After watching Eat Love Pray, Bali was at the top of my travel bucket list and it didn’t disappoint.
How long to stay
I went for 11 days in May 2016. I thought this would be plenty of time to see everything I wanted to, but in all honesty, I could have stayed longer. Don’t get me wrong I saw a lot, but if you want to see all that Bali has to offer then I would recommend staying a minimum of 2 weeks.
Where to stay
Where to stay in Bali really depends on how long you are going for and what you want to see. Popular options include Kuta – known as the party town and Bali’s equivalent of Benidorm; Seminyak – the more sophisticated version of Kuta; Ubud – the cultural centre of Bali and Jimbaran – famous for its brilliant sunsets and seafood.
For my trip I was staying with family, so we chose to spend 10 days in Villa Jasmine in Seminyak (see pictures below). The Villa was situated in a great place; walking distance from the main food and shopping street and beach bars, but far enough away not to be kept up by the noise.
After ten days in Seminyak, I headed off to the Gili Islands with a friend, before returning to Bali for a one night stay in Jimbaran. As it was our last night we chose to treat ourselves to a night at RIMBA Jimbaran – a five star luxury resort and one of the top hotels in Jimbaran. It is also the sister hotel to the famous Ayana Resort, which meant that we could use the hotel facilities (including the renowned infinity pool) without having to pay the huge premium price tag to stay there!
Getting around Bali is pretty easy, the only problem is the traffic. Bali itself is quite a big country, so getting from one place to another can take quite a long time. This is why many people opt to move around and stay in different places in Bali to reduce the time spent sitting in traffic jams.
As we were staying as a family, we chose instead to hire a driver to take us to different places. Between six of us this actually worked out quite cost effective and was less stressful than trying to navigate public transport. Your accommodation provider should be able to put you in touch with a driver, but if not you can find details for good drivers on TripAdvisor.
Things to do
Watch the sunset at one of Bali’s Beach clubs: Bali has a number of Beach Clubs but, in my opinion, the two best beach clubs in Seminyak are Potato Head and Ku de Ta. Be sure to head there early before sunset or you will struggle to get a seat; we went down at 3.30pm and were still put on the waiting list. Also be prepared to shell out premium prices for food and drinks; unfortunately the price you pay for the nice views, but definitely worth it at least once on your trip.
If you’re not staying in Seminyak long enough to visit both beach clubs then I would choose Potato Head over Ku de Ta- it’s got the better pool and views in my opinion.
Visit some of Bali’s many the rice fields: There are a number of different rice fields in Bali, but two of the most popular are the Jatiluwih and Tegallalang rice terraces. The Jatiluwih rice fields can be found in the centre of Balia nd are the less popular of the two. However, that doesn’t mean they are any less beautiful. In fact, for us it almost made the experience more special as there were only a couple of other tourists around so we had the rice fields nearly all to ourselves.
The Tegallalang rice terraces can be found just north of Ubud and were featured in the Eat Love Prey film. We didn’t have time, but you can hire a bicycle and cycle through from top to bottom.
Visit some of Bali’s many temples: Bali is famous for its temples, so you will want to make sure you see at least a few. Most places you visit will have some form of temple nearby, so it is best to try and combine trips to temples with visits to other places on your must-see list. A driver will be able to help you with the best route if you choose to hire one.
- Ulun Danu Temple: This was my favourite Temple. I think it is one of the prettiest and also most iconic. It’s the image you think of when you think of Bali. The only downside is that because it’s so iconic, it’s also packed with tourists. We ended up going in the middle of the day as part of a trip to the rice fields and it was hard to find a spot which wasn’t crowded. So I would suggest going either first or last thing to avoid the crowds.
2. Bratan Temple: This wasn’t one of the main temples on my must-see list, but it was nearby to the Jatilluwah rice fields and Ulun Danu temple, so we decided to make a stop anyway. Unlike Ulun Danu, there were only a few other tourists around making it a much more tranquil experience. A dress code also applies; you’ll need to purchase a sarong and wrap (included in entry price) which makes the whole experience feel more authentic.
Another famous temple is Tanah Lot. Unfortunately we didn’t get round to seeing it on our trip, but I was told it was another must-see, particularly at sunset.
Climb Mount Batur: If, like me, you have always wanted to watch the sunrise but never got round to actually doing it, do it in Bali. Join one of the many trekking tours and climb to the top of Mount Batur to see the sunrise from the top of an active volcano.
Be warned; it’s an early start. I got up at 1 am to be picked up from my villa in Seminyak and transported to the bottom of the volcano. The hike itself starts at about 3.30 am and it takes approximately two hours to reach the top. After reading reviews I psyched myself up for a really difficult and dangerous trek, but the climb is actually fairly simple (don’t believe what you read). Plus you have a guide with you at all times to make sure you’re ok and help you when needed.
On my trek there was a Balinese lady who joined us for the climb carrying water and drinks for everyone to have when they reach the top. She was 40 years old and does the climb everyday just to make money for her children. I was feeling slightly nervous so she stayed with me and held my hand throughout the climb.
This was my favourite trip in Bali and definitely one I would recommend to anyone considering it. The views from the top were absolutely stunning and to top it off, you get given breakfast and will also be greeted by friendly monkeys on your way down.
A few points worth noting; firstly, you need good trainers / shoes. The climb can be very rocky in places so you’ll need shoes with a good grip. Secondly, don’t forget to bring a head torch – the guides do provide them if you don’t have one but there’s no guarantee how good they’ll be . Finally, I recommend you wear layers. It might be cold when you start your climb up the mountain, but by the time the sun is out and you start your descent you will be baking
Relax in the Toya Bungkah Hot Springs: What better way to relax after a mountain climb than in natural hot springs? That’s exactly what I did and what I would recommend to anyone considering the mountain climb. Not far from the bottom of Mount Batur, the views from the Toya Bunkah hot springs are incredible and the environment extremely tranquil. If you really want to relax and reinvigorate your muscles you can add on a leg massage for about £8.
Get cultural in Ubud: If you’ve ever watched Eat Pray Love, then Ubud is the side of Bali that you will have imagined . Famous for being the cultural heart of the country, it’s filled with rice fields, temples and wellbeing resorts and spas. Ubud is also home to the Monkey Forrest, another must visit whilst in Ubud, but be careful they can bite!
Catch sunset in Uluwatu: Another great spot for watching the sunset is at Uluwatu temple. The temple sits on a cliff top making it an attractive spot for photos. But be warned as soon as the sun starts to set, monkeys start to appear and this time they are not friendly. One managed to steal my flip flop from my foot and I saw another grab a man’s sunglasses, so make sure you hang on to your possessions.
There are also a number of beaches and coves in Uluwatu that are worth a stop on your way through, such as Padang Padang beach shown above. However the sea is quite rocky so you’ll need water shoes if you plan on going in for a dip. You can also combine a trip to Uluwatu with a trip to Jimbaran as they’re not too far apart.
Eat & watch the sunset in Jimbaran: Jimbaran is famous for two things; seafood and sunsets. We chose to combine both on a trip back from Uluwatu, stopping to have dinner on Jimbaran beach. The beach is lined with restaurants so there’s plenty of choice, all of which specialise in Seafood.
Have a Cocktail at the world-famous Rock Bar: Known as one of the most popular cocktail and sunset venues, the Rock Bar at the AYANA resort is worth a visit. You can’t book a seat so you need to get there early if you want to get one of the best spots for sunset (I’d say about 4 pm).
Guests of the AYANA resort or sister hotel RIMBA Jimbaran get priority, so you could be waiting a long time if you’re not staying there. Also make sure to check the dress code or you won’t get in. Finally, like all sunset destinations in Bali, you’ll be paying a premium for food and drink. But again, its a small price to pay to visit one of the most popular bars in the world.
Go parasailing in Sanur: About half and hour from Seminyak, we decided to take a day trip to visit Sanur. The beach here is more child-friendly than Seminyak beach – the waves were much smaller and less fierce. This also makes it a popular destination for water sports. We had a go at parasailing, but there are a number of other water sports you can do including a underwater walk.
One thing to remember is that Indonesia safety standards are a lot less stringent than those in Europe. I did feel like I was gripping on for dear life and the parasailing did consist of a running start from and crash landing on the beach – definitely different from my previous experiences in Europe!
Mingle with the celebs at Nusa Dua: Nusa Dua is a small gated area in Bali full of top five star resorts. It’s very different from the rest of Bali. In fact, to me it didn’t feel like I was in Bali at all – I could have been in any holiday resort in the world. Nevertheless it’s worth a visit, even if just for the nice beaches and celeb spotting. But if you’re interested in the Balinese culture then don’t plan on spending too long here.
Go surfing at Seminyak Beach: Unlike many destinations in Asia, Bali isn’t famous for its beaches. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have nice beaches, just that they aren’t the prettiest in Asia. What they are good for though is surfing. The strong wind makes Bali’s beaches an ideal spot to try out surfing, so why not book a spot on a surfing trip and give it a go.
If you’re looking for a trip filled with culture, adventure, nature and relaxation then Bali is the destination for you. It has to be up there as one of my favourite places I have visited and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
For a better overview of my trip and what I got up to you can watch the video here.