So, you’ve finally made it to Bali! The Island of Gods has a lot to offer and it can be overwhelming to decide where to start your adventure.
If you want to do something more then just enjoy the beach, swimming pool and the sun, then you must be wondering what places and activities you should you tick of your list. When you are on short holidays in Bali, make sure that you check out at least a few places from the list below as they truly are the island’s ultimate wonders.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces (or Tegallalang)
The water irrigation system in Bali, called subak, was enlisted as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2012. Subak was constructed as a complex artificial ecosystem that bound Balinese agrarian society together, bringing it closer to the village’s Banjar community center and Balinese temples. One of the rice paddies that form an intricate part of the subak system are Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. Located in the Penebel area, these stunning terraces do not receive the major influx of tourists. Quiet, marvelous and unbelievably picturesque, Jatiluwih is a place where you get a glimpse of Bali as it was long before the tourists arrived. The ride to Jatiluwih is very picturesque, adding another reason to go there. However, if you decide that Jatiluwih is too out of the way, make sure you do go to Tegallalang as the beauty of Balinese rice terraces is difficult to match and it is a definite must-see.
Tanah Lot Temple
Not far from Jataluwih is one of the most spectacular Balinese temples. Constructed on the top of a rock formation that is cut off from the island during high tide, Tanah Lot Temple is a place of pilgrimage for the Balinese people and a charming tourist destination that is a setting for iconic photography. The main deity worshipped at the temple is Varuna, the Lord of the Oceans, and the temple is said to be guarded by a giant sea snake. Tanah Lot Temple is one of six Balinese “sea temples” that were constructed along the island’s coast – one within eyesight of the next forming a chain protecting the south-western coast of the island. If you decide to visit Tanah Lot, make sure that you will stay there for the sunset as the temple’s location offers some of the most dramatic backdrops for admiring sunsets.
Uluwatu Temple & Kecak Dance
Another temple that is central to the worship of Balinese Hinduism is Uluwatu Temple, which is also one of the six major “sea temples” and a great spot for watching sunsets. Located at the most southern tip of the Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu Temple is built on the edge of a steep, 70-meter cliff. The temple is dedicated to Acintya, also known as Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa, who is the supreme god in the island of Bali and is understood as the origin of the Universe with all other divinities emanating from him. The temple provides incredible views overlooking the Indian Ocean, and the traditional Balinese architecture and ancient sculptures create a magical surrounding. An additional reason for visiting Uluwatu Temple is the impressive Kecak dance, which has roots in trance-inducing exorcism dance, and is performed daily (around 6 PM) by a group of male dancers.
A sunset is much easier to catch than a sunrise but if you are looking for an adventure, you should visit Mount Batur. Tours operators have trips to the mountain, which start around 3 AM, so you can get there early enough to watch the sun rising over the Island of Gods. Mount Batur is an active volcano that is located at the center of two concentric calderas, one of which is home to Lake Batur. The Balinese people believe that this lake is the source of every spring and river flowing in the island, and as such, Lake Batur is the central point of the subak system. Still not convinced? On the edge of Lake Batur you will find Ulun Danu Batur Temple, which is the second most important temple in Bali, after the mother temple Besakih. Rebuilt after the 1926 volcano eruption, the temple is dedicated to Dewi Danu who is the goddess of rivers and lakes. While a hike in this region will reveal some of the most incredible vistas, you will also get a chance to learn more about Balinese traditional beliefs.
Besakih Temple Complex
Considering how many tourists some to Bali prompted by the spirituality and culture of the island, it can be surprising that only a small fraction of visitors make the journey to the temple complex of Besakih, located right at the slopes of Mount Agung, nearly 1000 meters above the sea level. Besakih is the holiest temple for Balinese Hindu and its archaeological site dates from prehistoric times. The complex is made of twenty-three independent but related temples, and the most important one of them is Penataran Agung. Here, you will find a condensation of Balinese sacred architecture and a walk at this holy site is one of a kind.
Tirta Gangga Water Palace
If you’ve made it this far, don’t give up because only one hour away from Besakih, you will find one of the most fairy-tale places in Bali. Although widely referred to as a palace, Tirta Gangga is actually a maze of pools and fountains surrounded by lush vegetation, flowers, stone carvings and statues. Upon entering the palace garden, you will notice a tall, eleven-tired fountain, which rises from the middle of the complex, wowing the visitors. The wonderfully cascading fall of the water shrouds the structure in a cloak of mist, adding to the dreamy impression of the place. The water at Tirta Gangga is considered to be holy and is used for religious ceremonies in the temples surrounding the area.
The rice fields of Ubud
The cultivation of rice is very important in the island, as rice is believed to be a gift from the gods. When you are travelling through Bali, you will often find yourself surrounded by lush green fields, and one of the most elevating things to experience in Bali is to cycle through the rice fields. The scenic location of Ubud grants great views during a trip like that. Bikes are widely available for rental and you can enjoy a bike trip with or without a guide (if you would like to discover places that are not generally known, it is advisable to hire a guide as they know the area as the back of their hand). On an adventure like that, expect to find peace, serenity, captivating views and silence. You will be far away from the constant noise of cars and you will actually get to hear the rustle of rice gently moving in the wind.
Tirta Empul Temple
Ubud is a destination in itself. Vibrant with local and foreign culture, important temples and landmarks, the town attracts a hefty number of tourists. However, not far from the hubbub, you will find an amazing temple, which is usually overlooked by foreign visitors. Tirta Empul Temple is one of Bali’s most important temples. It is famous for holy spring water and Balinese Hindus go there for ritual purification. According to a myth, the god Indra pierced the earth to create a fountain of immortality to revive his forces, thus creating the spring at Tirta Empul. The temple is dedicated to the god Vishnu (the Protector) and for over a thousand years Balinese people have been coming to the temple to bathe in the sacred waters asking for healing and spiritual merit. Do you remember the subak system mentioned above? Tirta Empul is one of the key temples that comprise the system.
Hanging out in a jungle resort
Bali welcomes about 8 million tourists each year and even though people come to the Islands of Gods for various reasons, there is no doubt that amazing views is one of the incentives, as you can get a sense of paradise if you immense yourself in the beauty of Bali. One of the ways to do it, is to hang out at one of the incredible jungle resorts, such as Jungle Fish or Hanging Gardens of Bali. Amazing infinity swimming pools that seem to finish in the jungle, delicious food and great service will make you feel joyful, pampered and relaxed, giving a luxurious dimension to your holidays in Bali.
Scuba-diving or snorkelling
Indonesia is one of the most gifted countries when it comes to marine life. This archipelago of volcanic islands is abundant in coral reefs, various types of fish and shipwrecks, and Bali’s dive sites suite divers of various skill: from the amateurs of snorkeling to scuba-diving beginners and advanced divers. The areas that offer the most memorable diving spots are Padang Bay, Tulamben, Amed and Candidasa, which are located on the eastern side of the island. A short boat trip away, you will find Gili Trawangan, which has a lot of diving operations and amazing diving sites. When exploring the underwater world surrounding Bali, do not miss Manta Point at Nusa Penida where you have an extremely high chance of spotting the amazing mantas.
Bali is an abundant island that has a lot to offer and short holidays here are never enough. Falling in love with the island is easy and it is one of the reasons why Bali receives visitors who come back here over and over again. There is always more to see, more to explore, more fun to be had. Our Top 10 Things To Do In Bali list is just a beginner’s step facilitating the discovery of the wonderful world of Bali. Stay tuned for more!