10 of the best things to do and see in Bali, Indonesia, for first-timers

x sunsetsThe sun sets at Rock Bar, Bali…

While it can be tempting to stay at a beautiful all-inclusive resort, especially one like Club Med which offers such a brilliant range of activities, it would be a travesty not to explore the natural and cultural beauty of the Indonesian island of Bali. Especially when it is so easy to get around. We hired a driver for a day trip for the equivalent of around £25. For this, he drove us wherever we wanted to go. He picked us up at around 9am and dropped us back at our hotel at 8pm.

During that day, we saw the famed Besakih Temple (around a 2.5 hour drive from our Club Med Nusa Dua hotel), the awesome Tegallalang rice terraces, and finished at Rock Bar (above), for sunset drinks. We also saw a lot along the way, and our driver took us to sample the local dish of suckling pig for lunch. It pays to talk – we learned a lot about balinese culture and traditions from having a chat with him. Mr Pink – thanks for the brilliant trip!

TIP: Bali is prone to volcanic activity, as is nearby Lombok. This is unpredictable, but worth baring in mind when thinking about travel insurance and time of year to visit. Activity can cause the airport to close.


Don’t miss… my review of Club Med Bali – a haven for families and couples alike. Anyone up for a spot of trapeze?!


Apart from our day out with Mr Pink, which ticked a number of sightseeing boxes, there are plenty of day trips that are worth doing, as well as just wandering around the town of Ubud and taking long walks along the beach. Here, are some of our favourite Bali sights and activities…

1. Watch the sun set at Rock Bar at the Ayana Resort (photos above and below)

There is usually a queue to get in here. They charge a minimum spend for the front row of beds, but we found a table for two, with an uninterrupted view of the sun setting. Plus, drinks in Bali are so affordable, anyway, so it is worth pushing the boat out here, if you wanted to splash out.

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The Rock Bar at Ayana Resort

2. Visit rice terraces

We went to Tegallalang terraces, near Ubud, (photos below) which is one of the biggest and most visited, and has a selection of great eateries built into the terraces. You can wander down and up the other side of the terraces. All local drivers will know the spot.

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3. Visit Besakih Temple

This is the largest and oldest temple in Bali, perched 1000m up Mount Agung – one of the volcanoes on Bali. You will see a lot of temples, but this one is among the most impressive. Try to visit on a clear day to make the most of the views.

You will have to wear a sarong to look around, and there are areas which are prohibited. also, you need to take a guide up with you, which will cost around £5. They will meet you at the bottom of the entrance, where your driver will leave you and wait for you to return. You don’t need to pay to see anything else – don’t let the locals tell you otherwise!

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At the top of Besakih Temple (above)

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At the bottom of the Besakih Temple complex (above)

4. Book a bike tour

We booked ours via Club Med, and spent four hours with our guide whizzing through Bali countryside, rice fields and villages. It was awesome! One of the best ways to travel, surely? We were driven up to a high point, overlooking Mount Batur – another of the volcanoes on the island

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Pausing to check out the rice fields on our bike tour

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At the start of our bike tour with Mount Batur as the backdrop

5. Go snorkelling

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Snorkelling is always a good idea, especially in waters as clear as those around Bali. We went snorkelling on our day trip to Lembongan Island…

6. Visit Lembongan island

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Lembongan Island is around an hours trip from mainland Bali. We booked a trip via our Club Med hotel with Bali Hai cruises. It has only been offered as a day trip for tourists since the 1990s and that is reflected in the slow pace of life and unspoiled beaches, there. I imagine this is what mainland Bali would have been like a couple of decades below, pre the tourism boom.

The organisation on this boat trip is very slick. Travelling through Indonesia, as well as South East Asia, you get used to everything being at least 30 minutes late… Not here, however! You dock at a pontoon, then are ferried to the island, where you can take part in activities such as, an island tour, snorkelling (above), a half submerged submarine tour (see further below!), banana boat rides or just chilling on this picturesque beach…

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7. Day trip to Waterbom

 

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Waterbom Bali is rated as the third best waterpark in the world and the best waterpark in Asia, by TripAdvisor. There are loads of grades of flumes, by speed and thrill rating, from a really cool kids’ area right up to a drop chute flume for those seeking stomach-churning adventure. Just don’t look down before you slide on some of the bigger rides!

7. Tour the statue shops

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I haven’t been anywhere else in the world and seen as many temples and statues as I did when I was in Bali. You will see rows of them while driving around, and you can have a wander round the shops on the fringes of Ubud. Lots of the Buddhas will be taller than you!

8. Go kayaking

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Kayaking, paddleboarding, swimming – embrace all of the watersports available in Bali! The waters are renowned as being some of the best for surfing in the world.

9. Drink Bintang beer and eat peanuts, and do both of these things by the pool…

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The perfect combination…

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The adult-only Zen pool at Club Med

10. Visit a coffee and cocoa plantation

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We stopped on our bike tour (read above) to visit a coffee and cocoa plantation, where we were shown how they grow the crops, dry them out and then harvest them. We were also offered tasters of around ten different coffees, including delicious vanilla. They also offer the infamous Kopi Luwak ‘cat poo’ coffee for a reasonable price, if that floats your boat…

11. Take a trip on a glass-bottomed boat

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This came as an option on our Bali Hai boat tour to Lembongan Island – worth choosing, I’d say, if you are debating over this or a banana boat ride…

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12. Meditate…

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Chilling out at Club Med’s beachside huts…

Things we would like to go back to Bali to do: 

  1. Visit the Tegenungan Waterfall at the sacred Petanu River
  2. Surf on Kuta Beach
  3. Visit the Sacred Monkey forest in Ubud
  4. See Tirta Empul, a 1000-year-old temple with a holy spring
  5. Take a sunrise trek up a volcano
  6. Take a cookery class and eat at Mozaic, Ubud
  7. Go for sunset cocktails at Potato Head Bar
  8. Visit the Gilli Islands and Lombok – so close by!
  9. Have Balinese massages at a spa – I had a manicure and pedicure, which were wonderful
  10. Watch the fire dancing at Pura Luhur Uluwatu
  11. Shop in Seminyak

Don’t miss… my review of Club Med Bali – the perfect all-inclusive base from which to explore the wonderful Indonesian island

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