable menu of healing treatments. Supporting its credibility, it hosts TEDx Ubud, sessions from the Ubud Writers’ and Readers’ Festival, as well as the latest addition to the Bali calendar of festivals, the Ubud Food Festival.
Then there’s the enviable award list; 2014 Luxury Green Hotel winner awarded by the World Luxury Hotel Awards; 2014 Best Wellness Retreat in Asia Pacific winner awarded by Luxury Lane; and 2014 Spa Cuisine of the Year winner awarded by AsiaSpa – just to name a few. With a list of accolades like that, we don’t need to bother detailing the taste of the heaven-sent raw vegan lasagna, the opulence of the homely suites and the totally zen vibe of the entire surrounds.
Surf, snorkel, stand-up paddle board, swim with manta rays, cliff jump … the synopsis of a weekend on Nusa Lembongan has all the lures of paradise. Sitting in a cluster of three islands with Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida, Lembongan is the most built up and tourist friendly venture of the offshore islands that still constitute Bali. But don’t let that fool you into believing its tranquility has been destroyed – unlike the popular Gili Islands of Lombok, the nightlife here is slim to none. Make your way to Sanur and catch one of several fast boats that are cheap, quick and easy – provided that you’re not battling out a storm.
Where to stay: Tigerlillys
Tigerlillys is a secret garden retreat where huts are made of coconut palm walls and the bathrooms are made of natural stone – perfect for those who like their outdoors indoors and their atmospheres tropic. Over at the Tigerlillys restaurant, dinner should involve an array of homemade pizzas enjoyed over countless espresso martinis, and dessert needs to consist of homemade cheesecakes and coconut crepes. That should finish off a day of Lembongan island exploration quite perfectly.
Dolphins, waterfalls and traditional outriggers may have affirmed Lovina’s position on the Bali tourist map, but the 2 hour drive from Denpasar seems to make the journey a little too much for most. Rest assured that when you are sailing across the Java Sea at 6am watching great ocean mammals leap out of the ocean while low-lying clouds rest along the beach at the base of north Bali’s mountains, it will all feel worthwhile.
Break up the trip with a stop at Bedugul, visiting the picturesque lakes, botanical gardens and the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan water temple. From Lovina, take a sidestep to the Batur Natural Hot Springs and the nearby town of Singaraja.
Where to stay: The Lovina
Just because you’ve ventured to the less tourist traipsed areas of the north, doesn’t mean you have to forgo the lavishness of hotel life. The Lovina offers an array of suites, penthouses and private villas to suit an array of budgets, all spanning their beachside property. Sit by the pool ordering endless plates of food and one-too-many cocktails while the old outriggers sail by.