10 Must Do Things in Bali Indonesia – A Guide for First Timers

Bali has almost become synonymous to travel. Just the mention of it triggers your mind to think – let us plan! However, just as easy as it is to arrive upon a destination as Bali, it is equally difficult to chalk out an itinerary. Selecting things to do in Bali can be confusing especially if you have less than a week’s time to holiday in Bali. Natural wonders, rich traditions and culture, beaches and adventure, UNESCO world heritage site – the choices are plenty. In fact there is something for every kind of traveler/tourist from spiritual to the modern adventurous lot.

Must Do Things in Bali

This listing was difficult because there is plenty to choose from. Most of these I have experienced, some I want to experience more and the last one I haven’t experienced at all yet dream of experiencing some day. Do let me know in your comments which one of these must do things in Bali you would prefer to do.

1. Visit a Temple in Bali

Bali, a land of 1000 temples is an understatement. A rough estimate states that there are 20,000 temples or more of various sizes and shapes in Bali. For those spiritually inclined temple hopping can be a great activity. What impressed me most is the location of some of the temples of Bali! Most unique location is that Tanah Lot Temple. Simply don’t miss this! It is a #mustvisit temple. One of the smaller shrines is perched on a piece of land jutting out into Indian Ocean. The rock formation is such that it seems like a small tunnel. You get prizewinning captures of sunset moments here. Highly recommended for sunset collectors!

Must do things in Bali - Tanah Lot Temple Ubud Bali Indonesia

2. Dances of Bali

For those who enjoy local art, culture and traditions the local dances are a #mustenjoy event. Bali has a variety of them. Most of the Balinese dances are based on Hindu mythological stories. So some knowledge of these stories would help understand what is being enacted. The dance-drama is expressed through the bodily gestures. Watch the rhythm and movements of fingers, hands, head and eyes. It is said – dancers learn the craft as children. Even in the womb they are played Balinese music and taught to dance with their hands before they can walk!

Barong and Kris dances are vibrant and elaborate ritual dances. They represent the eternal struggle between good and evil. There are many more kinds of dance in Bali, but if you have time enough to see only one dance then let that be the Kecak Dance in Uluwatu temple. It is a combination of ancient rituals, dance and drama and the setting is on a cliff in Uluwatu Temple. A sunset in the background makes it absolutely magical.

Must do things in Bali - Balinese Dance

Kecak Dance – A dance drama enacting Ramayana

3. Rice Terraces of Bali

Cultural Landscape of Bali Province is included in UNESCO World Heritage list of Indonesia. Include a tour around Ubud region to visit them, especially the rice terraces which are a #mustsee. There are 5 rice terraces, their water temples dating back to 9th century, and the 18th-century Royal Water Temple of Pura Taman Ayun in this list. And all this is one site.

Bali terraced rice fields are almost everywhere. For almost last 2000 years Balinese people have depended on this method of agriculture. Hard to believe these terraced rice fields were carved by hand, with the help of some simple tools then. Thankfully the succeeding generations maintained this method of agriculture. Terraced Rice Fields in West Bali – Jatiluwih, Belimbing, Pupuan; in Central Bali – Tegallalang, Ubud; in East Bali – Tirta Gangga, Sidemen.

Must do things in Bali - Rice Terraces Bali

4. Kopi Luwak of Bali

If you are looking for unique coffee experience then you #musttaste the kopi luwak. The coffee seeds used for preparing this coffee are retrieved from handpicked poops of civet cats. At Bali Pulina, a coffee plantation in Ubud you get to tour the plantation, see the process of this coffee preparation.

5. Souvenirs of Bali

Balinese handicraft items are unique in design. You will discover that no two provinces have same design and finish of the hand made goods. So, that makes Bali a collector’s favorite haunt for handmade items. There is a wide range of things to pick up from. Wood craft of Bali is exquisite, they come in all sizes. Among the expensive but stunning art work is their handmade silver jewellery. A #mustbuy for your sweetheart back home. Batik prints in clothes is another popular handmade product. At one of the hand loom centers I could witness the entire process. It is possible to tie up with your tour guide for an elaborate tour through these handicraft centers. It helps connect with locals and understand their lifestyle better. Bamboo wickerwork, pottery, puppets are some more varieties of their products.

Must do things in Bali - Balinese souvenir

6. Markets of Bali

‘Markets of Bali’ is a subject by itself! Flea markets, street markets, night markets, art markets… so on the list goes. Bali is a perfect haven for all shopaholics; a #musttour for them. Only important factor to be kept in mind is bargaining. If you have fancied upon a buy ask the cost and bargain. Hawkers expect you to do it too, so if you walk away paying the cost quoted you can be sure to have lost almost double the money it actually costs. There are success stories of buyers walking away with purchases at almost one tenth the original cost.

7. Balinese Massage in Spa

Spa experiences a lot common in holiday destinations. However it is sometimes hard to distinguish one from another. Balinese massage is a combination of techniques from various cultures. Under Indian Hindu influence, Ayurvedic healing massage techniques, oils and herbs were introduced. From China came the Buddhism and its accompanying acupressure philosophy. The Balinese adopted and adjusted for a style of their own innovative creation. One can experience this to relax and may be find the difference. Probably after a hectic day of shopping and adventure Balinese Spa is well deserved and a #mustexperience.

Must do things in Bali - Balinese Spa

8. Classical Local Food

Try different foods of Bali. For the vegetarians options may seem less but the street hawkers there do dish out some great veg versions of non vegetarian food. Lawar, for example, is a traditional mix containing fine chopped meat, vegetables, grated coconut and spices. Try the white version of Lawar which does not contain any meat or blood. Traditional cakes locally called jajanan pasar, were ceremonial offerings. But now you can have as desserts or snacks. Ingredients used are glutinous rice, sugar, rice flour, coconut and tropical fruits. Non vegetarians of course will be at a loss to decide on which to choose over the other.

Must do things in Bali - Local Balinese Food

9. Adventure in Beaches of Bali

One of the wild ways to enjoy Bali is getting to the beaches and indulge in some adventurous sea activities. Bali has some amazing water sport facilities. The smaller islands near Bali like Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Turtle Island Tanjung Benoa Bali are a hub of adventurous activities. Their packages include activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, jet ski board and more.

Adventure lovers can easily plan a whole day there and yet not have enough of it. People leave the place promising to return to do the unfinished activities. The snorkeling experience I had Nusa Penida was thrilling. It was like a fairyland down below. Huge flat corals, one can probably sit on them and see the fish swimming by. One of the guides threw in bits of bread and suddenly we were surrounded by school of fish. I tried hard to identify them… could they be Yellow-Tailed Surgeonfish or King Angelfish?

10. Day of Silence in Bali

Most unique experience in Bali – Day of Silence! On this day the whole of Bali goes silent. It falls on some day in March or April and is decided as per the Balinese calendar. They observe silence and it is called Nyepi in local language. Locals stay indoors; even tourists are advised to stay indoors. Most noteworthy is that all flights for the day are cancelled or postponed. Violation can lead to arrest. A day of silence in this modern era! No other country in this world can boast of such a custom followed so religiously by every citizen for sure!

Must Do Things in Bali Indonesia

I am just back from Bali Tour, thanks to Indonesia Tourism for this Familiarization trip.
Right now as I am writing it Bali is going through difficult times due to eruption of Mt. Agung.
With flights cancelled tourists are stuck there.
Locals have been evacuated.
I hope and pray things return back to normal soon.

People Photography - from Bali, Indonesia
Healing Touch at Gunaseelam Temple Trichy Tamil Nadu

50 Responses to “10 Must Do Things in Bali Indonesia – A Guide for First Timers

  • What a fantabulous photo tour and the checklist is so exciting!
    Happy to learn that Balinese are close to their roots.
    Hope everything is fine in Bali. Prayers.

  • A very precise guide for the first timers in Bali. How many days are required for a proper Bali trip? Planning to do a Bali trip in May. Is the time okay?

  • That’s a very good post. We’ve been to Bali and absolutely love it. Tanah Lot was amazing to experience. The other area that we enjoyed was the Ubud Monkey Forest.

  • Yogi Saraswat
    2 weeks ago

    I don’t know whenever I will get a chance to be there but confident there will be there a day and then , I will read your post again 🙂 . First picture is truly the beautiful face of beautiful Bali , but now a days there is some disturbance due to eruption of Volcano . Great conclusive post !!

  • Amazing pics from Bali.
    Thanks a lot for your informative post.

  • Day of silence, I think I would struggle with that, but does sound an interesting celebration. I love visiting temples, so if I was to visit Bali that would be at the top of the list, they are so relaxing. The food sounds interesting, the vegetarian Lawar would be a must try, now it’s making me hungry.

  • Great post! Bali has been creeping slowly up my travel list, and it’s so easy to write it off as a nothing destination because of the types of travellers that often go there. I’ve never really known much about what to actually do in Bali, so this has given me lots of inspiration!

  • I haven’t been to Bali yet, but it sure seems to be exploding in the tourism industry right now! So many people have visited! Maybe next time I’m on that side of the world…

  • Wow, I knew that there are a lot of temples in Bali, but 20’000? That’s so incredible! I loved the Barong dance I saw during my stay in Bali and you’re good in recommending it. The rice terraces are definitely a highlight, especially in the right light. I absolutely love the concept of Nyepi! Every country should have it at least once a month 😀

  • This sounds so incredible! And how amazing to experience a day of silence by an entire culture. Honestly, I think that’s the most tempting part as it’s so unique. However, the flea markets and massage are definitely an added bonus!

  • I’m heading back to Bali for the second time in a week or so, but it’s my husband’s first time so this list was a great reminder of everything I need to show him! Plus, last time I missed Tanah Lot Temple, so this will be a perfect 1st for the both of us! I can’t wait!

  • Bali is so culturally rich and I can never tire of it. Glad to see that you were able to do all these activities there. The day of silence is so unique right? I wish we too, had one, though I might find it difficult myself

  • Bali has been on my bucket list for a long time and these tips have been a great help to plan my future trip. I would like to visit a rice field, go to the beach, see some temples, have a massage and eat some local food!

  • I didn’t know they had a day of silence. That is really interesting. I really want to go to Bali so this is a great breakdown. I would love to go to the temples and the rice fields. I can’t believe those were carved by hand and have remained how they are for so long. Amazing!

  • Bali is beautiful and this is indeed a very useful guide to help first-timers plan their trip. What usually happens when you are traveling and there are too many attractions and experiences is that you end up cramming your activities and may end up missing important things. These sort of guides are really useful. I love the fact that this guide includes many activities that are off beat, like the dances of Bali.

  • Neil Alvin Nicerio
    6 days ago

    Bali is such a beautiful place to visit. Thanks for sharing such a detailed and informative article. I will add this place to my bucketlist.

  • Bali should be a wonderful place to visit! Many of my friends have been there and they Always say want to return and with them I will be coming as well. Will use your guide. Thanks for sharing

  • very well written and you have listed down the activities so explicitly along with giving a certain example /specification too , a must bookmark article for future reference

  • Thanks for sharing this Indrani. Tanah Lot Temple seems fun and I would love to capture the sunset there. And of course, the Kecak Dance in Uluwatu temple. I must stay clear of the day of silence ! Even though it is interesting, I know I will struggle but my daughter will surely be detained by the authorities 😉

  • Thanks for sharing this, Indrani! The day of silence seems interesting. Would love to be there on that day 🙂

  • Yep, you’ve said it, Bali has become the synonym for travel. 🙂 I’ve visited the island years ago while it wasn’t this “popular”. And to be honest, I’m glad I did it then.
    You’re list of must do things is great, all the things one should do, see and experience. I’ve also fell in love with Bali’s temples. The Tanah Lot Temple is surreal! Loved the food, was fortunate enough to find one small local restaurant looking at rice terraces.
    And you’re right, the traditional dance is a must. Along with small monkeys stealing your sun glasses on the way to the show. 😀

  • Gorgeous shots. Bali is on my wish list.

  • I’ve known Bali to be an exciting place to visit. It has a rich culture to baost of. Visiting the local market and tasting local dishes would be the highlight for me. Lest I forget, a spa would do justice too.

  • This is a wonderful list and I will certainly use it when I visit that side of Indonesia 🙂 (love the pictures and can’t wait to try their local cuisine)

  • I loved my visit to Bali. The beaches, the warm welcoming people, the rice fields in central Ubud, and the stunning viewpoints of the Indian Ocean, some great restaurants – it is a great destination. Agree with all your suggested things to do, except point 4. I came to know recently about the animal cruelty involved in making of Kopi Luwak and the civet breeding farms, so that turned me off this experience completely.

  • Yogi Saraswat
    3 days ago

    Amazing pics from Bali and I think your very first picture of your post should be declare as a “logo” of Bali tourism .

  • I’ve never been to Bali, but now I feel like I know way more about it than just head to the beach! The beautiful temples have always transfixed me, I think I’d like to see some of them first, although I love the idea of watching local dances and customs as I feel I’d get closer to the real Bali doing this! Thanks for sharing.

  • its amazing culture thanks for fabulous picture sharing

  • This is a great must do list! My friend went their a couple of weeks ago and she loveddddd it so much. Sje felt so relaxed while she was there hehe. I can’t wait to visit!

  • Hi Indrani, nicely described Indonesian culture. Hope will visit soon.

  • I haven’t been to Bali and surely this guide is really a big help for a first timer like me. I would love to amble around the stunning rice terraces, and visit all the beautiful temples. I as well would like to try the luscious local food. This is just exciting. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  • You got a great list there. If I could, I would do all the ten things but in my experience I was only able to do Balinese spa, dance, beach, and local food. I wish to visit a cliff. And from your list the rice terraces. We have the same in the Philippines but I believe that from Indonesia would still have its own charm. Maybe soon!

  • Excellent post on the Must Do Things in Bali, Indrani. Love the fact that they still have these dance dramas enacting Ramayana. The terraced rice fields look beautiful. Congratulations on the Familiarization tour. I hope you had returned before the eruption.

  • I’ve only been to the more remote parts of Indonesia and for a variety of reasons have always stayed away from Bali. If I went, the things that would be of interest would be the rice paddies – just love them after seeing them in Vietnam and the food. I’d love to try the snorkelling at Nusa Penida too.

  • I’ve been to Bali twice, but never heard of the Day of Silence, how interesting, and quite hard too for some! I totally agree with your suggestions, especially the balinese massage, I love them. You can never not visit without seeing the rice terraces, they’re always stunning.

  • Ohhh Bali! We have been 3 month in Indonesia and only spent 3 night on that island. Now I wish we took more time exploring! Especially I would have love to walk on rice terraces, visiting the temples and even experience a silence day…which I think all the country should have! And I have heard that Bali has a lot of waterfalls which I love!

  • Having just come back from Bali, I absolutely love this post! You’ve managed to sum up all the amazing activities that make Bali so unique.. the food, the Hindu culture, the underwater world… reading it has made me want to go back again and see even more. The one thing I missed out on was a Balinese massage. That’s worth a trip back in itself 🙂

  • Indrani, that’s a nice itinerary that I could just blindly follow! Thank you! 🙂
    Hope I’ll make it to Bali in 2019.
    The temple on a ledge on the sea? I really have to see it!!!
    Rice terraces is definitely a must see for me.

  • I’ve always wanted to go to Bali but this post has my wanderlust hitting hard! What an amazing place seemingly full of everything under the sun. If I had to pick, I’d be headed straight to the rice terraces and the various markets. Can’t wait to make it there one day!

  • I have heard so much about Bali, and yeah, I know there is so much to do there. You’ve done well in summarizing the must-dos for first time visitors. A temple visit is at the top of my list especially the Tanah Lot. So picturesque! Observing a day of silence would be great too. Wish I can witness that!

  • Whenever I think of Bali or see pictures its always of the gorgeous beaches. I didn’t even think of temples till now. 20,000?? WOW, One thing I love to see when visiting other places is listening to local music and see the local dance. Aside from food, it’s the best way to experience a culture. Those Rice Terraces’ looks so pretty. I would love to fly my drone around there. I wonder if that would be allowed.

  • This is really very helpful for the first time travelers.Specially loved the rice terrace.

  • What an intuitive guide.. will definitely help me explore Bali to the core! 🙂

  • I went to Bali for my honeymoon a few years ago and loved it. You are right though that is a lot to see and do there. I loved the temples and I enjoyed going to the monkey forest and watching the monkeys crawl all over everyone. We never made it to the Rice Terraces of Bali unfortunately but I wished we had off. I also never got a message which we wished we had off too.

  • I just can’t get over the setting of the Tanah Lot Temple! It’s so incredibly beautiful…I would love to capture it on my camera some day 🙂 Also I would love the Balinese Massage in Spa after a day full of explorations and adventures…it’s so interesting to know about its evolution under Indian and Chinese influences…

  • I’ve never been to Bali. Somehow couldn’t explore beyond Yogyakarta. When I do head there, I’ll indulge in some Balinese massage for sure, and check out the traditional dance forms as well. Cheers!!

  • I may not miss even a single thing on that list. The food looks so tempting, the architecture amazing and the landscapes refreshing. Hopefully soon we should be able to plan a trip. Have you been there multiple times?

  • I love Bali! It’s so beautiful and wonderful, and yes, many of things are a must do and see. But, I haven’t taken part in a day of silence. I think that would be incredible! I want to experience that someday. I absolutely love the rice terraces there — that’s my top one.

  • I never knew about the day of silence. Cancelling or postponing of flights to maintain a custom seems like a far fetched idea to me, but again, to each her own. Bali is indeed synonymous with travel nowadays. Apart from the beaches, the rice terraces of Bali attracts me the most!

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