Bali: Your Perfect 3-Week Itinerary

Featured Itinerary

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.

Tanah Lot, Diamond Beach and the Rice Fields of Sidemen

Why Bali?

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. 

Week 1: Leaving Bali & Hitting Up the Islands

Kelingking Beach, Sunrise at Gili T and Atuh Beach

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 - 4 Days

An iconic swing at sunset and the main port

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 - 3 Days

Kelingking Beach and Diamond Beach

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.

Week 2 - Soaking up the culture in Central Bali

Campuhan Ridge, Mount Batur and a local temple in Sidemen

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.

Sidemen - 3 Days

The Sidemen Morning Market and rice fields

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.

Mount Batur - Day Trip

Mount Batur at sunrise

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 - 4 Days

The view from Cafe Pomegranate and wares at the Ubud Central Market

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.

Week 3: Live it up in South Bali

Uluwatu Beach, Theanna Eco VIllas and Lifecrate Cafe

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 - 3 Days

Karma Beach and Bingin Beach

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 - 1 Day

Sunset on Jimbaran Beach

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 - 3 Days

The Lawn and Mexican at La Bandidas

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.

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Canggu: Our Favourite Places

Top Places

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:

Accommodation

Where to stay: Theanna Eco Villa

Details of Theanna Eco Villa

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.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Cafes

For the best coffee: BGS Bali

Some of the best coffee we've had in Bali

Small coffee shop located on the main street in Batu Bolong. Easily the best coffee we have tried during our travels in Bali.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Beachgarden: Organic Kitchen

Street artwork and smashed avo on toast

Beachgarden offers vegetarian food. You can get all your healthy favourites here in a quaint setting close to the heart of Batu Bolong.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Lifescrate

Vegetarian breakfast choices and exterior

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.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Restaurants

Our Favourite: La Bandida

Quesadilla and burrito

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.

  • Cash Only

La Baracca

Grungy interior

Cosy and intimate Italian restaurant offering up authentic cuisine. Perfect for a date night.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Mason

Beautiful interior stylings and well presented food

Mason has a minimal menu offering cured meats and more. We had the mixed meat board, hummus and spinach & ricotta filo pastries.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Bro Resto

The dumplings here were amazing

Bro Resto is another fusion restaurant combining French & Chinese. The dumplings they have on offer (especially the mozzarella ones) are excellent.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Pit Stop

An excellent burger stop for all your unhealthy, late night cravings. They can deliver to your villa too.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Bars

Best Value: Echo Beach Club

Beachfront location

Chilled out beach club offering superb sunset views at very reasonable prices. They offer fresh seafood also.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

The Lawn

Iconic umbrellas at The Lawn

Super stylish beach club located next to Old Mans. Like other Bali beach clubs, day beds are based on a daily minimum spend.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Old Man's

Rustic feel with sea themed muras

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.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

La Brisa

The pool area at La Brisa

One of Canggu’s most popular stops and a must-visit during your stay. Family friendly and a very relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps too relaxed?

  • Cash & Card Accepted

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Mount Batur: The Sunrise Trek

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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!

Toya Bungkah Village - The starting point

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 sun shining through Lombok's Mt Rinjani in the distance

Ascending the volcano - How hard is it?

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.

The morning sun shooting through the steam

Reaching the top - The final stretch

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.

Lena overlooking the mountains

The sunrise - Let the show begin

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.

Exploring the crater and descending

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).

Steam along the crater

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.

Mount Batur in daylight

Last thoughts

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!

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Sidemen: An Authentic Slice of Bali

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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.

Rice Fields Walking Tour

Ruins amongst the rice fields

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.

Rice fields in Sidemen

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.

In preparation of Purnama

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.

Sidemen Morning Market

Locals purchasing goods at the morning market

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 morning market

Other things to do in Sidemen

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

A local worker in the rice fields

Last thoughts

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.

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Nusa Penida: Exploring the East Coast

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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.

Goa Giri Putri Cave

A ceremony happening inside the cave

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.

Diamond Beach

The swing down below on Diamond Beach

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.

Famous views of Diamond Beach

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.

Atuh Beach

Views of Atuh Beach and rock formations in the bay

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).

Lena walking into the water

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.

Thousand Island & Treehouse Viewpoint

The monument marking the viewpoint

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.

Diamond Beach in the distance and ongoing construction

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.

Last thoughts

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.

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Nusa Penida: Exploring the West Coast

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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.

Kelingking Beach

Kelingking Beach and alternate views

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.

The T-Rex shape coming through

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 & Broken Beach

Angel's Billabong and the central archway at Broken Beach

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.

The stunning turqoise colours of the water

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.

Tembeling Forest & Beach

Piled rocks through the cave

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:

  • • You can walk 30 minutes down the trail
  • • You can pay between 50 - 75k for a return taxi motorbike ride
  • • You can brave the road yourself and drive down on your rented motorbike
A quiet beach and water fountains

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.

Peguyangan Waterfall

The waterfall at the bottom

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.

A local family walkingdown the iconic blue steps and the ocean below

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.

Locals gathered at a small temple at the bottom of the stairs

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?

Crystal Bay

Sunset at Crystal Bay

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.

Locals and tourists enjoying Crystal Bay

Last thoughts

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.

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The Gili Islands: What to do with 4 days on Gili T

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Getting there

There are several ways to get from Bali to the Gili Islands. After spending quite a bit of time doing the research, we believe the fastest and easiest way by far is by a fast ferry, of which there are many operators in a competitive market.

Some companies have better reputations than others and those that do charge higher prices. Safety is the big factor in all of this. There have been several ferries that have sunk over the years, and reading up on Trip Advisor about the safety is a good way of scaring yourself out of going altogether.

For this reason, we booked 2 return tickets with Bluewater Express. Overall, we were very happy with our choice and the service from start to finish was convenient and professional.

We booked tickets through their website and could select which harbour we wished to depart by and arrive to. This was very convenient for us as we were staying in Ubud when we left, so Padang Bai was the best harbour for us to leave from. Uluwatu was where we were going to be staying when we got back, so Serangan was the best harbour to arrive back to.

You can fly from Densapar to Lombok, skipping the Lombok Strait but having a long drive to the harbour from the airport to make up for it. This is worth doing if the thought of the fast ferry scares you, but will definitely end up costing more. It can also take longer depending on where you are staying.

Why Gili T?

Our balcony at the Kaleydo Villas, a cyclist asks for directions in the town centre and a colourful local street

Gili T is the largest and most developed of the Gili Islands. Lonely Planet has a good write up on the 3 main islands and their differences. Despite its reputation as the “party island”, we found that this meant it offered more variety as far as bars, restaurants and accommodation go. March is considered the low season in Bali too, and we wanted to be somewhere with people around.

Gili T offers makes a great base to explore the other islands if you are so inclined. The central east area of the island acts as the town centre and is where you will find all the tour agencies, restaurants, convenience stores and all ranges of accommodation.

The other islands lack this level of convenience and offer more of that “desert island feel”. However, if you are willing walk or cycle to some of the areas on the western and north eastern parts of the islands you will feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.

Where to stay

This plays into where you will want to stay on the island too. We chose the Kaleydo Villas and couldn’t have been happier without choice. The property is located a 5-minute walk from a stretch of sand on the northeast. The staff were brilliant, friendly and very helpful. They helped to create a “home away from home” feeling. There are some great places to eat nearby too, but a walk into town only takes 15 minutes anyway (or a 5-minute cycle).

So it’s important to determine what matters most to you. For us, it was the combination of convenience and easy access.

Life on Gili T

Coffee options at Seniman Coffee Studio, view from Cafe Pomegranate and purple skies over rice terraces at sunset

One of the most charming characteristics of Gili T is the complete lack of motorised vehicles. When you hop off the ferry you will see horse-drawn carriages being used in place of taxis and locals and tourists alike getting around by bike or just simply walking.

You can walk around the entire island in 2 hours so getting around is easy. It’s great to have no reliance on transportation and sharing roads with horse and carriages becomes something you adapt to quite quickly.

Renting a bike is a popular thing to do and makes getting around the island quick and easy, although the roads after a night of rain will be wet, muddy and the potholes act as mini brown swimming pools.

There is a mosque on the island, and you’ll often hear the prayers early in the morning which can cause you to wake up early. Bring sleeping plugs if you are worried about this, we were woken up more often by this than pounding nightclub music, oddly enough.

Restaraunts & Bars

We didn’t expect world-class dining on this small tropical island but some of the restaurants we tried in Gili T were amazing, with lot’s of options too. Some of the highlights include:

Pituq Cafe: A vegan cafe serving up some seriously delicious dishes. The staff are lovely and the menu has a lot of variety (Try the laksa and tempeh curry dish!). We ate here twice but could have happily eaten here every day.

Pizzeria Regina: We didn’t expect to try one of the best pizza’s we have ever eaten on Gili T, but here we are. Check it out, they know what they are doing.

Jali Kitchen: Excellent Indonesian food. A bit pricier than what you’ll usually pay, but worth every rupiah.

Danima Restaurant: Affordable Italian cuisine and seafood on the beach by candlelight. Enough said. Try the oysters.

The bars themselves don’t disappoint either, although you’d expect nothing less from the party capital of the Gili Islands. There are plenty of bars along the main strip in the town centre where it seems like the party keeps going all night such as the Sam Sama Reggae Bar.

Every night of the week a different bar hosts the “nightly party” which keeps things fresh. This type of thing isn’t really our scene, but The Drinking Traveller has a great blog post on it that details a lot of the specifics.

We tended to gravitate more to the beach clubs and “beanbags-on-the-beach” type setups. These places were the definition of chilled out. Every evening for us was spent on the west side of the island in one of these places watching the sunsets that the Gili Islands are famous for. There are plenty of bars around, so pick one that looks fun and enjoy the views.

Despite being the low season, there was still a good amount of people visiting the island and you could always find places to chill with good energy. I’ve heard that even during the high season the island never feels too full, and with there being so many bars and restaurants around it seems you will always be able to find a place to relax and hang out with a shake, cocktail or Bintang.

The beaches

Goats relaxing on the beach

The beaches in Gili T are stunning, and you’ll have no trouble at all finding your own private spot to soak up the sun. The beaches on the west side of the island are the quietest and are great to relax. We were advised not to swim on this side of the island, and the waves did indeed look a little choppy when we were out there. Unfortunately, Gili T isn’t the best island when it comes to swimming in the ocean, something that we were looking forward to doing.

The best swimming can be found in the northeast party of the island, although you will have to step on some sharp rocks and coral whilst getting into the water. A fun thing to do is grab some snorkelling gear and swim out around this part, there is plenty of sea life to look out for.

Gili T is famous for its turtles, although we weren’t lucky enough to spot one during our snorkelling missions.

For the best snorkelling, take a day trip out on a boat. There are plenty of tour agencies offering day trips where they will take you around to different spots. Gili T is also known as an affordable and safe place to get a PADI diving licence.

Final thoughts

Beach bonfires, a sea swing at sunset and inland homes

A great place to chill out for a few days. There is something for everyone here and is an excellent place to eat and party. The days will blur together and you won’t know where the time went, but you will come back feeling relaxed and recharged. Unless you’re nursing a viciously strong hangover.

Our next stop was South Bali. Uluwatu in particular, known for its amazing surf and hidden beaches.

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Ubud and Around: What to Do in 3 Days

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When picturing Bali, it’s easy to think about drunk Aussies partying in Kuta and Seminyak. We delayed visiting Bali for a long time due to this reputation, not to mention that whenever we had time to go it was often during Indonesia’s wet season. It’s a scary thought to be confined to a room while the rain belts down when you’re supposed to be out and about exploring.

However, we had always wanted to visit Ubud, the culture capital of Bali. The area is full of temples, galleries, museums and trendy restaurants and bars. It may not be the quaint, hippy hangout it once was (we are probably at least 20 years late to that party) but that feeling still lingers in certain corners.

Where to Stay

Entrance to our villa at Amora Villas, dining area on the resort and our private pool

When thinking about where to stay, it depends on what you want to get out of your trip here. The town centre is very built up, and you will have no trouble finding what you need. This convenience comes with a price though, that being major traffic congestion and lots of touts.

Finding a nice guesthouse or villa just outside of town is where you will find that sense of Bali magic. We stayed at Amora Ubud Villas and were very happy with our choice. The property is a couple of kilometres outside the town centre and you’ll get to enjoy complete silence in the evenings and awaken to beautiful views of the lush green landscapes around the property. Walking into town was amazing, as it sits towards the end of the Campuhan Ridge Walk. The property also offered a free shuttle service into town.

If you are staying for more than a few days you might want to consider renting a scooter, or at least staying a walkable distance to the city centre as you may feel stranded when the evening hits, and most of the great bars and restaurants are concentrated in the town centre.

Day 1: Getting Lost and Acquainted

Coffee options at Seniman Coffee Studio, view from Cafe Pomegranate and purple skies over rice terraces at sunset

Our flight had arrived the night before, and after a delicious (and much needed) breakfast served at our villa in the morning we set out into town for some essentials like a sim card and to get a lay of the land.

Seniman Coffee Studio + Sim Card

First things first though, we needed coffee. Finding a great coffee shop in any new town we visit is always of a high priority. Our resort dropped us off just outside Ubud Palace (The unofficial centre of town) and we were on our way. The Seniman Coffee Studio located in the town centre was a great first stop to experience the coffee culture here, ‘Seniman’ means artist, and it shows here as you can tell this studio takes their craft seriously. I went for the 3 coffee taster that included 2 cold brews and a single origin espresso.

After our caffeine boost we set out to find a sim card and inadvertently had a whirlwind tour of the centre as we just couldn’t find the mobile phone shop that was appearing quite clearly on Google Maps. We ended up buying 15gb of data for 200k each, we may have overpaid a bit, but we needed it quickly and it still worked out pretty cheap, plus the man at the shop set it up for us. This article by Travel Tom Tom breaks down the different telco companies nicely, we used Telkomsel and had no problems throughout most of our trip.

Pura Taman Saraswati

Pura Taman Saraswati is located a short stroll away from the Ubud Palace. This temple is devoted to Hindu Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of learning, literature and art. An appropriate Goddess considering the cultural significance of Ubud.

This temple is surrounded by a beautiful garden and lotus pond and boasts that unique Balinese architecture. It was one of the more picturesque temples we saw during our travels in Bali. Located next door Cafe Lotus, which has an outdoor seating area overlooking the temple gardens and would be a great place to people watch for a little while with a tea or smoothie.

Ubud Traditional Spa

After heading back to our villa we decided a massage was in order to fully immerse ourselves into travel (and relaxation) mode.

The Ubud Traditional Spa makes up for its lack of a creative name with it’s reasonable prices and amazing services. They offer a free pick up if you are staying in the Ubud area and from the moment you arrive you will feel incredibly relaxed and well taken care of. They prepared some lovely welcome drinks and you get a nice snack after your massage is finished.

We went for the 90 minute Balinese Traditional Massage. The 90 minutes flew by and I may have dosed off at one point from feeling so relaxed. It’s worth getting in contact with the more popular spas earlier in the day as they tend to book out quite quickly, so reserve a time to avoid disappointment.

Kajeng Rice Fields and Cafe Pomegranate

After our massages we felt recharged, although our calve muscles seemed to have been slightly shattered from it. We decided to head out to the Kajeng Rice Fields for a trek and find a nice base to watch the sunset and have dinner.

We walked around half of the Ubud Kajeng Rice Field Trek route in absolute awe of the scenery around us. It feels like you are entering another world once you get started. Surrounded by rice terraces and peace and quiet. It’s a nice opportunity to see a more authentic look at the local life here, as you see the Balinese people out doing their day to day activities. We were surprised that you could see this kind of thing within 20 minutes of leaving the town centre.

The area is only accessible with bikes or by walking, as the path is very narrow. Along the route you will find guesthouses, cafes, art shops and small convenience shops. This route is also home to the popular restaurants Cafe PomegranateSari Organik and Sweet Orange Warung.

We made it all the way to Joglo Organik where we stopped for a shake. The views from their upstairs seating area were phenomenal, and we had the place all to ourselves. The only sounds were the family’s laughter from downstairs and the animals living on the property.

Lastly, we stopped at Cafe Pomegranate for a delicious dinner. This restaurant was opened in 2012 by 2 Japanese brothers. One of them was an interior designer and it shows here, as the architecture of the building is it’s strongest aspect. Completely open to the elements with an excellent view and on clear days you can see the mountains ahead.

As the sun started to set, the atmosphere felt perfect, and walking back through the rice fields we were treated to a purple glow from the sunset that made the area look spectacular. A perfect way to finish our first day in Bali.

Day 2: Day Trip Around and About

Nungnung Waterfall, Mountain in the distance at Jatiluwih Rice Terraces and Tanah Lot

We didn’t have much of a plan for Bali outside the areas we were staying in and a few things here and there we wanted to try. We knew that the central location of Ubud relative to Bali would make a great base for exploring some of the sights that are far away from the main tourist hubs though, so we contacted Bali Ari Tours & Driver to ask them if it was possible to to fit our itinerary in for the day.

Despite a slightly later than expected start, we were on our way to see some waterfalls, temples, rice terraces and another temple (just in time for the sun set) with our driver Komang. We had a great time with Komang, he is a great driver and host to his country, giving us great insights into the local life and driving at a good pace.

Nungnung Waterfall

Nungnung waterfall is a 90 minute drive from Ubud and less touristy than some of the popular waterfalls closer to Ubud. When you arrive you have to walk down 300 steps to the base and pay a 10k ($1AUD) entrance fee per person.

The waterfall itself is breathtaking, and you can feel the cool mist from it as you reach the bottom of the steps. An amazingly refreshing feeling in the heat. You’ll be sharing this waterfall with only a few other people, as it’s off the beaten track. You can also go into the water for a swim and to get those perfect Instagram shots.

Ulun Danu Bratan Temple

Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, constructed in honour of Dewi Danu, the goddess of the lake that was formed by a volcanic eruption over 30,000 years ago. The main temple itself is fairly small, but the setting and surrounding mountains are stunning. It can get quite busy here, but the temple grounds are big so it never felt too crowded. Entrance fee is 30k ($3AUD).

Walking through the temple grounds I couldn’t help but notice how crisp and fresh the air was. There were quite a few people out on rented boats seeing the temple from a different angle which looked like it would have been fun.

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Next up was hiking through some of Bali’s best rice terraces, the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces. These terraces were simply beautiful, and was the highlight of the day for us. Around the area and in the distance you can see huge mountains and everything looks so green and natural! We were here in the middle of the day and were surprised at how few crowds there were. We walked along the laid out path and didn’t run into many other tourists. Entrance fee was 20k ($2AUD).

It becomes quite immersive as you begin your walk though, surrounded by the incredible landscape and walking past the farming houses. At a certain point all you can hear are the cows and tools at work and the subtle sounds of nature.

We had a slight scare towards the beginning of the walk however, as we saw a couple of young Indonesian kids hop on a scooter. We didn’t notice at first, but one of them had a very large rifle on their back. Likely returning from hunting or to fend off wildlife.

Tanah Lot

Our last stop for the day was the popular and magnificently picturesque seaside temple known as Tanah Lot Temple. After a long day of driving and sightseeing we weren’t quite as keen to go here. When we arrived we got our first glimpse into the ultra touristy side of Bali: Stalls selling beer singlets, Bali bogans and unsavoury propositions.

However, we were here, and wanted to make the most of it. After you journey through all of that nasty stuff you get to see the temples from a distance, which look great with that sea backdrop, especially with the sun setting behind them. The warm colours illuminating the temples and beach were lovely, and created this kind of haze that made you feel like you were in another world.

The best thing to do is to head down towards the larger temple on the beach (perhaps avoiding the blessing they offer unless you are into that kind of thing). From here you can walk along the rocky beach and at low tides you can see little sea critters scurrying around inside the holes from the rocks. There were groups of people surrounding a single tiny crab in absolute awe over it, which was entertaining to watch.

At the end of the beach you can find a nice rock to sit on and to enjoy a Bintang away from the crowds to watch the glorious sunset unfold. We think this is the best way to experience this Tanah Lot.

After 11 hours on and off the road for the day, we felt like we had really seen a lot, and loved every place we visited! The beauty of getting a private driver for the day is that you can pick and choose what you’d like to see, and it’s certainly worth listening to local tips.

Day 3: Cooking Class and Evening Strolls

Nungnung Waterfall, Mountain in the distance at Jatiluwih Rice Terraces and Tanah Lot

By this point in time we realised that we definitely would have appreciated a few more days in Ubud, as there is so much to do.

Paon Bali Cooking Class

We had booked a morning cooking class with Paon Bali Cooking Class when we first arrived. They offer free pick up if you’re staying in the Ubud area and the class begins with a tour of the local food market in the town centre.

Seeing and learning about all the different tropical fruits unique to Bali on display (and getting to try them) was good fun. An interesting part of the market tour was learning about the various types of herbs, spices and rices that’s used in Indonesian and Balinese cuisine. After walking through the market, our driver stopped by a rice field village where he talked about the rice farming process. The tours at the market and rice field were a great opportunity to ask questions about the ingredients, produce and food history.

We were given a refreshing lemon juice welcome drink upon arrival at the kitchen garden where we met our host, Puspa, who is very passionate about cooking and her culture. The kitchen is situated in an outdoor garden setting and all the fresh local ingredients were presented nicely on the counter ready for us to cook. Puspa briefly talked about the 9 recipes we were going to cook and provided substitutions for those with special dietary requirements.

The cooking was a hands-on experience shared with a partner and guided by Puspa and her family. The teaching aspect was carried out at a good pace and we learnt a lot about the Indonesian and Balinese culture, cuisine and cooking methods. The new food knowledge we gained definitely helped us with trying the local food for the rest of our trip.

Each of the 9 recipes cooked by all participants of the class was served in a large dish and presented on the counter like a buffet style. The food was of course delicious and very filling!

Afternoon Swim + Sunset Campuhan Ridge Walk

The best way to freshen up after being out in the hot Bali weather is by having a swim. Amora Ubud Villas had a communal pool that is surrounded by greenery making it feel more relaxing than it already is. It was the perfect way to freshen up and recharge with a cup of Balinese coffee.

As the sun started to set, we made our way into town by taking the Campuhan Ridge Walk, and it was the perfect lighting and timing to capture beautiful photos and moments of one of Ubud’s stunning natural sceneries.

We dropped by No Mas for a drink before dinner. We sat upstairs and first impressions were friendly service, cool interior design and great ambience. The cocktails didn’t disappoint either!

Our cooking class experience inspired us to try some local balinese cuisine for dinner and we stumbled across Warung Biahbiah. This local restaurant seemed to be quite popular for delicious local food at very reasonable prices. The menu offers some Indonesian classics and lot’s of small dishes too. We had Mi Goreng (Fried noodles with an egg on top), Nasi Goreng (Fried rice), chicken satay and a large Bintang to share.

Getting Here and Onward Travel

The best way to freshen up after being out in the hot Bali weather is by having a swim. Amora Ubud Villas had a communal pool that is surrounded by greenery making it feel more relaxing than it already is. It was the perfect way to freshen up and recharge with a cup of Balinese coffee.

As the sun started to set, we made our way into town by taking the Campuhan Ridge Walk, and it was the perfect lighting and timing to capture beautiful photos and moments of one of Ubud’s stunning natural sceneries.

We dropped by No Mas for a drink before dinner. We sat upstairs and first impressions were friendly service, cool interior design and great ambience. The cocktails didn’t disappoint either!

For dinner we stumbled across Warung Biahbiah. This local restaurant seemed to be quite popular for delicious local food at very reasonable prices. The menu offers some Indonesian classics and lot’s of small dishes too. We had Mi Goreng (Fried noodles with an egg on top), Nasi Goreng (Fried rice), chicken satay and a large Bintang to share.

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