Heads up: some of the links on this site are affiliate links. If you click and make a booking or purchase, I’ll make a commission (at no extra cost to you). I partner with companies I personally use and the $$ goes towards creating more awesome, free travel content.
Bali, the jewel of Indonesia, is one of the most popular islands to visit in Southeast Asia. First and foremost, it is known for its spectacular beach towns, such as Seminyak, Canggu and Nusa Dua, offering crystal-clear turquoise waters and a wide assortment of water sport activities. It’s also home to iconic rice terraces, located in Ubud that are a demonstration of Bali’s unique agrarian traditions. Bali boasts of majestic temples like Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, and Besakih widely visited for their remarkable architectural and cultural significance.
Additionally, its vibrant local markets and street food offer a rich culinary experience featuring local cuisines like Babi Guling, Nasi Campur, and traditional Balinese coffee.
Furthermore, Bali is famous for its distinct arts and crafts including painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, and traditional dance performances, most notably the Kecak dance. The island’s natural beauty extends to its exotic wildlife, represented in locations such as Bali Safari, and Marine Park and Ubud Monkey Forest.
Last but not least, the island’s spa and wellness retreats are also a major draw for tourists, particularly around Seminyak and Ubud. Overall, Bali is a rendezvous of natural beauty, rich culture, and vibrant lifestyle, giving every visitor a unique experience.
Let’s take a further look at why Bali is so popular.
Food and Drink Bali is Known For
Babi Guling is a traditional Balinese dish known for its rich flavors and exquisite preparation. It involves roasting a whole pig stuffed with herbs and spices over an open fire. The roasting process ensures a crisp, crackling skin on the outside, while the inside is tender and infused with a unique blend of flavors. Served with rice and vegetables, Babi Guling offers a complete, savory meal. It’s a culinary highlight not to be missed when visiting Bali.
Mie Goreng, an Indonesian favorite, is a deliciously satisfying dish enjoyed by many across Southeast Asia. This irresistible stir-fried noodle meal consists of egg noodles cooked with a blend of colorful vegetables, protein options like chicken, shrimp, or tofu, and a flavorful sauce made from soy sauce, garlic, and chili. Topped with a fried egg and garnished with crispy shallots and lime wedges, Mie Goreng packs a tasty punch, blending sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. Perfect for a casual meal or late-night snack, it’s a culinary experience you won’t want to miss.
Gado Gado, directly translated as “mix-mix”, is an Indonesian salad that’s both healthy and packed full of flavor. It typically combines boiled vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, tofu, and tempeh, all generously smothered in a delectable peanut sauce. The contrasting textures and the sauce’s rich, nutty taste create a unique and satisfying balance. Usually garnished with crispy fried shallots and prawn crackers, Gado Gado is a tasty combination of freshness and crunch, making it a delightful, go-to vegetarian meal in Indonesia.
Nasi Campur is a must-try dish while exploring Indonesian cuisine. It’s a colorful, customizable meal built around a base of fluffy, steamed rice surrounded by small portions of various dishes like meat, veggies, sambals, and even a boiled egg. Each Nasi Campur plate offers a world of flavors, textures, and colors, showcasing the best of Balinese culinary delights. It’s perfect for those who want an all-in-one meal, ensuring that every bite is brimming with a unique, mouthwatering combination. Don’t miss out on this scrumptious adventure!
Balinese coffee, locally known as ‘kopi’, is an integral part of the island’s daily rituals. Traditionally, the beans are robust, resulting in a brew that’s strong, thick and slightly sweet. Balinese coffee is often unfiltered, so the grounds settle at the bottom of the cup. The coffee culture reaches beyond classic brews, extending to exotic variants like Luwak coffee. In Bali, coffee is more than just a caffeine jolt – it’s a sensory exploration, a moment of respite, and a window into the culture and ancient traditions of this enchanting island.
Bintang Beer is Indonesia’s prized amber brew. This lager balances a smooth, malty body with a refreshing crispness, making it a go-to thirst quencher under Bali’s tropical sun. The light, golden color and mild hops lend Bintang Beer its approachable taste, while its bubbly charm makes it a perfect companion for spicy Indonesian food. As a ubiquitous feature in local bars and restaurants, Bintang is more than just beer—it’s an emblem of the relaxed, island life. So, when in Bali, do as the Balinese do – sit back, pop open a Bintang, and enjoy!
Satay Lilit is a Balinese spin on the popular Southeast Asian dish of skewered and grilled meats. It uses minced seafood, traditionally fish, blended with an aromatic mixture of spices, coconut, and coconut milk. This succulent mixture is then wound around bamboo, sugarcane or lemongrass sticks and grilled, giving it a unique, enticing flavor profile. The gentle sweetness of the coconut blends perfectly with the smoky, charred notes from the grill, creating a satisfying dish. Satay Lilit’s delicately spiced, fragrant bites will surely delight seafood and barbecue lovers alike.
Nothing tops a day in Jimbaran, Bali, like a beachfront seafood feast! Known for its cluster of seafood joints along the sandy shores, Jimbaran puts you right in front of the day’s freshest catch. Here, you can pick your favorite seafood—from gigantic lobsters to juicy prawns—and have it grilled over coconut husks for a smoky flavor. Pair your meal with a traditional sambal sauce, a cold beverage, and the mesmerizing sunset view. With toes in the sand and a delicious feast in front of you, dining in Jimbaran is certainly a memory you’ll want to reel in.
Places Bali is Known For
Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali, is renowned for its lush rice terraces, vibrant arts scene, and tranquil temples. It’s a haven for wellness enthusiasts, offering rejuvenating yoga retreats and traditional healing practices. Ubud’s bustling markets are brimming with handcrafted goods, while its meticulously-carved stone temples serve as a serene backdrop to the city’s charm. Ranging from wildlife encounters at Ubud Monkey Forest to captivating dance performances, this enchanting town offers a blend of culture, nature, and spirituality, making it an essential stop on any Balinese itinerary.
Seminyak, a stylish coastal enclave in Bali, is known for its trendy boutiques, chic cafes, and exhilarating nightlife. Laden with luxurious resorts and world-class restaurants, it caters to those seeking a vibrant, sophisticated experience. Its sun-drenched, sandy beaches are the perfect setting for leisurely sunbathing during the day or catching magnificent sunsets in the evening. Seminyak’s vibrant beach clubs and lively bars offer an unforgettable party vibe. Combining the best of convenience, style, and seafront splendor, Seminyak is the epitome of Bali’s modern, upscale charm.
Canggu, a coastal village in Bali, has transformed into a hip surfers’ paradise, buzzing with creative energy. It’s renowned for its world-class surf breaks, rustic beach shacks, and vibrant street art. Amid sprawling rice fields, the town offers a harmonious blend of local culture and international influence, evident in its eclectic food scene. From avant-garde cafes to yoga studios, Canggu has become a haven for digital nomads seeking a serene getaway. Offering a medley of relaxed beach vibes and bohemian lifestyle, Canggu is a distinct gem of Bali’s south coast.
Dramatically perched on a towering cliff on Bali’s southernmost tip, Uluwatu is a captivating blend of natural beauty and ancient culture. Famous for its iconic sea temple, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, it offers breathtaking ocean views and stunning sunsets. Uluwatu’s steep cliffs and deep blue waters attract surfers from around the globe to its world-class breaks. As night falls, the cultural Kecak fire dance performance on the temple grounds enchants visitors. With its tranquil beaches, heritage sites, and rich cultural experiences, Uluwatu unfolds Bali’s enigmatic allure and tranquil appeal.
Nusa Penida, the largest of three Nusa Islands off Bali’s southeastern coast, is a paradise of natural wonders. Famous for the cliff-framed Kelingking Beach and its crystalline waters, the island offers unrivaled snorkeling and diving spots. Its nearly untouched landscapes, vibrant marine life, and serene beaches remain largely unspoiled by mass tourism. Dramatically rugged coastlines, hidden waterfalls, and fascinating cultural sites contribute to Nusa Penida’s allure. Its tranquil atmosphere provides a distinct contrast to Bali’s bustling tourist hotspots, offering an escape into nature’s captivating beauty.
Jimbaran, a serene fishing village in Bali, is highly regarded for its majestic sunsets and world-class seafood dining. The calm bay, dotted with traditional fishing boats, epitomizes a laid-back seaside charm. Jimbaran’s sparkling sandy beaches invite leisurely strolls, while the vibrant fish market offers a glimpse into the local culture. The region’s luxury resorts serve as tranquil hideaways. As night falls, candle-lit beachfront seafood restaurants provide a unique dining experience, complete with fresh catch and mesmerizing views. Jimbaran seamlessly blends simplicity with luxury, creating a distinctive Balinese experience.
Kuta, once a quiet fishing village, now stands as Bali’s most famous (and controversial) tourist destination. Known for its long sandy beach and pulsating nightlife, Kuta is often brimming with young travelers seeking fun and frolic.
It’s built up a bit of a reputation for being dirty and loud, so it’s not for everyone. We’d definitely recommend you stay in Seminyak or Canggu over Kuta. However, if you’re traveling on a budget and looking for cheap accommodation, affordable meals and plenty of stuff going on at night, Kuta definitely has all of those things. Kuta’s bustling streets are lined with numerous shops, restaurants, and bars offering an animated nightlife experience.
Amed, a tranquil seaside town in East Bali, is famed for its spectacular dive sites, including the historic USAT Liberty Shipwreck. The region sports black volcanic sand beaches with calm water and a serene atmosphere that entices relaxation. Amed’s coastline, dotted with traditional Balinese fishing boats, presents a picturesque vista. Its unhurried pace of life contrasts starkly with Bali’s busier regions and is a magnetic draw for those seeking tranquility. Offering an authentic immersion in Balinese culture and stunning underwater adventures, Amed is a unique and seductive corner of Bali.
Landmarks and Attractions Bali is Known For
Bali’s beaches characterize the island’s diverse charm, spanning from serene lagoons to lively surf paradises. Bali’s south offers lively beach towns like Kuta and Seminyak, known for their vibrant beach clubs and surf scenes. The east coast features tranquil spots like Amed with black sand and prime dive sites. Uluwatu’s coastline mesmerizes with cliff-framed beaches and world-class surf breaks. Nusa Penida stuns visitors with untouched beauty characterized by azure waters and dramatic cliffs. Jimbaran entices with seafood feasts on the sand, while Canggu’s beach vibe channels bohemian spirit. Bali’s beaches cater to every taste and mood, offering a diverse seaside experience.
Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s most iconic landmarks, is a centuries-old sea temple perched atop a rock formation off the island’s southwestern coast. Renowned for its unique offshore setting and stunning sunsets, Tanah Lot presents an enchanting silhouette against the vibrant sky. The temple symbolizes Bali’s rich cultural and spiritual heritage. Surrounded by crashing waves and accessible during low tide, Tanah Lot offers an unparalleled experience of Balinese mysticism. Despite being highly frequented, its tranquil ambience and extraordinary vistas make each visit a memorable moment in the island’s tapestry.
Perched precariously on a steep cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, Uluwatu Temple, or Pura Luhur Uluwatu, is one of the key directional temples in Bali. This ancient Hindu temple is famed for its magnificent location which offers breathtaking sunsets and panoramic ocean views. As a spiritual pillar of the island, Uluwatu Temple embodies tranquility and harmony. The temple grounds also host the traditional Kecak fire dance performances regularly, providing visitors a glimpse into Balinese culture against an enchanting seascape. Uluwatu Temple thus offers an immersive experience of natural beauty intertwined with cultural richness.
Besakih Temple, known as Bali’s Mother Temple, is a sacred, sprawling complex nestled on the slopes of Mount Agung. As the island’s largest and holiest temple, Besakih symbolizes unity among Bali’s different regencies and castes. Made up of 23 separate temples, this architectural marvel features stunning terraces, intricate stone carvings, and expansive courtyards. Visitors can admire the breathtaking beauty, absorb the spiritual ambiance, and participate in rituals and ceremonies. With thousands of years of history and an awe-inspiring setting, Besakih Temple is a must-visit destination that offers a taste of Bali’s rich cultural and religious heritage.
Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest, officially known as Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, is a lively green oasis in the heart of Ubud, Bali. Home to over 700 cheeky-but-friendly long-tailed macaques, this forest offers visitors a unique chance to observe these animals in their natural habitat. Wander through the shaded pathways, explore ancient temples, or watch playful monkeys swinging from tree to tree. While their antics keep visitors entertained, remember to respect their space, and don’t keep any loose belongings! With a blend of lush nature, wildlife, and spirituality, Ubud Monkey Forest presents a memorable Balinese experience.
Mount Batur, an active volcano in Bali, is a popular destination for those seeking adventure and stunning views. Known for its sunrise treks, hikers start their journey pre-dawn, reaching the summit just in time to witness a breathtaking sunrise over the island. Amidst the pink and orange hues of the morning sky, you can witness the expanse of Lake Batur below and the majestic Mount Agung in the distance. Despite the challenging trek, the rewarding panoramic views of Bali from Mount Batur make the journey worthwhile for any adventure enthusiast and nature lover.
Bali Safari and Marine Park
Bali Safari and Marine Park is an enthralling animal-themed park that promises a fun-filled day for families and wildlife enthusiasts. Home to over 100 species from around the world, the park takes pride in its immersive and educational experiences. Hop on a safari bus to observe animals roaming freely, or catch exciting shows like the Elephant Show or Tiger Show. A highlight is the marine park, featuring fascinating aquatic creatures. Whether getting up close with orangutans, watching sharks glide in the aquarium, or spotting rare birds, the park provides an engaging and intriguing snapshot of the animal kingdom.
History, Culture and Other Things Bali is Known For
Hindu culture permeates every aspect of life in Bali, lending the island its unique “Island of God” identity. The Balinese Hinduism is unique, intertwining elements of Buddhism, Animism, and ancestral worship. The island is dotted with thousands of intricately adorned temples, like the renowned Uluwatu and Tanah Lot. Daily life in Bali includes regular rituals and offerings, such as Canang Sari, symbolizing gratitude to the divine. Festivals like Galungan and Nyepi showcase traditional dances, processions, and communal celebrations. Balinese Hindu culture, with its focus on spirituality, harmony with nature, and social cohesion, enriches the island’s charm and appeal.
Bali’s vibrant festivals are profound expressions of its rich cultural tapestry. Major celebrations like Galungan mark the victory of good over evil and feature a riot of colorful processions, temple ceremonies, and feasts. Ngaben, the unique funeral rite, reflects the Balinese philosophy of rebirth. Meanwhile, Nyepi, the Day of Silence, offers a contrast with its 24 hours of quietness and introspection. The Bali Arts Festival, a month-long summer extravaganza, showcases traditional Balinese dance, music, and crafts. These festivals, steeped in centuries-old traditions and spirituality, provide fascinating insights into the societal norms, spiritual values, and cultural heritage that shape the island’s identity.
Temples in Bali, locally known as “puras,” are sacred spaces that beautifully showcase the island’s deep spirituality and architectural prowess. Scattered across diverse landscapes, these temples reflect the harmonious relationship between Balinese culture and nature. Besakih, the mother temple, stands majestically on Mount Agung, while Uluwatu perches atop a limestone cliff overlooking the sea. Tanah Lot captivates with its offshore setting, and Ulun Danu Beratan graces the shores of Lake Beratan. These ancient and intricate sites host rituals, festivals, and traditional performances, offering visitors a glimpse of Bali’s well-preserved heritage and steadfast commitment to its customs.
Bali’s dramatic landscape is dotted with majestic volcanoes that attract adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike. Mount Agung, the island’s highest peak and revered as a sacred place, offers a demanding but rewarding trek. Viewpoints around the mountain also provide stunning vistas for those interested in leisurely sightseeing. Mount Batur, in contrast, is famous for its relatively easy hike and magical sunrise views. An active geothermal area, it’s surrounded by a beautiful caldera lake. Besides trekking, these volcanic regions also offer opportunities for mountain biking and photography, making Bali’s volcanoes an integral part of the island’s alluring charm.
Green Rice Fields
Bali’s verdant rice terraces punctuate its landscape, symbolizing the island’s agricultural heritage whilst offering scenic tranquility. The UNESCO-recognized terraces, like Tegalalang and Jatiluwih, present a mystical sight of neat, multi-tiered paddies sweeping across valleys. Traditional Balinese irrigation system, Subak, aids the cultivation of these lush landscapes. The terraces, shimmering in different shades of green, are artistic renditions of nature and human workmanship. They provide serene walking paths, stunning photo spots, and a deeper understanding of Bali’s rural life and age-old agricultural practice. Bali’s rice fields are not just cultivation grounds, but are reflections of the island’s intricate tapestry of culture and nature.
Canang sari, an essential element of Balinese culture, is a daily offering made by locals to express gratitude to the divine. These handmade flower-filled palm leaf trays adorned with incense and symbolic items are meticulously crafted by the Balinese. Placed in temples, homes, businesses, or shrines, canang sari serve as an act of devotion and spiritual connection. The aromatic incense and vivid colors emanate a sense of calm, symbolizing harmony in daily life. As a cornerstone of Balinese daily life, canang sari offers a valuable insight into the island’s values of gratitude, harmony, and the richness of its cultural heritage.
Bali’s beach clubs are the ultimate tropical hangout spots where you can kick back, soak up the sun, and party with friends. With cool vibes, comfy loungers, oceanfront infinity pools, and fab cocktails, these clubs make your time in Bali extra special. Trendy beach clubs in Seminyak like Potato Head and KU DE TA wow you with awesome views, yummy eats, and fun-filled events. From laid-back weekend brunches to grooving to live DJ sets during sunset, Bali’s beach clubs are all about living the good life. So, come on in, make new friends, and enjoy Bali’s lively beach scene on your own terms!
Swings in Bali are a thrilling way to soak up the island’s natural beauty. Set amidst lush landscapes, these swings often overlook verdant rice fields, rivers, or jungle vistas, giving you unobstructed views as you sail through the air. Some popular ones include the Bali Swing, surrounded by endless green, and the Wanagiri Hidden Hills swings with their breathtaking lake views. The exhilaration of swinging through open space coupled with the picturesque surroundings is not only an adrenaline rush but also a perfect photogenic moment. Bali’s swings are an adventurous and joyous addition to the island’s diverse attractions.
Co-Working Spaces and Digital Nomads
Bali, with its tropical allure and stellar internet connectivity, has become a hotspot for digital nomads seeking a work-life balance. As this culture flourishes, co-working spaces are booming on the island, offering lively, creative environments, and a sense of community. Outposts like Hubud and Dojo provide modern facilities and host events that foster networking among remote workers. Balinese co-working spaces not only cater to the needs of freelancers and entrepreneurs with regards to workspace and resources, but also blend seamlessly with the island’s laid-back charm, making work feel like a part of an extended, enjoyable vacation.
Think about waking up to blue waves lapping gently underneath your room, or diving straight into the water from your private deck. In Bali, this dream escape is a reality with water villas. These over-the-water havens offer you the best seats in the house to Bali’s stunning natural beauty, from dramatic sunrises to romantic sunsets. Rounded off with traditional touches and modern amenities for comfortable living, these villas perfectly blend luxury with nature. So, if you fancy living like a star or simply seeking a serene retreat, Bali’s water villas make your island getaway just that bit more magical.
Bali is a surfer’s paradise, boasting some of the world’s best surf spots. Its extensive coastline offers a wide range of waves suitable for beginners and advanced surfers alike. Iconic spots such as Uluwatu and Padang Padang produce powerful swells that attract pros, while Kuta and Legian are ideal for beginners, featuring gentle waves and surf schools. Bali’s year-round warm temperature, coupled with its stunning landscapes, ensures a sublime surfing experience. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer chasing the perfect wave or a novice aiming to stand on the board, Bali’s diverse surf breaks cater to every adventurous spirit.
Balinese dances are a compelling display of the island’s vibrant culture, providing a window into its myths, religious beliefs, and social fabric. These intricate dances are performed at temples, festivals, and community events, often telling stories from Hindu epics. The Kecak or ‘monkey dance,’ famous for its entrancing rhythms and dramatic storyline, is particularly captivating, while Legong reflects the key role of celestial beings in Balinese mythology. Other dances like the lively Barong enact the eternal fight between good and evil. Rich in symbolism and animated by expressive gestures, Balinese dances are an essential and enchanting part of the island’s cultural heart.