The Island of the Gods needs little introduction when it comes to photo-worthy locations. With its jungles, waterfalls, rice paddies, beaches, and iconic temples, Bali is truly a photographer’s paradise.
Here’s our list of favorite photo ops.
The “Doors of Heaven”
The Doors of Heaven are located at the Lempuyang temple, on the top of Mount Lempuyangand. Although it takes a few hours to hike to the top, it’s easily one of the most photographed spots in Southeast Asia.
In order to differentiate your photos from other travelers, make sure to think about the time of day you’d like to shoot at, as the effect that the landscape has on the doors changes with the location of the sun.
Also, keep in mind that when you’re facing the landmark, the sun will rise behind you and set in front of you. So if you’re looking to capture the intricate detail of the doors, you’ll want more daylight. And if you’re hoping to show their scale with a silhouetted figure, it’s best to wait until the sun begins to set. Regardless of what time of day you choose, you’re bound to get some pretty spectacular results.
The Monkey Forest Sanctuary lies in the heart of Ubud and is home to about 500 macaque monkeys. You can feed them, hold them, and take photos of them, but keep in mind that they are notorious for snatching wallets, shoes, sunglasses, and even cameras. All things considered, they’re still pretty good models.
Although the park doesn’t open until 9 a.m., if you get there around 6 a.m., you can stroll around the perimeter and get some exclusive shots of the macaques in the early-morning light. When taking photos of wildlife, remember to use a high shutter speed so your subject doesn’t appear blurred, get lower to the ground to ensure you’re level with your subject, use a wide aperture to create depth of field, and be patient!
The Bamboo Forest
Just outside of Penglipuran lies the Bamboo Forest, a 185-acre area in the heart of Bangli. The roads through the forest are enclosed by perfectly arched trees that create a tunnel for you to walk under. Aside from being a beautiful photo spot, this location also provides shade from the heat of the day and is awash with the fresh smell of bamboo. If you choose to visit during the afternoon, the sun will also cause the tops of the trees to glow and create a sort of “hallelujah” effect.
Ubud’s Rice Terraces
When planning a trip to Bali, you can’t leave out the nearby rice terraces. The best time to capture the beauty of these photogenic rice paddies is in the early morning. If you shoot between 7 and 7:30 a.m., you’ll witness sun rays peeking through the tops of the palm trees and illuminating the Balinese mist in the air. It’s magical.
If you want to ensure perfect photos, scout out your spot the day before, and don’t sleep in. If you wait, you’ll miss the sun rays and be left with harsh shadows in their wake.
(Also, if you plan on entering the rice fields, watch out for snakes! Don’t say we didn’t warn you.)
Pura Ulun Danu Beratan
The Ulun Danu Beratan temple is perhaps the most iconic landmark in all of Bali. It has been used for years as the cover image of Bali-related flyers, travel articles, and postcards, and there’s definitely a good reason behind it.
The temple is located at the edge of Beratan Lake, and if you get there during high tide, the reflective surface of the water surrounds most of the temple’s base and creates a unique floating illusion. In order to capture the temple’s reflection in the water, level yourself with the most interesting reflection point and remember to use a narrower lens — a wider lens tends to reduce the size of the temple and magnify the foreground instead. To capture different angles of the temple, walk around the other sides of the lake and be on the lookout for unique perspectives.
The mountain village of Trunyan on the eastern shore of Lake Batur is one of the most notable homes of the Bali Aga, or “old bali,” meaning that its people live a vastly different lifestyle than those of the rest of the island.
Contrary to the rest of Hindu Bali, the Trunyanese abide by old Balinese traditions and do not cremate their dead. Instead, they perform a natural ritual cleansing with rain water, wind, and bamboo, then place the skulls on a stone altar in an area that can only be accessed by boat. While this may sound eerie, Trunyan is regularly visited by travelers, so if you’ve always wanted a photo of a wall of skulls, you’re in luck. Our only advice is to not get too spooked.
Located in the Bangli area, the Tibumana Waterfall is a hidden paradise just up the river from the much more touristic falls of Reng Reng. Mainly frequented by locals, this waterfall is more quiet than others and is only a five-minute drive off the main road, followed by a five to 10-minute walk along a winding jungle pathway.
The intense colors of the greenery mixed with the vibrant blues of the water is truly a sight to behold. Remember that when photographing waterfalls, you’ll want to slow your shutter speed and look for soft light in order to produce that smooth, dreamy quality in your photos.
The Banyumala Twin Waterfalls
While we’re on the subject of waterfalls, let’s talk about the twin falls at Banyumala. Located north of Lake Buyan in the Buleleng regency, these falls are situated in a valley with a natural pool of clean, clear water — the perfect swimming hole.
That said, avoid visiting on the weekends because it can get pretty crowded. One final thing to keep in mind when photographing waterfalls is that the light is typically best at sunrise or sunset. But, since these falls are in a valley, as long as the sun is behind the cliffside and the waterfall is in the shade, you can achieve a long exposure with nice, even light.
Pura Tanah Lot
Famed for its panoramic views and cultural offerings, the temple is nestled on a small island off the coast and is only accessible during low tide. If you visit Tanah Lot just before sunset, you can either head to the nearby café that overlooks the temple or go to the far southeast side of the rocky shorelines to find a more serene and less-crowded view.
A wide angle lens is recommended for a panoramic view of the landscape, while a telephoto lens is best for capturing the temple from afar. Using a neutral density filter can also help slow your shutter speed and highlight the movement of the water. But no matter what you decide to do, be sure take in the ocean backdrop and explore the shorelines around the temple.
Bali sunsets are something to write home about — they’re breathtaking. The best locations for sunset-watching are a collection of main beaches along the western coastline and several elevated temple landmarks that will also add exotic silhouettes to your photos. Head to any spot along the island’s west coast and you’re sure to catch a beautiful sight.
If you’re not sure how to best capture the vibrant colors of Bali’s sunsets, underexpose, find your foreground first, avoid putting the horizon line in the middle of your photo, look for reflections and silhouettes, and always stay longer than you think you should.
Header image by Wahyu Mahendra.