After spending several weeks across many different areas, we've put together what we consider to be a perfect 3-week itinerary. We believe this gives you a great taste of the unique adventures and delights that Bali has to offer.
There is something special about Bali that keeps people coming back over and over again. It wasn't until we had travelled extensively around South East Asia that we decided to give it a try. We now believe the hype.
Bali offers incredibly diverse landscapes, impeccably cool cafes and restaurants and some of the friendliest locals that we have come across.
Combine all that with excellent value for money and the ease of getting around and its success is no longer a mystery.
It might seem counter-intuitive to leave Bali just as you arrive but some of the best beaches, ones that South East Asia are known for, aren’t always found there. Start your trip off right with a combination of adventure and relaxation with Nusa Penida and the Gili Islands.
You can reach these islands by ferry from Sanur or Padang Bai. If your flight or bus arrives late at night, spend a night in Sanur or Padang Bai the night before.
The Gili Islands all have their unique character and have something for everyone. You can party in Gili T, feel like you’re on a deserted island in Gili Meno or enjoy couple time in Gili Air. Pick one to stay on and visit the others as a day trip.
Nusa Penida is still under the radar by Bali standards but that’s rapidly changing. The island offers some of the most stunning and dramatic coastlines we’ve ever seen and getting from point A to point B, when you’re here, always feels like an adventure.
Some of our favourite areas to spend time on this island are within the towns of Central Bali. There is so much to explore here and the locals are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.
Basing yourself in Ubud and Sidemen allows you to take day trips to see sites such as the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Temple of Heaven and many more. Although the distances between places may seem short, still allow for plenty of time to get around.
Often described as being the ‘Ubud of 25 years ago’, Sidemen promises an authentic look into the Balinese culture. Like Ubud, Sidemen is a small town surrounded by rice fields. Sidemen is a great place to relax and unwind, which may be sorely needed depending where you’ve visited so far.
A sunrise trek up Mount Batur, an active volcano, is an unforgettable experience. It requires a very early start as tours generally start between 12:00 - 2:30am. You can begin your tour from most places on the island, but doing so from central Bali will give you a couple more hours of sleep beforehand.
Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali. Our favourite thing about Ubud are the treks you can take from the centre where you can see the lush, green surroundings of the rice fields and jungle. There are also countless restaurants and bars here of a very high quality, including Indonesia’s top ranked restaurant, Locavore.
South Bali is where most people picture when then think of Bali, whether positive or negative.
Influencers, drunk Australians and more inhabit these parts that promise a certain type of holiday lifestyle that mixes decedent beach clubs with world-class surf.
There are a lot of towns to choose from in South Bali, each with their pros and cons. We’ve only seen a few but these are the ones we feel stand above the rest.
Uluwatu is famous for its world-class surf and decadent beach clubs. For non-surfers there are many gorgeous beaches hidden and scattered around worth checking out. There is also Uluwatu Temple, which sits perched on a cliff edge.
Jimbaran ended up being a surprise highlight for us. We stayed a night here to break up the journey from Uluwatu to Seminyak and loved it. If you walk north from the beachside seafood restaurants you’ll find a stretch of sand with a much more local vibe.
Canggu is today’s Seminyak. The perfect place to unwind in a villa at the end of your adventure across Bali. There are many great cafes, restaurants and beach clubs here to keep you busy. A few days will barely scratch the surface of what’s on display, and you’ll soon learn why people keep coming back here.
Whilst the beaches of Canggu don't match the likes of Uluwatu down south or off the mainland towards the Gili Islands, this beachside area offers something else.
Canggu is Bali's epicentre of cool. A home for expats and influencers where Bali's unique holiday flavour is experimented with and refined. This is the place to visit in Bali if you want to see to try the latest beach club, restaurant or concept cafe.
Sometimes you may feel like you are in Sydneys Eastern suburbs rather than Bali whilst you are here, but thats part of the appeal for some.
Here are our top places for teh area:
Beautiful villas that are offered in Balinese, Japanese or Scandinavian style interiors. They have a 24 hour shuttle service that can drop you off anywhere in Canggu, free of charge.
Small coffee shop located on the main street in Batu Bolong. Easily the best coffee we have tried during our travels in Bali.
Beachgarden offers vegetarian food. You can get all your healthy favourites here in a quaint setting close to the heart of Batu Bolong.
Super popular concept cafe offering a huge range of breakfast options. A pretentious crowd and setting doesn’t defer from the quality of the food.
La Bandida serves up delicious Mexican fare in a cool, chilled out setting. The interior and vibe is unpretentious with beds and lounges to lay down on. There are daily specials too.
Cosy and intimate Italian restaurant offering up authentic cuisine. Perfect for a date night.
Mason has a minimal menu offering cured meats and more. We had the mixed meat board, hummus and spinach & ricotta filo pastries.
Bro Resto is another fusion restaurant combining French & Chinese. The dumplings they have on offer (especially the mozzarella ones) are excellent.
An excellent burger stop for all your unhealthy, late night cravings. They can deliver to your villa too.
Chilled out beach club offering superb sunset views at very reasonable prices. They offer fresh seafood also.
Super stylish beach club located next to Old Mans. Like other Bali beach clubs, day beds are based on a daily minimum spend.
Another Canggu beach club offering a relaxed, laid back vibe. Happy hour from 5 - 6pm everyday offering buy 1 get 1 free for all drinks.
One of Canggu’s most popular stops and a must-visit during your stay. Family friendly and a very relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps too relaxed?
Mt. Batur is Bali’s second tallest mountain standing at 1,717 metres. It’s an active volcano that has a special reverence to the Balinese people.
Climbing the mountain to witness a spectacular sunrise is a popular activity with a lot of agencies on the island being able to arrange a tour for you. Group or private. Whilst you can more or less do the trek yourself without a guide, we used Mt Batur Sunrise Trekking Company for ours thanks to their excellent reviews.
We were blessed to be staying in Ubud before undertaking this trek. It meant that we got to sleep in for another 90 minutes compared to our South Bali based climbers.
Our driver picked us up at 2:30am and we were on our way!
Upon arriving here we met Ayu, our guide who would take us up the volcano. There was an opportunity here to rent a jacket if you hadn’t already brought one.
Before long we started on the trail with nothing but our flashlights and the stars above to illuminate our path forward.
The first 25% of the trek is quite straight forward and not too steep. The biggest challenge during this part is getting used to walking in the dark with your flashlight.
The first challenge comes when you reach a rest stop and are given the options between the easy and hard routes:
Easy Route: This is a straight forward zigzagging path that doesn't require any dexterity with your footing. When you come back down afterwards, this is the route you will take.
Hard Route: This route is actually faster but requires more climbing and the trail becomes quite slippery at times. There are lot's of parts where you have to take big steps and need to find your gripping.
We went for the hard route and were glad we did so as it offers more variety as you go up rather than just being, more or less, a straight path. It actually ends up being faster to get to the top by taking this route as well.
Overall, it was challenging but definitely doable. You'll get the opportunity to take plenty of rests on your way up.
Before getting to the top, both the easy and hard routes meet in another rest area that has a shop selling snacks and food.
The next 15 minutes of walking from here are the most challenging but you will feel extremely rewarded upon getting through them!
We began walking at 3:40am and reached the top viewing area at 5:15am meaning we had around 45 minutes to relax before the sunset.
While we were perhaps faster than average, it gives you an idea of how much time you can spend going up and you can feel free to take lots of breaks.
When you arrive, your gyide will likely offer to make you some tea, coffee or hot chocolate and also prepare a basic breakfast for you.
As for the sunrise itself, you will be at the complete mercy of the weather gods as for how amazing it will be.
Regardless of whether or not a gigantic cloud decides to pop in front of the sun, the views up here are absolutely stunning. You will not be disappointed with your choice to get out of bed at such an early hour.
It felt truly special up here, witnessing the day begin from such a vantage point.
After you've taken a few thousand photos of the sunrise at every creative angle you can think of you can explore the area in more detail.
You get to walk around the crater and enjoy sweeping views all over Bali. You can take a photo with sulphur steam all around you (This is also where the watert hey use to make your hot drinks and boil the eggs).
You can take as much time up here as you like before deciding to being your descent.
It took us around 1 hour to get back down but it was definitely tough on the legs and the steepness is constant.
It was interesting to see where we had walked up in daylight to give context as to where we had started that morning.
Eventually you'll reach the bottom and, depending which tour company you went with, you'll be taken back to where you're staying with possible pit stop on the way.
The Mount Batur sunrise trek is a must-do experience in Bali. We would easily put it in our top 3 things to do here.
Book it in now, you won't regret it!
Sidemen is a quiet village in East Bali famous for its rice terraces and promise of an authentic look at life on Bali. This is the place to go if you want to relax, unwind, enjoy stunning views and people watch. Often referred to as what ‘Ubud was like 25 years ago’, a couple of days spent in Sidemen won’t go to waste.
In the afternoon we went on a 3 hour trek through the rice fields of Sidemen. Our guide calmly led us through the fields whilst pointing out local vegetables and teaching us about the techniques at display to harvest the rice.
We were greeted warmly by everyone we passed and it appears that our guide knew every single one of them, as he’d stop for a brief chat each time. Sidemen has a very strong communal feel and at no time was it more pronounced than here.
During our tour we crossed small lakes, passed through a small village and witnessed spectacular views over the rice fields. We were lucky to be here during preparation for Purnama, a ceremony entered around the full moon. Extra offerings are given during this period and the temples are decorated in golden fabrics.
The following day we braved the early morning and ventured into the main part of town to visit the morning market.
The market runs from 4am - 10am but we were advised to arrive before 7am, as after then the stalls have sold or packed up most of their wares.
Walking through the town we were surprised to see all the kids being dropped off at school at 6:30. How’s that for an early start?
The market itself sells various things such as fresh produce and offering baskets, but the main draw in visiting is to see the people of Sidemen in their morning routine.
There was quite the hustle and bustle despite the early hour.
Sidemen makes for an excellent gateway to East Bali, shortening the lengths of day trips to this area considerably.
You can avoid the dreaded 4am starts from Ubud or Canggu to visit places such as Lempuyang Temple or Tirta Gangga by staying here and instead enjoy a couple of extra hours sleeping in.
You can also go on water rafting or bicycle tours, a great way to see more of the surrounding countryside. There is also a small temple that you can hike up to offering panoramic views of the area
Staying in Sidemen is guaranteed to give you relaxation and insight into the Balinese way of life.
We only spent 2 days here but could see us spending more time in the future, especially as an alternative to Ubud.
We had to leave Nusa penida earlier than exepected today so unfotunately had to cut our trip short. This meant we didn't get the opportunity to climb down to Diamond Beach or see some of the other areas the east coast is famous for.
However, what we did see made up for it and Diamon beach, especially, exceeded expectations.
Starting the day off with something different, we visited a temple located in a massive underground cave.
Our driver stopped in a car park just outside and directed us to where we could rent a sarong. We paid 5k each.
After climbing up some steps you’ll be blessed and then be required to sign your name in a visitors book. You’ll then get directed to a tiny hole in the ground that leads to the cave.
It’s incredibly atmospheric inside, all you could hear were the echoes of chanting and praying. You can walk all the way through to the exit and then follow the road to the right which will take you back to the main road where you can find the car park.
The coastline of Nusa Penida thus far has not failed to disappoint! We let out an audible ‘holy shit’ upon seeing seeing the full view of Diamond Beach.
The white cliffs juxtaposed against the turquoise waters and palm trees looked unbelievably beautiful. We couldn’t stop taking photos.
There are few areas to check out for different views and there is, of course, the beach down below.
We unfortunately arrived here during a very busy time and didn’t get the chance to make our way down the staircase to the beach as we were on a tight time frame so we opted to take the walk down to Atuh Beach instead as we heard it was a better place to swim.
There is another steep staircase near the entrance for Diamond Beach which takes you to Atuh Beach. The surface down is difficult but a rope is attached to the cliff side which makes it easier (and feel much safer).
Atuh Beach is a great place to stop and chill as there are restaurants and beach chairs all along the beach.
Once again, a stunning rock formation sits out in the bay just waiting to be photographed. Coming here for sunrise would be a treat.
Our last stop for the day we’re the Thousand Island & Treehouse Viewpoints.
The shots of the treehouse are quite famous on Instagram, and you can get your own shot for just 50k if you’re so inclined.
To reach this area requires another steep walk down some stairs which we had become pros at during our time on this island.
The main viewpoint offers sweeping views of Diamond Beach and more. There is not much else to do here other than take photos of the surroundings.
Whilst we didn’t get the chance to visit everywhere the east coast offers, we received a nice sampling.
Some other spots are Teletubbies Hill and Suwehan Beach which we would have loved to visit if we had time.
The views of Diamond Beach alone, however, make this trip more than worthwhile and it’s beauty & perfection is something that will stay etched in our minds for a long time to come.
We started our day bright and early at 7:30am. We had a few places we wanted to visit and our plan was quite ambitious.
We met our driver, Simanta, and headed to our first stop, the now very famous Kelingking Beach.
We arrived at around 8:35am and were pleased to see it wasn’t too crowded yet. The beautiful formation, which resembles a T-Rex, set against the turquoise waters was wondrous. Seeing this place in so many photos beforehand didn’t do it justice.
We opted not to make our way all the way down the ultra steep footpath to the beach below and stopped halfway, preserving our energy for what else the day had in store for us.
Hot tip: We explored the area to the right of the main pathway where we had a different view of the iconic formation all to ourselves.
Angels Billabong is a naturally formed infinity pool overlooking the ocean. We were warned against going in for a swim but it was safe to dip your feet in.
Broken Beach, just a short walk away, boasts an incredibly distinctive coastal line. As it’s name suggests, it feels as if the coast started breaking apart to reveal a beautiful beach below.
An archway stretches over the middle allowing you to admire the view from many angles, opening up a lot of photo opportunities.
As with Kelingking Beach, be warned that this area gets very busy in the morning as it’s on most tour companies itineraries.
An area more off-the-beaten-path, Tembeling Forest hides a natural pool and secluded beach at the end of an incredibly steep and rocky trail. From the entrance point, you have a few options on how to reach the bottom:
We opted for the return taxi ride. Riding down yourself requires a high level of skill, so only do so if you are extremely comfortable riding a motorbike.
The natural pool itself is the first part you’ll walk past and the area around it serves as a place of worship for locals. There were locals cliff jumping into the pool.
Pressing forward will take you past a second pool which is much smaller in scale.
Our next stop was possibly the highlight of our west coast tour. A 300ish step walk down a rickety set of stairs anchored to the cliff side takes you to a small waterfall, worship area and stunning views of the coastline.
You will be required to rent a sarong before beginning the trail, which cost 15k each.
We had to muster up all of our courage to face the heights and stay focused on the walk down. The walk down feels worse than going back up. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment when you reach the bottom.
We were walking behind a group of Balinese people who were making their way down to make offerings and prayers. I wonder how often they make this trip down?
Our last stop was the somewhat underwhelming Crystal Bay. Whilst not that spectacular (by Nusa Penida standards) it served its purpose as a place to unwind with a couple of Bintangs and watch the sunset.
There is a small island in the bay that appeared to have a small temple on top, giving off some similar vibes to Tanah Lot in Bali.
No visit to Nusa Penida would be complete without visiting sone of the spots on this list.
Whilst Kelingking Beach is essential, if you’re short on time you could easily drop Crystal Bay and even Angels Billabong & Broken Beach (Especially if you are planning on visiting the east coast as well).
Tembeling Forest and Peguyangan Waterfall were much quieter and were more enjoyable as a result.