Bali is one of the most exotic and, inarguably, most popular tourist islands of the entire Indonesian peninsula. As soon as you set foot in Bali, you’re immediately greeted with a thick yet pleasant fragrance of exotic spices that populate the surrounding tropical air. In Bali, you can find everything: roasted peanuts sizzling at some of the roadside stalls, tunes from the traditional gamelan music, and an indiscernible but deeply meditative noise from the upcoming traffic that make the streets of Bali a real feast for the urban traveler.
Additionally, the island features some of the most prominent art scenes and one of the most affordable relaxation treatments money can buy. For those who seek spiritual fulfillment in life, Bali is the perfect destination as its deeply rooted Buddhist tradition adds yet another layer to the island’s foreign appeal.
With that being said, here are some suggestions of where to have the time of your life in Bali.
Mount Batur is a sacred volcano located in the Kintamani District, about an hour drive from the city of Ubud. This is one of the main natural tourist attractions on the island, featuring a three hour hike to the top of the volcano for the experience of a lifetime. Every day in Bali in fact, hundreds of backpackers start the trek towards Mount Batur top to witness the sun rising and illuminating the lush greenery below the mountain.
Usually, guides will carry a typical picnic breakfast comprised of eggs that they cook with the help of the natural volcanic heat. Clear days offer a view to remember, as you can see as far as the horizon stretches – across the Batur caldera, the nearest mountain range, and Bali’s main irrigation source, Lake Batur.
To achieve this feat, you’d need to have sturdy hiking shoes and wear several clothing layers, as it can be very cold before sunrise. To top it all off, you can also go for a therapeutic bath in the hot springs located in Toya Bungkah near the banks of Lake Batur. Or, you can visit one of Bali’s most revered sacred temples instead, located on the lake’s northwest side instead – the temple of Pura Ulun Danu Batur.
Pura Tanah Lot
Pura Tanah Lot is located about 20 kilometers northwest of Kuta and – according to the natives – it is one of Bali’s most sacred sea temples to date (the largest Hindu temple in Bali is Pura Besakih, “Pura” meaning temple in Balinese, but a recent haggling from locals has deemed this as the less popular destination for tourists). Pura Tanah Lot dates way back to the 16th century, and the legend goes that a priest by the name of Nirartha asked the local fishermen to raise a temple here after he proclaimed the rock outcrop a holy place.
One caveat is that foreigners can’t enter either of these temples, however good news is that you can walk across the temple during a low tide and take some photos to immortalize the site. If you don’t have a camera, or aren’t very prolific in snapping striking photos, you can hire a local photographer to do the bidding in your stead. But we digress.
Finally, Tanah Lot is a great starting point as well, which will allow you to stroll to some nearby stunning topography (all marked with pathways) to visit the mesmerizing Batu Bolong. Batu Bolong is another sea temple erected on an eroded rock outcrop, but when visiting, be sure to dress respectfully (i.e. no flip flops or inappropriately short clothing) and also wear a sash and sarong.
Ubud Monkey Forest
The Ubud Monkey Forest, otherwise known as the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, is a top attraction located only 10 minutes from the town center. The appeal of this attraction lies mainly within the evocative jungle setting where the grey long-tailed macaques roam free (and potentially dare to steal an item or two from an unsuspecting visitor)
However, the forest is also a place of nutmeg and giant banyan trees, casting shadows over ancient moss-covered statues that give the attraction an almost mystical feel. Plus, the forest is a home of several rare plants and it also serves as an anthropological site of investigating the social behavior of macaques.
The southwest side of the forest fosters one of the three ancient temples found in the sanctuary – the 14th century Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal. This temple is a second home to hundreds of monkeys and is a true sight to behold (think of Mowgli but in real life).
Then there is the northwest part of Ubud Monkey Forest, a place where you can enjoy the sight of the Pura Beji. The Pura Beji is an ancient bathing temple nestled right beside a cool water stream which makes the perfect backdrop for watching the monkeys play. If you decide to visit the forest, be sure to avoid eye contact with the animals (as this can be mistaken as a sign of aggression) and also leave any food at the entrance.
And that’s a wrap. What do you think? Are there any places in Bali that should’ve, but didn’t make it in our lineup? Share your comments below.