Have you thought about going to Bali, but you don’t want to go to the usual hotspots?
Then this Bali travel guide is for you! I’ll show you things to do in Southern Bali – off the beaten track.
But first, why go to Bali? Here is why I chose to go there:
We picked Bali as a holiday destination because it’s easy to get to and we wanted to have three weeks of proper relaxation. Good food, beach, books – and not much travelling between places. Bali is perfect for that because there is not much to worry about – it’s one of the safest places in Asia, people are more than welcoming, and the infrastructure is good.
We had three stops on our tour around the south of the island:
- The Bukit Peninsula
I’m sure there are even more secret spots in the northern part of the island. Unfortunately, we went to Bali just after the horrific earthquakes in Indonesia. That’s why we decided to stay in the south, where it was safer at the time.
Things to do in Southern Bali – off the beaten track
When I started to research places we could go to I realized that a lot of blogs shouted they had “all the secret spots in Bali” – which in the end turned out to be the hotspots everyone goes to.
Only through friends that had been to Bali before, I found some truly hidden gems. Thanks again – you know who you are 🙂
I want to share those with you and show you that Bali is more than Instagram gold, Buddha bowls, yoga, and surfing.
Let’s start our little virtual trip around the “Island of the Gods”:
1. The Bukit Peninsula
How do you get there? The Bukit Peninsula is the most southern part of Bali. It’s easy enough to get there from Denpasar Airport – it’s roughly 30-60 minutes away (depending on where on the peninsula you are staying and how bad traffic is).
How much does it cost to get there? 200,000 rupiahs (14 USD) with a taxi. Although an Australian lady we met at the airport said you shouldn’t pay more than 150,000 rupiahs – so keep that in mind when haggling with the driver.
What’s the cost of accommodation? The price categories vary really. We stayed in comfortable but simple hotels that cost us roughly 700,000 rupiahs a night for two people (50 USD), breakfast included. I’d say there weren’t that many places cheaper than that – but certainly more expensive ones.
What kind of place is it? The Bukit Peninsula is one of the “hippest” (in lack of another word) parts of Bali. I sometimes felt a little bit underdressed at the restaurant, bar and even at the beach. There are a lot of people pilgriming there to take their bikini/surfing/Buddha-bowl pictures, which I found highly amusing.
But there are a few places around Bukit where you can relax all by yourself:
Nyang Nyang Beach
Turquoise water, golden sand and slight waves crashing in – a dream that comes true at Nyang Nyang beach. This gem in the very south of the Bukit Peninsula is not that easy to get to (prepare for a 15-20 minute walk down a steep hill – wear proper shoes!), but that makes it one of the most hidden beaches in the area. One downside about it – there is hardly any shade. So, try to go there early in the morning or after 3 pm when it’s cooling down – and take plenty of water and sunscreen!
This place is just dreamy. It becomes quite empty after 4-5 pm. There are a few colourful warungs (little snack bars) along the beach that provide you with good enough lunches and plenty of cold Bintang. Because the water is not as turquoise and it’s not that easy to swim (watch out for big rocks) this beach is not as popular. Excellent place for a sunset drink and plenty of peaceful reading time!
Sunset Point Uluwatu
The region of Uluwatu is famous for mainly three things – the Uluwatu temple, the beach from the Eat, Pray, Love movie, and Single Fin, a restaurant/bar with a million-dollar view. All of those things are worth a visit. But a genuinely hidden place to watch the sunset at is Sunset Point Uluwatu. We loved this outdoor bar and spent nearly every evening of our stay there! Good music, comfy chairs, awesome view, and cheaper drinks than at Single Fin. You can get there reasonably quickly with a scooter – prepare for bumpy roads, though.
How do you get there? Ubud is north of Denpasar airport. From the Bukit Peninsula, it took us roughly 2.5 hours to get there. From Denpasar, it would probably be 1.5 hours.
How much does it cost to get there? From Uluwatu, it cost us 400,000 rupiahs (29 USD) to get to Ubud. From the airport, it would probably be around 200,000 rupiahs (14 USD).
What’s the cost of accommodation? Ubud is a little cheaper than the Bukit Peninsula. We again stayed in a smaller hotel with a pool that cost us 500,000 rupiahs a night for two people (35 USD), breakfast included. We chose a hotel outside of town within the rice fields. I would recommend that since it’s calmer and most hotels provide free shuttle buses into Ubud.
What kind of place is it? Ubud is the cultural hotspot of Bali. It’s famous for yoga studios, spas and “Bali Swing” pictures in front of green rice fields. I was a bit reluctant to go there because I thought it would be full of tourist traps and not authentic at all. But I was wrong! Ubud fascinates with green everywhere you look, cultural sites and the most wonderful food.
Here are my favourite places in Ubud:
Ubud City Centre
The centre of Ubud is buzzing. Jalan Monkey Forest (Monkey Forest Road) is full of restaurants, craft shops/stands, fashion labels, and cultural sites. There are hundreds of things to see, but what I found most interesting was the Museum Puri Lukisan, an art museum that covers the 18th century up to contemporary Balinese art (check out I Gusti Nyoman Lempad’s drawings). When we went in, there was hardly anyone else there. So after exploring the exhibitions, we spent some quiet time in the idyllic museum grounds. Entry fee is 75,000 rupiah per person (5 USD).
Ubud Traditional Spa
I don’t think this is a very secret tip when it comes to spas in Ubud (it’s trending on TripAdvisor) – but this place was so perfect that I have to write about it. We booked a 1.5-hour massage there a day in advance. Once you’re at the spa you’re instantly relaxed – the grounds and rooms are beautiful, the staff are very welcoming and serve you tea and fresh fruit. The treatment is first class. Ubud Traditional Spa is an experience in Bali you won’t forget! It’s also insanely cheap – we paid 460.000 rupiahs (32 USD) for two people.
The Tegalalang Rice Terrace is the most popular place to see rice fields around Ubud. We drove past with our scooter, saw how many people there were and decided not to stop. Instead, we headed to the left – a little up the road from the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. The route took us right into the real rice fields. We just drove on for ages and occasionally stopped to take some photos. I loved the different shades of green!
How do you get there? We went to Jimbaran for the last three days of our stay because it’s very close to the airport. Jimbaran Beach is just south of Denpasar. It’s easy to get to from anywhere on the island.
How much does it cost to get there? The taxi from Ubud to Denpasar cost us 200,000 rupiahs (14 USD).
What’s the cost of accommodation? You can find places in every price category around Jimbaran and Denpasar. We treated ourselves to a more luxurious hotel for the last few nights in Bali. It cost us 250,000 rupiahs a night (60 USD), out-of-this-world breakfast and pool bar included.
What kind of place is it? Jimbaran beach is quite busy in the evenings. Buses of tourists are offloaded there for sunset. All you can see are swarms of people taking photos all along the bay. Still, go there and have a look – it’s hilarious to watch! And during the day, it’s quite a calm spot for some swimming and relaxation in a beach chair.
But the most impressive hidden place in Jimbaran is:
Jimbaran Fish Market
If you walk right to the northern end of Jimbaran beach, away from the tourist masses gaping at the sunset, there is a fish market. Not many tourists go there because the smell can be daunting. It’s the most awesome place! You walk into a low shed, and there it is – authentic Bali! Colorful fish, crayfish and shellfish of all sorts, funny fishers and a buzzing atmosphere. And the best thing – you can buy any type of seafood you want, take it outside to one of the barbecue stalls, have it cooked on the grill and eat it with your hands. It’s a rough gem, and it’s beautiful.
In my opinion, it’s better than the flashy restaurants by the beach that want to sell you expensive menus by candlelight.
I hope I was able to show you how different Bali can be from what you see on Instagram every day. If you’ve discovered any more hidden gems in Bali, feel free to share them in the comments.
Hi from Leah
On this blog, I’m regularly writing about travel tips, cultures of different countries and much more. If you liked this article, check out my post about New Zealand culture. Also, you can join me on Instagram (@leahlovesculture).
Note: I did not receive compensation for mentioning any of the places in this blog post. These are my recommendations, and I’ve been to all locations myself.
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