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The island of Bali may be relatively small, but there are so many things to do in Bali, and it offers so much diversity from region to region. From the shopping and dining in Seminyak, nightlife in Kuta, surfing in Uluwatu, to the markets and rice terraces around Ubud and the stunning waterfalls in North Bali.
Bali has so much to offer that many people find it difficult to decide which region to visit. Having visited Bali eight times (it’s practically a second home for many Aussies), I decided to write a guide on the different regions of Bali. This guide should help anyone looking to travel to Bali for the first time, to determine which areas to visit.
I usually recommend spending at least two weeks in Bali, as the perfect amount of time to really experience the different sides of this beautiful island. Use this guide to pick a few different destinations and spend a few days in each place. But be warned, a lot of people fall in love with Bali after a few days, let alone two weeks! You’ll probably want to plan another escape back there as soon as you get home.
If there were three words to describe Seminyak, it would be – shopping, nightlife and food! Seminyak seems to have it all, a few days here could keep any holidaymaker entertained with plenty of world-class dining options, nightclubs filled with party-goers almost every evening and so many boutique shops that will delight your inner shopaholic.
Seminyak is possibly one of the most popular places in Bali, with the accommodation options ranging from upmarket luxury hotel chains, such as The W Hotel Bali and The Seminyak Beach Resort and Spa, affordable mid-range hotels situated a few blocks back from the beach, and small privately-owned villas.
The dining scene in Seminyak is out of this world, with arguably some of the best restaurants in South-East Asia. Motel Mexicola is a popular hotspot with, you guessed it, great Mexican food. Around the corner is the ever-popular breakfast and lunch cafe, Sea Circus. If it’s Italian food that you’re after, you can’t go past Da Maria. And for good coffee – check out Revolver Espresso.
Loud, brash and debaucherous, Kuta is known as the hotspot for nightlife in Bali. The glamorous nightclubs draw partygoers with offerings from world-class DJ’s spinning sets on a nightly basis. Beware that Kuta is known for parties that go on well into the dawn hours and can suck you into harder nightclub scene.
But one of the biggest draw-cards of Kuta is the fabulous beach bars. Sink back into a bean bag on the beach, kick-back watching the sunset with a couple of insanely cheap beers while having your feet rubbed by a masseuse for $5. This town is sure to make you feel like an instant celebrity.
For many years, Canggu was a favourite hangout for Aussies who would visit Bali regularly. In recent years, Canggu has been ‘discovered’ by location independent millennials, who flock from all over the world to hit up the café scene and plethora of coworking spaces. Canggu offers a more easy-going pace than nearby Seminyak and Kuta.
In my opinion, Canggu has some of the best cafés in Bali. Milk and Madu is a popular local haunt, famous for their avocado on toast. Café Organic is a popular spot for smoothie bowls. Dues Ex Machina does coffee and motorbikes, a combo that goes together better than one would expect in Bali. Or try Peloton Supershop for delicious vegan food.
The black sand beach in Canggu is nowhere near as nice as some other coastal areas of Bali, but what Canggu lacks in beautiful beaches, it makes up for with excellent beach clubs. Try the long-standing, ever-popular Finns Beach Club, or perhaps the laid-back style offered by The Lawn might be appealing to your style. For boho, gypsy picnic vibes, check out La Laguna.
Accommodation around Canggu is generally rental villas, most are owned by expats and rented out on Airbnb for a fraction of the cost of the hotels you’ll find around Seminyak. Many villas have their own private pool, perfect for a lazy poolside vacation – don’t forget to bring a good book! There are also many luxury hotel options, including Hotel Tugu, Aston Canggu Beach, and COMO Uma Canggu.
A haven for family holiday-makers, Nusa Dua is a stretch of idyllic white-sand beach coast lined with manicured resort hotels, featuring all the amenities. Nusa Dua can feel somewhat removed from the real Bali but offers a calm respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the island. Nightly cultural performances held inside the resort compounds offer a taste of the Balinese culture, without having to leave the hotel, even if it is a slightly superficial experience.
ULUWATU & BUKIT PENINSULA
With limestone cliffs that rise out of the dark blue Indian Ocean, you can’t go past Uluwatu and the Bukit Peninsula for surfing and stunning luxury clifftop resorts.
Uluwatu is the destination wedding and honeymoon haven of Bali, but don’t let that put you off. With some of the most luxurious and beautifully designed resorts in Bali, the Bukit Peninsula feels miles away from the busyness you’ll find elsewhere on the island. It’s the perfect place for a romantic holiday, relaxing with your significant other. Check out Alila Villas Uluwatu, The Edge Bali, or The Ungasan for super high-end luxury villas with killer views.
Uluwatu is dotted with beautiful white-sand and surf beaches, such as Padang Padang, Bingin, Dreamland and Balangan. Most require a somewhat precarious descent down steps carved into the cliffside to reach, but what awaits you at the bottom is well worth the effort. On your way back up, stop at one of the family-run surf bars built on the cliffs overlooking the famed Uluwatu break for a cold beer and delicious Indonesian food.
My personal favourite, Ubud has a little bit of everything. Fresh mountain air, waterfalls, adventure tours, excellent food, monkeys, stunning rice terraces, hotels and restaurants with great views, arts and crafts markets, yoga shalas, the list goes on.
Made famous by the book Eat Pray Love, Ubud is the place where many come for relaxation and healing. It’s been a haven for yogis for years, and expats travel from far and wide, choosing to settle here over the likes of Seminyak or Canggu, in favour of the peaceful jungle lifestyle.
The food scene in Ubud is top notch. Boasting everything from world-class restaurants run by Michelin starred chefs, to a plethora of plant-based cafes, great pizza places, coffee and burgers. There are places where you can dine overlooking the rice terraces or river, traditional Indonesian Warungs and even a cafe whose menu is devoted entirely to cocktails and desserts! In fact, there are so many great places to eat in Ubud, I wrote an entire foodie guide featuring 40 cafes, restaurants and bars.
Ubud is the artistic heart of Bali, with streets lined with art galleries and the famous Ubud Markets. Awe-inspiring performances where locals showcase their beautiful Balinese culture and traditions through a unique dance are staged nightly in the town centre.
But many people come to Ubud to see the stunning rice terraces – and see them you will, there are rice terraces everywhere! The most incredible ones being the Tegalalang Rice Terraces, a 20-minute drive from the centre of town.
CENTRAL MOUNTAINS OF BALI
Cheeky monkeys, refreshing waterfalls and stunning views await you in the mountains around Central Bali. Much more remote than the rest of Bali, the northern region offers excellent hiking, in particular, the peaks of Mount Agung and Mount Batur. At the time of writing, Bali’s tallest mountain, Mount Agung, was closed for hiking, due to volcanic activity, but Mount Batur offers stunning sunrise views towards the giant beauty.
The area around Munduk offers cute little villages, rice terraces and stunning waterfalls, including Munduk, Git Git and Nungnung waterfalls. Also, be sure to check out the totally Instagrammable Wanagiri Hidden Hills, the gates at the Handara Golf Resort, and the beautiful Hindu temple situated on a lake called Pura Ulun Danu. The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces are also well worth a visit as they were recently deemed a UNESCO Heritage Site.
SANUR AND CANDIDASA
If you find Kuta and Seminyak too full-on and Nusa Dua too sleepy, then you will probably like Sanur. With a good mix of beaches, resorts, restaurants and culture, Sanur is well situated for day trips to Ubud, Uluwatu and East Bali.
The lovely 4km long beachfront boardwalk offers a taste of local-life, particularly on a Sunday morning when the Balinese flock to the beaches with their large families (and dogs). It curves past beachfront cafes, street food stalls, ocean huts and perfectly manicured resorts and villas.
Further to the North East is Candidasa, a sleepy diving area featuring a few world-class resorts set amongst the coconut groves, such as Amankila and Alila Manggis. Candidasa somewhat lacks the restaurant and café vibes of other areas on the island. Some sights to check out here include Tirta Gangga (water temple) and Pura Lempuyang with its incredible view of Mount Agung.
OTHER ISLANDS AROUND BALI
If you have more time and wish to check out some of the islands around Bali, you can’t go past a day trip to Nusa Penida for a view of the famous dinosaur head lookout or snorkel around its pristine bays. If you’re into diving and nightlife, check out Gili Trawangan (Gili T).
To experience the pristine beaches, with great diving, surfing and villages that Bali once used to embody before it was discovered by mass tourism, head to Lombok. Or perhaps the sleepiness, pristine beaches and turquoise waters of Gili Air and Gili Meno are your thing.
SOME EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING IN BALI
- Currency: The Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) is the currency used in Bali. Most places in Bali accept cash only, but nicer restaurants and hotels will accept credit cards. Cash exchanges are available all over the island. Beware of unlicensed money changers.
- Visas: Citizens of over 140 countries (including the US, UK and Australia) are offered a free 30-day tourist visa on arrival.
- Getting Around: There are no trains or public buses in Bali. The best way to get around is by taxi or a car with a driver. It’s also possible to hire a scooter/motorbike, but the roads are much more dangerous than in Western countries, so please be mindful of the risks involved.
- Best Time to Visit: June to September (dry season) are the best months to visit Bali, but this is also high season. April-May and October-November are shoulder season, and the weather is a little more humid, with lower prices. Avoid December to February as this is the monsoon season.
- Don’t forget to Bring: Sunscreen and Wine! Both are expensive to buy on the island, and the Balinese wine is average.
- Language: The native language in Bali is Indonesian, but most Balinese people speak reasonably good English.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Bali. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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