Dreaming of jungle infinity pools and palm-tree lined beaches, surrounded by tranquillity, culture and incredible food? Then Bali is the place for you!
There’s a lot to see in Bali, but given its relatively small size, you can see the main things in three days with a properly planned itinerary. And to do this, I’d recommend using a local guide. We used Bali Traditional Tours, a family-run company, who I chose after lots of research and reading great reviews, which they completely deserve. From booking the trip to on the day, they made it really easy and enjoyable. They have some set options for tours, but are also happy to work with you to personalise your own. Booking and itineraries were planned over email, and they had lots of suggestions of what to include, as well as organising general logistics.
Day 1 – Tegallalang rice terrace, coffee and spice plantation, temple of Tirta Empul, the Elephant Cave temple, artisan villages and Tegenungan waterfall
We started the day visiting the Tegallalang rice terrace, which is a definite must see. There’s rice paddies stretching all around, surrounded by towering palm trees. And for those looking for the perfect Instagram shot, this is also where the infamous jungle swing is located.
At the coffee plantation, we started with a small tour of the various plants and herbs growing in the plantation, before tasting a variety of tea and coffee, including Luwak coffee. Luwaks, small, civet cat animals, are fed coffee beans and once these have passed through… they’re picked and made into coffee! A slightly strange concept – but the coffee is delicious. There’s also a gift shop, where you can purchase the drinks you’ve tried and various other local products.
Both the temple of Tirta Empul and the Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave temple, are fascinating and such good opportunities to learn more about Balinese history and culture. Tirta Empul is a water temple complex, built around a holy spring. Balinese and Hindu worshippers queue up to enter a large pool within the temple, where the spring bubbles up through several water spouts. People make their way along the line of spouts, dipping their heads under each in turn, as part of a purifying ritual. Like Tirta Empul, the Elephant Cave temple has various areas to explore, including the elephant cave itself.
Our second to last stop of the day were the artisan villages, where you can see local people undertaking various forms of crafts. One which we found particularly fascinating was the wood carving, which is just so unbelievably skilled.
Our last stop of the day was the Tegenungan waterfall, which is accessed down a long flight of steps. There are various photo opportunities on the way down, and of course at the bottom, with the waterfall itself. You’d have to get there pretty early to get a shot with nobody else around – not something we managed to do! Although I enjoyed seeing the waterfall, for me it was slightly overrated. It was very busy, with loud music blaring out, and just not quite the tranquil scene I was expecting.
Day 2 – Mount Batur sunrise trek and hot springs
One of the best experiences we had was climbing Mount Batur, an active volcano, to watch the sunrise. It’s an early start – you get picked up around 2.30am from Ubud, or 1.30am if you’re staying in south Bali. But it’s totally worth it. After being dropped at the base of Mount Batur, we were greeted by another local guide, who hiked the two hours with us to the top. The views from the summit were incredible and it’s an experience I won’t forget in a hurry! Despite it being a cloudy morning, we were really lucky that the clouds cleared just in time for sunrise.
One tip is to be prepared for various weather conditions – it was hot and humid at the base of the mountain, but freezing cold at the top. As it was a cloudy morning, it was also very wet as you got nearer the top and into the clouds. After hiking back down, we visited the nearby hot springs, which are a great chance to relax your achey muscles after the early morning hike. You can either squeeze something else into the afternoon, or take the opportunity for some poolside rest like we did.
Day 3 – Tanah Lot temple, Padang Padang beach, Uluwatu temple, dinner and sunset at Jimbaran Bay
We started the day at Tanah Lot temple, an ancient Hindu shrine, perched on a small outcrop of rocks in the ocean. You can cross to the base of the temple when the tide’s out, but the walkways are completely covered at high tide. Although we were able to get closer to to the temple at low tide, photo opportunities are probably better at high tide, when there’s no one in front of the temple.
After lunch, we headed to Padang Padang beach, a long stretch of white sand and popular surfing spot, accessed down a flight of steps from the top of the cliff. It’s a great spot to relax, but watch out for the monkeys who also inhabit the area – we saw a couple of water bottles and flip-flops part ways from their owners!
Uluwatu temple was one of my favourite places to visit. Perched high on a cliff top, the views of the coastline are fantastic. There’s a path along the cliff edge with several viewing points, which you can walk in around an hour.
The perfect end to the day was watching the sunset at Jimbaran Bay. Restaurants line the long stretch of sand, with tables perfectly positioned on the beach for you to dine and watch the sunset.
There’s plenty of other things to do in Bali if you have more time – visit the Waterbom waterpark, take surfing lessons or snorkel with turtles. There’s also the monkey forest, which can easily be added into a trip around Ubud. And there’s plenty of gorgeous beaches if you just want a few days of chilling out. We spent a couple of days in Nusa Dua before flying home. Sunrise yoga and relaxing on palm tree lined, white sandy beaches – what more could you ask more.