What to do in Bali & Indonesia
What to do in Bali & Indonesia
Our guide on the best things to do in Bali & Indonesia
Bali is a paradise for adventurous travellers, offering wild jungles inhabited by monkeys, active volcanos, misty lakes, and an abundance of waterfalls. It is a destination with appeal for all kinds of visitors: outdoor adventurers, surfers, hikers, history buffs, night-owls, families, and honeymooners. There are plenty of opportunities for lazy days of sunbathing, indulging in luxury spa treatments or just hanging out sipping cocktails while gazing out at the jaw-dropping scenery.
Bali’s natural beauty is incomparable. The landscapes include everything from gorgeous white sandy beaches to lush rainforests with countless waterfalls and soaring volcanic mountains. The island is ringed by white sands along its south coast, and black sands in the north and west. Part of the Coral Triangle, home to the planet’s highest diversity of marine species, the coral reefs that surround the island are a magnificent sight that draws divers and snorkelers from around the world.
The beauty of the Island of the Gods goes much deeper than its outward appearances. There are many traditional cultural traditions still practised today, with the Balinese holding a wide range of celebrations and ceremonies year-round. When it comes to cuisine, from street-side snacks and cheap soup, rice and noodle dishes to gourmet dining, the food is to-die-for – and it’s easy to discover more with a cooking class or food walk.
Wider Indonesia is an immersive, invigorating destination offering over 17,500 islands, 6,000 of which are inhabited, bringing diverse landscapes and a never-ending menu of adventures. If you’re keen to see more of the archipelago – one of the richest, most enthralling, and little-explored destinations on the planet – ask our consultants for their recommendations on underwater oases, jungle exploration, mystical ancient temples, vibrant cities, and cultures which shift dramatically from island to island.
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Best activities in Bali & Indonesia
UTC can arrange an enticing variety of tours and activities in Bali and all across Indonesia. We’ve picked just a few of our favourites below. There’s plenty more to recommend though; let us know what excites you most about Indonesia, and we’ll map out the perfect itinerary.
We encourage at least 2 or 3 full days to explore Ubud properly. The Monkey Forest is a sanctuary home to more than a thousand Balinese long-tailed monkeys that roam freely. Visitors can stroll the paths that meander through lush rainforest with banyan trees and temples, while enjoying close encounters with the animals. Other activities include hiking, cycling, village walks, cooking classes, and visits to secluded temples, art galleries, or boutiques.
History / Landscape
Bali's mesmerising temples
Made up of impressive historic structures and vast pools that sit against a backdrop of Bali’s eastern shoreline and soaring Mount Agung, the Taman Ujung Water Palace is a truly majestic sight. It boasts beautiful Balinese and European architecture, evident in the ornate pillars and statues, with the buildings linked by pathways and long, elegant bridges, making it a favourite location for photographers. This is just one of many stunning historic buildings; others include the Tanah Lot, Pura Besakih, Ulun Danu Bratan, or Penataran Lempuyang with its famed ‘Gates of Heaven’.
Witness a Kecak fire dance
This incredible traditional dance takes place in a coastal clifftop amphitheatre at the Uluwatu Temple, at the southern tip of the island, commanding a spectacular view of the sea. It adapts the famous Ramayana Hindu epic, a story told in the form of dance, playing out against a glorious Balinese sunset. The culmination involves a massive fire display, with no musical instruments used, only the haunting chants of costumed worshipers. If you are unable to make it to Uluwatu smaller Kecak dances take place all across the island, particularly Ubud.
Active / Landscape
Cascading down the winding walls of a lush valley, the stunning Tegalallang Rice Terraces are just a 20-minute drive from Ubud, and make a fantastic half-day trip out. Exploring the terraces is one of Bali’s most enjoyable and treasured activities, with magnificent views and perfect photo opportunities on all sides. The scenic hillsides offer jungle swings and ziplines, and for an adrenaline rush ask us about mountain-bike routes rushing downhill from the volcanic slopes of Mt Batur to the rice fields north of Ubud.
Island-hopping in the Gilis
The Gili Islands are a small group of three tiny islands, lying off the northwest coast of Lombok, accessed by high-speed ferry from eastern Bali. All provide a tropical island paradise with white sandy beaches with coconut palms while vibrant coral reefs for snorkelling and diving lie just offshore. Gili Trawangan is the largest and most developed; Gili Meno the slowest-paced and most serene. Gili Air is a perfect blend of the other two, but it’s the only one that provides uninterrupted views of Lombok’s mountainous northern coast. Spend a few days hopping between them and get to know your favourite!
The Indonesian islands are strung along the Pacific Ring of Fire, with 130 active volcanoes found across the archipelago. Volcanoes are part of life here, and will form part of your adventures too! A hike to the summit of one of the more peaceful peaks is an enthralling and unforgettable experience, with our personal favourites (and also relatively easy-going hikes) being trips up to Mt Jien and Mt Bromo in Java, Mt Batur in Bali, or the more challenging climb of Mt Rinjani in Lombok. The scenery which cascades down the slopes of these majestic peaks is staggering too, with your drives, hikes, or cycles taking you through fertile rice paddies, cascading waterfalls, lush forests, and tiny picturesque villages.
Culture / Landscape
Sunrise at Borobudur
Indonesia is home to countless historic citadels – Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic alike – usually found in magical rural or coastal surroundings. If we had to pick a favourite, it would likely be the stunning temples of Borobudur, situated just north of Yogyakarta in central Java. UNESCO-listed Borobudur is the largest Buddhist place of worship on the planet, thought to date back to the 7th century. It is best visited at the crack of dawn, when you’ll see the sun appear from behind the distant peak of Mt Merapi and witness the temples alluringly bathed in the pinks and purples of early morning light.
Wildlife & Nature
In Indonesia’s northern reaches the scenery becomes less volcanic and distinctly more tropical, with dense jungles offering a kaleidoscope of fascinating flora and fauna. Wildlife enthusiasts, particularly those who enjoy the thrill of the jungle, will be well rewarded by visits to Tanjung Puting in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), Bukit Lawang in northern Sumatra, or the more isolated Lore Lindu or Tangkoko national parks in Sulawesi. Accommodation in these areas is very simple, but you’re here for creatures – rather than the creature comforts! Typical sightings include orang-utans, macaques, tiny tarsiers, deer, rhinos, elephants, and a whole host of colourful tropical birds.
Meet the Toraja
If you do make it to Sulawesi – and we strongly encourage it – we recommend a stay of at least 3 nights up in Tana Toraja. You will need a minimum of two days to explore the region, with numerous villages to drop into, intriguing cuisine to be sampled, and scenic hikes to be taken. Extra time up here will also allow your guide to sniff out an ongoing funeral. Your chances are pretty good: held over several days all across the Toraja region, occurring year-round, and usually lasting several days, these elaborate, noisy, colourful ceremonies are guaranteed to immediately become one of your most treasured ‘through the looking glass’ travel experiences.
Indonesia has a solid claim to being the world’s best dive destination. Bali sits within the ‘coral triangle’ and offers fantastic reef and wreck diving off its northern and eastern coasts; key spots being Amed, Candidasa, and Nusa Lembongan. Dedicated divers should look further afield though, with unparalleled underwater riches found in far-flung corners of the archipelago such as Sumba, Raja Ampat, and northern Sulawesi. Each of these destinations has a fantastic dive resort to match, ensuring a productive and luxurious stay.
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