As the most popular island in the entire Indonesian archipelago, Bali has something for everyone and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Some come to enjoy the beaches and azure waters, some come to sample the legendary surfing and other thrilling water sports, and yet others come to Bali to party from sunset to sunrise. The island is full of surprises and besides the promise of sunshine and tropical waters, Bali offers the chance to learn about Balinese culture as you visit several exotic temples, palaces, and historic cultural sites.
1. Canggu Beach
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Canggu Beach is both the name of a village and a popular coastal area located roughly between Seminyak and Tanah Lot on the west coast of southern Bali. Canggu Beach comprises a long string of connected black-sand beaches, almost all of which offer great surfing conditions and attract surfers from all over the world. It is possible to walk the entire length of Canggu Beach – bring your hat and sunscreen and enjoy the coastal scenery and the many beach bars you will find along the way. For a change from the beach you can have some fun at Splash Waterpark and enjoy a seafood barbeque at Echo Beach House.
2. Bali Safari and Marine Park
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Located in Gianyar in Bali, the Bali Safari and Marine Park is a definite must-see attraction for families and animal lovers. Although the park is more of an open zoo than a genuine safari destination, you will have the chance to see over 60 species of animals from Africa, Asia, and India at very close range in natural surroundings. You can tour the park by bus or grab the unique chance to take an elephant back safari. The park offers various activities, including animal encounters, dining at the Tsavo Lion Restaurant, the night safari, and the Bali Agung Show, which features over 100 actors and includes elephants and live music. For a break from the animals you can have some fun at the Waterpark and Funzone.
Bali Safari and Marine Park, Jalan Bypass Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra Km, 19.8 Kec, Gianyar, Bali 80551, Phone: +6-23-61-95-00-00
3. Blanco Renaissance Museum
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Art lovers who are planning a visit to Ubud should not miss the chance to visit the Blanco Renaissance Museum, which is housed in the hilltop home and studio of the late Philippine-born artist Don Antonio Blanco. The galleries are housed in a palatial building that combines architectural elements from both Bali and Spain and houses a substantial collection of the artists’ life works, including collages, paintings, and lithographs displayed in elaborate and unusual frames. You can also tour the studio and gardens and even enjoy a meal at the museum café. Please note that the museum is not suitable for children or those who dislike nudity in art.
Blanco Renaissance Museum, Jalan Campuhan, Ubud, Bali, Phone: +6-23-61-97-55-02
4. Garuda Wisnu Kencana
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If you can drag yourself away from the beaches for a day, a visit to the Garuda Wisnu Kencana cultural park will offer a glimpse into Balinese culture and mythology. At the heart of the park is the enormous (and as yet unfinished) statue of Vishnu, which will eventually reach a majestic height of over 1,500 feet and will be visible from just about all over the island. The GWK is a popular venue for outdoor events and its lofty location on the top of a hill affords sweeping views over Bali. You can tour the GWK on foot, by shuttle, or on a Segway Tour, and highlights of your visit will include seeing Balinese dancers, watching the Balinese Parade, and dining at the authentic on-site restaurant.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Jalan Raya Uluwatu, Ungansan, Kuta, Bali, Phone: +6-23-61-70-08-08
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5. Goa Gajah
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Located close to the city of Ubud in the Sukawati area of Bali, the Goa Gajah archaeological site (aka Elephant Cave) is one of Bali’s most sacred Hindu sites. It is believed that the cave was once a sanctuary used by Hindu priests for meditation. You enter the cave via an enormous and rather frightening entrance, resembling the gaping mouth of a mythological demonic creature that has been hewn out of the surrounding rock face – presumably to ward off ill spirits. Visitors to the cave will be struck by the quiet and serene atmosphere inside – the cave is still used as a Hindu religious site and visitors need to dress appropriately (knees and shoulders covered).
Goa Gajah, Jalan Raya Goa Gajah, Sukawati, 80582, Bali
6. Jimbaran Beach
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Jimbaran Beach and Jimbaran Bay are located on the southwestern coast of the narrow strip of land that joins the Bukit Peninsula to the Bali mainland. Visitors who prefer to escape the overly touristy areas around Kuta and Sukawati will find they can still discover secluded areas to enjoy the sun along this stretch of beach. There are plenty of sunset and seafood restaurants where you can relax after a day on the beach as well as good local shopping and markets to explore. For a taste of culture you should not miss visiting the cliff-top Uluwatu Sea Temple and the adjacent amphitheater to watch the daily Kecak Fire Dance at sunset.
7. Kuta Beach
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Kuta Beach was once a quiet little fishing village nestling on the western coast of Bali’s narrow isthmus, but is today considered to be the island’s most famous and busiest beach resort areas. The beach is very popular with surfers and the arrival of thousands of annual visitors has resulted in a rash of upmarket resorts, restaurants, good shopping opportunities, two water parks, and exciting nightlife. You can enjoy a wide variety of beach activities besides surfing and swimming – try your hand at windsurfing lessons, stand-up paddleboarding or even stand-up paddleboard yoga lessons. After a busy day in the sun, you can visit the Kuta Theatre for an entertaining family show.
8. Legian Beach
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Legian Beach is a long stretch of coastline that lies between Kuta Beach and Siminyak Beach, two of Bali’s most popular holiday destinations. Visitors who are looking for a good stretch beach that has many hotels, resorts, and bars but less of a party vibe will probably find Legian Beach perfect. You can spend your days relaxing in the sun, join the local and visiting surfers, take long relaxing beach walks, or join in a game of beach volleyball or beach soccer. Nearby attractions include the Waterbom Bali waterpark, 5GX Bali Reverse Bungy, and a good variety of shopping markets and restaurants.
9. Luhur Uluwatu Temple
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Located on a beautiful cliff top near Pecatu Village about 15 miles south of Kuta, Luhur Uluwatu Temple is a must-see attraction for all visitors to Bali. The temple is believed to be one of the six spiritual pillars of Bali and the site has been home to a Hindu temple since the 11th century. The current temple complex includes a beautiful cliff-side pagoda, some crumbling stone arches, and a protective stone wall, all precariously perched 230 feet over the beach below. You will find that this site is one of the very best on the island for watching dramatic sunsets, and the site also hosts the nightly Kecak Fire Dance. The temple is said to be protected by dozens of mischievous monkeys – you need to keep an eye on your possessions.
10. Millennium Bridge
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We have all become accustomed to using environmentally friendly bamboo bowls, boards, and other utensils in our homes, but when you visit Sibang Kaja in Bali you will have the chance to see the famous Millennium Bridge, which has been constructed entirely out of bamboo and other local grasses. The 75-foot covered bridge is found adjacent to the Green School, an international school for sustainable living, which occupies a 20-acre campus and boasts over 75 bamboo-based buildings. The bridge consists of 192 bamboo poles, which symbolize the 192 countries in the world and was constructed in just 4 months using traditional methods. Not only can you admire and walk across the bridge, you can also hire it as a venue for small functions.
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11. Mount Batur
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When you think you need a brief break from the sun and the sea, one attractive option is to tackle the famous Sunrise Trek to the summit of Mount Batur. Located in Kintamani District, Mount Batur is an active volcano and a sacred mountain to the Hindu population of the island; it offers visitors the opportunity to watch an incredible sunrise from its summit at 5,633 feet above sea level. Hikers who take up the challenge need to be early risers –sunrise treks start at 3.45am in order to get you to the summit in time to witness the most memorable sunrise of your life. Most trek organizers include a visit to a coffee farm on the return leg of the trek.
12. Museum Gedong Kirtya
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If you are interested to find out how ancient Hindu-based Balinese cultures went about providing a written record of their life and times, you should make time to visit the Museum Gedong Kirtya in Singaraja, which was once the colonial capital of the island. The museum is the custodian of thousands of old Balinese manuscripts, which have been painstakingly carved into the surface of lontar (fan) palm leaves with a sharp blade. While most visitors will simply enjoy seeing the beautifully carved “books” and admiring the carvings, scholars will need to understand Kavi, Old Balinese, or Sanskrit in order to decipher their contents.
Museum Gedong Kirtya, Jalan Veteran No. 20, Singaraja, Bali, Phone: +62-36-22-51-41
13. Neka Art Museum
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The Neka Art Museum in Ubud holds a fascinating collection of fine art from both resident Balinese artists and many expat artists who have come to the island and infused fresh artistic ideas. Art lovers will be given an insight into Balinese culture and will find that the museum’s collection has been chronologically organized to give visitors an idea how Balinese art has progressed over time. Some of the museum highlights include the classical puppet-style paintings, Ubud style paintings, young artists style paintings, and contemporary Balinese and Indonesian art collections. Besides the substantial permanent collections, the museum regularly hosts temporary visiting exhibitions.
Neka Art Museum, Raya Campuhan St, Kedewatan Village, Ubud, Phone: +6-23-61-97-50-74
14. Nusa Dua Beach
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Nusa Dua is a five-star resort enclave that is home to some of the most luxurious hotels and resorts in Bali. The destination was designed to provide everything you would expect from a Bali beach holiday, including a lush golf course, excellent shopping, dining, night life, and beach activities. When you need a break from the beach you can visit the Museum Pasifika to see a large collection of art from all over Asia and the Pacific region, go shopping at Sogo or the Bali Collection, or take a camel safari along the extensive beaches. If you would like to know more about Balinese culture and religion you can visit the Geger Temple, the Puja Mandala religious complex, or the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park
15. Pura Goa Lawah
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Located on the southeast coast of Bali, Pura Goa Lawah is one of the island’s nine sacred temples. This temple is inside a cave that is home to thousands of bats, and legend has it that it is also inhabited by a mythical giant snake king and that the waters of the cave river possess miraculous healing powers. Only priests are allowed to enter the cave but it is very easy to see the many bats close to the carved temple entrance and if you are lucky you may visit while a religious ceremony in taking place. There are several companies who offer guided tours to Pura Goa Lawah and several of Bali’s other sacred temples.
Pura Goa Lawah, 10km east of Klungkung, Phone: +6-23-61-22-23-87
16. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
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Appearing to float on the surface of Lake Bratan, the lovely Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple dates back to 1663 and is composed of two modest pagodas dedicated to the goddess Dewi Danu, who is the deity in charge of rivers, lakes, and waterways and is entrusted with keeping the waters of Lake Bratan pure. When you visit the temple complex you will first pass through a more elaborate temple on the edge of the lake before approaching the smaller pagodas by canoe. The remote lake setting ensures that Pura Ulun Danu is one of Bali’s most attractive sacred temples. You can reach the temple by public transport or visit as part of a guided tour.
17. Sanur Beach
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Located on the east coast of Bali, Sanur Beach is the islands’ oldest resort area and has managed to retain much of its original charm and attracts many repeat visitors who prefer a quieter beach vacation. Although Sanur Beach lacks the relentless partying found on the west coast, the area still has a great deal to offer visitors in the way of entertainment, activities, restaurants, resorts, and shopping. Sanur Beach boasts a long offshore reef teeming with marine life, which means that snorkeling and scuba diving are prime activities and non-divers can enjoy it all on an underwater walk with the Bali Seawalker. Kite surfing, wind surfing, and sailing are other popular activities.
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Siminyak is a fashionable beach resort area located north of the Kuta and Legian beaches on the west coast of Bali. Siminyak is home to many luxury hotels and resort complexes, excellent restaurants serving international cuisine, up-scale shopping, and a good stretch of beach. You can spend your days soaking up the sun, treat yourself to a relaxing spa experience, or enjoy some culture at the Petitenget Temple. Shoppers can make their way to Siminyak Village or admire the art and local crafts at Nyaman Gallery. Siminyak is undoubtedly one of the best spots on the coast to watch the sunset and see the rich and famous come out to play as the excellent selection of bars and clubs and restaurants open for business.
19. Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets
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The Setia Darma museum is unlike any other you are likely to see in your travels and should definitely feature on your to-do list while visiting Bali. The museum endeavors to preserve some of Indonesia’s most colorful and expressive heritage items and visiting Setia Darma House is a fascinating and educational activity, although some of the puppets may be a little frightening to small children. As you wander through the five traditional Balinese pavilions, you will be introduced to a wonderful collection of modern and ancient puppets, which have traditionally been used to tell the wonderful stories of Indonesian mythology. Good news is that admission is free, making this an inexpensive and educational excursion for families.
Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets, Jalan Tegal Bingin, Banjar Tengkulak Tengah, Kemenuh, Sukawati, Phone: +6-23-61-89-87-49
20. Tanah Lot
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Beautifully situated on a craggy cliff top overlooking the ocean, the lovely Tanah Lot Hindu Temple is believed to be one of the six spiritual pillars of Bali, which protect the island from harm. The relentless pounding of waves below the cliff has carved out a series of sea caves, which are rumored to be protected by sea snakes. Visitors to Tanah Lot can approach the outer sanctum of the temple, but only priests and Balinese worshippers are allowed into the inner sanctum. If you are untroubled by the possible presence of real or mythological sea snakes, you can explore the sea caves at low tide. The temple site is very beautiful and attracts many visitors each year – the best way to reach Tanah Lot is to hire a car and driver or join an organized Temple Tour.
21. Tanjung Benoa Beach
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Located just steps away from the resort enclave of Nusa Dua, the once quiet little fishing village of Tanjung Benoa Beach is now a popular tourist destination offering good hotels and restaurants and an impressive stretch of beach, which is particularly suitable for water sports of all kinds. Here you can take advantage of the gentler waves and learn how to jet-ski, parasail, and scuba dive or go for a thrilling marine walk, banana boat ride or even try the flying fish. Most of the operators in Tanjung Benoa have put together various marine packages so that families (or singles) can try out a variety of fun activities all covered by one price. Off the beach you can take Balinese cookery lessons at Bumbu Bali, visit Caow Eng Bio (one of Bali’s oldest temples), or do some shopping at the Bali Collection.
22. Tirta Empul Temple
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The temple complex of Tirta Empul in Manukaya in central Bali is a national cultural heritage site and one of the most important water temples in Indonesia. The temple complex was founding back in 926 AD and was built around a natural spring that is considered sacred – the name of the temple means “temple of the holy water” in Balinese. The temple complex is large and can be very busy – local people come here to pray and to purify themselves by bathing in the two purification pools, which are fed by 30 water spouts from the natural spring. There is a beautiful and serene koi pond, where you can relax and enjoy the spiritual ambiance of the complex. You can visit Tirta Empul on your own or join a tour, which will generally include a few of the other interesting Bali temples.
23. Tirta Gangaa Water Palace
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When you need a break from the endless sun and sea along Bali’s splendid coastline, the Tirta Gangaa Water Palace provides a beautiful and serene place to spend a few hours. The garden is located near the east coast of the island and has been painstakingly restored after it was almost completely destroyed by an eruption of Mount Agung in 1963. Built around a sacred natural spring whose waters are used in various religious ceremonies, the many-tiered gardens contain beautiful fountains, a lotus pool and two swimming pools. The water palace is open daily and is a great place to have a picnic, relax, reflect, or meditate – arrive early to miss the crowds.
24. Bali Asli
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Bali Asli is a unique culinary experience company that strives to give participants a glimpse of the island's bountiful culture and cuisine. The company, led by executive chef Penelope Williams, is named for a Balinese term signifying tradition and operates in harmony with the island's traditional culture. Unique tour adventures take participants on walking, biking, and Vespa excursions throughout the island's top culinary destinations, including Amlapura town, where visitors can sample authentic Eastern Balinese street food. Tours also explore the island's holy sites and natural wonders, including Lempuyang temple and Tirtagangga, the island's royal swimming gardens.
Jalan Raya Gelumpang, Gelumpang village, Amlapura, Karangasem, Bali, Phone: +62 8223 6909215
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Located in the cooler mountain regions north of Bali’s southern resort areas, the town of Ubud is widely considered to be the cultural and artistic heart of the island and is also home to one of Bali’s royal families. Visitors to Ubud will find themselves surrounded by verdant terraced rice paddies and valleys, which form a beautiful backdrop to the beautiful Puri Saren Royal Palace and Temple, where you can attend nightly cultural shows. All the villages around Ubud are renowned for their arts and crafts, examples of which can be seen in the museums that line Jalan Raya Ubud. Most tourist attractions are within walking distance from the town center and you can also explore on two wheels by joining a Bali Electric Bicycle Tour.
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