My wife and I visited the tranquil island of Bali, Indonesia, back in 2009 for a two-week stay. During that time, we relaxed in beautiful hotels, hiked volcanoes, went scuba diving, ate delicious Indonesian food, explored countless rice terraces and took advantage of all the other sights, sounds, smells and activities Bali has to offer.
While there is always more to see and do, here are 5 great recommendations for your next visit.
Ubud is the cultural center of Bali, Indonesia, and the number one destination for tourists. Packed with guesthouses, family homes, hotels, restaurants, temples, spas, shops and Western comforts, it’s a great place to spend a few days … or to call home. Looking around, one sees scores of locals dressed in traditional Balinese clothing, seemingly on their way to a religious ceremony. Doorsteps and narrow streets are adorned with little hand-woven baskets, which are filled with flowers, candies and offerings to their Gods.
While most visitors fall in love with Ubud, it’s worth noting that many are also turned off by the city’s commercialism. As I wrote in my travelogue about Indonesia after first visiting,
“The reality of Ubud is that it is a fabricated reality run by locals to get every penny they can out of tourists. That said, traditional Indonesia no longer exists on Bali — as it used to — and Ubud really is one of the last places that at least FEELS authentic. Sure it’s guilty of rampant commercialism, but so are dozens of other towns we’ve visited in our travels … and despite the negative start to this post, I actually had a very nice time there.”
Mount Batur (Gunung Batur) is an active volcano and one of Bali’s most popular treks. Since its last eruption in 2000, dozens of tourist agencies, hotels and guesthouses have sprung up in the towns below, each offering a wide variety of hikes and excursions. Most visitors opt for the sunrise trek, arising at 3:00am and walking for more than two hours to reach the top.
It’s easy to find accommodation and a tour once you arrive in the town of Toya Bungkah. You also can book your hotel in advance using Traveloka.com. Either way, be sure to check out the hot springs after your hike … and cross your fingers for good weather the morning of your hike. There’s nothing worse than reaching the top to find rain and fog instead of a sunrise, which is exactly what happened to me.
Tanah Lot is Bali’s most famous temple, and a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. Located inside a rock formation just off the Balinese coast, the temple can be reached by foot during low tide. Like most travel destinations, it is best visited at sunrise, before the crowds arrive. You can find many hotels nearby on Traveloka, which will help you get there early enough to enjoy a relaxing environment for travel photography.
If you like scuba diving, snorkeling or just relaxing in the ocean, Lovina is must-visit. Located on Bali’s northern coast, this tranquil town provides the perfect gateway to the Menjangan Island and the Bali Barat National Park. It’s also home to the wreck of the USS Liberty in Tulumben, which sunk off the coast during World War II.
“For two dives we swam around and through the massive wreck of the ship, playing with corals and clams, taking our time and really observing everything around us. Highlights included a giant barracuda that was just hovering a few feet above us and a few massive schools of fish that, for some unknown reason, were forming a giant cyclone shape by circling around in the water. Amazing.”
Full disclosure: I didn’t like Kuta at all. It’s the party capital of Bali, and full of drunk teenagers on holiday or spring break. The streets are lined with aggressive shopkeepers, people offering massages and taxi drivers. That said, Kuta is also home to the Waterbom Water Park, which is one of my favorite places in the world. According to TripAdvisor, Waterbom is the #1 waterpark in all of Asia. With dozens of slides, tubes and other water activities, it’s certainly worth a visit.
I’ll end this post with a random fact … out of the 300+ travel videos I have posted on YouTube, this clip of me going down a water slide in Waterbom has received the third most views of all. I have no idea why.