The tiny island of Bali hosts stunning lush tropical landscapes riddled with rice terraces and active volcanoes. It’s also home to an ancient Hindu culture that has left its mark here with intricate and ornate temples that reflect the islands intense beauty. Unfortunately for us travelers this is no secret and tourists have been flocking here for years. For the savvy traveler there is plenty of opportunity to find the parts unknown. After visiting Bali frequently for the past ten years I have developed a guide to help you find the authentic Bali you have been dreaming of. See why Bali is one of my favourite Islands!
Staying in Ubud, Bali
Ubud is the culture hub of Bali. Instead of electro dance bars you will find quite pubs overlooking rice fields lit by the moon, glitzy hotels are replaced by quaint guest houses set in a traditional Balinese house. Ubud is the place to stay if you’d like to experience the REAL Bali. It’s still busy with travelers, but the difference is these travelers have come to see Balinese culture.
I always stay in the Nirvana Pension and Gallery. This lovely guest house is set in a traditional Thatched roof Balinese family quarters. There is even a family owned temple attached to the guest house.
Renting a Scooter in Bali
This is the key to seeing a side of Bali that few rarely get to see. Renting a scooter, you will set yourself apart from the average traveler and get to experience Bali’s rural countryside. Getting lost here is easy, and honesty probably the best experience you will have.
Scooter prices are cheap starting at 15 dollars a day. Petrol is also a bargain, most days I spent only five dollars a day. There is plenty of places to rent scooters in Ubud. Make sure to use the offline GPS Maps.me, its a life saver.
Seeing a Kecak Ceremony in Bali
Bali is famed for its colorful Hindu ceremonies. Kecak is one of Bali’s most energy pulsing, blood pumping phenomenons. Ritual participants sit in a circle and belt out a mantra simultaneously while moving in a synchronized movement.
Witnessing Kecak in a temple you will most likely only see a few other travelers as special invites must be given to travelers. Ask around Ubud to see one more than often if you are staying there you might get a chance to witness this stunning ceremony.
Gunung Kawi Temple
Easily one of the most memorable temples in Bali. Gunung Kawi can be reached by scooter from Ubud and tour buses only stop here for a moment or two, leaving you lots of alone time to roam uninterrupted. This temple feels like a scene from Indiana Jones, it is cut into the sheer side of a cliff and the dense jungle is creeping all over it.
Pura Tanah lot
There’s no way around it, Pura Tana Lot is one of Bali’s most visited temples due to its proximity to Kuta. With your own wheels you are on no time limit to visit the temple however. I have found that early morning is the best, sunset can be very overwhelmingly crowded.
Uluwatu is spread out amongst a large monkey infested cliff side. Because of the temple being so spread out it’s easy to get away from tourists regardless the time of day. It’s very beautiful on a sunny day when you can see far into the ocean.
Another temple that is on the tourist trail, but once again if you come early enough you will beat everyone to here. This temple is famous for its temple entrance in which you walk straight into the mouth of an angry deity. Come late at night when it’s all lit up with candles as well!
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
Climbing high into the Balinese mountains you will find Pura Ulun Danu Bratan in the middle of Lake Bratan. Easily one of the most photographed temples in Bali, but surprisingly it is one of the quietest as well. This is because it is located quite far from most major towns meaning tour buses do not stick around long. Sunset is stunning here over the lake.
Another one of my favourite temples, Tirta Empul is a water temple in which you can bath with the locals. Not many tourists partake in the rituals giving the curious traveler ample opportunity to experience Balinese Hindus. Just follow what the locals do and be respectful.
Pura Taman Ayun
This temple is included on the list as its architecture is insane! It can get busy mid-day, but there isn’t much to see other than the temple itself. Take a snap and enjoy one of Bali’s strange but wonderful temples.
Exploring the Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Another one of Bali’s stunning sights is the Tegallalang Rice Terraces. To avoid the flock of tourists at this top sight, arrive early in the morning when the light is at its best and hike into the valley as the tourists who come to Tegallalang Rice Terrace see it from one of the bar viewpoints, and don’t tend to wander!
It’s a clever idea to hire one of the local guides, this way you don’t end up somewhere you shouldn’t be! Do not worry, they will find you.
Driving Bali’s Sidemen Valley
In the far eastern reaches of the island there is a curvy road that works its way past stunning vistas, small villages and a roaring volcano can be heard in the distance. This is Bali’s Sidemen Road.
Bringing a scooter here make sure you have plenty of time as this road has many stops you will be sure to want to relax at. While driving the Sidemen I saw only one other tourist!
Taking a Balinese Cooking Course
Many tourists come to Bali and don’t even realize that the island has one of South East Asia’s most delicious and complex cuisines! Sampling the different flavors should be on the top of your to do Bali checklist.
Taking a cooking course in Ubud will ensure not only that you try the flavors but learn how to make this amazing food as well. My cooking course was set in the middle of a lovely scenic rice farm and involved a trip to the local market to get ingredients.
The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces are some of Bali’s most grand and spread out rice terraces. Most tourists only stop by the viewpoints here making it very easy to ditch the well-trodden tourist trail.
I took my scooter on the dirt tracks deep down into the valley and found it was only me and some water buffalo. Beautiful place to have a picnic and explore!
Every trip to Bali would be incomplete if a stop at the beach was not included. Bali’s remote Northern and Eastern coasts are great for finding empty sand vistas, but if you’re looking for an island paradise with minimal tourists try the Gili Islands.
The Gili’s are spread out and don’t offer a lot of tourist infrastructure meaning that a lot of the party going resort type tourists don’t come here. There is also not much for surfing. yet again keeping more away from here.
The Gili’s have great diving as well!