Though Bali is known for its beaches, parties, and yoga retreats, the island offers plenty of experiences for travelers looking to go beyond the standard itinerary. Want to venture off the beaten path and explore Balinese traditions, secrets, and oddities? You’ve come to the right place.
Drink From the Fountain of Youth at Pura Goa Gajah
Goa Gajah — also known as “The Elephant Cave” — is a religious sanctuary located on the western edge of Bedulu Village that dates back to the ninth century. But despite what its name suggests, you won’t find any pachyderms here. Instead, you’ll stumble across relics, rock-wall carvings, meditation caves, bathing pools, and countless fountains. Among them, you’ll even find an elaborate water fountain comprised of six female statues holding overflowing pots. This is believed to yield eternal youth to whoever drinks from it. Though it’s said that the water is safe to drink, we suggest doing so with caution, as Bali Belly is very real. But maybe that’s just a small price to pay for everlasting life.
Explore the Underground Labyrinth of Goa Gala-Gala
Goa Gala-Gala is an underground site that was built by the late Made Byasa, a Balinese farmer, dalang (shadow-puppet master), and priest. The labyrinth was completed in the mid-1970s after 15 years of “construction,” its tunnels dug entirely by hand. Byasa built the steep, narrow entrances and rooms as an homage to the Hindu epic “Mahabharata,” a tale in which the heroes hide in a forest cave for 12 years. Needless to say, it’s not for those inclined to claustrophobia.
The site itself is equal parts fascinating and spooky, and well worth the entrance fee (which often fluctuates, but remains below $5 USD). This underground complex is located at Jl. Hangtuah No. 46 on Nusa Lembongan and can be found via the signposted lane off Jalan Raya Lembongan-Jungut Batu.
Snorkel Through an Underwater Temple Garden
Though this one is technically off the coast of Bali, it’s just a 30-minute speedboat ride from the island. Located in the channel between Nusa Lembongan and the Ceningan Islands, the Underwater Temple Garden remains a relatively hidden gem. Most tourists stick to the area surrounding Lembongan to swim, dive, or snorkel with manta rays, but if you venture just a bit farther, you’ll be met with an underwater display of Buddha statues, stupas, and ornate Balinese structures.
While the sacred ruins resemble those found in Java’s Borobudur Temple, this location isn’t considered a heritage site — rather, it’s a sort of submerged art exhibit that was constructed only a decade ago to raise awareness of conservation efforts along the area’s reefs. But regardless of its young age, the site offers an eerily beautiful experience. Just don’t forget to pick up an underwater camera before you go!
To reach the site, hire a local guide or boat and ask to be taken to the Underwater Temple Garden between Lembongan and Ceningan. (Note: do not try to swim into the channel independently, as there are many boats and the water can be quite rough.) If you choose to depart from Ceningan instead, simply cross the bridge from Lembongan and turn left to head to the north end of the island.
Visit the Land of Snake Fruit
Nestled at the foot of Mount Agung, the village of Dukuh Sibetan is famed for its salak plantation (otherwise known as snake fruit). More than 50 years ago, when Mount Agung erupted, the entire village was covered with a thick layer of ash. The fallout was so extreme that all of the local plants died out — except the salak. Today, the village plantation is widely promoted as an agritourism destination and is used to raise environmental awareness on the island.
If you decide to visit Dukuh Sibetan, you’ll not only learn about salak and its cultivation process, but about the value of ecology in Bali’s local communities. Oh, and you’ll get to try some snake fruit while you’re at it!
Explore the Island’s Abandoned Airplanes
This may sound a bit odd as a plural, but it’s true — Bali is home to several abandoned airplanes. The first can be spotted on Bypass Ngurah Rai in Kedonganan, next to the Dunkin’ Donuts (so casual, we can’t make this stuff up). While the plane’s tail is visible from the road, the two are separated by an alleyway adjacent to the coffee chain. Simply follow the sidestreet, and eureka! You’ve found it.
The second plane is located near Pandawa Beach in South Kutuh, roughly a five-minute drive north of the beach’s entrance. Unlike the one in Kedonganan, this plane is not visible from the street, but several large shipping containers on the side of the road will reveal a clue as to its location. Once you pinpoint these metal structures, look for a path leading up the hill beside them. This will take you to the top of a cliff, where you can gaze down and spy the plane in the valley beyond.
The final abandoned aircraft that we’ll mention here (yes, there are more) used to function as a rooftop bar known as Gate 88. Located in North Kuta, atop a glass-walled retail store behind a police station, this “wreckage” can be seen from the junction of Jalan Raya Semer and Jalan Raya Kerobokan. Though Gate 88 closed its doors in early 2016, the plane remains, empty and welcoming. It’s far from lonely, though — in fact, the site has become a favorite backdrop for local photographers.
Watch the Sunset at Pererenan Beach
While this may seem like a simple activity to round out this list, it’s truly something to behold. Bali’s sunsets are mesmerizing, but at Pererenan Beach, they’re truly special. Every Sunday, locals from the surrounding area gather at the beach in Canggu to see off their week and share the sunset with their community. Beachside warungs (food stalls) remain open, balloons are handed out to kids, kites rise in the air, whole families bathe in the sea, dozens of Bali dogs play in the sand, and chilled beverages are enjoyed by everyone in sight. Usually starting around 5 p.m. and continuing until dark, this local festivity is a wonderful opportunity for travelers to experience a taste of local life.
Want to explore more of Bali’s hidden offerings? Check out our guide to Sidemen.