Few places in Southeast Asia polarize travellers more than Bali. Those who love Bali dream of its misty Hindu temples, rice terraces and sandy beaches with an almost unhealthy obsessiveness; those who don’t, will do anything they can to convince there are “better,” more off-the-beaten-path places just around the corner. Either way, when planning out what to do in Bali, you’re up for a challenge.
You don’t need to experience an eat-pray-love-style spiritual awakening to fall in love with Indonesia’s most enigmatic island; you just need to know where to go—and more importantly—where not to go.
Get the low down on planning the vacation of your dreams in Bali with this quick-and-easy 10-day Bali itinerary for independent travellers.
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Need help figuring out what to do in Bali? Start planning with this 10-day Bali itinerary.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I fall deeply into the life-could-always-use-more-Bali crowd. That’s not to say I enjoyed every minute.
I should warn you: most of what you’ve heard about Bali is probably true. Good and bad.
There are few words to describe the feeling of staring upon a rice paddy climbing into the rainforest to tune of howling of monkeys or the first time you spot an ancient temple piercing through a misty lake.
Bali’s less pleasant side seems a little easier to explain, usually with choice words that would once have triggered a thorough mouth-washing with soap. I’d be lying if I said the aggressive touts, the traffic, the motorcycle exhaust or endless stream of drunken Aussies don’t sully the experience. But that doesn’t mean it needs to define it.
This 10-day Bali itinerary won’t be the perfect fit for everyone. It’s written with the mid-range to luxury traveller traveller in mind, those who don’t mind spending a little extra to get away from the budget accommodation bubbles that put Bali’s most irritating tourism flaws front and centre.
You’ll notice one glaring admission: Kuta. When you hear Bali horror stories, no doubt it starts right here.
Kuta is the island’s most developed and most popular destination, thanks no doubt to its Indian Ocean surf. But I can say, comfortably, that it’s also a truly horrendous place for anyone more than a couple years past puberty.
Part of the charm of Bali is the chance to relax. You just can’t do it in Kuta. At all. Skip it, and I promise you won’t miss a thing.
How to use this Bali itinerary
I’ll warn that this Bali itinerary might push towards the edge of travelling too quickly. In most 10-day itineraries I’ve avoided travelling between destinations too often, usually leaving 3-4 days for each destination with day trips thrown in. I made a bit of an exception here.
Bali is a relatively small and compact island. Even with the sometimes horrendous traffic, getting around Bali isn’t overly difficult. Travel times between destinations are relatively short. Hardly the mind-and-body-draining exercise of, let’s say, travelling across Java!
With this itinerary, I wanted to provide a truly diverse and sweeping view of Bali—at least as much as is possible in such a short time.
If you have more time, I’d recommend slowing down. Rather than adding more Balinese destinations to the itinerary, stay longer in each. Make use of the island’s small stature to launch day trips from places like Ubud or Lovina to explore the different regions more deeply.
Although it’s only 15 minutes north, Seminyak feels worlds apart from the debauchery of Kuta or even Legian. Seminyak is the most mature among the popular west coast beach trifecta, specializing in more luxurious digs that leave the party-going backpacker crowd clawing for accommodations further south.
What results in Seminyak is a more subdued experience than Kuta. That’s not to say that Seminyak is the poster child for the quiet charms of Bali. There’s still a tad bit of crazy here—if that’s what you’re looking for!
Spend at least 2 days in Seminyak to acclimatize yourself to Bali before moving on to the island’s more spiritually uplifting and quieter corners.
What to Do in Seminyak
I wouldn’t visit Seminyak with the expectation of a couple activity-packed days. Unlike elsewhere in Bali, your best moments in Seminyak won’t be digging for cultural attractions.
Simply enjoying the finer pleasures in life like sipping on a drink while watching the sunset over the Indian Ocean dominate the experience. Nonetheless, here are a few of the best things to do in Seminyak:
Take a dip at Seminyak Beach
First and foremost, Seminyak is a beach town. The beautiful 3-kilometre stretch of white sand at Seminyak Beach is where you’ll focus much of your energy while staying here.
Besides walking along the beach or cooling off in the surf, Seminyak Beach and its perfect westerly location are famous for its sunsets. Grab a beer or wine at one of the many beachside restaurants and get yourself ready for a show!
Get deep into relaxation with a spa treatment
Aside from its beach, Seminyak’s other claim to fame is its high-end spa scene. Don’t let the term throw you off: Spas in Seminyak (and in much of Bali) are particularly affordable, costing far less than in North America or Europe.
Many hotels in Seminyak even include in-house spas offering anything from Balinese massages to steam rooms. Otherwise, check out the contemporary Glo Spa (Jl Kunti 119) or the luxurious Prana Spa (Jl Kunti 118).
Get your first taste of Bali’s mystical side at Tanah Lot
Head about 45 minutes from Seminyak and you’ll find yourself gawking at the stunning seaside Tanah Lot. Despite the Disneylandishness that’s overcome Pura Tanah Lot as of late, it’s one of the seven main sea temples that, in Balinese tradition, provide the island with spiritual protection.
The endless stream of hawkers on the approach to the temple might set your nerves on fire. But seeing the temple up-close, even if much of it is a reconstruction, should compensate for the hassle.
Seminyak Travel Essentials
Where to stay
A focus on the mid-range and above puts the accommodations in Seminyak a notch above those in nearby Kuta and Legian. The most luxurious properties climb towards the “only-celebrities-and-dignitaries-can-afford-me” territory. Other properties, most in fact, are still reasonable for most. Give these places a try:
- ER Villa Bali: A quaint villa set on a quiet side street in Seminyak. The beach is just a 10-minute walk away, but soaking some rays poolside in the villa’s gardened terrace is an option, too.
- Villa Chunga-Changa Seminyak: A beautiful property within 6 minutes walking distance from the beach. All rooms include a kitchenette and garden or pool views. For bigger groups, there’s even a 5-bedroom, 12-person villa with a private pool!
- Courtyard by Marriott Bali Seminyak Resort: A luxurious retreat within a 5-minute walk of Seminyak Beach. Hotel offers more amenities than other smaller properties including an on-site fitness, spa and restaurants. Considering the level of service and location, room prices are reasonable for a luxury hotel in Seminyak.
Check reviews and prices on more Seminyak hotels on Booking.com.
Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), Bali’s international gateway, sits about 10 kilometres south of Seminyak. A ride to Seminyak from the airport should take no more than 20-30 minutes depending on traffic. Search for cheap flights to Bali on Kiwi.com.
Few places on earth are more beguiling than Ubud, the cultural and spiritual heartland of Bali. Ascending into the misty highlands of Central Bali trades the island’s seaside charms for its more mystical side.
The weather in Ubud is noticeably cooler (although that’s relative) and the vibe more enchanting than the ruckus to the south. I recommend spending at least 3 days in Ubud. Breathe in the highland air and recharge among some of the most memorable scenery you’ll ever encounter.
What to Do in Ubud
Whether staring unto rice terraces plunging into valleys or hunting for temples in the jungle, Ubud is the Balinese escape you’ve always craved.
Ubud isn’t the sleepy place it once was. (And, yes, I blame Eat, Pray, Love.) The town centre gets chaotic, jammed to the rim with motorbikes, cars and tourists.
Fortunately, the magic doesn’t happen here. Most of the best things to do in Ubud (and the best places to stay) lie in the outskirts. Get started exploring with these ideas:
Wander through the sacred Monkey Forest
The almost-obligatory first stop on any Ubud itinerary is the Monkey Forest. As its name implies, this sacred forest is chocked with frisky and cheeky macaques all-too-ready to put a smile on your face. Or steal your belongings.
Monkey Forest isn’t just about hanging out with a bunch of nutty primates. Within the sacred forest, you stumble upon three temples:
- Pura Dalem Agung (The Main Temple): Located in the southwest of the forest. Temple is dedicated to the worship of Shiva.
- Pura Beji (Beji Temple): Found in the northwest of the park. The goddess Gangga is worshipped here. Temple is also used for purification and spiritual cleansing.
- Pura Prajapati (Prajapati Temple): Located in the northeast of the forest near the cemetery. The devout come here to worship Prajapati.
Take care around the monkeys at the Monkey Forest. While they look innocent, they’ve been known to get aggressive and nip at human flesh. Unless an anti-rabies injection is your Bali itinerary, don’t feed the monkeys and keep your distance. You should even avoid eye-contact to prevent unintentionally issuing a challenge! (Sounds a little like good advice for a crazy bar night in Kuta too, doesn’t it?)
Entrance to the Monkey Forest in IDR 50,000 ($3.75).
Get a glimpse of Ubud’s spiritual side
Ubud’s reputation as a centre for Balinese culture stems from the astounding number of temples that hide in the forests around the town.
Three days in Ubud is hardly enough to explore all of them, but you should have no problems tackling these:
- Pura Gunung Kawi: An epic temple complex nestled in a rice-paddy-lined valley, and one Bali’s most magical moments. The temple features 10 rock-hewn shrines carved into the face of a 23-foot-high cliff. The IDR 15,000 entrance fee includes a sarong rental.
- Pura Kehen: A more offbeat temple that’s one of the most incredible in Bali. The beautifully terraced entrance way leads you up 38 steps into the main temple complex. An impressive 11-roof meru (shrine) is the centrepiece of Pura Kehen. Entrance of IDR 30,000 includes a sarong to cover up.
- Pura Tirta Empul: One of Bali’s holiest sites. This Hindu water temple, dating back to 960 AD, sits upon a sacred hot spring that distributes throughout the complex. Pura Tirta Empul is an active place of worship. Be sure to dress appropriately.
Ubud Travel Essentials
Where to stay
With Ubud’s growing popularity, there’s been a huge burst of new accommodations popping onto the scene. Everything between luxurious highland resorts and budget homestays fill the board. Here are a couple ideas:
- Kailash Bali: A relaxing retreat located about 20 minutes from Ubud’s town centre. The property’s graceful sun terrace and pool are surrounded by a garden-like setting that exudes Bali’s softer pleasures.
- Duana Sari: Budget-friendly villa-style accommodations located within a 10-minute walk of the centre of Ubud. A beautiful sun terrace and pool will leave you uplifted at the end of the day.
- Goya Boutique Resort: An incredible luxury hotel not far from some of the main attractions in Ubud. The epic infinity pool serves up some of the best views you’ll find anywhere.
Check reviews and prices for more Ubud hotels at Booking.com.
To get to Ubud from Seminyak, you’ll need to connect in Kuta. Perama shuttles depart Kuta from Jalan Legian at 06:00, 10:00, 13:30, 16:30 (IDR 50,000). The journey takes about 1.5 hours.
Whatever possessed me to visit the small seaside town of Lovina in North Bali was the right hunch. For backpacker crowds coming from the south, Lovina seems, well, a bit dull. And that’s precisely why I loved it!
Lovina is one of those places that makes it to the cusp of many Bali itineraries, but often fails to make the cut. To some, it’s a little to far out of the way, stretched out upon the volcanic northern shores of the island; to others, Lovina’s simply not interesting enough.
Not only is Lovina worth the effort, it could become one of those rare places that you’ll find yourself lingering about long after you intended to leave. Three days might well turn into a week once you discover how much of North Bali is at your fingertips during a stay in Lovina.
What to Do in Lovina
There isn’t a whole lot to do in Lovina itself. The small beachfront town (technically a collection of villages with Kalibukbuk as the main centre) keeps growing, but as of yet hardly has the same tourist infrastructure as destinations elsewhere on the island like Kuta, Seminyak or Ubud.
Besides the chance to relax in a friendly town, staying in Lovina gets you close to some of the coolest attractions in North Bali. Here are a few things to do in Lovina for your itinerary:
Brahmavihara Arama Monastery
Set among a hectare of beautiful hilly landscapes near Lovina, Brahmavihara Arama is the largest Buddhist monastery in Bali. While it may not share the ancient history of other Balinese temples (it was opened in 1970) Brahmavihara Arama is one of the more interesting sites in the region.
If you couldn’t visit Yogyakarta on Java, you’re in luck! The Brahmavihara Arama’s claim to fame is a mini replica of Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist complex.
The monastery is however less a tourist attraction than a functioning Buddhist retreat. For example, Brahmavihara Arama offers Vipasana meditation classes beginning at the ungodly hour 4am. All of the activities at Brahmavihara Arama are free, but donations are encouraged. Be sure to dress appropriately.
Banjar Hot Springs
Located just 5 kilometres from Lovina, Banjar Hot Springs is a retreat that combines lush scenery with a chance to relax in the healing sulphuric waters of North Bali.
Featured in the tiered pools are several naga, a mythical creature resembling a dragon, that spew the hot water into the pools below. Standing below the naga provides a warm and relaxing message to unwind.
Visit as early in the morning as possible to avoid the biggest crowds.
Lovina Travel Essentials
Where to stay
In Indonesia, as I learned, the quality of accommodations can vary greatly. Lovina fits that bill perfectly. There’s a selection anywhere from rubble to ritz. And yesterday’s favourites might not be tomorrow’s!
Fortunately, hotels in Lovina are reasonably priced. Good rooms close to the beach run little more than the cost of a meal and a drink in a North American or European restaurant. Here are a couple hotels in Lovina to check out:
- Ju’Blu Hotel: A beautiful property just steps away from Lovina Beach. All rooms include a balcony with a pool or garden view.
- Kartika Villas: A clean and comfortable budget-friendly alternative less than a 10-minute walk from the centre of Lovina. Rooms feature a small private patio with pool views.
- Lovina Oasis Hotel: A hotel located less than 5-minutes walking distance from Lovina Beach. Outdoor pool and lovely Balinese sun terrace are the perfect place to while away your post-happy-hour evening.
Check prices and read reviews for more Lovina hotels on Booking.com.
Lovina isn’t as popular as other destinations in Bali, but it’s hardly a challenge to find your way here.
Perama runs shuttle buses to Lovina from other towns around Bali including Ubud, Kuta, Sanur, and Candidasa. These shuttles are generally more expensive than long distance bemos. They are, however, far more convenient.
Expect to pay about IDR 125,000. The shuttle from Ubud leaves at 11:30 and takes over two hours.
To see South Bali’s famous party scene come to a screeching halt, spend your final days in Bali in Jimbaran. Although the same distance south from the airport as Seminyak is to the north, Jimbaran has a deeper laid-back vibe than the more densely settled northern beaches.
Sheltered in a small bay, the waters at Jimbaran are calm, keeping the rambunctious surf crowd elbowing each other for waves up in Kuta and Legian. The accommodation prices in Jimbaran reflect the quieter scene. Properties here cater to mid-range and luxury travellers keen to unwind in Jimbaran’s more relaxing setting.
What to Do in Jimbaran
The once sleepy fishing village isn’t exactly south Bali’s hub of activity. The best moments in Jimbaran the simple pleasures that drive so many to fall in love with Bali: good food, sunsets, beaches, and doing nothing at all. Here are the best things to do in Jimbaran:
Feel the sands of Jimbaran Beach under your feet
All of the images of Bali’s beach scene race to the fore as you walk along the beautiful white sand stretch of Jimbaran Beach. Even with Jimbaran’s ever increasing popularity, its beach is still quiet by Bali standards. Certainly a far cry from the throng of beach bums further north.
Like Seminyak, Jimbaran Beach is famed for watching the sun dip below the Indian Ocean. Jimbaran Beach is also one of the better places to swim in the area, featuring calmer waters more suited towards casual paddling than hitting the big waves.
If you have a few hours to spare, no site near Jimbaran impacts quite like Uluwatu Temple. One of Bali’s most important spiritual sites, Uluwatu Temple keeps watch over Bali from a 70-metre-high vantage point above the sea.
Although there are more interesting temples elsewhere in Bali, the setting of Uluwatu Temple is hard to beat. Time your visit with the sunset to take in views at their most arresting.
Tegal Wangi Beach
The spectacular cliffside Tegal Wangi Beach is a welcome change from the busy beachside promenades of south Bali. Along the southern fringes of Jimbaran Bay, precipitous cliffs spring from the turquoise waters forming a stunning scene that stands out even in ever picturesque Bali.
Tengal Wangi Beach is a favourite retreat for Balinese couples. Don’t be surprised if you catch photographers at work capturing engagement or wedding photos!
Jimbaran Travel Essentials
Where to stay
The accommodation scene in Jimbaran caters to mid-range and luxury markets more than budget travellers. Here are a few ideas:
- Bali Breezz Hotel: About as fantastic a value as you’ll find anywhere in Jimbaran. The rooms are clean and comfortable. Terraces or balconies connect each room with the garden and pool area. Jimbaran’s famous beach and seafood restaurants are just 5 minutes away.
- The Open House Jimbaran Bali: An eco-friendly boutique hotel just steps away from the beach. The villa-style rooms offer large comfortable beds and a balcony or terrace. The ambient outdoor seating area and pool is the perfect place to unwind.
- Balquisse Heritage Hotel: A truly unique 4-star hotel featuring a smattering of vintage style. Two outdoor pools and an on-site international restaurant provide plenty of reason to stick around.
Check prices and read reviews on more Jimbaran hotels at Booking.com.
From North Bali, it’s a bit of a trek to Jimbaran. You’ll likely need to catch the daily Perama shuttle to Kuta departing at 09:00 from the Perama Hotel (IDR 125,000). From Kuta, it’s about a 15- to 20-minute taxi ride to Kuta.
Need more ideas for places to visit in Bali? Apply these 10-day Bali itinerary tweaks.
- Have some more time? Extend your stay in each destination for a more relaxing vacation. Add in Candidasa or Sanur for extra seaside pleasures or explore Bali’s more adventurous quarter around Gunung Batur.
- Want to travel over shorter distances? Swap North Bali’s Lovina for Candidasa, a laid-back town along Bali’s eastern coast. The relaxation opportunities are much in the same, but you’ll be much closer to your next destination (and your ride home).
- Looking for some more adventure? Instead of Lovina, consider visiting Amed or Padang Bai on the east coast of Bali for some snorkeling and scuba diving. Or grab your best hiking shoes and set your sights to climb Gunung Batur, one of Bali’s two active volcanoes.
Finished your 10 days in Bali? Here’s where to go next…
- Java: Grab a flight to Jakarta or Yogyakarta and launch a trip across Indonesia’s most populous island.
- Lombok: Hop on the 20-minute flight from Bali to Lombok, an Indonesia island whose beauty has yet to over-inflate its reputation among travellers.
- Malaysia: Set your sites on the Asian cosmopolitan comforts of Kuala Lumpur to launch a classic Malaysia itinerary. For a tad more adventure, explore Sabah and Sarawak on the untamed island of Borneo.
- Singapore: Get your belly and taste buds ready for the culinary delights of Southeast Asia’s token city state. Spend at least 3 to 5 days in Singapore to get under the city’s skin.