When I travel I really like to have a mix of relaxation and activities. A perfect trip for me consists of equal parts exploring and mellow evenings relaxing in my Airbnb. So my top 5 places/things to do in Bali are a mix of daytime adventures and tranquil places.
1. Rice terraces: This is kind of a given when visiting the island and it really is spectacular! At some point, you must get out, walk around rice fields and take in the serene bit of nature that is so quintessentially Bali! If your going to be visiting Ubud, I would suggest riding a motor bike out to Telagalang Rice Terraces around sunrise (warning, it is really touristy!) If you get up early and make the 15 minute motor bike ride early you will beat most of the crowds + the light is absolutely divine in the early morning. Locals have carved paths and built little bridges for you to wander down the mountain side and over the river.
One of my best shopping discoveries happened on my way out to the Telegalang Rice Terraces. The road you take that leads out to them is lined with wholesale shops, so this is a two in one kind of morning! After sunrise at the rice terraces, and a little breakfast at one of the cafes overlooking them, head back on this road and prepare to want to re-decorate your entire house. I’ve bought countless things along this road over the years to add to my home, such as; hanging macramé plant holders, hand woven baskets, carved wooden dishware + serving trays, art, jewelry and all at really good prices. I often see the same items for sale in Ubud boutiques for double or triple (or more!) the cost. One of these days when I own my own home I’ll get a shipping container full of these goodies. Until then I pack an extra duffle bag in my suitcase and load it full of treasures to bring home.
If your interested in a longer rice terrace adventure rent a motor bike and head to the UNESCO protected aree of rice fields Jatiluwih. I have yet to personally go here, but I have heard wonderful things and it’s on list of must sees for next trip to Bali.
2. Coffee plantations + Ulun Danu Beratan Temple:
The cool mountain vibes of the Bedugul area give quite the serene romantic back drop to the water temple. There is a different feeling in this part of Bali, and the sweet simple vibe is one of the reason I keep going back. The Ulun Danu Beratan Temple has one of the prettiest backdrops ever! Lake ripples reflect the surrounding misty mountains along side the floating temple. The first time I ventured to the Ulun Dana Beratan Temple I woke up before sunrise and hired a boat to take me into the middle of the lake, it was pretty magical. There is something enchanting about the first light of day touching the water with oranges and pinks.
If you're a coffee lover like me you can tour coffee plantations in the area and buy fresh beans straight from the source. The plantations often sell a variety of other items they grow/harvest as well as coffee beans like palm sugar, teas, and spices. I stock up on these items and take them home to my kitchen whenever I make it to the area. I would highly recommend the palm sugar block, it’s a really lovely addition to have if you cook curries or South-East Asian food a lot.
3. Cafes + shopping in Seminyak/Canguu:
I know you’ve been seeing all those Instagram photos of the oh so beautiful cafe life in Bali. It seems every time I go there’s another 50 new salad /smoothie bowl /juice cafés to try (& gram!) If you’re a foodie like me and yearn to try as many cafes as possible then head to the city lights of the south western coast of Bali. I’ve found the largest concentration of cafes in the hip city streets of Seminyak and Canguu. This area is on the coast about 45 minutes from the airport (depending on traffic.) It's very westernized but if you don't mind paying relatively inflated costs for eating and drinking, then head here for a day or two for the experience. It's still cheaper than you would pay back in the US or Europe! A few of my favorite coffee shop/ cafes are Revolver espresso, Cafe Organic, Pison coffee and Nalu Bowls.
There is also amazing shopping here (at western prices.) Many boho beachy brands have their garments made in Bali, so you'll find many store fronts on the streets and fun little island style shops. Here are a few of my fav boutiques in the area, Beachgold, Thaikila swimwear, The Bali Tailor, Bali Boat Shed and Faithful The Brand. If you don't want to buy western priced clothing there are plenty of options throughout the streets. Just look for little kiosks or head into the market in Ubud.
4. Ganung Kawi (Mount Kawi) temple:
Walking down hundreds of steps into the bottom of the river valley with rice terraces and jungle on either side is just the beginning of this temples beauty. This 11th century Javaniense landmark isn't like anything else on the island. A series of huge stone shrines are set into a carved out niches of a rock face, surrounded by incredibly lush jungle which creates an extremely beautiful landscape.
Exploring the complex in the early hours of the morning, before crowds of tour groups arrive has a very Indiana Jones-esq feeling. It’s still a mystery as to precisely why the shrines were created and what they were used for. Some believe them to be a funeral monuments dedicated to King Anak Wungsu and his wives while others believe they are a dedication to his father. Whatever the reason they were created it’s safe to say this may be one of the most impressive ancient sites in Bali.
5. Nusa Penida:
If I could only give you one recommendation for Bali it would be to take off on a 45 minute boat ride and embark on a few days exploring Nusa Penida (and do it as soon as possible!). The island is nestled besides the smaller and more popular islands of Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. I say get here as soon as you can because I see it heading in the direction of 5 star resorts and pool parties, which certainly can be fun, but may start to take away from the part of what I loved about this island, which was the rugged adventuring. Just two years ago the locals saw next to no tourism, and today it's on Bali's hot list, next to the Gili's and Canguu.
On Nusa Penida you’ll find numerous gorgeous white sand beaches (there aren’t many on mainland Bali because of the volcanic sand) diving + snorkeling galore (even right off the beach) rugged cliff side hikes, jungle look outs and the sweetest locals. The island is connected by little paved + dirt roads that connect the beaches, hikes, and other activities so renting a motorbike to get around is pretty convenient. But I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not comfortable on a motorbike, unlike Bali this islands roads are still pretty rugged, steep and a little dangerous at times. To get around with a motorbike you can also hire a driver to take you around, although this isn’t as spontaneous, if you are inexperienced its a lot safer! Even if you can only make it here for a day trip, you will find Nusa Penida is full of natural beauty, perfect for days on the beaches with fresh fish + coconuts, and calm evenings under the moon light. My kind of Paradise!
Have you been to any of my top 5 places in Bali? Did you enjoy them? I'd love to hear your experience at them, even better tag #jeweljourney on instagram if you have any photos from your adventure!