Bali is one of the most evocative and popular tourist islands of the entire Indonesian archipelago. A visit here sparks the senses. As soon as you arrive, the intoxicating fragrance of incense and clove oil hangs in the thick tropical air. Peanuts sizzle at roadside stalls, petal-strewn offerings smolder on busy sidewalks, and traditional gamelan music jangles against the buzz of mopeds. Despite the clamor and chaos of the main tourist areas, the island is rich in natural beauty, with attractions for every kind of traveler. Surfers come for the legendary swells, hikers can trek up jungly volcanic peaks and to misty waterfalls, and cyclists can bike through lush landscapes bristling with rice terraces and traditional villages. The island’s rich arts scene is another top draw, and if relaxation is your top priority, the shopping in Bali and spa treatments are fabulous – and affordable. Spirituality adds yet another layer to Bali’s allure, and seeing the magnificent temples and sacred Hindu ceremonies are top things to do. Since the famous book and film Eat, Pray, Love spotlighted Bali, the tourist throngs have undeniably swelled, but you can still experience old Bali if you stray off the beaten track.
1 Pura Tanah Lot
About 20 kilometers northwest of Kuta, Pura Tanah Lot (“Pura” means temple in Balinese) is one of Bali’s most iconic temples thanks to its spectacular seaside setting on a rocky islet surrounded by crashing waves. For the Balinese people, it is one of the most sacred of all the island’s sea temples.
2 Mount Batur
Every day in Bali’s predawn darkness, hundreds of visitors begin the trek up the 1,700-meter summit of Mount Batur to watch the sun rise above the lush mosaic of mist-shrouded mountains and the caldera far below. This sacred active volcano lies in Kintamani District in Bali’s central highlands, about an hour’s drive from Ubud, and the hike to the summit to watch the sunrise has long graced the list of top things to do in Bali.
3 Uluwatu Temple
Presiding over plunging sea cliffs above one of Bali’s best surf spots, Uluwatu Temple (Pura Luhur Uluwatu) is one of the island’s most famous temples, thanks to its magnificent clifftop setting. In Balinese, “Ulu” means “tip” or “land’s end” and “Watu” means rock, a fitting name for the location of the temple on the Bukit Peninsula along the island’s southwestern tip
4 Ubud Monkey Forest
Only 10 minutes’ walk south of the town center in Ubud, the Monkey Forest, also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, is one of the top attractions in this tourist town and a must-see for animal lovers and photographers. Besides the entertaining troops of grey long-tailed macaques that make their home here, a large part of the appeal is the evocative jungle setting where the monkeys roam free.
5 Ubud Art & Culture
Made famous by the book and movie Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is also the epicenter of Balinese art and culture. This is where the modern Balinese art movement was born, with the surrounding royal palaces and temples acting as the main patrons. Today, several excellent local museums and galleries celebrate its evolution and traditions.
6 Tegallalang and Jatiluwih Rice Terraces in Bali
If you’re a photographer seeking to capture Bali’s beautiful emerald-hued rice fields, the Tegallalang or Jatiluwih rice terraces are a must-see. About a 30-minute drive north of Ubud, Tegallalang Rice Terraces are one of the most famous areas to photograph these iconic landscapes and absorb their timeless beauty.
7 Waterbom Bali
Waterbom Bali is an action-packed waterpark, in the heart of Kuta, with something for every member of the family. Kids can splash in the swimming pools; drift down the Lazy River; or zoom down one of the many twisting water slides and rides, with names like the Python, Green Viper, and Super Bowl.
8 Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
On a small island along the western shore of Lake Bratan, in the cool highlands of central Bali, the 17th-century Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is one of Bali’s most picturesque temple complexes. Set against the imposing backdrop of Gunung Bratan, the thatched temples reflect on the lake, and when the water levels rise, they seem to float on its surface
9 Seminyak Shopping
Bali is known for its flamboyant designers and fabulous shopping, and you’ll find the best examples of Balinese design along the busy streets of Seminyak. Cutting edge designer fashion, surf and swimwear, jewelry, furniture, and homewares are just some of the items you can buy at the chic shops and busy market stalls here
10 Kuta Beach
Yes, it’s crowded and persistent hawkers stalk the beach, but this famous stretch of sand, along with neighboring Legian and Seminyak Beaches just to the north, is still a fun day out, especially if you’re a beginner surfer or you just want to soak up the scene. You can book surf lessons and rent surfboards, boogie boards, sun loungers, and umbrellas directly from vendors set up on the sand, and plenty of cafes and restaurants border the beach.