The exotic Indonesian island of Bali is alluring to a wide range of travelers. They don’t call it the “Island of the Gods” for nothing. It’s part honeymoon hotspot, spiritual retreat, surfing mecca and shoppers paradise. It’s got plenty for active adventurers, beach lovers, nightlife seekers and yoga fans alike. Its cultural heritage is rich, and its natural beauty is legendary. Best part, it’s relatively small and compact, so you can explore all its various facets quite conveniently. With so much to choose from, here are 8 experiences you can’t miss in Bali.
1. Enjoy a Sunset at Uluwatu
Uluwatu is a legendary surfing beach on the southeast tip of the Bukit peninsula. Even if you don’t ride the waves, it’s a spectacular spot to chill for the day and gawk at the sunset. Hang out in the beachfront cave or grab a bite at one of the warung restaurants that line the cliff. Check out the 11th century clifftop temple, meant to protect Bali from evil spirits. Located about an hour or two’s drive from Kuta (depending on traffic), Uluwatu offers one of the best unobstructed views of the Balinese sunset. Don’t miss the evening kecak ritual, a traditional Balinese fire and trance dance developed in the 1930s.
2. Visit the Tegalalang Rice Terraces
The rice terraces around Tegalalang, north of Ubud, present a stunning photo opportunity. The hillside farmland uses subak, a traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system developed in the 8th century. You’ll often see the farmers working their crops, knee-deep in the flooded paddies. There’s a magical reflective quality to this liquid landscape. The lush, rolling green hills serve as a dramatic backdrop to the terraced farms.
3. Indulge in the Local Cuisine
One of the best parts of a Bali trip is sampling the local cuisine. It’s your choice whether you eat from a street vendor, casual warung or five star hotel. Coriander, coconut, lemongrass and peanuts are popular flavor enhancements. Try classic dishes like nasi goreng, satay ayum and gado gado. Other Balinese favourites include babi guling (spit-roasted pig), ayam betutu (slow-cooked spiced chicken in banana leaves) and sate lilit (spiced mince on lemongrass sticks). For desert, order bubuh injin, a delicious black rice pudding. Why not take an organic cooking class in Eastern Bali?
4. Trek Mt. Agung at Sunrise
Mt. Agung is the highest peak and holiest mountain in Bali. Even if you’re not religious, you will have a spiritual experience witnessing the sunrise here. Trek to the top and you will be treated to a panoramic view of Bali, as well as the neighboring islands of Lombok an Nusa Penida. There are various routes up, but most involve an 8 to 12 hour nighttime jungle trek up the mountain. You need a guide, a certain level of fitness and an adventurous spirit for this, but the summit and sunrise views are well worth it.
5. Go White Water Rafting
Adrenaline junkies will thrill at a white water rafting trip in Telega Waja River. It is one of the longest rivers in Bali, starting on the eastern coast and running southward from Mount Abang. It’s an exhilarating journey as you ride the rapids past steep canyons and cascading waterfalls. This is an adventurous way to explore the heart of rural Bali up close.
6. Learn to Kite Surf
If you’re looking to pick up a new hobby while in Bali, why not try kite surfing? Conditions on the island are excellent for this exciting sport. Sanur is home to one the of the best surf schools in the world. The Rip Curl School of Surf is the only IKO affiliated school on the island. It’s lagoon setting offers ideal conditions and challenges for all ability levels. Beginners and freestylers can enjoy the flat lagoon waters while advanced surfers can thrill on the waves rolling over the reef.
7. Visit The Mother Temple of Besakih
Pura Besakih, known as the Mother Temple of Bali, is the largest and holiest Hindu temple on the island. It is actually comprised of 23 different temples and is located 1000 m (3600 ft) up the side of Mt. Agung. In the early 1960s, the eruption of this active volcano killed about 1,700 people, but the lava missed this temple by mere meters. The Balinese say that this was a miraculous sign from the gods to demonstrate their power.
8. Explore the Wonders of Ubud
Last but not least, all travelers to Bali should visit the central town of Ubud. It has long been “discovered”, even before all the Eat, Pray, Love publicity, but it truly is the heart and soul of the country. The area is seeped in history, culture, art and tradition. You’ll find opportunities to witness traditional dances, festivals and gamalan performances – some put on for tourists, but some authentic ceremonies too. Shoppers will find an array of crafts and treasures, and foodies will delight in the organic offerings. Don’t miss the Sacred Monkey Forest and the Elephant Caves. Stay at an eco-lodge, boutique hotel or traditional bungalow. Take an art classes, visit a spa, or hike the surrounding hills. There’s something for all serenity seekers in Ubud.