Nicknamed the Island of the Gods, Bali reveals a culture of infinite richness. Just one trip and you'll never forget the experience. The Balinese, with unparalleled warmth, hospitality, and conviviality, will turn every encounter into an unforgettable moment.
While Bali is teeming with a wealth of things to do and see, here are seven musts for your first visit. Immerse yourself in the enchantment of traditions and ceremonies that unfold around every corner, with the aromatic scent of incense wafting through the air, adding to the renowned atmosphere of Bali.
1. Learn to surf in Canggu
Canggu, a haven for digital nomads, is where the rhythmic waves of the ocean and the hum of MacBooks create a mesmerizing vibe. If you're a surfing enthusiast, Canggu needs to be on your radar. Three major surf spots await you:
- Echo Beach
- Batu Bolong Beach
- Berawa Beach
Batu Bolong, better known as Old Man's, proves to be the perfect spot if you're a beginner. At each spot, you can take a surf lesson, or if you're already a pro, renting a surfboard will cost you only about $5-10 per hour.
After an epic session on the waves, there's nothing like admiring the most beautiful sunsets in iconic beach bars such as Finns, The Lawn, and Old Man's. Picture yourself on the beach with a refreshing drink in hand, a fresh coconut or a Bintang, your choice. Following a day of conquering the waves, there's nothing more delightful than being embraced by the enchantment of the twilight sky.
2. Refresh yourself in lush jungle waterfalls
Bali is full of incredible waterfalls, offering natural oases to explore during your first visit. Escape the urban hustle and bustle and discover these hidden gems, revealing the island's natural beauty. Here are two favourite waterfalls you'll want to add to your list.
Explore this 20-metre wonder, perfect for a refreshing swim in its crystal-clear waters, surrounded by lush vegetation. Take the opportunity to visit the nearby Sangeh Monkey Forest.
Considered the best waterfall in Bali, it is located north of the island, about 2.5 hours from Ubud. The road to get there offers breathtaking views of rice fields and the Balinese countryside. Upon arrival, you'll be greeted by twin waterfalls, accessible after about a 30-minute hike.
A car with a driver or a scooter is necessary to explore these places.
3. Visit majestic temples
No matter where you look in Bali, you'll find temples steeped in history, art, and spirituality. These sacred sites reflect the richness of Balinese culture and spirituality.
You'll be dazzled by the majesty of Uluwatu Temple, perched on a cliff, offering breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean and enchanting Kecak dance performances at sunset.
Visiting the Water Temple at Tirta Gangga will be a peaceful getaway, with its sacred pools surrounded by lush gardens, while the imposing Gunung Kawi temple, carved into the stone, will transport you to a world filled with history and fascinating architecture.
Explore Tanah Lot, perched on an isolated sea rock, for a mystical and panoramic experience.
The best way to discover all these temples is to book a guided tour that will allow you to fully appreciate your visit since each temple in Bali tells a unique story and promises you a memorable experience.
4. Admire the sunrise from the top of a volcano
As the saying goes, "The early bird gets the worm," and ascending Mount Batur at sunrise will undoubtedly be the highlight of your first trip to Bali. For this once-in-a-lifetime adventure, join a guided tour, which usually includes transportation, flashlights, breakfast, and a stop at a coffee plantation.
Remember to dress warmly because it gets quite cold once you reach the top. It's about a two-hour climb on uneven terrain, and it all takes place in darkness, so it's recommended to be in good physical shape. But seriously, the reward is worth it: a new profile picture like no other.
5. Find your zen in Ubud
If you're familiar with "Eat, Pray, Love," you’ve probably already pinned Ubud in your Google Maps favourites. There's a magnetism there that attracts souls in search of physical and mental well-being. It's as if everyone who sets foot there is on a spiritual quest.
The Yoga Barn stands as a cherished sanctuary, inviting you to immerse yourself in the soothing practices of yoga and meditation. Imagine taking yoga classes accompanied by the sounds of the jungle or letting yourself be carried away by the vibrations of Tibetan bowls during guided meditations. It's the perfect place to realign your chakras and find inner balance.
If you have a little extra time, consider visiting the Pura Tirta Empul temple for a profound purification experience. It’s a must in Ubud, where sacred waters and traditional rituals immerse you in an authentic spiritual journey.
6. Explore the underwater world in Amed
A little off the beaten path, Amed exudes a relaxed vibe with its charming authentic fishing villages and volcanic black sand beaches. But what really attracts travellers is its breathtaking underwater spectacle.
Here, you don't need to be a certified diving pro to explore a marine fauna as varied as it is fascinating. Armed simply with your mask and snorkel, you can swim with turtles, explore a wreck, and marvel at a multitude of colourful fish and corals.
Nomad tip: for a unique snorkelling experience directly from the beach, head out to Japanese Ship Wreck Point and discover the fascinating remains of a sunken ship.
7. Taste local food in a warung
Bali is a culinary paradise for any foodie at heart, with a thousand local flavours to explore, all without breaking the bank. At less than $5 per dish, it's a true symphony for your senses.
Visit a warung, a small Indonesian establishment, often family-run, offering a variety of local dishes at affordable prices to savour these Indonesian delights:
- Nasi Goreng: A delicious dish of fried rice, often accompanied by vegetables, eggs, and meat.
- Mie Goreng: Similar to Nasi Goreng, but with fried noodles instead of rice.
- Satay: Grilled meat skewers, usually chicken, beef, or goat, served with peanut sauce.
- Nasi Campur: An assortment of dishes served with rice, often including meat, chicken, hard-boiled eggs, roasted peanuts, cucumbers, and shrimp chips.
- Jamu Juice: A drink made from Indonesian medicinal herbs, offering unique flavours and often touted for its health benefits.
- Bintang Beer: An iconic Indonesian beer, refreshing and perfect to accompany your meal in a warung.
Bali: a spell that lingers
If time allows, complete your Balinese adventure by visiting the Nusa Islands. Explore the spectacular underwater world with a dive in Nusa Penida, discover the crystal-clear sandy beaches in Nusa Lembongan, and immerse yourself in the peaceful atmosphere of Nusa Ceningan. These small islands offer a nearby paradise escape. A short ferry ride from Bali will take you there.
Bali transcends all expectations to become an unforgettable experience. Although this first visit will undoubtedly leave you wanting more, it only fuels your curiosity for future trips to Bali, where new discoveries and wonders await.
From golden beaches to majestic volcano peaks to dazzling underwater landscapes, every corner of this Island of the Gods tells a unique story. Before you embark on your Balinese adventure, remember to contact a SoNomad agent for your travel insurance.