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Best places to visit in Bali | Insight Guides Blog

Best places to visit in Bali

Synonymous with paradise, the Indonesian island of Bali offers relative remoteness and richly spiritual culture. From hillside temples in its central mountains to beach resorts in the south, there are many amazing sights. Here is our guide to the best places to visit in Bali.
Aerial view of Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Bali. Photo: R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock
Aerial view of Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Bali. Photo: R.M. Nunes/Shutterstock

Jimbaran

South of the shopping malls, bars and nightspots of the overcrowded beach resort of Kuta, Jimbaran remains relatively undeveloped. This lovely extended crescent-shaped bay bordered by broad grey sandy stretches is ideal for strolling while the southern end of the beach offers some lively waves for frolicking, boogie boarding and surfing. Ngurah Rai International Airport is clearly visible, but fortunately it’s not close enough to hear the noise of jets taking off and landing.

Head to the beach early in the morning to watch fishing boats bringing in their daily catch. The village is deservedly celebrated for its open-air restaurants on the beach that open for business in the late afternoon. A sunset dinner of mouthwatering, freshly grilled seafood at a table overlooking the bay in one of these relaxed spots is not to be missed. 

Traditional Balinese fishing boats on Jimbaran beach. Photo: Kevin Hellon/Shutterstock


Gunung Kawi

The rainforest and terraced rice fields in Bali’s central uplands region are peppered with ancient holy sites. Around half an hour’s drive north of the cultured town of Ubud, you can find one such sacred place, the Hindu temple of Gunung Kawi. 

From the entrance, a long flight of steep stone steps descends to the site, which comprises an incredible complex of rock-hewn facades and monks’ alcoves nestled in a lush valley overlooking the Pakerisan River. One of the most important monuments in Bali, the remarkably well preserved shrines are believed to memorials to the 10 members of an 11th-century royal dynasty. Try to arrive as early as you can in order to beat the crowds, and be aware that there are around 250 steps to get down to the valley. 

Ganung Kawi, Bali. Photo: Edmund Lowe Photography/Shutterstock


Pura Luhur Uluwatu

At the western tip of Bukit Badung peninsula in South Bali, where rocky precipices drop almost 100 metres (330ft) down to the ocean waters below, the compact but highly esteemed sacred site of Pura Luhur Uluwatu perches dramatically at the top of a promontory; the short path left of the temple leads along the clifftop to spectacular views.

Originally dating from the 10th century, Pura Luhur Uluwatu is a revered sea temple that is said to be the place where the legendary 16th-century Javanese priest Danghyang Nirartha achieved enlightenment. The temple’s split gate is flanked by carvings in the shape of wings, while the entrance to the second courtyard is an arched gateway guarded by statues of the elephant-headed god Ganesha – revered as the remover of obstacles. The innermost sanctuary is off limits to those who are not worshipping. Beware that the monkeys living here can sometimes be aggressive.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu, Bali. Photo: MonsieurSeb/Shutterstock


Gunung Batur

Without doubt one of the best places to visit in Bali, the active volcano Gunung Batur rises majestically above the freshwater lake Danau Batur that lies at its foot. Approaching from the south, as the road climbs steadily out of the town of Bangli, the terrain gradually changes from thick bamboo forests to open windswept slopes. Temperatures drop perceptibly and during the late afternoon visibility is reduced by the mists that roll in. Eventually the road reaches the crater rim at Penelokan, from where you can take in views of Gunung Batur. At a height of 1,717 metres (5,600ft), the volcano sits in a vast caldera measuring 11km (7 miles) in diameter and 200 metres (600ft) in depth. This active volcano last had a minor eruption in 2000, although it periodically sends out clouds of ash. To the east, Gunung Abang is Bali’s highest peak, towering at a height of some 2,150 metres (7,065ft). 

It is best to visit the area before noon when mists descend. Note that entrance fees are charged for a vehicle and each passenger, allowing access to the entire area. Keep hold of the tickets as you travel around to avoid being charged again. A visit to the Museum Geopark Batur offers an insight on the nature of volcanoes through interactive exhibits, simulations and short films – kids will love it.

For intrepid travellers, two-hour sunrise treks up Gunung Batur begin at around 4am and are rewarded with breathtaking views of Danau Batur Lake, the peaks of Gunung Abang and Gunung Agung, and the sea in the distance. At the summit, trekkers will be served a simple breakfast of baked bananas and hard-boiled eggs cooked in the natural heat belching from the belly of the volcano. ‘Official’ fees for guides are expensive, but better deals can be negotiated at some homestays and restaurants near the lake.

Sunrise at Gunung Batur, Bali. Photo: AstroStar/Shutterstock


Seminyak

North of Kuta Bay, hip Seminyak is blessed with a wide, gold-grey sandy beach and rolling waves to swim and body surf in. A stroll along its shoreline when the sunset produces dramatic mango-coloured streaks across the sky is always wonderful. With accommodation on offer ranging from modern budget establishments to beachfront hotels like The Legian and The Oberoi Bali, you can enjoy stylish comfort, splurge on high-end luxury, or go for anything in-between. Chic bars and restaurants line the palm-fringed beach, while the resort’s Jalan Kayu Aya street is home to a variety of enticing boutiques in amongst a cluster of fine restaurants serving international cuisines from Greek to Italian and Japanese.

Sunset at Seminyak Beach, Bali. Photo: Komar/Shutterstock


Luhur Batukau

On the forested slopes of Mount Batukau lies the remote mountain sanctuary of Pura Luhur Batukau, a venerated royal temple where many journey to pay homage. The modest shrines and structures are devoid of ornate carving and gilding, blending in well with the surrounding cool and misty forest, making it a peaceful and idyllic place for reflection. 

The main temple in the complex is dedicated to the god of Gunung Batukau, Bali’s second highest mountain at 2,278 metres (7,475ft). In the inner courtyard, the seven-tiered meru shrine is dedicated to the 17th-century ruler who established the Mengwi kingdom, while another three-tiered one is dedicated to the 18th-century founder of the Tabanan regency. Descendants of both dynasties continue to maintain the temple today. 

Pura Luhur Batukau, Bali. Photo: MajestiX B/Shutterstock


Ready to take a trip to Bali?

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