The best things to do in Bali include not-to-be-missed cultural treasures and some of the most iconic landmarks and landscapes that you can find around this magical island. There are innumerable temples, historical sites, and spots of natural beauty spread across Bali’s 8 regencies, which were formerly kingdoms.

    From Bali’s scenic vistas to exotic cultural performances, this compilation of great things to see and do in Bali will help you discover the best the island has to offer. Go east to see the majestic 'mother temple' and magnificent royal water palaces or travel to the island’s lush interior where rice paddies offer scenic photo opportunities.

    What are the best things to do in Bali?


    Bali's beaches

    Find your own favourite coast

    Beaches in Bali come in a rich assortment and each is a favourite destination on its own. Bali beaches range from palm-fringed white sand coasts on the island’s south such as Kuta, Nusa Dua and Sanur, to the cliff-guarded ‘hidden’ shores of Uluwatu, Padang Padang, Dreamland and Bingin. Bali beaches also comprise striking black sands on the north and western shorelines, with sleepy undisturbed coves in-between.

    Once the haunt of surfers, Bali's beaches now welcome visitors in search of paradise with superb hotels and excellent facilities. You might as well discover your own favourite coast in Bali – there are some ‘secret’ and ‘hidden’ beaches around the southern Bukit peninsula just waiting for you to explore.

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    Tanah Lot Temple

    Bali's iconic sea temple

    Tanah Lot is among the island's most iconic temples, positioned on top of a rock and surrounded by the waves of the open sea that constantly crash against its base. The temple is scenic by day against the blue ocean and sky, but the scene is most dramatic during sunsets with its silhouette creating one of Bali’s picture postcard images.

    Tanah Lot pays homage to the guardian spirits of the sea, and it’s also among Bali's key sea temples. The onshore site is dotted with smaller shrines and visitors’ leisure facilities such as shops, a cultural park where regular dance performances are shown regularly, restaurants where you can enjoy a sunset dinner with the memorable view.

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    Location: Jalan Raya Tanah Lot, Beraban, Kediri, Tabanan, Bali 82121, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 7 pm


    Uluwatu Temple

    A temple high on a cliff

    Uluwatu is one of Bali's most important sea temples, positioned on a tall cliff edge on the island’s southwestern Bukit peninsula. By day, you can take in the picturesque seascape from over the temple’s walls and cliff borders and occasionally spot grey long-tailed macaques that inhabit the surrounding forests.

    In the late afternoon, you can wait for the dramatic sunsets, or book early for a spot at the open-air amphitheatre nearby, where Kecak fire dances are performed with the sunset and ocean as an exotic backdrop. The waves below the cliff and the temple are hailed as among Bali's best and internationally-known surf spots.

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    Location: Jalan Raya Uluwatu, Pecatu, Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm


    Besakih Temple

    The 'mother temple'

    Besakih Temple, the 'mother temple' of Bali, sits on the south-western slope of Mount Agung – Bali’s tallest peak. Besakih is the largest of all temple complexes in Bali, comprising 18 separate sanctuaries that each belong to different caste groups. They surround a central complex with 3 main temples that are dedicated to the Hindu trinity, namely Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.

    Besakih was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 1995, but as yet remains unvested. There are at least 70 ceremonies or religious celebrations held each year here, as each shrine has its own anniversary. The best visiting times are in the early mornings and in the evenings when the temple complex is much quieter.

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    Location: Besakih, Rendang, Karangasem, Bali 80863, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm


    Tegallalang Rice Terraces

    Ubud's verdant valley

    The rice terraces of Tegallalang offer one of the best views that you can take in while up in Ubud. The village of Tegallalang is just up north from the main Ubud centre. Along the main road of Jalan Raya Tegallalang, there are roadside stalls and art shops offering items and curios of all kinds, together with small restaurants offering lunch or dinner with the great view over the deep and lush valley.

    The Tegallalang rice terraces spread down below and to the far opposite side of the valley. Besides enjoying the view from up high, you can also go down and follow the trail through the rice fields to greet farmers and enjoy the paddies from up close.

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    Location: Jalan Raya Tegallalang, Tegallalang, Gianyar, Bali 80561, Indonesia


    Ubud Monkey Forest

    Lush forest and animal sanctuary

    Ubud Monkey Forest is a natural forest sanctuary that’s home to a horde of grey long-tailed macaques. Officially the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal, it is one of Ubud’s most popular attractions and the site is well-preserved thanks to a community-based management program. The forest is within easy walking distance from Ubud’s town centre.

    Besides watching playful monkeys in their natural habitat, swinging through canopies, lazing along pathways or feeding on bananas, you can take cool walks along paved pathways through the leafy nutmeg forest. Beautiful ancient temples with eerie guardian statues covered in moss also call the monkey forest their home.

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    Location: Jalan Monkey Forest, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +62 (0)361 971304


    Ubud Art Market

    Your source for arts and crafts

    Ubud Art Market is one of the landmarks in central Ubud, conveniently just across the road from the Ubud Royal Palace. The market has countless small shops that are run by local vendors who sell a wide range of items such as beautiful silk scarves, lightweight shirts, handmade woven bags, baskets and hats, statues, kites and many other locally sourced and handcrafted goods.

    Most of the goods found at the Ubud Market are made in the neighbouring villages of Pengosekan, Tegallalang, Payangan and Peliatan. Naturally, bargaining is essential. The Ubud market starred briefly in the Hollywood movie Eat Pray Love, which shows a scene with actress Julia Roberts strolling through the stalls which are bustling with activity in real life.

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    Location: Jalan Raya Ubud, Ubud, Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm



    Scenic mountain outlook

    Kintamani is a mountain village in central Bali that’s home to Mount Batur, which is Bali’s second tallest peak, and the Batur caldera lake. The village is located in the Karangasem regency in east Bali and is a popular spot for sightseeing thanks to vantage points such as Penelokan, which aptly means 'scenic stopover'. Penelokan is the best site for panoramic views, with Batur's rugged features of dark lava slopes and black molten rocks in view.

    The still-active Mount Batur volcano erupted about 24 times since 1800, each time reshaping the surrounding landscape. It’s popular among mountain hikers, with the early sunrises from the ridges being its highlight.

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    Location: Songan, Kintamani, Bangli, Bali 80652, Indonesia


    Bali Safari and Marine Park

    Go on a safari

    Bali Safari & Marine Park is Bali’s largest animal theme park, home to over 60 species roaming within enclosures that closely mimic their natural habitats. Bus safaris take visitors on tours 'around the world' with animals from different continents, and there are animal talent shows held regularly in an open stage. A different section is dedicated to aquatic animals, with aquariums holding exotic fish specimens such as piranhas.

    After enjoying the safari bus rides, families travelling with children can have a blast together at an adjacent water park and a park filled with a variety of amusement park rides. The park is also home to Bali Theatre, which shows the modern Bali Agung shows at scheduled showtimes.

    Location: Jalan Prof. Dr. Ida Bagus Mantra Km. 19.8, Serongga, Gianyar, Bali 80551, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +62 (0)361 950000


    photo by shankar s. (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

    A flowing sea of green

    The Jatiluwih rice terraces offer one of the island’s most famous rice field landscapes. The vast fields make up a considerable area of the cool highland village of the same name in the Tabanan Regency and can be a soothing retreat away from the common crowds of the island’s southern beach resort areas.

    Once a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site candidate, the Jatiluwih rice terraces cover 600 hectares following the flowing topography of the Batukaru mountain range. They are maintained by a traditional water management cooperative known as subak, which dates back to the 9th century. The cooperative itself was a top reason for Bali’s ‘cultural landscape’ entry on the heritage list.

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    Location: Jalan Jatiluwih, Penebel, Tabanan, Bali 82152, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 6 pm


    Goa Gajah

    Discover the 'elephant cave'

    • History

    Goa Gajah is one of Bali’s most significant archaeological sites. Believed to be a former hermitage, the complex features a stone relic-filled courtyard before a temple and the focal attraction of a central meditational cave. The courtyard also has exotic bathing pools and sculpted fountains. To the unknowing, Goa Gajah’s name which translates to ‘Elephant Cave’ can be slightly misleading – there are no pachyderms here.

    At the complex’s southern end are beautiful rice fields and small streams that lead to the Petanu River – another site entwined in local legends and where you can find more interesting stone relics submerged in the water. You can reach Goa Gajah west of Bedulu village and about 6 km east from central Ubud.

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    Location: Jalan Raya Goa Gajah, Pejeng Kawan, Tampaksiring, Gianyar, Bali 80582, Indonesia

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 4 pm


    photo by Cakhairia (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Surfing in Bali

    Ride world-class waves

    Surfing in Bali is one of the scenes that helped develop tourism on the island. It started along the island's southern shores, where rolling waves and quiet, beautiful beaches evolved into the popular wave riders' playgrounds we know today. The island’s first wave-riders discovered the incredible surf back in the 1930s, and more have flown in ever since.

    Bali's surfer crowd comprises experienced riders and beginners who want a piece of the action. Pros can head to the outer reef breaks of the southern Bukit Peninsula, while newbies can try smaller waves in the lagoons. Bali is a great place to pick up the sport, with board rentals and surf schools widely available.

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    Barong and Kris dance

    Admire cultural spectacles

    The Barong and Kris dance is one of the island’s most iconic dance-dramas which depicts the 12th-century classic tale of good versus evil. The Barong is a benevolent spirit in beast form who sets out to protect a kingdom against the vengeful wrath of the widow and witch queen, Rangda.

    Two male performers work out the movements of the heavily ornate Barong costume while supporting dancers portray monkeys, priests and village men. Daily shows are offered at various village theatres throughout the island – the most popular being Batubulan in Gianyar and the Denpasar suburbs. Shows are locally managed locally, and dances are performed by villagers themselves with live gamelan orchestra accompanying the full length of the show.

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    Bunut Bolong

    A peculiar natural landmark

    Bunut Bolong is a unique natural landmark in the form of a giant hollow banyan tree in Jembrana, West Bali. This old, giant banyan tree is considered sacred by the Manggisari villagers who say that the tree is centuries old – tales are told of people who met their demise trying to chop it down to remove it.

    The giant tree has a large hollow at its base, which formed naturally, and is as wide as the main road that runs through it. There are temple shrines adorned in yellow and white at both ends of the banyan tree’s straddling trunks.

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    Location: Manggissari, Pekutatan, Jembrana, Bali 82262, Indonesia


    Legong Dance

    Watch the eloquent moves

    The legong is one of Bali’s most visually alluring royal court performances. The dance is considered one of the island’s most revered classical pieces, known for its physically demanding postures and fast-paced movements which require a significant level of flexibility among its generally young female performers.

    Choreographed to a set pattern with the finest detail, the dance has been well-preserved through generations. There are several places where you can watch a legong dance performance in Bali. Among the most popular venues are the  Puri Saren Royal Palace, otherwise known as the Ubud Royal Palace, the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA), and the Pura Saraswati Temple in Ubud.

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    photo by Tiomax80 (CC BY 2.0) modified

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