Bali is becoming a must go destination for most of backpackers traveling around Southeast Asia, apparently everybody easily falls in love with The Island of Gods. We wanted to see what the excitement is all about and guess what… We fell in love too! Bali is much more than a place for partying and enjoying the beach, its deep Hindu culture and stunning inland nature will surely steal your heart.
OUR ITINERARY IN BALI
We spent 20 unforgettable days in Bali, trying to cover both the mainstream destinations and some quieter areas. So here’s our Bali itinerary guide, ideal for a minimum two week stay (you can omit one of the islands or skip the far north if you have fewer days).
Bali isn’t a small island, but not extremely big either: it is possible to reach any point of it within half day driving, if you are ready to face heavy traffic, Bali’s main problem. Due to the hundreds of rivers and streams flowing through the island, Balinese roads are narrow and often overcrowded, especially in the busy south. This said, riding a scooter among the all year round cultivated rice fields is one of the greatest feelings ever!
These are the first destinations you will hear about, depending on how you are reaching Bali: arriving from Java by ferry, Gilimanuk is the port city where you will dock. A public bus to Denpasar terminal costs 50,000 IDR, or you can get a ferry+express bus ticket for 100k. The trip will last around 3h30. If you are flying to Bali, chaotic Denpasar airport will welcome you, plus a taxi drive through the also chaotic nearby roads will get you to your hotel.
From south to north on the west coast, the three most popular areas are Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu. Kuta is arguably the busiest and a party place, so we skipped it. Seminyak is a good starting point to settle into, although it is not so different from a touristy beach location in Thailand (its streets remind us of Phuket or Koh Samui): this is the most expensive area in Bali, as most businesses are owned by westerns. We recommend to stay here for two nights two enjoy the wide beach and lovely sunsets.
Alternatively, Canggu is more laid back and not as developed as the previous. Still restaurants here are a bit pricey, but the beach side is more natural and less crowded, ideal for surfers. Many expats choose Canggu for its very relaxed vibes.
Tip: you can stay in either Seminyak and Canggu and move easily between them by scooter or taxi.
If there’s one place where you would like to stop and stay for 4-5 days or more, make it be Ubud! In and around Ubud you will find all those Bali landscapes you are dreaming about: waterfalls, Hindu temples, palm tree jungles, monkeys, rice terraces, Balinese dances, and excellent cheap local food. Clearly everybody goes to Ubud, so it will be crowded as well, but it is enough to abandon the main roads and go on day trips to find your own space.
We stayed for 5 nights in a tranquil bungalow with swimming pool for only 15€/night, a few km outside Ubud, and we would ride our scooter around in absolute freedom among local villages! Being in the centre of Bali, it is possible to get pretty much anywhere on a day trip, from the closest Tegenungan Waterfall and Tegallalang Rice Fields, to the Monkey Forest, to the further Wanagiri Hidden Hill, Lempuyang Temple or Mt. Agung!
Tip: if you ride a scooter, definitely look for a place out of a town to enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
One of the highest towns in Bali at over 1,000m above sea level, Bedugul can be kind of cold for being in Indonesia! Its Twin Lakes are a stunning attraction which are best appreciated from above at the famous Wanagiri Hidden Hill, a crest high point that often becomes hidden among misty clouds. Other popular sights are Pura Ulun Danu Temple and the Handara Golf Resort, aka the Bali Gates, a popular Instagram photo spot. Bedugul is good to stay a few days too if you have time enough and if you are up for outdoor activities as kayaking, cycling, motocross, horse back riding, paintball, archery, etc.
If you are looking for a quiet beach getaway in Bali, Lovina volcanic black sand beach is your go to place. Being a peaceful place doesn’t make it boring at all, there’s plenty of daily activities to take up: dolphins watching at dawn, superb waterfalls to be found less than one hour drive away, like the astonishing Sekumpul Waterfall, and also hot volcanic spring waters. Hotels and resorts here are cheaper than in the south, you can get pretty good deals when staying in Lovina.
Definitely traditional and still local, eastern Bali hosts some of the most important places of the island, religiously speaking. Pura Lempuyang, Besakih Temple and Tirta Gangga Water Palace all rise on the sides of majestic Mt. Agung, the divine volcano of Bali that keeps erupting, harmlessly, every few months. Come here to escape crowds and immerse yourself into mother nature.
If you are planning to go to the Gili Islands or Nusa Penida and Lembongan at some point, Padang Bai is the busiest port on the east coast. Ferries leave from here to the Gilis and Lombok twice a day, there are different companies and the choice is wide. Shuttle bus+ferry tickets to the Gilis are sold everywhere in Ubud and Denpasar for 200k (12€) in low season, but can go over double the price in peak season. The sea can be rough in the strait and the crossing takes about one hour, but it is definitely worth it to enjoy the paradise of the small islets. Crossing to Nusa Penida is cheaper (100k in low season) and only takes half an hour.
As said, it takes one hour to reach the Gilis, because they’re actually just off Lombok coast, opposite Bali. It’s a short 15 minutes trip by public boat (30k) to cross from one island to the next, so it is possible to stay a couple of days in each, if you have time. Gili Trawangan is the biggest and known as the party island, Gili Meno the smallest and ideal for couples, Gili Air is quiet but has many bars and restaurants along the beach. All of the islands have no motored vehicle at all, which makes them so peaceful and relaxing. The Gilis are under Lombok administration, so you will find mosques here rather than Hindu temples.
Tip: don’t have time enough to visit them all? Join a snorkeling tour by boat in the morning for just 100k to be dropped off around each of the Gilis! You can spot sea turtles easily and the famous underwater statues just off Gili Meno shore.
The other island destination is Nusa Penida, a much larger area compared to the Gilis. Penida’s southern coasts show off astonishing cliffs with incredible views: the most famous sights are at Kelingking Beach, Angel’s Billabong, Broken Beach and Atuh Beach. Here again riding a scooter is key, otherwise be prepared to face the bumpy unpaved roads in a car. Although it is possible to get to Nusa Penida by joining daily tours from Bali, we recommend to spend at least two nights on the island to see all its natural beauties. Nusa Penida is Hindu again, as Bali. Go and visit the wonderful Goa Giri Putri Cave Temple for a unique experience! Speedboats connect Bali to Nusa Penida with daily trips from Sanur, see more here.
Here’s more tips and advice about Bali:
HOTEL – WHERE TO STAY IN BALI?
You can prebook all your accommodation with free cancellation in Bali here.
–CANGGU: Udara Bali Yoga Detox & Spa: the perfect retreat for yoga lovers with up to 8 daily yoga classes free for guests. Beachfront location, excellent healthy food available at the restaurant, and uniquely designed rooms, plus spa, pools, jacuzzi, steam&sauna. The most relaxing place in Canggu! Are you convinced yet?
–SEMINYAK: GrandMas Plus Hotel Seminyak: located at walking distance from Seminyak Beach, GrandMas is the ideal mid-budget hotel where to start your Bali holiday. Make sure to include the breakfast option in your reservation to get a wide choice of both local and continental dishes. Try the on site Denyuh Spa for an unforgettable Balinese massage experience! GrandMas have also other hotels in Bali, in Legian Kuta and at Denpasar Airport where you can enjoy the wonderful Last Day Plan, consisting of 3 hours of message and dinner!
–LOVINA: Lilin Lovina Beach Hotel: when staying at Lilin Beach Hotel you will have the chance to hop from your private swimming pool to the ocean, and sunbathing on the beach. With live music every night, you will love dining straight on the beach in the evening. Icing on the cake, you don’t need to move from Lilin to enjoy both seaview sunrise and sunset!
–LOVINA: The Hamsa Resort Lovina: The Hamsa is a majestic multi hectare resort up in Lovina hills. Lovely cottages and bungalows surround two large infinity pools, with tropical views behind and ocean view in front. An atmosphere of total peace will welcome you!
–GILI MENO: Les Villas Ottalia Resort: in the middle of tiny Gili Meno, Ottalia is a pure gem. Every superior room is set up in a private villa with swimming pool, immersed in the island silence, whilst in the middle of the resort a large pool steals the scene. Don’t forget to have your breakfast booked when staying at Ottalia, their homemade French pastries are the best we had during our Bali trip! There’s also a Les Villas Ottalia in Gili Trawangan!
WEATHER – WHEN TO GO TO BALI?
Bali lies quite close to the Equator, meaning it has a fairly even climate year round. The west monsoon brings significant rain from December to March in particular, which is considerate low season but still sees many tourist coming to the Island of Gods.
DO I NEED A TRAVEL INSURANCE?
Yes you do. Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. Even if you trust yourself, you can’t always trust others. Better safe than sorry! Get your quote here.
WHAT ABOUT VACCINES?
It’s always recommendable to check whether you need specific vaccines, in particular if you travel for more than 15 days. Check with a doctor at a medical centre what you could need for Indonesia.
DO I NEED A VISA TO BALI AND INDONESIA?
Most citizens from Europe and America can enjoy a free visa up to 30 days when visiting Indonesia. For longer stays and to check your citizenship eligibility visit iVisa.
FLIGHTS – WHERE TO START YOUR BALI TRIP?
Denpasar airport is well connected to all main international destinations nearby, including Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong.
Arriving from Java it’s possible to cross the Bali strait by ferry and start your journey from Gilimanuk, west Bali.
BUSES, TAXI, FERRIES – HOW TO BOOK TICKETS IN BALI?
The only public bus you may use in Bali is the one going from Denpasar Terminal to Gilimanuk port. There are also other routes, but due to heavy traffic and wide offer you are better off with taxis or minivans.
The most reliable taxi company in Bali is called Blue Bird, we always used them because they use the meter every time. If you are used to call Grabs in Java, forget about it in Bali! There seems to be a war between taxi and Grab drivers, the latter are not welcome at all.
Ferry tickets to Java are sold at the pier for just 7,000 rupiah, or by paying 100k you can get a joint ferry+bus ticket to Gilimanuk from Denpasar terminal in Bali, some 100 km away.
Tickets to the Gilis are bookable in any agency in Ubud or Denpasar, from as low as 200k one way in off season, to as much as 500k in peak season. Consider buying a return ticket in advance if you know your schedule, because you may be ripped off when buying tickets at the Gilis, you are on a tiny island and the ferry is the only way you can get out!
Nusa Penida can be reached both from Sanur (150k) and from Padang Bai (100k) by different ferry companies.
For any ferry ticket it’s always recommendable to book at least one day in advance.
WHAT TO EAT IN BALI?
Being such a tourist destination, in Bali you can find any food you desire, both local Indonesian and of worldwide inspiration. Interestingly, there’s seems to be a thing for tacos and pizza overall, you’ll find several Mexican and Italian restaurants around, especially in Kuta, Seminyak, Canggu and Ubud.
This ends our Bali itinerary guide for a couple of week’s stay! We’ve been to all the places listed and some other too, feel free to ask deeper info in the comments below!
HAVE FUN IN BALI!