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Your Ultimate What To Do In Bali List

Ultimate what to do in Bali list

What To Do In Bali – Our Must See List

It is impossible to provide a complete list of what to do in Bali, as there is simply so much to do.  The huge range of places to see and experience and all the amazing things to do is probably one of the main reasons for Bali’s popularity. No matter how many times you visit, there is always something new to try.

After many holidays and a couple of months in total spent here, please enjoy our list of what to do in Bali.

  1. Visit a temple or two
  2. Enjoy the local cuisine
  3. Visit the Ubud Rice Paddies
  4. Have a photo taken with a monkey
  5. Cool off at the base of a waterfall
  6. Laze on a beach with a cocktail
  7. Experience Orangutans up close over breakfast
  8. Be brave and go white water rafting
  9. Trek to Mount Batur for the sunrise
  10. Get up close with wild dolphins
  11. And of course SHOPPING!

Getting Around Bali

The first thing to understand about sightseeing and generally getting around in Bali is that there is virtually no public transport.

To visit all locations on our what do to in Bali list you will need to do one of 3 things

  • Use a professional tour company. This is our preferred option and we use Buffalo Tours who are local experts. Each tour is just you, a driver and an English speaking guide. One of the things we like with Buffalo Tours is that they book ahead for meals and you get the best table locations and extra service with special treats. Most meals are included in your tour fare. The vehicles are relatively new, in good mechanical order and come with plenty of ice-cold complimentary water bottles. UPDATE – Buffalo Tours has been merged with Olympus Tours USA and is under the Australian Flight Centre brand and is now known as Discova. We haven’t used Discova but if they maintain the ethos Buffalo Tours they should be pretty good. More info here.
  • Hire a scooter and drive yourself. We don’t recommend this option and the main reason is that we haven’t found any travel insurance that covers you if you have an accident while on a scooter. Secondly, we are on holiday and want to relax, enjoy the scenery and be a little bit spoilt. Not take our life in our hands trying to negotiate the crazy traffic and poor roads while trying to find our next destination.
  • Another option is group tours. Again, this isn’t our favourite. We like the personalised service with a private tour and the ability to change plans on your tour from slightly to completely heading in a different direction.

Start With Visiting Some Temples

Unlike most of Indonesia, where Islam is the main religion, in Bali the majority of the population are Hindu. This results in temples to various gods spread all over Bali, presenting an amazing cultural experience for visitors.

If you really want to get a feel for Balinese culture, start with visiting some temples.  The most famous temples are Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Ulun Danu Beratan – The Floating Temple, Lempuyang Temple, Tirta Gangga – The Water Palace and Besakih Temple – Mother Temple. However, there are many more temples to fill in your holidays.

Tanah Lot

Tanah Lot Temple at Sunset
Tanah Lot Temple at Sunset

One of the most popular temples is located approximately 30 minutes north of Seminyak.

The name of the temple comes from the Dutch word “lot”, meaning “island”. The entire temple complex is built on a rocky outcrop of land jutting into a turquoise sea. It’s a beautiful place and a good way to begin your visit to Bali. You can reach this temple using a tour company or a private driver.

Tanah Lot temple can be reached at low tide from the mainland for those keen to explore. We do recommend you are aware of the tide times and status before making the short walk across.

Tip: Plan your trip in the afternoon and be sure to make your way to one of the clifftop cafes/restaurants to enjoy the view at sunset while enjoying dinner and drinks.

Uluwatu

Uluwatu temple is a must visit in Bali. This temple is about 30 klm or about an hour’s drive from Denpasar. This temple is super popular because of the spectacular sunset view of the sea. A lot of tourists come here just to enjoy the beautiful sunset view of the sea.

Uluwatu is well known for the amazing Kecak and fire dance that takes place daily in a theatre on the clifftop that is performed at sunset and is an absolute must see.

Tip: After your visit to Uluwatu make your way to one of the amazing beachfront seafood restaurants at Jimbaran for a magical meal and a true photo-worthy finish to your day.

Ulun Danu Beratan – The Floating Temple

Ulan Danu Beratan Temple – Lake Temple.

Ulun Danu, which means “Lake Temple” in Indonesian, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Bali.  It is an 11-story tall pagoda, built over a small island in Lake Bratan, which contains the shrine of the goddess Dewi Danu, the Balinese water, lake and river goddess.

This temple was built in 1633 during the rule of King Agung, to honour the goddess Dewi Danu, the Balinese water, lake and river goddess. The temple is used for offerings and ceremonies to the goddess and is dedicated to her.

Lempuyang Temple

Here is where you will see a lot of people taking photos of this amazing scene.

If you’re looking for a great sunset photo, you’ll find it here. The sunset is spectacular and the temple is one of the most photographed places in Bali.

The temple is located on the slopes of Mount Agung, a dormant volcano.  The temple is built on the site of the former palace of the kings of Klungkung, the Balinese kingdom that was once located on the slopes of Mount Agung.

The temple is also famous for its “Terrace of the Gods”, which is a huge, open, flat terrace. It is another of the best photo opportunities in Bali.

You may be lucky enough to be welcomed by a traditional Balinese priest who will explain the history of the temple and the meaning of the name Lempuyang.

A comfortable 2 to 3 hour drive, including a couple of stops from Seminyak or Ubud makes this a very nice day tour.

Tirta Gangga – The Water Palace

Tirta Gangga doesn’t make it onto most “Top 10 Temples” In Bali lists, but it certainly makes ours.

Tirta Gangga – The Water Palace
Tirta Gangga – The Water Palace

Named after the famous Ganges River in India, Tirta Gangga is a former Royal Palace in the eastern part of Bali. The temple is a mix of beautiful ponds and streams all perfectly maintained and full of Koi fish.

The main temple building is a huge open pavilion, with a series of small shrines in front of it.  The temple is set in a beautiful garden full of plants and flowers, including a large tree that looks like a giant umbrella.

The temple is also a perfect example of a Balinese temple, with its traditional architecture and Balinese art.

There are two main temples at Tirta Gangga, the main one is the Pura Tirta Empul and the other is the Pura Tirta Tumbuh.  The Pura Tirta Empul is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess of the Ganges River, while the Pura Tirta Tumbuh is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess of the Ocean.

The temple is very quiet and peaceful, and you can wander around and enjoy the beauty for hours.

Besakih Temple – Mother Temple

It’s not called the Mother Temple without reason.  Besakih Temple, locally known as Pura Agung Besakih is the largest Hindu temple complex in Bali comprising over 80 individual ancient temples. At an altitude of 1,000 meter’s it will be cooler than along the coast and a welcome break from the humidity.

Pura Besikah – The Mother Temple
Pura Besikah – The Mother Temple

Besakih Temple construction started around the year 1000 and was completed between 1400 and 1420 and is one of the older Balinese temples.  The temple is built to honour the 3 main Hindu gods, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma and smaller temples surrounding the main buildings to hour the smaller gods.

Maybe Besakih Temple is blessed by the gods as it survived the catastrophic Mount Agung volcanic explosion in 1963 with lava flows only missing the main temples by a few meters, further convincing the deeply religious locals of the holiness of the Besakih Temple.

Besakih Temple is actually a collection of temples and is spread over a couple of klm’s. We would recommend transport to move amongst the various sites. A trip from either Seminyak or Ubud will take between 2 and 3 hours, allowing for a couple of rest breaks.

Tips For Travellers To Any Balinese Temples

Our main tip is to be respectful.  The Balinese people are deeply religious and as visitors, we should respect their customs and their culture.

Many of the temples will include in the small admission fee the use of a sarong. Please wear it.  The people are very obliging and eager to please, but wearing some type of T-Shirt instead of no top (guys) or a small bikini top (ladies) isn’t too much to ask.

Secondly, allow yourself plenty of time to wander these amazing temples and really soak up the atmosphere.  Most are still in use today and with some time and patience, you will see priests going about their duties or a procession of locals undertaking some worship.

Finally, plan your trip for mornings and afternoons, with a nice long lunch during the hottest part of the day. If you aren’t used to the heat and humidity it can really knock you around and no one wants that.

Eating In Bali

After your day of sightseeing, I’m sure you’ve worked up quite an appetite. Next on the list of what to do in Bali is eating!

No matter what your taste buds are or the size of your budget you will find incredible food in Bali.

From family-run Warungs to 5 star resorts, you will find an abundance of options.  Everyone from vegans to the largest carnivore will find something to delight the senses.

Warungs

We LOVE eating at the small family run warungs which is Balinese for a small cafe. Often only having a small handful of tables and a small menu, you are served by the owner and chef.

We enjoy the quintessential Indonesian style meals like satay chicken, nasi goreng etc.

Warungs are located everywhere.  On the main streets, but they are a bit harder to find amongst the larger establishments and on every side street or laneway.  We highly recommend you try a number until you find a favourite, and then support the locals by eating there regularly.

Nasi Goreng & Chicken Satay from a family run Warung in Seminyak Bali
Chicken satay from a Warung in Seminyak Bali

Ex Pat Bars & Restaurants

Ex-Pat bars and restaurants are everywhere.  Within a 5 minute walk of Bali Ginger Suites & Villa in Seminyak, there would be at least 5 large bars and restaurants owned and run by Aussies living the dream life in Bali.

If there is a game of football or something else typically Australian, we really want to watch, we will head to one for a meal and a few drinks.  Maybe it’s just us, but I don’t see much point in travelling and then spending all my time in what could just as easily be the local corner pub at home in Australia.

Australian meals. Chicken Parmy anyone? Australian beer. XXXX gold ring any bells. To top it off, the prices are the same as at home in Australia. A 2 course dinner and a couple of beers for 2 of us will easily run towards if not over $100 AUD.

Hotel & Resort Restaurants

See above.  Really, why would I travel to Bali to spend time in 5 star hotel restaurant getting silver service and paying the price that goes with it? May as well stay home.

Not for us.

Seafood

Seafood, oh my god seafood! The best seafood we have ever had anywhere, period.

Head down to Jimbaran and try Bawang Merah Beachfront Restaurant. We have tried a few different restaurants at Jimbaran and this is easily our favourite.  Incredible views, especially of the sunset and a perfect balance of flavours in the food with the right balance of chilli so you can still taste the various foods.

The location is amazing.  Watch the fishing boats coming back in the late afternoon, a gentle sea breeze with the sound of the waves gently lapping on the beach. Ultimate relaxation.

View from Bawang Merah Beachfront Restaurant at Sunset
View from Bawang Merah Beachfront Restaurant at Sunset

We choose the huge seafood platter which includes lobster, crab, a whole fish, prawns, mussels and more. The platter is served with a variety of side dishes and dipping sauces.

Treat yourself to an ice-cold Bintang beer or cocktails while you sit back, relax and enjoy the views.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we haven’t been since 2019. The last time we were there, we walked out having spent around $200 AUD, which is great value in our minds.

Scenery & Nature

Once you have had your fill of temples, don’t forget to include some of the incredible sceneray and natural attractions in Bali.

Ubud Rice Paddies

The quintessential picture of Bali is likely to be the rice paddies carved into the side of the hills around Ubud.

On most tours to the various temples, you will probably include glimpses of the rice paddies but we suggest you make a point to tell your tour guide you want to see the best rice paddies.

Looking at these from one of the many vantage points, you can only wonder how hard people worked to carve the mountains into these beautiful stepped rice paddies.

The best time of the year to see the rice paddies is at the end of the dry season (September & October) when they are at their luscious best and a vivid green making for some amazing pictures and memories.

If you need any extra encouragement to visit, the Ubud rice paddies and included in the UNESCO nature heritage listing.

Ubud Monkey Forest

While in Ubud spend a couple of hours exploring the famous Ubud monkey forest.

The monkeys here are long-tailed macaques and there are 7 distinct groups, each occupying a different area of the forest.   In total there are over 1000 wild monkeys and these are wild monkeys – do not try to touch them! At some other sites, the monkeys are very tame and will climb on you and allow you to pat them, but not here in Ubud.

Wild Long Tailed Macaque at Ubud Monkey Forest
Wild Long Tailed Macaque at Ubud Monkey Forest

The walk through the monkey forest is pleasant along hard surface tracks and boardwalks. As you meander your way around, make sure to stop and enjoy the various sights, sounds and smells. Coming from a city location, the air is just so fresh and clean.

Of course, there are temples scattered through the monkey forest, which make the 80,000 rupiahs per person admission fee great value for money.

Waterfalls

Being a mountainous island in the tropics with plenty of rain, of course, there are plenty of waterfalls to visit. These aren’t Niagara Falls, but they are still impressive in their own right.

The beautiful Gitgit Waterfall

Most involve at least a 10 – 15 minute walk each way, along often narrow paths that can be rocky, steep and slippery so good walking shoes, not thongs, are recommended.

Some of the better known waterfalls include;

  • Sekumpul Waterfall in Singaraja
  • NungNung Waterfall in Petang
  • Banyumala Twin Waterfall in Wanagiri
  • Blahmantung Waterfall in Tabanan
  • Jembong Waterfall in Sukasada
  • Tibumana Waterfall in Apuan
  • Tukad Cepung in Bangli
  • SingSing Waterfalls in Lovina
  • GitGit Waterfall in Singaraja
  • Leke Leke Waterfall in Tabanan

I’ll tag them in Google Maps so you can see where they are located.  As the island of Bali isn’t really that big, you can structure a day trip to take in a temple or two and a waterfall or two comfortably.  After the hustle and bustle of a temple visit, it is very relaxing to sit on a rock or laze in a rock pool at the base of a waterfall.

Beaches

No list of what to do in Bali would be complete without talking about the beaches.

The beaches in Bali vary significantly from black sand on some of the west coast beaches to fine white sand and the more common courser yellow sand.

The beaches on the west coast at Kuta, Legian and Seminyak are the best equipped with beachfront bars, deck chairs and umbrellas for hire but they are also by far the busiest.

The Main Beach at Seminyak.

For something a bit quieter head down to Nusa Dua or Sanur both in the southeast corner. Beautiful beaches surrounded by five star resorts. These beaches and the water, in my opinion, tend to be cleaner than Seminyak and with better sand. The water is beautiful year round and the perfect temperature for a swim.

Amed beach on the east coast is the best for snorkelling and diving. The sand is black, really black which is no surprise given its location almost at the base of Mount Agung. It is a bit of a trek but if snorkelling or diving is your thing, spend a few days on the east coast and enjoy this amazing area.

Our favourite beaches are on the north of the island and at the top of the list is Lovina.

Lovina is quiet with a courser yellow brown sand.  Being a long open northward facing beach gives good access to the sun throughout the whole day unlike some of the hidden cliff base beaches found elsewhere.

What really sets Lovina beach apart are the bottle-nosed dolphins that have made it their home. As soon as the morning sun hits the water you will see them frolicking just offshore. I don’t know why, but watching dolphins play never gets boring.

There are plenty of local boat operators who will take you out to the dolphins for a very reasonable fee. Don’t forget to haggle. Everything in Bali is price negotiable.

Bali Zoo

I don’t want to get into a discussion around zoos and animals, but I have to mention the very popular Bali Zoo in this list.

Located less than an hour from Seminyak & Kuta, Bali Zoo is home to elephants, lions, tigers, crocodiles, orangutans and countless other monkeys, birds and other assorted animals.

The facility is very modern with large open areas for the animals, not concrete cages.

The zoo offers multiple ways of interacting with the animals including a very popular Breakfast with the orangutans and mud fun with the elephants.

There is a small water park included in your admission and a good quality restaurant called Wantilan for breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks at an extra cost.

Admission starts at 355,000 rupiahs, about $36 AUD per adult, with the close-up animal experiences having an additional charge.  The Bali Zoo does have ticket prices that include transfers from the popular tourist areas, which make great value for a fun day out. You can buy tickets in advance here.

Mount Agung or Mount Batur

For something different why not try an early morning start and a hike to get to the top of Mount Agung, Bali’s highest mountain and active volcano, to watch the sunrise. This is an experience you will never forget.

Mount Agung is a tough hike of 8 klm’s that ascends 2000mtrs to the summit at 3031 mtr’s over some tough and unsteady terrain. Most people start around midnight to get to the summit for sunrise.

A much easier and civilised option is to hike to the top of Mount Batur which at 1700 mtr’s is much easier and provides just as many jaw dropping memories and photo’s as Mount Agung.

Luwak Coffee Plantations

It was with great curiosity and trepidation I approached my first Luwak coffee tasting.  For those that don’t know Luwak coffee is made from partially digested coffee beans that have been eaten and then pooped out (sorry), cleaned, washed and made into coffee.

While sounding completely disgusting it is considered a very upmarket, trendy coffee with a price tag to match.

The Luwak coffee plantations have turned the taste testing into an immersive experience where you walk through the jungle while getting an explanation of Luwak coffee and the history of this particular plantation. The one we visited then provided samples, think shot glass size, of 12 different coffees and teas. The range is incredible. Some are amazing and others are just “oh, that’s different”.

Luwak coffee tasting tray. Caffeine overload LOL

The tours and tastings take about 90 minutes if you are taking your time and prices start at around $30 AUD per person and are well worth it.

I liked the Luwak coffee but wasn’t going to pay the crazy price for 100 grams. I did buy some vanilla coffee complete with sugar, which was amazing.

Adrenaline Junkies & Thrill Seekers

We are middle-aged and go to Bali to relax but we know that a lot of people, including some much older than us, are looking for an adrenaline hit on their holidays.

If you fit into this category, here’s a list of just a few things that might be interesting for you.

White Water Rafting

As we have said before, being a mountainous island in the tropics there is plenty of rainfall and as a result, several opportunities to try water river rafting while on holiday in Bali.

One of the questions I get asked about water river rafting is what grade are the rapids and this can be difficult to answer.

Most of the tours will take you on trips that include grade 2 and 3 which are good fun and relatively safe. You will get wet and have a great time.  A couple of trips may include a section of grade 4, but a lot depends on the amount of rain and therefore the water flow in the rivers.

During extensive rain periods and high river flows, resulting in the ratings being upgraded to 5 or 6, all white water rafting is cancelled due to the unacceptable risk to passengers.

There are 2 main rivers in Bali used for white water rafting, Telaga Waja River and Ayung River.

  • Telaga Waja River
  • 16klm rafting trip taking approximately 2.
  • Grade 2 to 4 rapids
  • Approximately a 2 hour drive including breaks from major tourist areas
  • Ayung River
  • 10klm course taking 1.
  • Grade 2 & 3 rapids
  • Situated near Ubud, about an hours drive from most locations

Pricing starts at around 120,000 rupiahs including transport and lunch when you finish. A good fun way to spend a day.

ATV Tours

Fancy roaring through rice paddies, mountains and creeks on an ATV or quad bike? Like getting soaking wet and covered in mud? If you answered yes, an ATV tour is for you.

There are literally dozens to choose from and we would recommend using a site like Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet to find a good one.

Most tours include transport each way from your accommodation and around 2 hours on teh ATV afetr briefings etc.

Make sure you take a change of clothes including shoes and socks because you are going to need it.

Bungy Jumping

Are you nuts! Yes, Bali has bungy jumping for hardcore adrenaline junkies.  Probably the best known is The Bungy Co located at the north end of Seminyak beach with a purpose built 45 mtr high tower just waiting for you to jump off.

Prices start around the $1 million rupiah mark which equals about $110 AUD so good value compared to other bungy jumps overseas.

Sky Diving Paragliding & Parasailing

The thrills never end in Bali if that’s your thing.

Jump out of a plane – sure! Hang off the back of a boat under a parachute – no problems. Leap off a mountain with a giant fan and parachute strapped to your back – of course, you can.

No matter what you can think of, you can do it in Bali.  Sky diving costs around $300 AUD for a tandem jump with paragliding just slightly cheaper and Parasailing a more reasonable $50 or $60 AUD.

It goes without saying that no matter what sort of activity you choose, please do your homework and pick a reputable company and pay attention to your own safety at all times.  I would also check your travel insurance to see if there are any exclusions in your cover for certain activities.

Other than that, have fun!

Accommodation In Bali

After your day’s adventures, there is nothing better than returning to your air-conditioned accommodation to cool off in a private open air shower before having a Bintang or 2 and a swim in the pool.

In our experience, Seminyak is the perfect place to call home on your Bali vacation. And the best place in Seminyak is Bali Ginger Suites and Villa. A small boutique hotel owned and managed by an Australian couple. We have stayed many many times and can not think of anywhere we would rather stay. It is our home away from home.

You can read our full review here – Best Accommodation Seminyak

Shopping

Any list of what to do in Bali isn’t complete without mentioning shopping. From trinkets to handmade souvenirs to bespoke clothing. Bali is a shopper’s paradise. Not much more needed on this except, make sure you barter with the sellers because everything is price negotiable in Bali.

Summing It All Up

To summarise, Bali really is your one stop shop as a holiday destination.  Beautiful tropical climate, the most welcoming, friendly people you can imagine and a huge variety of things to see and experience. Bali is the perfect size to base yourself in Seminyak and do day tours from the North to the South and East to West.

We have been many times and yet we still keep adding to our list of what to do on our next trip.  We have ticked off all the big-ticket tourist items such as Uluwata and Tanah Lot, but the more we explore the more we realise that we are only scratching the surface. There is so much more to see.

Our next trip will centre around spending time in small villages, getting to know the locals and understanding their lifestyle. We are also looking into volunteering for a couple of days with a local charity.

There is a problem doing volunteer work while on a tourist visa so we are looking into that and trying to find a solution.

Finally, just go! Especially now the pandemic is slowing and things are returning to normal. Just go. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have enjoyed our What to do in Bali list, please leave a comment below. Did we miss anything? What’s your favourite thing to do in Bali?

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