Bali has many faces and attracts a diverse collection of international travellers. Some seek the beaches and surfing hotspots, others are after family friendly shopping and entertainment, and others want to immerse themselves in the spiritual and cultural traditions that have attracted so many expats to the island.
Uluwatu Temple, high above the ocean on a clifftop, is a Hindu sea temple south of Kuta.
If you can rouse yourself for an early start, the hike up volcanic Mount Batur to the summit will reward you with sunrise views over the villages and lakes below.
Dating back to the 9th century, visit Goa Gajah for the stone carvings of Hindu Gods. Also known as Elephant Cave, this destination is near Ubud and can easily be reached by scooter or taxi (or walking if you’re so inclined). It was built as a sanctuary for meditation, and the menacing faces carved into the surrounding entrance to the cave are intended to ward off evil spirits.
Of all the divine natural idylls in Bali, Gitgit Waterfall is one of the most lovely and memorable. Take the walking trail via a bridge walkway to discover natural pools and the waterfall. Approximately 40 minutes from Denpasar or less than 10 minutes from Singaraja Town in the north of Bali.
Retreats and relaxation
Whether you prefer a retreat that includes all accommodation, activities and food or whether you prefer to organise accommodation and explore the town for spas and wellness activities, Bali caters to either and all proclivities.
Pampering is a must-do in Bali, with massage, hair, pedicures, waxing and facials all a fraction of the price of those same luxe treatments anywhere else. Bali Spas are world renowned for their quality and attention to detail, as well as the inclusion of traditional beauty rituals into treatments.
Prana Spa in Seminyak looks much like an Indian Palace, adorned with rich carpets and high celings. Facials and massage are their most popular treatments.
Maria Curau in Canggu offers vegan-friendly nail treatments. Their non-toxic, environmentally friendly mindset appeals to the local expat and tourist clientele.
Como Shambhala Estate
In the highlands of Ubud, Como Shambhala Estate is great for couples. Treatments take place overlooking the Petanu River and lush jungle surrounds.
Como Shambhala Estate has three sites in Bali, offering five star rooms, suites and villas in addition to an Ayurvedic spa. You could easily spend an entire day experiencing spa treatments, while also doing reformer Pilates, yoga or taking guided surfing trips (Canggu) or temple walks (Ubud).
Whether it’s homewares, artwork, furnishings or antiques and jewellery, Bali’s traditional artisans sell their wares alongside designer brands and bargain tourist bric-a-brac.
Art markets in Bali offer a world of handicrafts, homewares and more in a sprawling arrangement of kiosks. Try Kumbasari Art Market in Denpasar, Ubud Art Market, Sukawati Art Market (Gianyar, near Ubud) and Kuta Art Market near Kuta Beach.
Simply walking the main streets, you’ll come across shops selling everything from sandals and belts to swimwear, lingerie, yoga clothes, traditional teas, herbs and tonics, and more. Dotted between shops are juice bars, cafes and beauty salons so as your shopping spirit flags, a fresh cucumber juice and a pedicure might revive you. The main streets of Kuta, Seminyak, Legian, Ubud and Canggu all offer a great shopping experience.
Surfing, volcano walks, waterfall tours: if you want to get outdoors and explore the beauty of Bali, there’s options galore. You can pre-book tours with the assistance of a travel agent or via your accommodation usually but you’re just as likely to find a great tour or bargain experience through any of the kiosks dotted in the streets of Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud, Legian and Canggu.
In Ubud, you could opt to go white water rafting, take a private tour of the Hot Spring Waterfalls or climb Mount Batur volcano. Bali Sun Tours offers quad bike adventure routs through bamboo forests and rice paddies of rural Bali. A full day private tour to the Gate of Heaven Water Palance in Taman Ujung (Lombok) sees you spend the day in eastern Bali. Bali Natural Tours runs snorkelling half-day tours (with complimentary hotel pickup/drop off) inclusive of all snorkelling gear. In Northern Bali, go canyoning at Kerenkali Canyon. All safety equipment and instructions are provided by an an expert in adventure activities. If you’re less keen on adventuring and more interested in wildlife and learning about conservation efforts, a visit to Bali Zoo in Sukawati might include a dinner or breakfast experience with orangutans and elephants.