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Travelers of all stripes will find no shortage of things to do in Bali. From ancient temples to phenomenal food to unparalleled wellness experiences, this is a place that has it all.

If you’re seeking to explore artistic enclaves and soak in the serenity of terraced rice paddies, Ubud is the perfect place to go. If you’re looking for action-packed watersports and lively beach bars, Kuta might be more your style. If you’re seeking a lovely beach with terrific seafood, head for Jimbaran Bay.

While you may find yourself wanting to return to Bali again and again, it’s possible to pack an incredible amount even into a short stay. Here are a few of the best things to do in Bali.

Visit the Spectacular Uluwatu Temple

Visit Uluwatu Temple, one of the best things to do in Bali

Uluwatu Temple

If you only have time to see one temple in the beautiful Asian island of Bali, there’s a strong case to be made for this one.

Uluwatu Temple is far from the largest or the grandest temple on the island—in fact, the structure itself is on the smaller side. Yet what this place lacks in size it more than makes up for in setting. The Hindu temple, which dates back to 900 AD, sits perched atop a 230-foot cliff overlooking the crashing turquoise waves below.

Although it’s home to a few resorts, Uluwatu is less developed than areas such as Kuta or Nusa Dua and retains much of its rugged beauty. It’s still easily accessible by car from other major hubs on the island, making this ideal for a day trip.

See the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Visit Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, one of the best things to do in Bali

Jatiluwih Rice Terraces

Chances are if you’ve seen a story about Bali in a glossy travel magazine, it has included photos of the island’s rice terraces.

This is one instance where even the best pictures can’t do the real thing justice—the sight of emerald-hued paddies cascading in steps down hills is nothing short of breathtaking.

Of all the places to see them in person, the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces in the Tabanan Regency are by far one of the most magnificent. Not only are these terraces visually impressive, but they also represent centuries of agricultural wisdom passed down through generations.

The winding irrigation channels that run between them keep this landscape lush and ensure that farmers have an abundant harvest. This feat of engineering was officially awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status as part of Bali’s Cultural Landscape.

Take in the Sights at Jimbaran Fish Market

Beach in Jimbaran

Jimbaran Bay

As one of the best places to visit in Asia, Bali boasts all manner of beaches and no two parts of its coastline are quite the same. Revelers often head straight for Kuta Beach, while travelers looking for something a bit more luxe head to Nusa Dua.

Surfers make a beeline for Canggu, and those looking for something more off-the-beaten-path head to the black-sand beaches up north.

Jimbaran Bay, south west of Denpasar, easily has some of the most compelling coastline on the whole island. The beach itself is beautiful, but what really makes this worth a trip is the incredible seafood.

Fishes at the Jimbaran Fish Market

Jimbaran Fish Market

Every morning, Jimbaran Fish Market is a riot of colors and sounds, as locals lay out their freshest catch for inspection.

Some of the seafood here will wind up on high-end tasting menus at Michelin-starred restaurants around Bali, but much of it will be sold at the unpretentious seafood eateries that dot the beach.

Come early in the day to catch the bustle of the market in action or come later to feast on the oceanic bounty.

Shop for Gorgeous Batik Fabrics

Batik fabrics

Batik fabric

Bali’s colorful batik prints are works of art. Cheaper imitation fabrics may be plentiful throughout the world, but none can match the intricacy of handmade works by masters.

One of the best places in Bali to shop for one-of-a-kind souvenirs and gifts is at Tohpati Village, an area not far from Kuta, where visitors can watch craftsmen at work. You can buy all manner of batik here, from shirts to bags, wallets, and sarongs, as well as colorful wall hangings.

Eat at a Traditional Warung

Table full of Balinese food

Balinese food

These days, Bali boasts an incredible fine dining scene representing cuisines from around the globe. Nevertheless, some of the best Balinese food can still be found at humble warungs, affordable local eateries, many of which have been serving the same delicious staples for generations.

Plate of nasi ayam campur

Nasi ayam campur

One dish that is absolutely worth seeking out is nasi ayam campur, or chicken rice. This is one of those times when the details really matter and at Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku, located in a lovely teakwood house on the outskirts of Ubud, executes all of them flawlessly.

For a dish that sounds as simple as “chicken rice,” nasi ayam campur has a lot going on. Plates here come piled with impeccably cooked rice, tender chicken, a skewer of chicken satay, spicy house-made sambal, long beans with grated coconut, fried peanuts, cracklings, and a hard-boiled egg.

Visit Kuta Beach

Clear water of Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

Travelers looking for an idyllic or serene stretch of sand may want to look elsewhere, but for those looking for a lively beach scene, Kuta Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Bali, is the place to go.

This sandy expanse lined with hotels, restaurants, and bars often feels like a never-ending party, although there are plenty of family-friendly activities to be found here, including banana boat rides, parasailing, and all sorts of watersports.

Explore Celuk Village

Silver in Celuk Village

Celuk Village

Despite what the name might lead you to believe, Celuk Village is really more of a neighborhood than an actual town.

The term describes a particularly charming stretch of Ubud centered around Jalan Raya Celuk. In addition to being a rather charming place to wander around, Celuk Village is especially renowned for its metalsmiths and master jewelry-makers.

Bali has a long tradition of fine silverwork that dates back hundreds of years. At several of the shops in this area, curious visitors can watch these artisans at work before picking up a beautifully ornate bracelet or bangle to take home.

Watch Master Wood Carvers at Work

Couple touring the Mas Village

Mas Village

Much like Celuk Village, Mas Village is actually an area of Ubud with a long and storied history of fine crafts. In particular, this neighborhood is known for its wood carvers, who for generations have fashioned everything from Buddha statues to gorgeous furniture out of teak and other hardwoods.

Mas Village was once known for producing many of the carvings in the Ubud Royal Palace, as well as statues and intricate decorations for Balinese temples. Today, it’s a good place to pick up an authentic carving of your own – and you can always ship large items home.

Feast on Dessert

Do you have a sweet tooth? Then head for Will Goldfarb’s restaurant in Ubud, where dessert is the star of the show. To the uninitiated, Room 4 Dessert might sound like a bit of an odd concept, but it works. Each tasting menu consists of five desserts, many of which spotlight local Balinese produce.

Although the menu changes to reflect the seasons, it might include grilled papaya with burnt coconut milk and red-veined sorrel, or perhaps a brilliantly colored dish of rice pudding swirled with strawberries and champak meringue.

If you’re the type of diner who simply won’t be sated without something savory, don’t worry—there’s a series of five “snacks” as an amuse-bouche to help prep your palate. These, too, change constantly, but are designed to whet your appetite rather than sate you. As if that wasn’t enough variety, each meal ends with four petit-fours.

Meet Mischievous Monkeys

Monkeys at the Sacred Monkey Forest

Sacred Monkey Forest

In Ubud, up-close encounters with the resident furry primates are all but unavoidable. Bali’s monkey population has long since lost any fear of humans.

While the little guys can get to be a nuisance in certain parts of the island, it’s hard to deny the fact that they’re also endearingly cute. For parents looking to keep teens entertained, it’s tough to top the appeal of watching a family of monkeys at play.

Lush landscape of Sacred Monkey Forest

Sacred Monkey Forest

For some spectacular wildlife photos, the best place to go is Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest, home to troupes of Balinese long-tailed macaques. Expect to see baby monkeys clinging to their mother’s bellies and whole families swinging gracefully through the treetops.

While the monkeys themselves are, of course, the main draw here, it’s worth noting that the forest itself is quite striking. As you stroll along the wooden boardwalk in the shadow of ancient trees dripping with tangles of vines, it’s hard not to feel a sense of awe.

Sample Roasted Pig

Try Babi guling, one of the best things to do in Bali

Babi guling

When the late, great culinary explorer Anthony Bourdain paid a visit to Bali, he found a lot to love in the island’s gastronomic culture. Of all the many dishes he sampled, one is especially revered: babi guling, or Balinese-style roasted pig.

Making this dish is a true feat of culinary skill, one that takes the better part of a day to accomplish. The expert cooks rise well before dawn to rub the whole pigs with spices and baste them in coconut milk over a slow-smoldering fire for hours. By the time they’re through, the meat is fork-tender and the skin has a satisfyingly audible crackle.

Famed restaurant of Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka

Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka Photo by chee.hong on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0

While locals will fiercely debate which establishment serves the best babi guling, one spot holds near-mythical status—and Bourdain’s seal of approval.

Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka has three branches in Ubud, all of which serve some of the most transcendently delicious swine on the planet. Each plate comes mounded with blood sausage, sambal, pork satay, cracklings, and of course, a pile of that richly flavorful roast pork.

Tour Ubud Palace

Visit the Ubud Palace, one of the best things to do in Bali

Ubud Palace

Situated in the center of Ubud, this active royal palace is partially open to the public and makes for a fascinating short visit.

While Pura Marajan Agung, the personal temple for the Balinese royal family, is off-limits, visitors are welcome to admire the carvings and statuary in Puri Saren Agung, the temple attached to the palace itself.  Like all art forms in Bali, the work here is exquisite.

Wander the Gardens of Pura Luhur Batukaru

Historic site of Pura Luhur Batukaru

Pura Luhur Batukaru

Treading along the winding pathways of the gardens surrounding Pura Luhur Batukaru, a Hindu temple that many scholars believe dates back to the 11th century, is an otherworldly experience.

Verdant courtyards and creeping jungle foliage at every turn have a way of transporting visitors. Plan to spend at least an hour or two admiring the various pagodas and small shrines contained within the complex, located in the heart of Bali.

Go Gallery Hopping in Ubud

Exterior of Neka Art Museum

Neka Art Museum Photo by Harditaher on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Over recent decades, bohemian Ubud has grown to be something of a hub for local and international creatives, many of whose works are on display at the area’s art galleries and modest-sized museums.

Blanco Renaissance Museum with lush gardens

Blanco Renaissance Museum

By far one of the most culturally significant is the Neka Art Museum, which opened back in the 1970s as a celebration of traditional Balinese art. Another spot worth checking out is the Blanco Renaissance Museum, named for Don Antonio Blanco, a Spanish painter born in the Philippines who later worked in this architecturally unique mansion.

To view works by up-and-coming Balinese artists, as well as some of their more established peers, visit Heyokah Art House. And to buy your own piece of Balinese art to bring home, simply wander around town, where you’ll find numerous galleries offering locally produced, affordable art.

Scenic view of Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple

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