The T-Rex shaped land at Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida.

Bali Travel Guide: Tips for Exploring the Island of the Gods

With rapidly growing popularity, Bali has become one of the most enticing island destinations for young travelers. Backpackers are drawn in by the exquisite beaches, adventurous culture and cheap food and accommodation. Many think of Bali as just a tropical oasis. However, there is much more to this booming travel location than that. Bali is an Indonesian province composed of a chain of small, picturesque islands. These islands are the perfect embodiment of the unique culture, tropical climate and stunning landscape inherent in South East Asia. Additionally, much like other Asian tourism heavyweights, Bali is a relatively cheap location, making prolonged trips and lengthy flights much more financially feasible. For these reasons, coupled with its friendly locals and beautiful scenery, Bali is an ideal location for budget travellers. This blog will explore the highlights of Bali and how to best incorporate each into your vacation in ‘The Island of Gods’. 

Food

Experiencing true Balinese cuisine is an integral aspect of any Bali vacation as it is deeply rooted in its culture. Their impressive food scene has a range of options from delicious street eats to seaside diners. Balinese cuisine favours dishes with hearty meat portions. However, there are also some great vegetarian dishes as well. Balinese cuisine is derived from Indonesia and neighbouring countries, with hints of Indian, Chinese and European influences. Many meals are served with rice, and Balinese chefs value the freshness of ingredients above all. Among the most popular options are Nasi Goreng (Indonesian style fried rice), Sate Lilit (skewered grilled meats in a spicy sauce) and Sambal Udang (large fried prawns coated in spicy paste).Not only are meals delicious, but they are also often very cheap. An average meal will cost around 25,000 Indonesian rupiah, approximately $2 CAD. 

Traditional Bali cuisine plated on sheets of local leaves
An example of a traditional Balinese meal. Image by International Living

Accommodation

Much like the food in Bali, the accommodation options are plentiful and budget-friendly. When in Bali, there are two main accommodation options that are dependent on individual budget, preferred style of travel and number of travellers in a group. For a more luxurious stay, often associated with group travel, many opt to rent a villa-style AirBnB or hotel. These can range from extravagant sprawling villas and hotels with infinity pools, to smaller quaint villas close to town. For group bookings, these accommodations can start as low as $25 CAD per night. In addition, for an even more budget stay or for those travelling alone, a hostel may be a better option. Hostels can be found in all of the main tourist towns in Bali and are an ideal way to meet people and learn more about the surrounding area. The starting price is $5 CAD per night.

The TZ Hostel in Kuta, Bali with a large infinity pool and individual house-style rooms.
The TZ Hostel in Kuta, Bali. Image by Trip Advisor

Wildlife

Bali is home to a great range of exotic wildlife. In fact, animal lovers will find this small island to be packed with many unique species. This includes Indonesian native species such as the Orangutan, Komodo Dragon, Bali Starling, Macaques, Sumatran Tiger and the Black Ape. One might find themselves lucky enough to run into any of these incredible animals out in the wild. However, to ensure an encounter during your time in Bali, look to the island’s various animal sanctuaries and parks. There is one park in particular that ethically houses and protects these important animals, and is a great way to introduce yourself to the Balinese wildlife.

Ubud Monkey Forest (Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal)

This popular sanctuary is in the heart of the forest in the village of Padangtegal, near the city of Ubud. The Ubud Monkey Forest is both an incredible natural animal habitat and a unique cultural site. Here, visitors can get up close and personal to the adorable grey-haired macaques (a native monkey species). The more than 300 monkeys in the sanctuary can be found roaming the trees, walkways and green spaces. However, it is important to note that these cheeky monkeys also like to get close to people, and are known to steal any loose items (including phones and passports!) that you may be carrying. In addition, there are three temples on the site that can be explored. These temples were built to honour the gods of Pura Dalem Agung, Pura Beji and Pura Prajapati, and are beautiful works of intricate architecture.

The Bali native grey-haired macaques in the Ubud Monkey Forest, atop a pillar with cultural carvings.
The Bali native grey-haired macaques in the Ubud Monkey Forest. Image by Bali Tour

Ethical wildlife interaction

It is important to note that although Bali has many options to interact with and view their wildlife, not all options are ethical. It is crucial to research all parks and sanctuaries before visiting to ensure they are safe for animals. For example, Bali is known for having various popular elephant sanctuaries. However, there are no ethical elephant sanctuaries in the province, with many adopting inhumane practices such as elephant back riding, chaining animals, etc. 

Culture

Another reason many are drawn to Bali is the ability to explore and experience the unique culture. The culture of the island is deeply integrated into all levels of society, and is celebrated by locals and tourists alike. The culture is quite distinctive with its roots in Hinduism, as it is the only Hindu-majority province in Indonesia. Bali demonstrates its culture through its grand works of art and intricately developed temples, many of which denote their connection to their ancestors and gods. Additionally, it can be seen through their everyday practices, such as dance, work and song. There are many options that allow tourists to learn more and immerse themselves in the Balinese culture, including visiting temples and experiencing the rice terraces. 

Temples

Temples are incredibly sacred religious sites in Bali which can be seen in abundance across the entire province. There are over 20,000 temples in Bali which play a critical role in the lives of the Balinese.

“Normally there are at least 3 public temples within each village in Bali, Pura Puseh (Temple of Origin) built to honor the God of Creation (Brahma), Pura Desa Bale Agung built to honor the God of Life (Wisnu) and Pura Dalem built to honor the God of the death and reincarnation (Siwa Durga).”

Tourism Bali

Some of the most popular temples in Bali are architectural masterpieces, culturally significant and have incredible scenery:

Ulun Danu Temple Bedugul Lake Beratan

This is one of the most photographed locations in Bali. This cultural site is located in the middle of Lake Betran and has a mystical appearance with the temple ‘floating’ in the middle of the calm lake. 

Besakih Temple 

The largest temple in Bali is also considered the holiest among the Balinese Hindu population. Located in the shade of the towering Mount Agung volcano, this monumental temple encompasses many sections dedicated to praising different gods. 

Taman Saraswati Temple Ubud

This temple is renowned for its architectural significance. Dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Saraswati, known as the Goddess of Art, it greatly represents the god it honours through its magnificent statues, carvings and artwork.  

The ‘floating’ Ulun Danu Temple Bedugul at Lake Beratan, alongside the towering mountains.
The ‘floating’ Ulun Danu Temple Bedugul at Lake Beratan. Image by The World Travel Guy

Rice Terraces

As previously mentioned, rice is a staple food in Bali and is critical to their traditional dishes. In fact, it is believed to be a gift from God and is a symbol of life to the Balinese. Due to this significance, the Balinese have been growing rice in the numerous rice terraces across the province for thousands of years. As these terraces are an integral aspect to their culture, not to mention scenically mesmerizing, they are another great addition to any Bali adventure. 

Jatiluwih Rice Terrace

This is not only a stunning display of nature, but it is also a cultural testament of the traditions of the Balinese. In fact, it earns its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it embodies the cultural significance of the Tri Hita Karana water temples and subak irrigation system.

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

The lush, vibrant green rows of rice terraces at the Tegalalang Rice Terrace are among the most scenic in the country. Located just outside of Ubud’s cultural centre, this is a favourite among tourists. Here, you can often see water trickling between rows and local workers attending to the fields. 

 

A worker tending to the fields of the Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Ubud, Bali.
The rice terrace of Tegalalang. Image by Bali Cheapest Tours

Beaches

Bali is widely known for its scenic coastline that wraps around the island. In certain areas, typically the north and west regions, the beaches have a more rugged beauty with dramatic cliffs, staggering rock outcrops and darker sand. Contrastingly, in the south of the island, the beaches have a more ‘typical’ appearance with white sand pristine coastline. In addition to the awe-inspiring beaches, the waters that surround them are both picture perfect and optimal for water sports. The Bali Sea has gorgeous, crystal clear waters and often has strong waves that make for an optimal surf destination. There are two beaches that stand above the rest, known for their breathtaking views, surfing conditions and fun party atmosphere. 

Bingin Beach

This secluded beach has the best combination of optimal surf conditions and unparalleled ocean views. Located just outside of the bustling surf town of Uluwatu, Bingin Beach is set into the town’s towering cliffside, overlooking the Indian Ocean. Although difficult to locate, and even more difficult to get to, the views from the cliffside and along the scenic, rocky beach are more than worth it. To access this beach, visitors must walk down a large, rocky pathway. The path, and the cliffside itself, are lined with boho-style cafes and shops, which creates a truly unique laid back surf vibe. Once at the beach itself, you will find the true reason this is recognized as one of the best surf destinations in Bali. The powerful ocean creates world-class waves that are perfect for experienced surfers. For beginners, this area also has smaller waves closer to the beachside for safer conditions. Surfboard rentals line the shoreline for as little as $3 CAD a day. 

The waves rolling into Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Bali.
The secluded Bingin Beach, taken from a cliffside cafe. Image by Taylor Jones

Seminyak Beach

In contrast to Bingin Beach, Seminyak Beach offers a more upbeat pace and party atmosphere. This popular beach is located just outside of the energetic city of Kuta. Thus, this lively 5 kilometer stretch of beach brings a similar party atmosphere. Along Seminyak’s sprawling stretch of golden sands and stunning clear waters, you will find various activities perfect for families and backpackers. Watersports here include diving along the vibrant systems of reefs offshore, or horseback riding for a more relaxing activity. In addition, the beachside is lined with upscale restaurants and a plethora of Bali’s greatest beach clubs. Don’t miss the famous Potato Head Beach Club for a glimpse into Bali’s Ibiza-style clubs that are sure to satisfy the nightlife needs of any young traveller.  

Islands

As previously mentioned, there are several islands surrounding Bali that offer equally picturesque scenery and a slowed down pace. These islands are primarily accessible via ferry or motorboat, and are easy to access from the main island. The cost of boat transport is relatively cheap, with some of the closer islands starting at just $10-$30 CAD. These are a must if you are looking to see some of the most famous landmarks and awe-inspiring scenery Bali has to offer! There is one particular island that is especially stunning, and should be on everyone’s Bali bucket list.   

Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida has some of the most breathtaking scenes in all of Bali. In fact, this small island, just 30 minutes off the coast of the main island, is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Bali. While here, there are endless sights to see, with staggering rock faces, clear turquoise natural water pools and an abundance of gorgeous beaches. However, whether in Nusa Penida for a short or long trip (overnight or longer stays here are highly recommended) there are several attractions which shouldn’t be missed. 

The famous T-rex land alongside the blue waters and white beach at Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida.
The T-Rex shaped land at Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida. Image by Taylor Jones

Angel Billabong

This natural water pool is a true marvel of nature. Etched into the rock formation with towering walls alongside, this clear pool of turquoise water provides a unique contrast to the powerful ocean waves alongside. If you want to relax in the warm pool without being crowded by tourists, it is recommended to either go early in the morning or later in the evening. 

Broken Beach

This naturally formed cove, just down the road from Angel Billabong, is another fantastic attraction. Here, you can admire the crashing waves as they make their way into this secluded cove. Much like the rest of Nusa Penida, the bright blue waters here look like something out of a movie.

Kelingking Beach 

When tourists think of Bali, many think of this exact location. Known across the world for it’s unique land formation that resembles a T-Rex, this scenic wonder will truly take your breath away. Surrounding the land of lush greenery is a stunning beach with the bluest ocean waters on the island alongside. Although the best view is from the iconic lookout above, you can also take the hike down the dizzying staircase towards the stunning beach.

The perfect trip to the Island of Gods

Evidently, the Indonesian province of Bali is one of the greatest gems of South East Asia. With delectable food, cheap accommodation, incredible wildlife, unique culture, scenic beaches and exciting islands, any trip to Bali is sure to meet the needs of all. Thus, for those not only looking for a budget trip, but one that will make memories that will last a lifetime, the Island of Gods is the optimal location.

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