Bali is the quintessential island paradise that dreams are made of. Known as the Island of the gods, it is easily one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Bali is one of the 17,500 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and part of the Coral Triangle, which is home to the highest diversity of marine species in the world. Meaning, its azure waters are filled with incredible coral reefs and marine life. The incomparable beauty of Bali does not stop on its white sands and rolling surf. The island is filled with wild jungles, waterfalls, rice terraces, temples, caves, palaces, and active volcanoes. There are said to be more than 20,000 ancient Hindu temples throughout the island, and visiting some of these standouts is often the highlight of a visitor’s trip.
For the adventurous travelers, Bali is a surfer’s paradise, has great muck and wreck diving, and even offers the chance to sail through the jungle like Tarzan. Not surprisingly so, Bali is home to some excellent seafood. After a fun day of surfing, what better way to end the day than with some fresh fish, a Bintang beer, and a pink sunset on the beach, right? Bali is a predominantly Hindu culture. As such, yoga is an important part of the culture. The island offers an abundance of yoga opportunities ranging across all experience levels. So, whether you are a surfer, yogi, photographer, or simply in need of some R&R, Bali is the perfect destination. From ancient temples to coral reef formations, here are the 20 most impressive places to visit in Bali.
20 Tanah Lot Temple
Tanah Lot Temple exemplifies the romantic beauty of the island of Bali. This ancient Hindu shrine is perched atop a large and scenic rock formation out in the open ocean. Over the years, the sea has separated the rock from the mainland, and at high tide, the rock is completely on its own, resembling a stone ship out at sea. When the tide is low, it is possible to traverse the sand over to the temple and see it up close. The site is known for its magnificent sunset backdrops, and throngs of people flock to Tanah Lot daily to see them. So, be sure to arrive early to save a good spot. The onshore site is speckled with smaller shrines, as well as many shops, stalls, and restaurants where you can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. With the sound of waves peacefully crashing on the shore and the tropical sun setting behind this ancient shrine, Tanah Lot Temple is a place you will definitely treasure.
19 Sekumpul Waterfall
Bali is known for its abundance of stunning waterfalls. And Sekumpul Waterfall is perhaps the most beautiful of all. As one of Bali’s most scenic natural attractions,
the waterfall is a collection of six to seven tall and misty cascades that run through the center of a lush valley.
The tranquil spot is one of Bali’s sacred locations. You can choose from several guided tours or hike the trail yourself. From the namesake village of Sekumpul, which is located in the upland region of the Buleleng regency in North Bali, there is a nature trek that you can follow. Hikers who make their way to this incredible location will find pristine waters, green jungles, thundering falls, and impressive vistas. The day includes some truly trying climbs, so be sure to cool yourself off by swimming in the pools beneath the cascades. Trekking to Sekumpul Waterfall is both a rewarding and unforgettable experience.
18 Mount Batur
For those looking for adventure in Bali, Mount Batur should be at the top of your list. This active volcano is located in Kintamani District of the island and soars up to 5,633 feet above sea level. Hikers will enjoy climbing this volcano and be rewarded atop with stunning views of the crater and beautiful Lake Batur. Compared with other mountains in Bali, this is one of the easier treks, so you don’t have to be in incredible shape to reach this highpoint. A popular way to hike Mount Batur starts with an incredibly early wake-up call. The trek usually begins around 4am, in the still-dark early hours of the morning, with hikers summiting in time to watch the sunrise over nearby volcanoes, Mount Agung and Mount Agang. Watching the sky slowly fill with light and life perched on this sacred mountain is a moment you will cherish.
17 Goa Gajah
Searching for the fountain of youth? Then you may want to check out Goa Gajah, a cave complex located approximately two kilometers southeast of Ubud. While Goa Gajah translates to “Elephant Cave,” the name can be misleading. Although there were never any elephants in ancient Bali, the site likely takes its name from the nearby Petanu River (at one time known as Elephant River) or because the face over the cave may resemble an elephant.
Goa Gajah was built as a spiritual place for meditation and is believed to date back to the 11th century.
The cave is best known for six statues of women carrying water pots. These water pots are also fountains, and it is believed that drinking the water from these pots brings healing properties and that you will look young for years to come. From Goa Gajah, you can descend down through rice paddies to Sungai Petanu. Here you’ll find ancient rock carvings of stupas and another small cave.
16 Pura Luhur Uluwatu
Pura Luhur Uluwatu is a legendary Balinese sea temple in Bali and is one of the nine directional temples on the island, meant to protect it from evil spirits. This incredible temple, located in the island’s western shores, is quite picturesque, perched at the edge of a rock above the crashing surf. Visitors can enter the temple through two entrances that are split gates with leaves and flower carvings. In front of each of them are a few Ganesha sculptures. Behind the main shrine lies a Brahmin stature facing the Indian Ocean.
The temple is also known for its monkey population that are believed to guard the temple from bad influences,
as well as elaborate shows featuring Balinese dancers. While this temple is a spectacular spot for sunsets, you may also want to consider visiting in the soft morning light, before the swarms of tourists arrive.
15 Elephant Safari Park
Set amidst a lush jungle and botanical gardens, the Elephant Safari Park gives you the opportunity to spend some quality time with Bali’s gentlest of giants. Home to Bali’s largest herd of approximately 30 Sumatran elephants, here you’ll be given the chance to hand-feed, touch, take photos with, or simply observe these beautiful creatures in their thriving habitat. The Park is run by the Mason Elephant Park & Lodge, which opened in 1997, and has garnered a world-renowned reputation as the gold standard by which all elephants in captivity should be cared for. This award-winning park is set in 3.5 hectares in the misty hinterlands of Taro. During their stay, while interacting with the elephants, visitors also learn a great deal about these majestic creatures, going home with a new sense of awe and appreciation for these beautiful giants and their caretakers.
14 Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Verdant terraced hills dotted with palm trees is one of the most illustrative images associated with Bali. Tegalalang Rice Terraces in Ubud is where you can find this stunning landscape and traverse within what feels like a postcard. The site is famous for its panoramic scenes of rice paddies using the traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system known as “subak.” Tradition has it that this brilliant system was passed down by a revered holy man by the name of Rsi Markandeya in the eighth century. The Tegalalang Rice Terraces are truly the most stunning rice terraces in the area, with a scenic outlook that offers sweeping views across and down the valley. Be sure to take a stroll through the terraces and fully immerse yourself in the landscape.
13 Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is one of the most tranquil places in Bali. At 1,500 meters above sea level, in the highlands of the mountainous Bedugul region, the air is cool and refreshing with an occasional soft breeze sweeping across Lake Bratan. A thin layer of mist adds a bit of mystique to the Shaivite water temple, located on the shores of the lake. Built in 1633, this ornate temple was constructed in adoration of the goddess of the lake, Goddess Danu which, in Balinese, translates to “lake.”
The temple complex is comprised of four sacred buildings, each one dedicated to a different god and each one uniquely beautiful in its own right.
The elaborate detail and architectural touches throughout the temples are truly something to behold. When visiting this ancient site, one can’t help but be touched by the peace and serenity around them.
12 Dolphins In Lovina
For many, riding alongside a pod of dolphins in the crystal clear Balinese waters is the highlight of their trip. And rightfully so! Dolphin watching tours are the main nature attraction in the quiet coastal town of Lovina Beach. Known for its unique black sand due to volcanic ash and high mineral content, Lovina Beach may not be the ideal beach for sunbathing, but it is perfect for spotting dolphin pods enjoying its calm waters. An early morning boat ride will give you the best opportunity to see your aquatic friends up close, and rising early to see these elegant creatures in their natural habit is absolutely worth it.
11 Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest is a Hindu temple complex and natural forest sanctuary that is home to over 600 grey long-tailed macaques. This dense swath of jungle, officially called Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana, has three holy temples dating back to the 14th century. In addition to feeding the monkeys bananas and watching them swing through the canopies,
you can also take a relaxing walk through the 12.5 hectares of forest, featuring 186 species of trees.
Along your trek, you can find the exquisite ancient temples that play an important role in the spiritual life of the local community even to this day. Ubud Monkey Forest lies in the village of Padangtegal, and the residents view it as an important spiritual, educational, economic, and conservation center for the village.
10 Sanur Beach
If you’re looking for a relaxed coastal ambiance, Sanur Beach is the spot for you. It is located on the eastern side of the island’s isthmus and offers a nice mix of restaurants, bars, and places to stay, without the more frenzied aspects of the west coast’s Kuta Beach. The area has done a great job of maintaining its original fishing village charm and exudes a laid-back vibe. Brightly-painted outrigger boats are sprinkled along the coastline, happily floating in the pristine waters. While there are no waves here, Sanur does offer a variety of water sports, such as paragliding, kite surfing, and stand-up paddle boarding.
9 Mount Agung
Mount Agung, also known as the abode of the Hindu gods, is Bali’s most sacred mountain. This active volcano, soaring 10,400 feet into the sky, gained much notice when it erupted this past November. With a red glow visible at the summit, lava pouring down the slopes and ash columns jetting into the sky, witnessing this rare natural phenomenon must have been surreal for those present at the time. With Mount Agung being
the highest point in Bali, it is visible for many locations and provides an abundance of photo opportunities from different vantage points.
Perhaps the most dramatic view is from Pura Lempuyang. The temple structure, resembling a gate, perfectly frames the volcano. Erupting or not, Mount Agung is an incredible sight.
8 Pura Goa Lawah
Pura Goa Lawah, also known as the bat cave, is home to thousands of bats. Depending on how you feel about bats, seeing the cave walls pulsing with thousands of bats can either be exhilarating or terrifying.
According to legend, the dark recesses of the cave are also home to a river of healing waters and a giant snake king known as Vasuki.
The temple is believed to date back to 1007 and, to this day, is still a site that receives daily prayers. It is one of the nine sacred directional temples in Bali and serves mainly as a guardian to protect against dark spirits from the ocean. A Yearly festival is also held at Pura Goa Lawah, where worshipers from all over the island gather to pray at the mouth of this mysterious bat cave.
7 Bali Bird Park
Bali Bird Park makes for a fun day trip for the whole family. This unique and educational experience allows you to experience more than 1,000 birds and 250 species in a beautiful setting. Arriving on Bali’s ecotourism scene over 20 years ago, the Bali Bird Park continues to grow in popularity. Strolling through the two hectares of well-kept tropical gardens, visitors encounter exotic birds from all over the Indonesian archipelago and elsewhere in the world. This rare opportunity to get so close to these beautiful creatures in their recreated natural habitats is a memorable experience. When you complete your walk, stop off at the park’s open-air restaurant and enjoy a local dish.
6 Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan is a small island of the southeast coast of mainland Bali that has started to gain popularity over the past decade. Once a remote destination known to surfers alone, the beautiful beaches, surf breaks, and stunning sunsets have drawn visitors of all varieties.
With some of the clearest water in the world, Nusa Lembongan is a dreamland for diving and snorkeling.
With secluded beaches, seaweed farms, rocky coastlines, mangrove forests, and Mount Agung looming in the distance, Nusa Lembongan’s natural beauty is unrivaled. One of the most unique locations on the island is a spot called Devil’s Tears. The outcrop sucks in ocean water before letting it burst out with a loud boom, producing the tears of the devil.
5 Gunung Kawi Temple
Gunung Kawi Temple is an ancient rock temple in central Bali that is one of Bali’s oldest and largest ancient monuments. It lies at the bottom of a thriving green river valley running through the little town of Tampaksiring just northeast of Ubud. The temple consists of ten candis (or shrine reliefs) cut out of the rock face. Besides being one of the most sacred places in Bali, Gunung Kawi Temple is perhaps the most spectacularly unique archaeological site on the island. Meandering through streams, fountains, lush paddy terraces, temples, and monuments, you feel transported back in time and you feel enveloped in a world of ancient grandeur. While exploring this site, be prepared for long climbs, with about 270 steps and long walkways.
One of Bali’s most impressive places is actually found underwater.
Snorkeling in Amed, home to beautiful undisturbed reefs and incredibly diverse marine life, is some of the best in the world.
This quaint village is clustered around a single road that circles the sheltered Jemeluk Bay. You’ll find it to be a remote area where the locals are friendly, the coral formations are gorgeous, and the fish are colorful. Yellow damselfish, parrot fish, snappers, emperor angelfish, green chromis, lined surgeonfish, and white-spotted boxfish are some of the species you will most likely come across during your outing. Several restaurants are settled directly on the beach, making for a good spot to chat about your underwater discoveries with friends at the end of the day.
3 Tirta Empul
Located in the village of Manukaya just outside of Ubud, Tirta Empul is one of the largest and busiest water temples in Indonesia. It is an important temple complex and holy mountain spring that was founded in 926 A.D. This natural heritage site serves as the setting for a traditional legend about good versus evil and holds much meaning for the Balinese people. The name of the temple means “holy water spring” in Balinese and is dedicated to the Hindu God of water, Vishnu. Tirta Empul is comprised of a number of purification pools which are filled by fountains. These waters are believed to be sacred and are opened for all to swim in. The spring feeds a number of fish ponds, pools, and baths surrounding the perimeter, before depositing into the Pakerisan River. The presidential palace, Istana Tampaksiring, is a another prominent site and sits atop the hill here.
Sidemen is one of those authentic hidden-away Bali retreats that has managed to stay off the radar for most travelers. It has magnificent terraced hills that seem that much more majestic without the crowds found at more popular sites like Tegalalang. Here too,
you are able to connect more with traditional village life and truly escape the buzz of other parts of the island.
The cool climate is ideal for trekking the surrounding area to check out the patchwork of green rice paddies, hidden waterfalls, and incredible vantage points of the surrounding landscape. Rice is the primary crop grown in these parts, but you will occasionally come across peanuts, corn, tapioca, chilies, and flowers that are used for offerings. If you are looking for some quiet alone time to journal or zen out, Sidemen is the location for you.
1 Menjangan Island
Located just off the northwest coast of Bali sits a small island by the name of Menjangan Island, also known as “Deer Island.” Although it can take a while to get there, the Menjangan National Marine Park is well worth it. The island is situated amongst incredible coral reef gardens with a diverse and unique ecology, making it a top destination for divers and snorkelers. In addition to the marine life,
the island is home to various species of shorebirds visiting the island and you can often spot deer bathing on the secluded beaches.
While trekking around Menjangan Island, you may even come across turtles, crabs, and rays. This island is a real escape into nature and is certainly a hidden gem that is worth exploring.