A beautiful island located in Indonesia, Bali is home to over 20,000 Pura’s (Balinese for temples), as well as active volcanos, a stunning dramatic coastline, breathtaking rice field views, traditional villages, nightlife, tropical beaches, amazing shopping and lush jungles. The island is very rich in culture and history.
Driving around Bali is a photographers and explorers dream, there are endless things to see and do here, from visiting temples, eating in local warungs, swimming and trekking to waterfalls, experiencing local village life, and lastly not forgetting the mountain treks, in addition to so much more Bali has it all.
Digital Travel Guru recently spent a month a Bali and we have put together 20 things to do and see, the best thing is 18 of them are FREE yes FREE!! Read on to find out what our top SECRET place in Bali is…….. If you love Bali check out 20 Photos That Will Make You Fall Inn Love With Bali.
Ubud Market: ‘Is a shoppers Treasure Trove’
Cost: Free (Unless You’re a Shopaholic)
Ubud market is a must visit place to shop, if you love finding a bargain, be warned you will need to put your haggling skills to the test here. The market is in centre of town and very easy to find, there are also lots of places to eat and drink and rest your feet from shopping if you need to take a break.
Here you will find lots of beautiful and creative items such as: dream catchers, beautifully made jewellery, home decor, paintings, bags, and clothes amongst literally hundreds of other things. You will need a few hours to walk round and check out all the fascinating stalls and shops there. It’s a great place to see and take photos in even if you don’t buy anything.
Amed Beach: ‘Romantic, Chilled, Great for Snorkelling or Diving trips, & Explore Local Villages & Shipwreck’
Located in Eastern Bali, about 3 hours from Ngurah Rai International airport, Amed is a a great place to escape to, to avoid the crowds of Kuta, and Semiyak to have a chilled and relaxing holiday. Famous for its black sand beach, it is an underwater paradise for snorkelers and divers. Amed also has some picturesque views of Mount Agung, a wonderful place to fly your drone or capture some great travel photos or videos. Amed is known as a strip of traditional fishing villages in Bali, which covers 7 villages (Amed, Jemeluk, Bunnutan, Lipah, Selang, Banyuning, and Aas). It was only in 2000 that a tarmac road was built, and in 2003 telephone lines were installed in this area.
There is plenty to do in and around the Amed area, that does not involve costs, if you plan ahead, and don’t mind walking around, or if your staying in the area, and already have a form of transport. Some ideas are: exploring the area on a bicycle (some accommodations let you use them for free), bring your own snorkel and explore the rich marine life in the waters around Amed, take your camera and walk around and snap some amazing views and scenery, relax in one of the many beaches in the area and explore local villages close by.
If you like diving and snorkelling you can explore in the shallow waters just off the beach of Tulamben village, near Amed, The Liberty Wreck which one of Asia’s best dive spots. The US Army cargo ship was torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942, it was then towed to Singaraja harbour but sank near Tulamben. The Liberty lay there until the violent 1963 eruption of Bali’s Gunung Agung volcano caused her to slide back into the sea, where it now home to a huge variety of sea life. The is also a Japanese shipwreck dive site in Amed which is a patrol ship that sunk during the world war 2. It is 45 m deep thus only advanced divers can dive this wreck, however you can snorkel around the site. You can also watch salt being made and visit the view-point at Jemeluk.
So what are you waiting for, pack your beach bag, camera, don’t forget sun screen and water and head to Amed, you won’t be disappointed.
Cadidasa + Lotus Lagoon + Temple; ‘Scenic, Great for Photographers, Boat Trips, Sea / Rock Formations Views History & Culture’
Historically, Candidasa was a fishing village, tourism commenced in the area in 1970, the are still maintains it charm and is very relaxed and quiet. In Balinese Candi Dasa translates as “ten temples” but according to locals from the area who say that it used to be called Cilidasa which means “10 children”. Pura Candi Dasa (temple) is in Candidasa, and on the hill facing the lotus lagoon. It is a pilgrim site where many Balinese couples come to, to receive blessings if they cannot conceive, the temple houses the statue of the fertility goddess Hariti, and further statues of ten children surrounding her. Local people believe that the Goddess Hariti means the mother of many people who can give the gift of fertility and prosperity.
Another landmark of Candidasa is the lotus lagoon, where you will have an incredible sight of a large lagoon of water filled with pink and fuchsia lotuses, there is also a small garden island that has statues on it in the centre of the lagoon. The lagoon is free to the public and fully accessible from the road. Across the road you will find a temple to visit also, the temple is named after the area, and has two shrines. From the temple which is elevated you can see the full views of the lagoon.
There is a great restart across the road called Balissa that I ate in a must check out in Candidasa, the food was delicious and the owner so lovely, the restaurant made a nice box of food for me to take away for later and provided me with a free trip back to my hotel.
Sanur Beach: ‘Mature Crowd / Chilled and Relaxing / Temple / Beach Walk’
Sanur Beach, is one of Bali’s earliest beach resort areas, it features a relaxed coastal atmosphere. Located on the south-eastern side of the island. The area was a former fishing village and up till today still attracts visitors from all over the world. Sanur has a wide range of restaurants and beach-side dining options you can try. At the reggae bar in Sanur on the beach you can listen to live music on some nights for free. Chill and swim in the beach in the day, the waters are very calm and beach clean. Sanur is a good place for families and children. On the Main Street there are a lot of interesting shops and more small bars and restaurant options as well as accommodation.
One interesting temple in the area to visit is: Pura Blanjong it was built-in honour of Sri Kesari Warmadewa to remember his journey to the east. Sri Kesari himself was a descendant (a Buddhist-ruled dynasty which ruled Java) and the founder of an architectural dream, the Borobudur Temple. A Blanjong inscription dated 914 A.D. states Sri Kesari was a Buddhist apostle who soon established a Mahayana convent at Blanjong village. Pure Blanjong is a fascinating temple to visit of architectural and archaeological significance.
Sanur has a lovely 4km beachfront walk, that winds past various resorts, beachfront cafes, shops, and wooden fishing boats, you can see views over the sea to Nusa Penida Island, as well as Mount Batur from certain points of the walk.
Mango Beach Bar: Great Bar for live music – sit on the beach and jam to some tunes for FREE.
If you get hungry and need to have a pit stop, there is an amazing place, that servers a wide range of dishes and the prices are extremely cheap it’s called Warung Little Bird
Campuhan Ridge Walk ‘Exercise / Photos / Scenic Views’
Located 5 minutes from the centre of Ubud, you can escape to to Campuhann Ridge Walk. If you enjoy walking and fresh air this is a great activity to do. I have done this walk every time I have visited Ubud, the start of the walk is located near the bridge and temple at the end of Ubud hight street, you can ask any locals or shop keepers for directions. It is a very easy walk to do as the path is paved along the ridge, 1km into the walk you will find a lovely cafe called Karsa Kafe, where you can stop for a light snack and a cold drink, before heading on.
The length of the walk is 9km in total and takes you up to a village called, Kedewatan. During the walk you will see views of the jungle, sweeping rice fields and hills, as well a local Balinese small houses along the way. On the walk you will come across very few tourists and locals. The walk offers places for you to stop and take in the views along the way. There are also other little warungs on the path to stop at and see local artists selling their artwork and there is a lovely place to have organic ice-cream. The recommended time most people like to go is early morning or later afternoon to avoid the midday heat.
Things to remember before you do your walk:
- Comfortable foot wear & clothing.
- Sunscreen and maybe a hat
- Water & some snacks /. fruits if you don’t want to buy food on route
- Money for (food / drinks / maybe some art works / organic ice cream)
Penestanan Village: ‘Art, Walks, Village Life, Rice Fields, Nature, Yoga, and Meditation’
The word Penestanan comes from ‘Penastan’ which means bowl for holy water. it is known as the artists village. Penestanan is a village just outside the town of Ubud, in Bali, Indonesia. It has been known as an artist’s village since the 1930s when Walter Spies was a local resident there as well as Arie Smit.
I have always stayed in one of the surrounding villages around Ubud when I’ve visited Bali, my favourite of them is Penestanan, which lies nestled between Sayan and Champuhan, Penestanan is blessed with gorgeous rice fields, stunning Balinese houses, jungle views and lots of nature. Penestanan is the centre for yoga, spirituality, meditation and art.
Why I fell in love with Penestanan is the tranquility, chilled out vibe of the area , the way of life, seeing locals tending to their crops, local warungs selling food, artists painting, the local coconut delivery man that you call and he delivers fresh coconuts to your accommodation. Penestanan is only 1km away from all the crowds and noise of central Ubud, but is such a peaceful place where you can truly unwind.
A walking tour of the area will provide you with small winding alley way paths, jungle views and rice-field paths, little shops and eateries and millions of photography opportunities. Chat to the locals as you go around they are so friendly and always willing to guide you. Along the path ways you will also find lots of unique places to stop and have a drink and something to eat, and a lot of cafes in the area that sell vegan and organic food, as well as the most delicious smoothie bowls and tropical fresh fruit platters, you will be lost for choice here.
Outside my villa all I could hear was nature and the locals (frogs croaking, insects buzzing, rice-field workers, balinese music playing in the distance, and the trickle of the little water streams). The perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. If you want to stay here there are numerous types of accommodation from villas, home-stays and hotels. I’d definitely recommend booking a villa here. if you don’t a walking tour will surely give you some beautiful places and sights to see.
Desa Belok – Flowers of Gold: ‘Photography and Romance’
Desa Belok is also known as the “Sea of Gold” , it is located about 30 minutes from Bedugul in a place called Kintamani, and it is a free as access is from the roadside. The fields are full of Marigolds as far as the eye can see. Marigolds are used in Balinese ceremonies and in daily offerings with rice and incense. Marigolds are linked to Sang Hyang Wide Wasa, the Balinese god. Fields of marigolds can be seen throughout Bali during the dry season. Marigolds are good income for farmers, when they are unable to grow rice.The harvest period is about 40 days to plant and cultivate seeds. Marigold seeds are usually obtained from neighbouring Java.
Catch the Magnificent Waterblow at Nusa Dua: ‘Adventures and Fun’
Experience the water blow at Nusa Dua, a truly fun activity to do, if you don’t mind getting wet. Don’t forget to protect your electrical equipment, unless its waterproof. The water blow has huge waves from the Indian Ocean crashing against the cliff edges, to reach this point, you walk along some paths and will arrive at a beautiful view-point of the twin islands, and you will see the amazing seascape. Be aware of warning signs along the way of the dangers such as (dangerous, slippery rocks, high surf, sudden drop, and sharp coral) also take extra care of you bring children, the waves can get several metres high, there is also seating where you can sit and wait to get splashed from the waves from behind the railing. Another great day trip is taking a boat over to the Gili Islands check this post out here: Crossing The Sea To Reach Gili Trawangan.
Suluban Beach (Beach Life / Chilling / Dramatic Cliffs / Sun Bathing and Surfing / beach Caves)
Suluban Beach has one of Bali’s most unique coastlines, located in South Kuta, with striking limestone formations and accessed the beach is accessed via steps, which can be very slippery,and through gaps in the rock. This beach joins up to Uluwatu beach which is famous amongst surfers. Suluban beach offers you some jaw dropping views over the Indian Ocean, the surrounding cliffs add to the fabulous views here. There are restaurants here along the path and places to get a cool drink. Another great time to come here is at sunset.
Some of the top free things to do here are:
- Surfing (bring your surf board)
- Exploring the beach caves
- Watching the sunset
Aling-Aling waterfall + Natural Slide: ‘Adventure + Swimming’
Giant Banyan Tree + Temple: ‘Photos, Nature. Temples’
The giant Banyan Tree in the village of Gesing, in northern Bali. Believed to be over 700 years old, and approx 85-metres tall, this is a really amazing tree to see, it has a fantastic maze of roots that you can walk around and explore. You can actually walk around inside and under its roots!! My local driver told me that when the Dutch occupied Bali in the 1940’s, some of the local Balinese people hid inside the tree, the local believe that the spirit of the tree made them invisible to the Dutch soldiers. To this day they still believe that the tree posses a spirit and has special powers to make your dreams come true. Located on the same site, there are also two temples called Pura Pecalang and Pura Subak.
Sarawati – Water Palace in Ubud: ‘History and Culture’
Saraswati Water Palace or in local balinese is called Pura Taman Saraswati is located on right in the heart of Ubud. Waters from the temple at the rear of this site feed the pond in the front, which overflows with pretty lotus blossoms.The temple was designed by Gusti Nyoman Lempad, one of Ubud’s most important architects and artists. Artistic carvings cover the temple in honor of Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and art, but the main draw of Pura Taman Saraswati is the picturesque pond in front of the temple, overflowing with lotus flowers. At night, the temple is a popular venue for cultural performances. Ubud’s water palace is designed in typical Balinese temple style with red brick, white stone, and fantastically carved wood.
Two stone temple guardians shaded by Balinese umbrellas ward off bad spirits. The water temple is one of the most easily accessible temples in Ubud. It is behind Lotus cafe on the main hight street, where you can sit if you want and see the temple whilst eating lunch or dinner. There is no entrance fee to visit this temple during the day.
Kusamba Village: ‘Learn how to Make Salt from Seawater + Beach’
The Balinese tradition of salt farming dates back almost a thousand years, but has only recently gained recognition from tourists and salt lovers. The little village of Kusamba is about an hour’s drive from Sanur, and is located on a quiet volcanic black-sand beach. Local salt farmers live in basic huts right on the beach and still mine salt in the traditional way. Visitors can watch how the salt is produced, and buy local products at a very affordable price from the farmers themselves.
The salt farming in Kusamba has been passed down from generation to generation.The farmers use conventional ways of harvesting to produce natural salt with the most natural flavour and colour. Salt harvesting is a labour intensive process. The farmers make their way back and forth from the ocean with wooden or leather buckets weighing heavily on bamboo poles on their shoulders.They then splash the seawater across the black sand, the sun then bakes the sand into flakes from this the salt is harvested.
The flakes of salt are then washed with fresh water in wooden drums to create saltwater brine which is then poured over timber planks for further evaporation. The beach area here is very clean and waters calm perfect if you get hot to take a dip in the warm sea water, whilst looking at the views over to Nusa Lembongan Island.
Goa Jepang: ‘History and Photography’[huge_it_gallery id=”2″]
Japanese Cave is located in the Klungkung district, and at Banjarangkan Village. It is approximately 38 miles from Depasar, on the Bubuh. river According to sources online and from the local Balinese people, the site was used by the Dai Nippon Japanese army between 1941-1942, as a bunker for shelter & defend themselves from allied forces during the 2nd world war as well as to store weapons. The caves have 16 cave holes in the mountains dug into rocks of a huge hill area, with depths of approx 15 metres, these were built-in by the Japanese army in 1941. You can go into the cave holes and walk around. There are two further caves also that you can explore. When you visit Bali, especially to the Klungkung area, the Japanese caves are a great heritage site to visit.
Entrance fee: Rp 10,000
To get to Sekumpul Waterfall, travel from Denpasar to the Singaraja region and to the village of Sekumpul, the drive takes around 2 hours, and is well signed. The waterfalls at Sekumpul, is a cluster of 7 waterfalls together, that has magnificent bamboo jungle around it, some of the 7 waterfalls are hidden. However, the only 2 of them can be visited the falls are around 80 metres high.
You can access the waterfalls via the village of Sekumpul. The paths leading up to the falls can be challenging so wear good footwear and take some water with you. You will trek across dirt paths, over a hundred steps, and will need to cross some streams up in up to 1 meter high of water. You can also watch the falls from a distance if you do not want to do the trek, ask the locals at Sekumpul village where you can see the falls from and they will guide you.
Balinese Festivals: (Culture, History, Arts, Traditions, Photography)
There’s no better way to immerse oneself in Balinese tradition and connect with its beautiful people than through unique and vibrant festivals, when the streets light up with smiles and Bali’s true spirit and traditions come alive.
Bali has several annual festivals, and they’re not only free to visit, but you can also learn about the local culture. The Bali Art Festival (Pekan Kesenian Bali) with traditional performances from all Bali districts is held in June every year in Denpasar. Aside from the Bali Art Festival, there is the Bali Kite Festival, which is usually held in July or August in Sanur, depending on wind conditions.
There are so many festivals in Bali, the best thing to do is to check online what festivals are on at the time of when you will be visiting.
Some other popular festivals are:
- Bali Spirit Festival.
- Sanur Village Festival.
- Ubud Writers & Readers Festival.
- Bali Live International Jazz Festival
- Bali Rice Harvest Festival.
Hike Mountains & Discover Temples
Bali’s mountains are free to climb, if you love wrecking and walking. The difficult mountains are Mount Agung & Batukaru, which are two of the highest mountains in the island. You might need to get permission from the local village, but there won’t be any charges.
Mount Agung is sacred point in Bali, this active stratovolcano stands at 3,031 meters (9,944 feet) and tempts the all the hikers, travellers and island residents to reach her summit. At the bottom of the mountain stands the holy temple of Pura Besakih and Pura Pasar Agung
If you feel you need a guide you can either look online or hire one upon arrival to the base point of Agung.
Some of the less difficult mountains to climb are Mount Lempuyang & Mount Karangasem, which are located on the Eastern side of the island, here you will find lots of nature including grey macaques, forests and an ancient temple of Lempuyang is a must see at the top.
Research online and see what type of hike and mountain range would suit you, and even if you don’t want to trek, just visiting these mountains will provide you with some breathtaking views.
Balinese Artists: (Photography / Videos / Balinese Arts & Crafts Making)
Bukit Asah Hill + Secret Beach + Bug Bug Village: ‘Beach & Incredible Views’
Shhhh it’s one of my Bali secret’s…
Cost: 10,000 rupiah per person
Bugbug is an old village located in Karangasem east Bali. The village has beautiful places for sightseeing such as the virgin beach also known as white sand beach. On Bukit Asah hill you can see the beautiful ocean from the top cliff and the popular Candidasa Beach.
Whilst exploring the east coast of the island, I came across an uphill road, many locals had told me about, where I would find a place called secret beac. I was informed by locals I would see the most incredible and breath-taking views there.
So off I went to exploring……… Located about 4km from Candidasa I found a small sign on the right hand side of the road, and looked up at the road which is still being constructed by the local village community and drove up, I came to a check point where they collect 10,000 rupiah per person to proceed. I carried on up the bumpy road, and the first view I saw to the left was unbelievable, I could literally see for miles and miles over the village of Bug Bug and seeing the backdrop of the volcanoes in the back ground, just took my breath away. This is when I wish I had brought a drone with me, although I had several cameras with me, having a drone to fly over and record this view would have been amazing. If you are coming here please ensure you have your camera and enough battery power, because I can assure you will be taking a lot of photos and videos.
As you drive further up the hill you will come to another point also on the left were you see a huge gorge, with a vast jungle down below, the drop must be about 300 meters, and in the distance you can see the first glimpse of the sea. I kept going, and on the right side you see local people who live on the mountain, as well as some cows and what looked like old rice terraces, after that you will then arrive at a large opening which you carry on straight accross and will see 2 tiny shops selling soft drinks, beers and snacks. This is the third place to stop and just take in the views of the Balinese coastline, with Candidasa in the background and some lone rocks formations in the middle of the sea. There is small campsite further down, that apparently is a famous place where Balinese couples come and visit. There are endless photography / drone and video opportunities here. You can even bring a picnic and sit here for a few hours. Many people visit this point to watch the gorgeous sunsets.
If you carry on from here the road starts descending down the mountains, and this is the moment you will arrive at (secret beach / white sand beach / virgin beach) a stunning bay with fine sand, and numerous fishing boats and a few warungs where you can get food and drinks.The beach is clean and about 300 meters long. The local warungs have toilets and you could easily spend the full day here.
The locals in the beach here do boat trips along the coast and up to the rock formations in the sea for about £15-£20. The beach has dramatic cliffs either side and behind it the backdrop of the mountains. There are not many tourists that come here, I visited three times and found it to be fairly secluded, however with the road being built I’m not to sure how much longer it will be secret or un- crowded. The water is safe to swim in if the waves are not high. There are a few beach vendors selling kites, bracelets and that come and play music to you. there is no accommodation on this beach.
This is my Secret Bali Beach, that I had been searching Bali for, a secret hidden gem nestled in between a vast gorge in eastern Bali, with rock islands in the distance, and warm sea waters. This beach has a beautiful secluded coast line, dotted with local fishing boats and local children playing in the waters, the only sound here is of the waves and a local Balinese musician playing his musical instruments.