This picturesque Indonesian island-province offers itineraries as plentiful as its awe-inspiring coastline. Find your pace, be it active or laid-back, for a getaway that transcends the ordinary.
BY PALLAVI MEHRA
It’s almost a given that a destination known as the ‘Island of the Gods’ is sure to be heaven on earth! The bohemian paradise of Bali whispers promises of indulgence and tranquillity in every verdant part of its land, and one is truly spoilt for choice when seeking hedonistic pleasures here. Adding to its gloriously green mise en scène are hues of cobalt, jade, cerulean, and azure—living it up to its reputation as a beach lover’s dream come true! From the trendy seaside bars and surfing waves of Kuta and stylish boutiques and hotels of Seminyak, to the health-focused bistros and yoga studios of Canggu, opulent resorts of Nusa Dua, and rice paddies and centuries-old temples of Ubud, the island is a bona fi de one-stop-shop for all kinds of vacations. Read on to know our recommendations for the ultimate Balinese adventure.
Shop Like a Local
The vibrant markets in this part of the world are a sensory overload in the best way possible. Think winding stalls, as far as the eye can see, overflowing with colourful batik sarongs, handwoven baskets, and delicate silver jewellery. If you were to choose a starting point for your shopping adventures, opt for the Ubud Art Market, in the heart of the town. Also known as Pasar Seni Ubud, it is a treasure trove of handmade Balinese accessories, including beautiful silk scarves and intricately carved wooden masks.
Alternatively, if you feel like going off the beaten path and discovering local favourites, check out Celuk, an under-the-radar crafts village, about a 20-minute drive from Ubud. Here, the air is thick with the scent of frankincense and exotic spices, while the very friendly artisans retail their merchandise with enthusiasm.
But beyond the handicrafts, there’s still more to fill your shopping bags. After all, a visit to Bali is incomplete without packing some local cacao for friends and family (and yourself!) back home. This flavourful treat is used by the locals in many spiritual ceremonies; they also include it in their diets because of its health benefits. So, go on and book a drool-worthy visit to a cacao farm to watch the Balinese process of its cultivation, indulge in tastings, and even try your hand at crafting your own chocolate! Bean-to-bar cacao makers such as Sacred Cacao, Junglegold Bali (the world’s first plant-based chocolate factory), and Mason Chocolates are known for single-origin bars and choco-delights seasoned with ginger, chilli, and other indigenous favourites. Now if that isn’t a mouth-watering reason to travel, we don’t know what is!
From one indulgence to the next! The food scene in Bali is a vivid tapestry woven from ancient traditions, inventive twists, and the abundance of the island’s fertile soil. From tropical fruits, fragrant spices, and local delicacies such as pisang goreng (fried bananas) to skewers of delicious satay grilled over smoky coals, spicy sambals, nasi goreng (fried rice), gado-gado (salad with peanut sauce), and hot bowls of mie goreng (fried noodles), the fare is a direct reflection of the region’s tropical vibe. And, quite possibly, the best places to sample these hyperlocal delicacies are warungs—family-run food stalls scattered around most markets.
If it’s a more diverse, international taste you crave, head to the many upscale eateries in the towns of Seminyak and Canggu. The very modern Kilo Kitchen Seminyak is perfect for delicious breakfasts from around the world, as well as tacos, burgers, and rice bowls, in an airy setting. SKOOL Kitchen and Ji at Bale Sutra 1706 tempt with panoramic sunset vistas and seafood made with fresh, local ingredients. The latter is a Japanese fine-dining eatery and cocktail bar housed in a 300-year-old Kangxi period temple. How’s that for a change of scene?
While restaurants on Bali’s southwest coast are all about the beach vibe, Ubud’s restaurants are a stunning celebration of its lush forests and sprawling rice terraces. Savour some organic, farm-to-table deliciousness at the jungle setting of Casa Luna, or sample beautifully plated renditions of regional Indonesian specialities at Nusantara by Locavore. The Instagram-worthy Tis Cafe in Ubud is an artistic bamboo outpost that offers panoramic views of the Tegallalang rice terraces, while Koral in Nusa Dua is an underwater aquarium-restaurant wherein guests can enjoy a meal surrounded by colourful tropical fish!
Dance the Night Away
And when the sun bids adieu to the day, the island’s nocturnal side shimmies in all its glory! Kuta and Seminyak are the hotspots most loved by revellers. A one-of-a-kind nightclub, La Favela in Seminyak charms with an ambience that blends Bali’s verdant forests with Rio de Janeiro’s bustling neighbourhoods. The live musical performances here add yet another layer of allure to the air. A crowd favourite, Rock Bar Bali in Jimbaran is a cliffside nightclub set atop dramatic rock formations along the southwest coast. For the ultimate nightlife playground, make your way to Canggu, where bars such as Finns Beach Club and La Brisa are known for their beachfront locations, award-winning international guest DJs, and fire dancers against a backdrop of crashing waves. If in Kuta, then Sky Garden, a multi-level nightclub with five entertainment complexes, is a must-visit!
However, Bali’s party scene isn’t all about EDM music and strobe lights. Ubud is perfect for a relaxed evening under the stars. Hidden gems like The Café Lotus host enchanting jazz and soul music concerts. While diverse, one thing’s common among all these spots: they ensure you lose yourself in the rhythm of pulsating beats and
If all these entertainment options hadn’t sealed the deal already, the island’s lush landscapes and crystal-clear waters beckon with an array of soulful experiences. Among the best ways to soak in the region’s surreal natural beauty is on a thrilling helicopter ride to view scenic locales like Mount Batur, Seminyak’s coast, Kelingking Beach, and more from up above. To immerse yourself further in the area’s unspoiled charms, escape to the tranquil Nusa Penida island aboard a private boat (available through tour agencies)—be sure to go snorkelling in the azure waters to encounter coral reefs teeming with marine life such as giant manta rays. The island is also home to a plethora of temples that are architectural masterpieces and proof of its ancient heritage. Tirta Empul, a Hindu water temple in Tampaksiring, is home to several holy springs that attract many devotees seeking purification baths. The painstakingly carved gates, statues, and serene pools make for a stunning visual. The Tanah Lot Temple in Tabanan and Uluwatu Temple in South Kuta are must-visits, as well.
And finally, it’s almost unthinkable to leave this paradise without sampling its renowned spa treatments. Ubud’s forest wellness retreats, such as the lovely Karsa and Taksu Spas, provide guests an opportunity to be one with nature. Here, al fresco pavilions set amidst towering trees and the symphony of birdsong create a haven for deep relaxation and restoration, proving to be the perfect climax to a mesmerising trip in this gorgeous enclave. That’s Bali for you—one island, many wonders!