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Bali: Your Guide To The Top 6 Must-See Spots

Pura Besikah

The Best Guide to Bali’s Top 6 Destinations. Check Out My Top Picks For Bali’s Must-See Spots:

In This Bali Article You Will Discover:

  • The Top 6 Must See Spots on Bali
  • Tips & Advice for Each Destination
  • What to Avoid Throughout the Island
  • Costs to Expect at Each Location
bali-ubud

No visit to Ubud would be complete without a trek through the Sacred Monkey Forest.

1. Ubud

Perhaps made most famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is known locally as the epicentre of Bali’s arts scene. Located deep in the jungle, about an hour’s taxi ride from Denpasar (~400,000 Rupiah), Ubud should be stop number-one on your must-visit list. Upon arriving, you will have a choice of accommodation ranging from five-star spas, to backpacker’s bungalows, to guesthouses and everything in between. Stay a couple of days — there is too much to do and see in one day.
Many tourists come to Ubud to shop and dine, they are not disappointed — the rows of storefronts are seemingly endless. However, rather than tacky knock-offs (although there are those), you’re more likely to find unique fashion, gorgeous art and “real” souvenirs.

Tip: if you want to avoid the cheap and gaudy, skip the marketplace, tucked inside the alleyways of central Ubud.

Finally, no trip to Ubud would be complete without a stroll through the Sacred Monkey Forest. Here, you will be able to get up close and personal with hundreds of furry, long-tailed macaques — but be wary, as cute as they are, these critters are like grabby toddlers, stealing food, shopping bags and everything else they can get their fingers on. (There is a small entrance fee to the forest.)

Note: avoid the banana retailers at the entrance to the forest; carrying a handful of bananas into a monkey forest is just asking to be swarmed. Trust me, I know.

2. Mount Batur (Kintamani)

mount-batur

A beautiful and awe-inspiring vista of Mount Batur, Kintamani.

An active volcano in the north-central region of Bali (Kintamani), Mount Batur is one of those astonishing sights that will have you mumbling, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” Thick with green jungle foliage and stained with hardened black lava flows, Mount Batur stabs upwards from Bali like some primordial navel; the entrance to a Hindu netherworld. It’s no wonder the volcano has been revered for centuries; it is an imposing and wondrous sight.

While there are treks one can take into the jungle, most vacationers will choose to simply dine in view its glory — a pleasant restaurant in Kintamani treats visitors to a perfect vista of the volcano while they dine on good-quality, relatively cheap (~65,000 Rupiah for an all-you-can eat buffet) Indonesian fare.

This will no doubt be merely a stop during a day’s tour, not a full day in itself, but surely a must-see nonetheless.

bali-purah-besakih

Ensure you take a day to explore the magnificent Pura Besikah, at the base of Mount Agung.

3. Mount Agung & Pura Besakih

Another sacred volcano in east Bali, Mount Agung is the holiest of the holy — complete with the oldest and largest Hindu temple in all of Bali at its base, Besakih. While the mountain itself is a wondrous sight, the temple itself is the reason to visit. You’ll stroll past hawkers at its base and freak out at the sight of baseball-sized spiders weaving their webs in the telephone wires as you head towards the entrance to Besakih. (Remember: As with all Hindu temples, long pants are required to enter; there will be robes for use if you forget.) Stone stairs lead you up the side of the mountain, past wonderful, orthodox Hindu architecture in this tribute to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu… the three names Hindu allot to their one God.

The 1,000-year-old temple could take the better part of a day to wander though, although much of it is closed off to all but the truly devoted. Still, photo ops abound as you walk upslope, passing silent Hindu monks and intricate stone sculptures.

Tip: some tour guides will offer to take you into closed off sections of the temple. Do not go, it is not only highly disrespectful to enter certain temples for any reason, but the guides will  try to cajole large amounts of money from you for this “exclusive” tour.

Also, there are many child vendors throughout the temple. They will attempt to stick flowers in your pockets then charge you for the sale. Be nice — and remember they are children who live in a state of poverty that you, good reader, cannot possibly imagine. Giving them money is inadvisable, as you’ll be swarmed and overwhelmed, and it encourages such devious panhandling practices. However, carrying a pocketful of candy to pass out will put bigger smiles on these youngster’s faces than any amount of Rupiah ever could.

4. Tanah Lot

bali-tanah-lot

The holy, oceanside temple of Tanah Lot is home to Bali’s best sunset.

Home to the best sunset on the island, Tanah Lot is the Bali of your dreams. Located about a one hour’s drive from Denpasar, Tanah Lot is a sacred Hindu temple located on a rocky tidal islet at the base of a towering limestone cliff. Visitors can choose to brave the ocean’s waves and wade out to the temple, although at certain times of day and year this could prove highly dangerous. A rogue swell could easily knock you over and drag you across the rocks… but most make it to the temple unscathed. A more relaxing way to enjoy Tanah Lot is to order a Bintang (Indonesian beer) and a plate of Nasi Goreng at the cheap (~2,000 to 10,000 Rupiah) and half-decent eatery overlooking the temple, and watch the sun sink into the sea behind.

It’s truly remarkable, and an experience only to be had in Bali.

The area is also popular with surfers, but beginner rides should steer clear: the waves are big, the shoreline is rocky and help is far off. You will also find a marketplace full of souvenirs and knick-knacks near the temple. The fire-roasted corn is worthy of purchase; the rest is the usual forgettable collection of knock-off clothing and cheap woodcarvings.

bali-kuta

For the beginner to intermediate rider, Kuta Beach is the best surfing beach on Bali.

5. Kuta Beach

Ah, Kuta Beach. Mention this destination and you’ll find just as many warnings to stay away as you will hear suggestions to visit. For me, though, there is one inarguable reason to visit Kuta: the surfing. Let’s be honest, most travelers to Bali are simply not skilled enough to take on the heavy surf breaks found elsewhere on the island.

Kuta offers nice, consistent waves for beginner through intermediate surfers, cheap surf rentals (~50,000 Rupiah per day for a good board), abundant surfing lessons and a huge expanse of white sand to relax on.

Beer, soda and food are cheap and readily available on the beach, and there is good shopping to be had in the town when you’re done. Now the negative: it’s not exactly unspoiled Bali. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and a Western-style mall can be found, and the street hawkers are among the island’s most aggressive (although they are veritable pussycats in comparison to those found in Bangkok, or even Mexico).

The Balinese are a polite people, and hawkers respond well to a simple, “No, thank you.” Do not say, “Maybe later”… They will wait for you. All in all, Kuta is a great place to surf if you’re the type who didn’t bring his or her own board. And definitely a must-visit once — you can make up your own mind after that.

6. Jimbaran

bali-jimbaran

Dining at Jimbaran is a perfect romantic evening in Bali.

Jimbaran is for lovers. If you’re visiting with your significant other, you must have dinner in Jimbaran. You’ll never forget it. Imagine: rows of tables on a golden-sand beach where you’ll dine upon fresh-caught seafood, sip cold beer and listen to live music as the sun descends beneath the horizon in front of you. (Guys: if you plan on proposing, this is where you do it.) Travelers should be aware that prices for high-end seafood dishes in Jimbaran may rival what you’re used to paying at home: some platters cost one million Rupiah, although cheaper fare can be had (60,000 to 70,000 Rupiah). Wine is very expensive as well, stick to local beer.

However, transport to Jimbaran from most hotels is free — simply call a restaurant and they’ll pick you up and take you home from most locales in southern Bali. (Tip your driver!)

As you finish your dinner, and night descends, gaze up at the Southern Cross and smile. This is why you came.



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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

12 comments… add one
  • Geraldine del Rosario May 25, 2014

    Thanks David! Exactly what I need to know. 🙂

  • steven Mar 7, 2013

    We are heading to malaysia and Bali in may 2013 – your picks of top things to do are great – can’t wait!!

  • Bali Contour Dec 22, 2012

    Nice article, from real experience, the writer so good and share useful tips you must know about Bali, before you come. For Budget Hotels and Tour you can try our service Bali Contour Villa’s and Guest House: You Pack your bag, and we pack your budget

  • MikenDi Nov 27, 2012

    We went to Jimbaran Beach’s Bawang Merah restaurant last night. Lovely scenery, firecrackers and usual harassment by local traders and musicians earning a buck, but restaurant was hugely expensive for what is was, location location location! Good night though but food could be either better or cheaper.

  • Cheap Tickets for Bali Sep 21, 2011

    Thanks for the blog. It has so much information for the visitors. Everyone know that Bali is a great Asian attraction but this blog have so deep information about it.

  • Hotel Bali May 17, 2010

    Bali is one of the most rewarding of all Asian destinations, but with some 17,500 islands and adventure sports.

  • Dave and Deb Apr 17, 2010

    We went to all the places but Jimbaran. It was 2004 when we were there and we just loved Bali. It is one beautiful Island. From Adventure and fun to romance and relaxation, it has it all. Great round up of the best things to see there!

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