Rice fields, coral reefs and beaches, Bali is an explosion of colour and nature that is guaranteed to captivate your heart. A top holiday spot thanks to its incredible beauty, this Indonesian island is particularly famous for its natural landscapes, where you can go diving or snorkelling among the seabed’s unparalleled marine life. And if that’s not enough for you, Bali’s also home to some wonderful forests dotted with nature trails and temples that shed a light on the island’s age-old history and timeless traditions.

Amed

Who ever said there was nothing wonderful about a simple fishing village? You’ll find Amed in northeast Bali and it’s a great place to relax by the sea while you enjoy some fresh fish grilled on the beach. We recommend taking a trip in a local sea boat or perhaps adventuring a bit further on a snorkelling or diving trip to one of the village’s great spots, including Lipah Beach and Jemeluck Bay. Along with colourful, curious marine fauna, such as starfish, seahorses and even a few Mimi Octopuses, you’ll also be shocked to discover an underwater temple!

This area is dominated by Gunung Agung volcano, which is sometimes referred to as ‘the navel of the world.’ Along its peaks, you’ll spot rainforests as well as traditional rice terraces. And if that’s not enough to make you want to visit, Amed is also home to some of the best views in the local area, especially at sunset.

Bedugul

Yet another village ready to stir your emotions in a truly unique natural setting, Bedugul is located on the shores of Lake Bratan, one of the most famous lakes in Indonesia. The village itself is housed within a volcano caldera, about 1,200 metres above sea level. The lake forms part of a complex irrigation system (subak), which is used to supply the local rice fields. It’s an ingenious system, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We recommend visiting the village’s vibrant market, where you can buy flowers, fruit, vegetables and much, much more.

Ulun Danu Bratan Temple

It’s out in the water that you’ll find one of this area’s most impressive attractions. Ulun Danu Bratan Temple is dedicated to the goddess of water, Dewi Danu, who supposedly provides the local area with fertile soil via constant irrigation. The temple was built in 1633 and consists of several buildings dotted across multiple islands. Inside, you’ll find an altar used for religious celebrations


The temple is half Buddhist, half Hindu, and looks as if it’s floating on water. It’s also famous for its picturesque, seven-level tower. Back on the shores of the lake, you can also admire a lush garden filled with flowers and plants. The reflection of the temple in the surrounding water has become symbolic of Bali, and you’ll find it on the back of Indonesian Rupiah banknotes. This is a great starting point to navigate the mountain roads on the way to nearby lakes and the Munduk Waterfalls.

Ubud

A tourist village and arts centre thanks to its creative fervour, it’s no coincidence that galleries and museums are very popular here. Puri Lukisan is the oldest museum in Bali and houses a fantastic collection of artworks by the Bali movement. Ubud is a must-visit destination, where luxuriant nature comes into contact with intriguing architecture, such as the Royal Palace.

Ubud is also home to some amazing, deliciously seasoned Balinese cuisine. We also recommend visiting its many temples and cycling through the local rice fields.

Goa Gadja (Elephant Cave)

Welcome to a real symbol of Bali and Indonesia, Goa Gadja Temple, also known as the Elephant Cave. This temple is located in an archaeological park approximately two kilometres from the town of Ubud. Dutch archaeologists discovered this mysterious and fascinating cave surrounded by several Hindu temples in 1923, although it actually dates all the way back to around 1100.

The cave entrance features a demonic mouth, depicting the Hindu god Bhoma and symbolises the passage into the underworld. While in a niche on the left-hand side, you’ll spot Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-shaped deity. Inside the archaeological park, women are often busy kneading rice dough and turning it into decorations, while others weave green palms together to make baskets to offer to the deities.

Klungkung (Semarapura)

Officially called Semarapura but commonly known by its traditional name Klungkung, this district capital is home to the historical Puri Agung Semarapura (Klungkung Palace), which is a relic you absolutely have to visit. Once the centre of Bali’s most important kingdom, the city is still home to this majestic palace, as well as a few historic royal temples and a lively market.

Klungkung Palace has had a very troubled past. Following an attack by the Dutch, little is left of the original building or Court of Justice, whose ceiling has been restored several times and contains some incredibly interesting works of art, including panels depicting demonic battle scenes.

Sidemen

Another village definitely worth a visit is Sidemen, in east Bali. It’s not that well known, but it should definitely be on your radar thanks to its verdant greenery and rice terraces. If you’re looking to go somewhere fast paced, this is not the place for you. You won’t find many shops here and the hotels are all located along the main road. However, there is no shortage of things to do. We recommend going on a walk with a guide through the rice fields or visiting one of the several boutiques, where you can even create your own jewellery. There are also lots of opportunities to enjoy a massage or a delicious natural juice.

Lake Batur

About 30 kilometres from Ubud in the region of Kintamani, inside a volcano caldera (Mount Batur) lies a wonderful sight that will leave you speechless. Lake Batur is considered sacred by the people of Bali and is a great place to try out a few fun activities. Here, you can embark on canoe trips, visit the thermal springs that heat the swimming pools surrounding the lake or even go on a tour of the picturesque village of Trunyan. The surrounding area is also home to a number of restaurants where you can try out local specialities while admiring the view.

Mount Batur

One of Bali’s true wonders is a majestic volcano that towers 1,700 metres above sea level and belongs to the UNESCO Global Geopark. It is a favourite destination for hiking enthusiasts, especially when the sun rises, which creates a truly magical atmosphere.  Watch as the sky turns from black to blue and then from pink to orange while you take in spectacular views of the lake, surrounding landscape (which has been ‘rusted’ by lava) and the top of Agung volcano – the highest point on the island. Up here, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the Kintamani highlands, an agricultural area known for its coffee plantations (which we definitely recommend visiting!).

Nusa Lembongan

Mass tourism hasn’t yet reached Nusa Lembongan, which is a small island not far from Bali occupying around 12 square kilometres. Ferries arrive from Sanur onto heavenly beaches lined with tall, lush palm trees. We recommend a spot of snorkelling in order to explore the seabed or perhaps even a stroll to the local wonders nestled in this gem of an island. This is also a great place get to know more about the important traditions and habits that govern everyday life in Bali.

Nusa is also a paradise for surfers and divers. Some days, you might even cross paths with turtles relaxing in the sun. One of the island beaches that’s definitely worth a visit is Mushroom Bay, with its soft, white sand, as well as Sunset Beach, which boasts some truly unparalleled sunsets. The island is also home to artisan shops and waterfront restaurants where you can enjoy a break and some tasty traditional dishes.

Pura Kehen

Pura Kehen is one of Bali’s most important Hindu temples and it’s located in north Bangli. The temple was built in 1100, and sits on a hill. It’s a very intriguing building and is the second largest temple after Besakih – or the ‘Mother’s Temple of Bali.’ It consists of numerous altars and three courtyards, one of which contains a giant tree surrounded by lianas, which have since become symbolic of Bali.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

The word Jatiluwih is a combination of the words ‘really’ and ‘beautiful’ in the Balinese language. The views offered from the rice terraces – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – leave no room for doubt. When the rice is ready to be harvested, the plants turn from green to dark yellow with a reddish tinge. This mix of colours makes for an unforgettable sight across this vast area, which is located about forty kilometres from Bali.

Here, you can appreciate the rhythm of daily local life. You will find locals bent over crops, concentrating, while they plant seeds and harvest rice. And shortly after sunset, it’s often time for a refreshing dip in one of the many irrigation channels.

Tampaksiring

About 18 kilometres north east of Ubud, in the Pakerisan valley, is the village of Tampaksiring. Rich in tradition and influential during Bali’s pre-colonial period, this area is full of rice terraces leading down to the river and streams, making it a wonderful place for a good photograph. There is also no shortage of interesting architecture, starting with one of the island’s six presidential buildings, which occupies approximately 16 hectares of land.

Tirta Empul Temple

The village of Tampaksiring is also home to the Tirta Empul Hindu Temple, which is dedicated to Vishnu and is a very important place of worship. The Balinese visit this temple with the aim of purifying themselves in baths filled with sacred water from springs that flow down from the mountains. These water springs are shrouded in legend and are said to heal all evil and guarantee eternal youth.

Tanah Lot Temple

Just 40 kilometres from Ubud is what they call the ‘temple of temples.’ Tanah Lot means ‘land [in the] sea,’ which is a very accurate description. You’ll find this temple perched on a cliff overlooking the sea and it looks like it belongs on a postcard thanks to natural light that contrasts with the waves below. Underneath the temple is a cave and a freshwater spring, which is fairly unusual, given that the temple is surrounded by salt water. This place of worship is definitely worth a visit to discover its many myths and legends.

The temple may have been built by the Balinese people after Saint Danghyang Nirarta spent a night in the area.  Legend also has it that the temple was once connected to the mainland by a bridge, until it was destroyed by rough sea waves.

Tirta Gangga

Rice terraces, nature, wonderful colours, welcoming people and baskets filled with flowers and gifts. Add the ‘water palace’ to the mix (which looks like something out of a film) and you’ll start to get a decent picture of this amazing area. The majestic building of Tirta Gangga (which means ‘water from the Ganges’) was built in 1948 and features several ponds crossed by floating platforms. This place is home to a maze of fountains and water, surrounded by gardens and statues. Inside the building, you can also try local specialities while you admire the view and Gunung Anung volcano in the distance.

Mandala Suci Wenara Wana

Although it has a fairly lengthy official name, Mandala Suci Wenara Wana is also known as Ubud Monkey Forest. This is a proper sanctuary for Balinese monkeys, famous for their long tails.  It is one of the most popular attractions on the island, welcoming tens of thousands of tourists every year. These monkeys – with reddish fur on their backs and white bellies – are the real stars of the show, although we recommend keeping your wits about you!

The monkeys are friendly but also mischievous and it is not uncommon for tourists to realise something has gone missing (wallets, sunglasses, phones or cameras). In the forest, you can relax and stroll through twelve hectares of land home to around 186 species of plants. We also recommend visiting the three Hindu temples, the most famous of which is the Holy Spring Temple.

Garuda Wisnu Kencana

Another iconic monument worth a visit  is Garuda Wisnu Kencana, which depicts the Hindu deity Vishnu riding the legendary bird Garuda – a symbol of wisdom. The statue is 120 metres tall and 64 metres wide, making it 30 metres taller than the Statue of Liberty. It took over 20 years to build and cost nearly 100 million euros. The statue also features intricate mosaics that took over two hours to complete.

You’ll find the monument in an archaeological park on the Bukit peninsula, which is a limestone plateau in south Bali about 15 kilometres from the beaches of Kuta. The area occupies over 60 hectares and is very quiet, making it the perfect place to relax and go for a stroll while you admire the fountains, statues and gardens. We also recommend taking advantage of the bus service, given the size of the park.

Padangbai Blue Lagoon

Padangbai Bay is a true Indonesian wonder, and a popular snorkelling destination.  Here, you will find unparalleled fauna and crystal clear waters that will win your heart with their local wildlife, such as eels, octopuses, manta rays and clown fish. Hopping on a local boat will take you to the famous blue lagoon, which is where you can meet yet more animals, such as whitetip sharks and humphead wrasses. Nearby is ‘Secret Beach,’ a peaceful place, where you can immerse yourself in the natural beauty and relax on the soft sand. Padangbai is a quiet harbour village, where you can admire the simplicity of daily life and learn more about the local population.

Uluwatu Temple

Another temple bound to leave you speechless is Uluwatu, which sits perched on a cliff at a height of about 75 meters above the Java Sea on the southernmost tip of Bali. The temple is immersed in an unparalleled natural setting. According to legend, the rock belongs to the water goddess Dewi Danu's petrified barque.

The temple has a very interesting history. It was supposedly built to protect the island from evil spirits. However, legend has it that the temple also once hosted the Hindu traveller Danghyang Dwijendra, who spent the final days of his life there. The best time to visit Uluwatu is at sunset, when you can take full advantage of the natural light and atmosphere, for a magical evening filled with contemplation.

Gates of Heaven

Religion, charm, beauty and intrigue: you’ll find all of this and more at the Gates of Heaven, better known as Lempuyang Temple. This place of worship is emblematic of Bali and also one of its most sacred temples, having earned the nickname ‘Luhur,’ which means ‘noble and glorious.’ This structure is one of nine temples built to protect the island from evil spirits. It is also sometimes referred to as Ishvara Temple, identifying Shiva as a ‘supreme soul’ and the source of all deities.

Gunung Kawi Temple

A wonderful temple in a timeless place nestled in wonderful nature, Gunug Kawi is dedicated to the god of water and is located near a canal among lush palm trees and green rice fields. You’ll be interested to hear that members of the royal family are actually buried inside. The temple is located 25 kilometres from Ubud and you’ll find a whole host of caves and fountains nearby.

Bali Safari and Marine Park

This is one of the most popular attractions in Bali and is where you can meet 60 species of animal from four different continents. Bali Safari and Marine Park is also home to tigers and lions, making for a very exciting tour. The park features a spa, water park and freshwater aquarium. The reserve spans over 40 hectares and is also home to a theatre.

Sukawati’s Hidden Canyon

Sukawati was once a royal capital and is now a vibrant city known for its markets selling goods, fruit and vegetables. Here, artisans are highly appreciated for their hard work selling crafted goods. One particularly interesting thing about Sukawati is its charming hidden canyon. With the help of a guide, you can cross the river, scale the rocks and admire the incredible view, which is made that bit more amazing by light reflecting on the water. And at the end of your trip, you’ll reach a beautiful waterfall. The canyon is considered holy and is also home to a temple on the riverbanks. The water here is considered sacred and is often used for religious ceremonies.

Bali’s Timeless Beauty

There’s no doubt you’ll find yourself speechless during your trip to Bali. Here, you can immerse yourself in the daily life of a diverse, welcoming population. Days here are colourful and fast-paced, with so many parties, ceremonies, markets and attractions to experience. Just think, Bali is home to at least 20,000 temples waiting to be discovered. And once you’re done exploring, you can take a dip in the crystal clear sea or perhaps grab a board, flippers and a snorkel. What are you waiting for? Get ready to dive headfirst into an amazing vacation!

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