Bali is so full of sights, sounds, and smells that it can be overwhelming when trying to plan out an itinerary. We’ve put together a list of the experiences you can’t miss when you visit this beautiful island — from spotting sunsets on the shores to zipping around on a motorbike!
Explore the Island by Motorbike
While visiting Bali, you’ll notice that public transportation is not as efficient as it could be. To explore beyond the urban centers, renting a motorbike or electric scooter is a must. This generally requires an international driver’s license — if you get pulled over and don’t have one, you’re likely to get fined. Renting a bike is not difficult — scooter rentals are around almost every corner, which means you’ll also find competitive prices.
Prepare to pay around 50,000 Rupiah (a little over $5 USD) per day. If you’re planning on traveling long distances, make sure to scout out local gas stations where you can fill up before departing. If you’re in more rural areas, you’ll notice that a gas station might be a stand on the side of the road outfitted with old vodka bottles filled with gasoline. Stick to the left side of the road, don’t be phased by honking (a sign that someone is passing alongside you), and always wear a helmet!
Visit Rice Terraces
Visiting Bali’s rice terraces is essential, especially for avid photographers. Tagallalang and Jatiluwih are the most famous, and for good reason: Their sloping terraces and varied shades of green make them incredibly photogenic places. Visiting is also a good way to acquaint yourself with methods of local food production. For the best photos, arrive just before sunrise or sunset, as the light will illuminate the green grass beautifully.
Spot a Sunset by the Sea
Bali is known for its gorgeous beaches and the beautiful sunsets that illuminate its tides in the evenings. For the most iconic Bali sunsets, head to Tanah Lot Temple: a Hindu shrine perched atop a rocky outcropping about 12 miles from Denpasar, which will take about 40 minutes to travel to by scooter or an hour by car.
If you like to take your sunset on the rocks, head to the Ayana Resort’s Rock Bar, which offers a fantastic view of the setting sun. No matter where you go, the sunset will not disappoint.
Itching to see some wildlife on your Bali vacation? Consider snorkeling — or scuba diving, if you’re feeling brave. You’ll generally have to complete a certification before you scuba, and it’s wise to snorkel with an organized group. Head to Nusa Dua for quiet beaches brimming with underwater wildlife; West Bali National Park for shallow, yet stunning waters filled with coral; and Amed and Tulamben in eastern Bali for underwater wildlife that includes a shipwreck full of fish, wrasses, and even sharks.
Hike a Volcano
While Bali offers a host of aquatic activities that will keep visitors content on its gorgeous shores, adventurous visitors should consider climbing one of Bali’s volcanoes.
Mount Batur is frequented by tourists, and it only takes about an hour and a half to summit — be aware, though, it’s still an active volcano, so it may be closed during periods of increased activity. For a challenge, opt for Mount Agung — trails up the volcano stretch about 5 miles (8 km) but climb almost 10,000 feet (3,000 meters), making its incline intense. The ascent takes about three hours from the Pasar temple starting point and seven hours from Besakih temple. On the other hand, Mount Catur sports stunning views and a more leisurely ascent — the climb will only take you about three hours each way.
Visit the Monkey Forest
Head to the lush jungle city of Ubud, where you’ll find the Monkey Forest — a conservation and education center in the village of Padangtegal that houses over 700 macaque monkeys. You’ll get to explore dense, green forest and temples along the way, and watch the monkeys as they eat, play, and attempt to steal objects from unwitting tourists. If you’re wary of monkeys, this may not be the place for you — visitors will soon find that contact with a monkey at this exhibit is highly likely as the animals are allowed to roam freely and there are no barriers.
Visit a Temple
Bali has no shortage of temples — they’re nestled in forests, on cliffs, on rocks that jut out of the water, and hidden in plain sight along cobbled streets. Each temple is unique, so visitors want to see as many as they can.
While visiting, be sure to cover your shoulders, stomach, and knees, as exposed skin can be considered impolite. Though you can find temples everywhere in Bali, the most famous include Tanah Lot Tabanan in western Bali, Uluwatu Temple in Jimbaran, Goa Gajah and Gunung Kawi Temple near Ubud, and Lempuyang Temple in eastern Bali. Pay close attention to the carvings, statues, and adornments of the grounds, as Balinese temples are often decorated with flowers, shrines, and daily offerings.
For ideas of what to photograph in Bali, check out our Instagrammer’s Guide.