In the entire Indonesian archipelago, Bali is one of the most evocative and popular tourist islands. A visit here awakens the senses. The intoxicating scent of frankincense and clove oil wafts through the thick tropical air. Peanuts sizzle on roadside stalls, petal-strewn offerings smolder on busy sidewalks, and traditional gamelan music vibrates against the hum of mopeds.
The island is rich in natural beauty, despite the clamor and chaos of the main tourist areas, with attractions for all types of travelers. Cyclists can cycle through lush landscapes bristling with rice terraces and traditional villages, hikers can climb jungly volcanic peaks to misty waterfalls, and surfers come for the legendary swells.
The island’s rich arts scene is another major draw, and if relaxation is your top priority, Bali’s shopping and spa treatments are fabulous – and affordable. Spirituality adds another layer to Bali’s allure, and the best things to do in Bali are seeing the magnificent temples and sacred Hindu ceremonies.
1. Pura Tanah Lot
One of Bali’s most iconic temples is Pura Tanah Lot (“Pura” means temple in Balinese) which is about 20 kilometers northwest of Kuta. All who visit are amazed by its spectacular seaside setting, on a rocky islet surrounded by breaking waves.
It is one of the most sacred marine temples on the island for the Balinese people. (Bali’s largest and holiest Hindu temple is Pura Besakih, but recently local merchants have harassed visitors.) Every evening, crowds of tourists from Kuta, Legian, and Sanur make their way through a maze of alleys lined with souvenir sellers to look at. the sun is setting behind the temple.
In the early 16th century, Pura Tanah Lot was built and is said to be inspired by Priest Nirartha, who asked local fishermen to build a temple here after spending the night on the rock outcrop.
Although foreigners cannot enter any of the temples, you can walk through the main temple at low tide and it’s fun to stroll along the trails taking photos and soaking up the beautiful surroundings.
After visiting the various temples and shrines, save time to relax in one of the clifftop restaurants and cafes and taste the famous Kopi luwak (civet coffee). In some cafes, friendly civets nap on tables, providing fun Instagram-worthy photo ops.
From Tanah Lot, you can walk along landscaped trails in tropical landscapes to the magnificent Batu Bolong, another sea temple perched on a rocky outcrop with an eroded causeway connecting it to the shore.
When visiting temples in Bali, wear a sarong and belt and be sure to dress respectfully.
2. Mount Batur
Hundreds of visitors every day in the pre-dawn darkness of Bali begin trekking to the 1,700-meter peak of Mount Batur to watch the sun rise above the lush mosaic of mist-covered mountains and the caldera well below.
This sacred active volcano can be found in the Kintamani district of the central highlands of Bali, about an hour’s drive from Ubud, and the hike to the top to watch the sunrise has long been on the list of best things to do in Bali.
The hike, along well-marked trails, is relatively easy and usually takes around two to three hours. On a clear day the views are spectacular, stretching all the way to the Batur Caldera; the main source of irrigation water Lake Batur on the island; and the surrounding mountain range.
Sturdy hiking boots are essential and layers are advised as the temperature can be cool before sunrise.
You can also combine a trip here with a visit to one of Bali’s most important temples, Pura Ulun Danu Batur, on the northwestern shore of the lake, and a therapeutic bath in the hot springs at the beautiful village of Toya Bungkah. on the shores of Lake Batur.
3. Uluwatu Temple
Above one of Bali’s best surf spots overlooking plunging cliffs, Uluwatu Temple (Pura Luhur Uluwatu) is one of the most famous temples on the island, thanks to its magnificent setting at the top. from a cliff.
In Balinese, “Ulu” means “point” or “piece of land” and “Watu” means rock, an appropriate name for the location of the temple on the Bukit peninsula, along the southwestern tip of the island. . Sunset is the best time to visit like Pura Tanah Lot, when the sky and sea glow in the late afternoon light.
Archaeological findings suggest that the temple is of megalithic origin, dating from around the 10th century. The temple is believed to protect Bali from the evil spirits of the sea, while the monkeys that live in the forest near its entrance are believed to protect the temple from evil influences (keep your belongings well hidden away from their nimble fingers).
A scenic path winds from the entrance to the temple with breathtaking views along the way. Only Hindu worshipers are allowed to enter the temple, but the beautiful surroundings and the Kecak sunset dance performances that take place here every day are well worth a visit.
The temple is located about 25 kilometers from Kuta.