It’s already been over a year since my first trip to Bali and I’m now getting round to writing a little guide to travelling this beautiful island (and those surrounding it). It was the first place I travelled to that gave me that real culture shock – different traditions, beliefs, food, way of life; and it completely enchanted me. Here’s where I went and why I think you should definitely fit these destinations into your trip if you’re lucky enough to go…
Kuta & Seminyak
You’ll probably fly into Denpasar airport and most people head to Kuta or Seminyak, around a 15 minute drive away. Kuta is the livelier district with lots of bars, clubs and those traditional Balinese food chains – McDonalds and Starbucks (yes, really). I stayed in Seminyak as this was quieter and a little further out from the nightlife and a bit closer to nicer beaches. I personally thought Kuta was where all the Australians went on holiday to eat burgers and get their hair braided for $2. Think Brits abroad in Benidorm and you’ll get the idea. So I only shopped in Kuta for one afternoon before retreating to my hotel in the much quieter and less overwhelming Seminyak.
Visit: Seminyak Beach – learn to surf or just sip some cocktails. Do a temple tour with your own driver, well worth the extra cash. Catch the sunset at Tanah Lot Temple on the rock – probably included in most temple tours! Waterbom water park in Kuta is so fun.
Eat & Drink: Potato Head Beach Club is very popular
Ubud is a cultural cornucopia of Bali with so much to do and makes a great base for some awesome activities. It still has a Starbucks (sigh) but the main street lies right next to some pretty beautiful temples and the Ubud Royal Palace. The traditional market is a real rabbit warren of wooden souvenirs, pretty garments and unusual jewellery (and plenty of tat don’t get me wrong) so is worth a look. I felt like Ubud showcased more of the ‘real Bali’ and there were fewer tourists here than Kuta and Seminyak, but it was still bustling and busy.
Visit: Mt Batur, do the sunrise trek – incredible views at the top of a volcano! Walk along the Campuhan Ridge trail. Feed the cheeky monkeys at the monkey forest.
Eat & Drink: Definitely try the local delicacy – Ibu Oka (translates to suckling pig) – we went to Babi Gulung after seeing fab recommendations online and it did not disappoint. It’s basically like hog roast but with an Indonesian twist, delicious.
I used Sanur as my pit stop before the islands of Lombok and Gili to just recharge, relax and prepare for lots more. This area is so much quieter and away from the tourism which is so welcome after the buzz of Kuta and Ubud. The homestay I stopped in was ridiculously cheap and the mother of the house made us banana pancakes in the morning (a staple on the breakfast menu at all Balinese homestays and hotels it seems – I wasn’t complaining at all). The beach was very peaceful and I just lied there eating coconut ice cream.
Visit: The beach to really unwind.
Eat & Drink: I had the best beef rendang at a tucked away Warung, explore and try new things! A cute health restaurant called Manik Organik on the main street served delicious lassies (yogurt drinks like smoothies).
This island is much more chilled and for the nature lovers. Plenty of hikes, sandy beaches and places to explore. I only stayed a couple of nights here in Senggigi before going to the Gili islands, so would love to go back for more.
Visit: Mount Rinjani is supposed to be a beautiful volcano trek.
Eat & Drink: Again, explore the little Warungs!
Gili Islands – Trawangan, Air and Meno
These little group of islands will always be on my list of destinations I want to keep visiting. I’ve been twice and it really is paradise. There are no cars, just horse and carts and you can bike around Trawangan, the biggest of the 3, in an hour or so. They say Gili T is the party island, Gili Air is the diving island and Gili Meno is the honeymoon island. Gili T has the most going on and is perfect for backpackers. Plenty of bars, dive schools and pretty beach spots to snorkel. The classic swing pictures have got to be taken here, and the sunsets are out of this world.
Visit: The swings near Ombak Sunset Hotel – one of the most famous spots for those sunset swing poses. I didn’t dive but you’ve got some really well rated places to choose from if that’s your bag.
Eat: I had the nicest dessert and ice cream near the Pearl Lounge from the ice cream bar attached to the restaurant – go go go! Also, Scallywags along the main strip do great food if you want some western dishes.
Uluwatu was my last stop during my first trip to Bali over a year ago. I had a couple of nights in a secluded resort in the hills where we got the hotel taxi down to Padang Padang beach which was stunning. If i had more time here I’d hire some scooters and go around the south of Bali at my own pace.
Visit/Eat & Drink: Single Fin bar near Pantai Uluwatu is another must visit spot for that ultimate sunset picture. Nice cocktails, yummy food. But get there EARLY to get a good spot.
I can’t express enough what a beautiful places Indonesia is, and I’ve only scratched the surface. If it’s not on your bucket list, it should be now! If you’ve been, I’d love to know your favourite spots.
With love and a longing for paradise…