Bali is undoubtedly the most popular island to visit in Indonesia attracting over 5 million foreign tourists each year. From the bustling party beaches of Kuta and Seminyak to the cultural center of Ubud to the surf breaks of Uluwatu, Bali has something to offer all visitors.
This island is home to some of the worlds friendliest and most welcoming people and it is hard to walk down the street without being greeted by a smiling face.
Though many visitors never make it away from the Southern beaches in Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu, there is so much more to Bali and we recommend that you take your time exploring all that this island has to offer. We loved the food, hospitality, and the eagerness the locals have for sharing their culture (the beautiful beaches, temples, terraced rice fields, and waterfalls didn’t hurt either!).
This travel guide to Bali will help you plan where to stay on the island of spirituality, yoga, and surfing!
The land of a thousand temples and a million smiles.
What Are The Best Places To Visit in Bali?
The capital and main hub of the Southern part of Bali, Denpasar is also the largest city on the island. This bustling and multi-cultural destination can be a bit hectic to first-time visitors and we personally do not recommend spending much time here. Although, you will find a wide range of Balinese handicrafts including artwork, pottery, textiles, and silver which make it a good place to do some shopping before you leave.
Welcome to the party center of Bali. Kuta is a major resort area and one of the first places developed for tourism on the island. Kuta Beach is lined with bars and cushioned seats for as far as the eye can see which fuels the over saturation of people that you will typically encounter soaking up the sun and the surf on its white sand.
If you are looking for a good time and to do some partying, by all accounts Kuta is the place to be and can be quite a lot of fun. It is also a great place to learn how to surf as the waves are usually the perfect size for beginners and there are countless locals eager to offer you a lesson (for a price of course).
We had a lovely time hanging out on the beach and partying with some friends from back home for our first few days in Bali, but were ready to get out of there after our third or fourth day of slamming Bintangs in the sand.
*Update: As Canggu has grown in popularity over the past few years there is a noticeable decline in the crowds frequenting the Kuta Area. Still busy, but not as bad as it once was.
For us, it was hard to tell where exactly the Kuta area ends and its twin brother Seminyak begins as the two are very similar.
If you walk North along Kuta Beach you will eventually enter Seminyak without noticing any difference at all. Same brash party vibes, drunken bros and gals on holiday (not that there is anything wrong with that 😉 ), and a ton of western influence (mostly fueled by the large expat community that lives and own businesses here).
A bit more laidback and upscale than Kuta with lots of boutique shopping, fine dining, and upscale resorts. A great place to sit back and enjoy a tasty meal on the beach while sipping back a few fruity cocktails and watching the sunset.
Canggu is the go-to spot in the southern part of the island for surfers, yogis, and digital nomads looking to “escape” the chaos of Kuta and Seminyak. The area has exploded in development in recent years, and though we still find it more laid back than Kuta many argue that it has become the new most crowded area.
Surrounded by terraced rice fields, Canggu is a little more what we had pictured Bali being like before we arrived. The beaches are far less crowded and the surf is strong making it a great place to catch some waves for intermediate and advanced surfers. For beginners like us, there are a few points along the beach where the breaks are small and perfect for learning how to catch your first wave.
If you’re into Yoga, then you can follow in Alli’s footsteps and enroll in a weeklong yoga course at one of the many retreats in the area. We recommend Serenity Eco Guesthouse and Yoga which is where Alli took her retreat and hopes to return to real soon 🙂
The cultural heart of Bali, Ubud is home to the islands traditional crafts and dance. On any day, it is nearly impossible to walk down the main drag without being asked if you would like to watch a traditional Balinese dance in one of the many temples throughout the city.
The surrounding rainforest and terraced rice paddies are home to countless Hindu temples and shrines and are the embodiment of Bali’s landscape.
Central Ubud has become a bit congested in recent years and traffic can be mayhem during the peak hours of the afternoon (high season). Even on foot, it can be a bit stressful trying to walk down its busy streets. That said, Ubud is a must visit for anyone interested in experiencing Balinese culture. The architecture of the temples, the people, and the craftsmanship all deserve attention. Plus the trails leading into the hills surrounding Ubud are incredible!
We recommend staying in a locally owned guesthouse a bit outside of the city center where you will be able to enjoy more of the local way of life away from the masses of visitors in the city center.
Is Ubud on your Bali Itinerary? How to Spend Four Days in Ubud, Bali
Located at the south-western tip of Bali on the Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu is a surfer’s paradise where some of the most famous waves on the island can be reached from. During our first visit, the swells were 10-15 feet tall and dozens of pro surfers from all over the world were out with their camera crews all day long. We left the big waves to the pros and watched from the cliffs above.
Besides the surf, Uluwatu is home to serene beaches perfect for relaxing, or for taking long walks exploring the coastline. Most of the access routes to the beaches start high up on the clifftops with winding stairs or pathways leading to the soft sand below (perfect for amazing ocean views and photos).
Uluwatu is home to the Pura Luhur Uluwatu (sea temple), one of the most significant temples in Bali. It stands on towering sea cliffs (70 meters tall) with the Indian Ocean crashing below and provides amazing views for miles and miles, a must visit for anyone heading to Uluwatu.
“Ulus” maintains a much more laid-back vibe than the rest of the destinations on the list thus far, making it a perfect getaway for those looking to escape from the crowded streets of Kuta, Denpasar, or Seminyak.
The seaside town of Candidasa (pronounced Chan-di-dasa) in eastern Bali rests on the edge of a freshwater lotus lagoon. This central landmark is a spectacular site to behold with pink and fuchsia lotuses floating on the large expanse of water resting beside the ocean.
The town of Candidasa and surrounding area offers a relaxed and laid back beach getaway with wonderful white sand and crystal clear water perfect for snorkeling and diving. We enjoyed staying just a few minutes outside of town at Crystal Beach where we experienced a wide range of cultural activities each day from watching a cockfight to learning about the major temples in Bali from a few of the locals.
The small village of Tampak Siring located 15 KM outside of Ubud is home to two of the most important temple sites in Bali: Pura Tirta Empul and Pura Gunung Kawi.
Pura Tirta Empul is built around a sacred spring with inscriptions dating the holy grounds back to 926 AD. The temple and two sacred bathing pools have been used by the Balinese for over a thousand years for religious ceremonies.
Holy water, or Tirta as the Balinese call it has three important purposes. The first is Tirta Gering for cleansing evil spirits, second is Tirta Merta which brings prosperity, and third is Tirta Sudhamala for the purification of mind, body, and soul.
Both locals and visitors are welcome to take part in this self-cleaning process, though you should make sure to abide by the rules and do your best to perform the ritual correctly. Unfortunately, we did witness a number of tourists who did not and it was cringe worthy to say the least. We recommend hiring a guide when you arrive to walk you through the steps. It is an incredible experience.
To Learn More About Visiting This Sacred Temple and Others Near Tampak Siring Check out Our Bali Temple Guide
For a truly local experience, we recommend staying for a few days in this village. Our friend Wayan (Remy) will happily open his home for you to stay in and is a great guide to take you anywhere you want to go to around Bali. Check out his Airbnb listing here!
You can also read all about our time staying with Remy at his family home in Tampak Siring in this blog post 🙂
*Note that there are many other marvelous places to visit in Bali and these are just the places we have personally visited. AKA don’t be afraid to explore somewhere else!
Share this: use the sharing icons below to share this with your friends! And be sure to share your adventures with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (tag @LifeIsMeantForExploring to make sure we see it 🙂 ).