A curated guide to the island’s best cultural, historic, and natural sights
Bali is Indonesia’s ‘Island of the Gods,’ and travellers come from far and wide to experience its mystical culture, tropical island ambience and stunning natural backdrops. Stretching more than 100 kilometres from north to south, there’s too much to see in one trip. To help you get the best out of Bali, here’s our edit of what not to miss.
Pakerisan River, Tampaksiring
Courtesy of Instagram account: @littlesherpatravels
Nestled amidst the lush Pakerisan River Valley, Gunung Kawi looks like something out of an old Indiana Jones movie. Dating back to the 11th century, the site features a collection of 8-metre-high shrines that have been carved straight into the rock face. The giant monuments were commissioned by King Anak Wungsu to honour his father, the ancient Balinese ruler Udayana, or so the story goes.
Jalan Raya Bedulu, Bedulu village
Visitors to the candle-lit cave of Goa Gajah must enter through the mouth of a demonic face carved into the stone. Inside, there’s a figurine of Ganesha, the elephant-headed God after which the holy site is named – ‘Goa Gajah’ literally translates to ‘elephant cave’. Historians believe the cave, which is around 1000 years old, was originally used as a meditation site for Hindu priests.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
Jatiluwih village, Penebel, Tabanan
Courtesy of Instagram account: @michaelmatti
Jatiluwih’s iconic rice terraces are among the most eye-catching sights on the island. Recognised by UNESCO for their beauty and cultural significance, the lime-green paddies are intertwined with gurgling streams and backed by Mount Batukaru, Bali’s second highest volcano.
One of the most memorable ways to explore the sleepy villages and backroads of the 600-hectare reserve is with a WakaLandCruise Land Rover.
Batukaru Temple, Tabanan, Bali Bamboo Forest Restaurant by WHM, Jatiluwih
A day trip includes a visit to a natural stone quarry, a tour of a Balinese farm house with a Bali coffee or tea tasting and traditional snacks, a scenic drive through the rice terraces, and a trip to the mystical Batukaru Temple. An authentic Balinese buffet lunch will be served on the wooden terrace of our Bamboo Restaurant by WHM, hidden within the lush forests and bamboo groves of the Jatiluwih highlands.
West Bali National Park
Deer or “menjangan” at West Bali National Park
This untouched wilderness on the north-western tip of Bali is inhabited by wild muntjac deer (‘menjangan’ in Indonesian) on the land and teeming coral gardens below the water. The marine-protected waters are home to more than a dozen dive and snorkel sites where schools of fish dart around in formation.
Experience the serenity of this pristine corner of Bali at NusaBay Menjangan, a boutique eco resort operated by Waka Hotels & Resorts. Set on a white-sand beach on the Prapat Agung Peninsula facing Menjangan Island, NusaBay offers beautifully crafted cottages and villas designed with natural materials to meld with the existing landscape.
Scuba diving at Menjangan Island
Customised diving and snorkelling tours are among the guest activities, exploring a choice of Menjangan’s underwater sites, from shallow coral gardens to vertical reef walls smothered with sea fans. Trumpet fish, clownfish, eels, and electric blue tangs are among the most common sightings here.
Jalan Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring
Courtesy of Instagram account: @katia_lasciatemiqui
It’s an enchanting sight to see Balinese Hindus bowing their heads under the gushing water spouts at Tirta Empul, a thousand-year old temple complex with ornate bathing pools. Legend has it that the cool mountain spring that feeds the temple was created by the Hindu God Indra who imbued the water with restorative properties. Visitors are also invited to wash away negative energy with a traditional ‘melukat’ (spiritual water cleansing) here.
Courtesy of Instagram account: @mindz.eye
Perched on a cliff some 70 metres above the crashing surf of Uluwatu, this 10th-century compound is one of Bali’s most photographed temples. Visit in the late afternoon to stroll around the tree-lined avenues and meet the mischievous monkeys that call the ancient site home. The sunset views are sublime, and if you buy a ticket, you can watch the nightly kecak dance performance in an amphitheatre overlooking the ocean.