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Top Ten Things to See in Bali

Bali is quite rightly regarded as one of the best destinations in the world for travellers. With its intoxicating blend of beautiful landscapes, tropical climate, unique cultural traditions and natural wonders, the island has much to offer.

In this list we bring you some of Bali’s greatest hits, along with a few destinations off the beaten track. From the tip of Bali’s southernmost peninsula, all the way up through the central rice fields to the shores of West Bali National Park, Bali has something for everyone. Let’s get started!

1. Kecak dance at Uluwatu

No trip to Bali would be complete without a visit to magical Uluwatu temple and its adjacent amphitheater overlooking the ocean. Here you can witness a performance of Bali’s world-famous Kecak dance at sunset. The dance itself tells the story of Parvathi and Hanuman from the Hindu Ramayana epic. Concentric circles of dancers sway and convulse as one to the trance-like rhythms of primeval human voices. The show culminates in a dramatic ring of fire that illuminates the dancers and adds to the otherworldly energy of the spectacle.


2. Ulun Danu Water Temple

If you’ve ever thumbed through a Bali guidebook, you will have probably seen an image of Pura Ulun Danu, the island’s most iconic and sacred water temple. Located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the cool mountains near Bedugul, the temple is an eleven-story pagoda that appears to float on the surface of the water. Built in 1633, Pura Ulun Danu is a shrine to lake and river goddess Dewi Danu, also dedicated to Shiva, Parvathi and the Buddha, whose statue is enshrined inside the main temple. The surrounding gardens offer clean air and blissful views, overlooking the ornate beauty of Bali at its decorative best.


3. Jatiluwih rice terraces

Bali is commonly known as the island of the gods, so surely Jatiluwih must be their garden. Taken from the local language jati (meaning ‘very’) and luwih (meaning beautiful or special), this panoramic paradise lives up to its name; a stunning vista of green steps cultivated into a patchwork of fields, blanketing the surrounding valleys in iridescent green as far as the eye can see. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012, Jatiluwih is a great place to see traditional Subak farming in action, whilst the surrounding area is the setting for some superb eco-tourism activities.


4. Pura Tirta Empul

Balinese worshippers have been drawn to the sacred waters of Pura Tirta Empul for over a thousand years. Legend has it that the holy spring was created by the god Indra during a battle with Mayadanawa; Indra’s army was poisoned and close to death, so he created the holy spring to heal and revive his troops. The restorative properties of the sacred water are still revered to this day, with many local and international visitors journeying to the main pool to bathe and pray. Founded in 926 AD, the Tirta Empul complex features several bathing pools, along with a koi pond, ornate gateways, souvenir shops and some interesting gnarled banyan trees that have grown into twisted knots around the stonework.


5. Munduk Waterfall

Munduk Waterfall stands at 15 metres tall, cascading over a sheer cliff into a clearing in the jungles of Buleleng Regency, deep in the Banjar District of Bali. The waterfall can be reached by trekking just 15 minutes away from the roadside, along a jungle track that’s flanked by coffee and clove plantations just outside the village of Munduk. Surrounded by lush, dense rainforest and the deafening crush of the water, this spot is a cool and refreshing place to take a break on your travels through Bali. The clearing contains a small pool, where you can cool off in a delicate mist created by the thundering water.


6. Pura Saraswati

Just off the bustling main market street in Ubud, Taman Pura Saraswati is an oasis of calm and tranquility. The temple is a wonderful example of Balinese craftsmanship, artistry and temple architecture, floating serenely on a garden of lotus flowers and lilies. Pura Saraswati is filled with ornate carvings and sandstone bas reliefs that honour Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and the arts. It’s free to enter the courtyard of the temple compound, where you can get a close look at Bali’s statues and take a blissful stroll through the lily ponds, where red dragonflies flicker among the flowers. The Lotus Café inside the compound is a peaceful place to enjoy lunch in full view of the temple and its garden.


7. Nusa Dua

An enclave of world-class hotels, complete with an upmarket shopping complex and a luxurious 18-hole golf course, Nusa Dua is one of Bali’s most developed areas, home to golden sandy beaches, boutiques and spas. A big attraction here is the range of exhilarating water sports; from jet skis to kayaking, and from parasailing and surfing to the flying fin. Despite its full-throttle adventure buzz, Nusa Dua still houses many temples, a museum, and numerous other attractions to see and visit. This tourism-friendly corner of Bali is an idyllic setting for honeymooners and for families looking for fun in the sun.


8. Penglipuran Village

Located in Bangli regency on the road to Kintamani, the village of Penglipuran is a quaint and charming little hamlet of traditional houses, galleries and community projects living out a simple existence in the shadow of Mount Agung; all the buildings are oriented northeastwards to face Bali’s most sacred volcano. Known as one of the cleanest and greenest villages in the world, Penglipuran is committed to recycling and community-conscious conservation. The lanes, fields, orchards and gardens are all kept impeccably tidy by the local residents. Nestled in the depths of a bamboo forest and decorated by many flowers and creeping vines on trellises, Penglipuran is sedate and picturesque; the embodiment of environmentally friendly living and harmony between man and nature.


9. Tegallalang

Just to the north of Ubud, the land begins to rise and fold into undulating valleys of emerald rice fields; a living carpet of green that drapes itself over giant steps on the way to the central highlands. Tegallalang is one such valley, where patchwork rice fields create a natural amphitheater in the land. The road from Ubud clings to the lip of the valley, alongside sculptors’ workshops, cafes and souvenir shops. From here, you can leave the road and delve into the beautiful landscapes below, traversing bamboo bridges and stepping over little streams to explore the many fields and lanes of Tegallalang.


10. West Bali National Park

In the north-westernmost tip of Bali, West Bali National Park is a protected enclave made up of teak forests, beaches and mangroves, framed by an azure ocean strait and the jagged silhouettes of Javanese volcanoes on the horizon. The park, encompassing 19,000 hectares of land and sea, is home to many species of flora and fauna including monkeys, deer, wild pigs and numerous birds indigenous to the Bali. Within the boundaries of the park, Menjangan island supports a wealth of marine biodiversity and is also the site of several eco projects. Menjangan can be circumnavigated in just a couple of hours, but with so many idyllic spots, and so much captivating nature all around, it’s easy to dwell longer on this laid back little island. Rather like Bali in microcosm.

1. Kecak dance at Uluwatu

No trip to Bali would be complete without a visit to magical Uluwatu temple and its adjacent amphitheater overlooking the ocean. Here you can witness a performance of Bali’s world-famous Kecak dance at sunset. The dance itself tells the story of Parvathi and Hanuman from the Hindu Ramayana epic. Concentric circles of dancers sway and convulse as one to the trance-like rhythms of primeval human voices. The show culminates in a dramatic ring of fire that illuminates the dancers and adds to the otherworldly energy of the spectacle.


2. Ulun Danu Water Temple

If you’ve ever thumbed through a Bali guidebook, you will have probably seen an image of Pura Ulun Danu, the island’s most iconic and sacred water temple. Located on the shores of Lake Bratan in the cool mountains near Bedugul, the temple is an eleven-story pagoda that appears to float on the surface of the water. Built in 1633, Pura Ulun Danu is a shrine to lake and river goddess Dewi Danu, also dedicated to Shiva, Parvathi and the Buddha, whose statue is enshrined inside the main temple. The surrounding gardens offer clean air and blissful views, overlooking the ornate beauty of Bali at its decorative best.


3. Jatiluwih rice terraces

Bali is commonly known as the island of the gods, so surely Jatiluwih must be their garden. Taken from the local language jati (meaning ‘very’) and luwih (meaning beautiful or special), this panoramic paradise lives up to its name; a stunning vista of green steps cultivated into a patchwork of fields, blanketing the surrounding valleys in iridescent green as far as the eye can see. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012, Jatiluwih is a great place to see traditional Subak farming in action, whilst the surrounding area is the setting for some superb eco-tourism activities.


4. Pura Tirta Empul

Balinese worshippers have been drawn to the sacred waters of Pura Tirta Empul for over a thousand years. Legend has it that the holy spring was created by the god Indra during a battle with Mayadanawa; Indra’s army was poisoned and close to death, so he created the holy spring to heal and revive his troops. The restorative properties of the sacred water are still revered to this day, with many local and international visitors journeying to the main pool to bathe and pray. Founded in 926 AD, the Tirta Empul complex features several bathing pools, along with a koi pond, ornate gateways, souvenir shops and some interesting gnarled banyan trees that have grown into twisted knots around the stonework.


5. Munduk Waterfall

Munduk Waterfall stands at 15 metres tall, cascading over a sheer cliff into a clearing in the jungles of Buleleng Regency, deep in the Banjar District of Bali. The waterfall can be reached by trekking just 15 minutes away from the roadside, along a jungle track that’s flanked by coffee and clove plantations just outside the village of Munduk. Surrounded by lush, dense rainforest and the deafening crush of the water, this spot is a cool and refreshing place to take a break on your travels through Bali. The clearing contains a small pool, where you can cool off in a delicate mist created by the thundering water.


6. Pura Saraswati

Just off the bustling main market street in Ubud, Taman Pura Saraswati is an oasis of calm and tranquility. The temple is a wonderful example of Balinese craftsmanship, artistry and temple architecture, floating serenely on a garden of lotus flowers and lilies. Pura Saraswati is filled with ornate carvings and sandstone bas reliefs that honour Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and the arts. It’s free to enter the courtyard of the temple compound, where you can get a close look at Bali’s statues and take a blissful stroll through the lily ponds, where red dragonflies flicker among the flowers. The Lotus Café inside the compound is a peaceful place to enjoy lunch in full view of the temple and its garden.


7. Nusa Dua

An enclave of world-class hotels, complete with an upmarket shopping complex and a luxurious 18-hole golf course, Nusa Dua is one of Bali’s most developed areas, home to golden sandy beaches, boutiques and spas. A big attraction here is the range of exhilarating water sports; from jet skis to kayaking, and from parasailing and surfing to the flying fin. Despite its full-throttle adventure buzz, Nusa Dua still houses many temples, a museum, and numerous other attractions to see and visit. This tourism-friendly corner of Bali is an idyllic setting for honeymooners and for families looking for fun in the sun.


8. Penglipuran Village

Located in Bangli regency on the road to Kintamani, the village of Penglipuran is a quaint and charming little hamlet of traditional houses, galleries and community projects living out a simple existence in the shadow of Mount Agung; all the buildings are oriented northeastwards to face Bali’s most sacred volcano. Known as one of the cleanest and greenest villages in the world, Penglipuran is committed to recycling and community-conscious conservation. The lanes, fields, orchards and gardens are all kept impeccably tidy by the local residents. Nestled in the depths of a bamboo forest and decorated by many flowers and creeping vines on trellises, Penglipuran is sedate and picturesque; the embodiment of environmentally friendly living and harmony between man and nature.


9. Tegallalang

Just to the north of Ubud, the land begins to rise and fold into undulating valleys of emerald rice fields; a living carpet of green that drapes itself over giant steps on the way to the central highlands. Tegallalang is one such valley, where patchwork rice fields create a natural amphitheater in the land. The road from Ubud clings to the lip of the valley, alongside sculptors’ workshops, cafes and souvenir shops. From here, you can leave the road and delve into the beautiful landscapes below, traversing bamboo bridges and stepping over little streams to explore the many fields and lanes of Tegallalang.


10. West Bali National Park

In the north-westernmost tip of Bali, West Bali National Park is a protected enclave made up of teak forests, beaches and mangroves, framed by an azure ocean strait and the jagged silhouettes of Javanese volcanoes on the horizon. The park, encompassing 19,000 hectares of land and sea, is home to many species of flora and fauna including monkeys, deer, wild pigs and numerous birds indigenous to the Bali. Within the boundaries of the park, Menjangan island supports a wealth of marine biodiversity and is also the site of several eco projects. Menjangan can be circumnavigated in just a couple of hours, but with so many idyllic spots, and so much captivating nature all around, it’s easy to dwell longer on this laid back little island. Rather like Bali in microcosm.