Beautiful Bali awaits you with a mixture of everything: turquoise waters, black volcanic sand beaches, lush green rice fields, surfing spots and a rich cultural experience.
And the best thing about it? You can have it all on a budget and cover the 5 best regions in Bali within just 10 days. For this Travel Itinerary, in each destination mentioned within this article, you will spend 2 days. Of course, with more time at hand, you can always extend your stay.
So let’s start off your Balinese adventure.
1. Ubud: Rice fields, a monkey forest and some culture time
Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali but offers more than just an abundance of Hindu temples to explore. Start off your day at the market and bargain your way to some colorful silk sarongs and self-painted batiks. Enjoy a fresh coconut at a coconut café and stroll along the shopfronts all the way down to monkey forest. Now, I could spend a whole day here watching the monkeys interact in such an insanely humane way with each other. But since we are on a tight schedule – spend a few hours walking around what feels like an endless jungle out of Tomb Raider and try to hide away all your food, sunglasses and water bottles. Otherwise, the monkeys will get attached to you – which might seem cute to you at first, but once they have their hands on your stuff, they won’t let go.
Other than that, Ubud is just a perfect place for people watching, enjoying good and cheap Balinese food and obviously, getting a massage. In fact, anywhere in Bali is good for getting a massage. You won’t find many places in the world where you can get one for under 10 dollars an hour. So don’t hesitate to store up for all the massage-less times back home.
On Day Two, we’ll get out of Ubud and do a day tour of the surrounding areas because Ubud is just a great jumping-off point for that. There are numerous day tours (a lot of them for under 15 dollars!) and I would recommend one that includes at least Mount Batur and the juicy green rice fields (either in Tegalalang or Jatiluwih). There are a couple restaurants offering an amazing view of the volcano Mount Batur. But be prepared to bargain for your lunch buffet – the prices of over 15 dollars are a scam!
Anything else is a nice add-on. We went to a family owned coffee plantation, which was actually one of my favorite activities on the tour. We had a whole tasting of coffees and teas such as ginseng coffee and ginger tea for free and were shown how the most expensive coffee (Luwak coffee) was grown and harvested.
2. Lovina: Black volcanic beaches and dolphin watching
Lovina in the north is a calmer, much less touristy place in Bali. It’ll give you a chance to tune down your busy schedule a little and unwind. Enjoy a sunset at the black volcanic beaches, read at the pool and get up early the next day with the sunrise for some dolphin watching.
Lovina and the surrounding area is also great for snorkeling and diving. You can go on a tour to Menjangan island, which is about a 1.5-hour drive from Lovina. It’s often referred to as “Deer Island”, as deer swim here from the mainland to graze, and has some of Bali’s best-preserved coral reefs.
3. Nusa Dua: Water sports, turquoise waters and the best food in Bali
Nusa Dua is a place full of resorts built in the 70s and is particularly popular for family tourism now. But even as a backpacker or budget traveler, you’ll find a great cheap guesthouse here and won’t run out of fun activities during your stay. Particularly the beaches here are spectacular. Head to Geger Beach, enjoy a swim in its crystal clear waters and lean back on one of the colorful cushions with a cocktail in hand. Nusa Dua Beach is also a great place to sunbath and watch the waterblow, where waves crash into a rock wall resulting in a huge splash of sea water.
In Benoa Bay, you won’t be able to swim but you can choose from a variety of different water sports activities, which are probably much more expensive in most other countries in the world. Hop on a banana boat or ride the waves on a jetski.
The best Balinese food I had in Bali was in Nusa Dua, in a restaurant called Bambu Bali. Yes, it will be a fancy, a bit more expensive night out (you should calculate about 10 dollars for a meal) but you won’t regret it. Dine in a homely, garden-like setting under the stars and indulge in braised quid with lime and lemon basil or a whole roast baby chicken wrapped in a banana leaf.
4. Gili Air: The best beaches and a relaxed pace of life
Oh, Gili Air is something else… it’s a place where time stands still, where the sea shimmers in all nuances of blue imaginable and where you will forget all your sorrows in a heartbeat.
Gili Air is one of three islands (the Gilis) that can be reached by speedboat from Padang Bai in Bali within two hours. Technically, they are not part of Bali but located on Lombok (another part of Indonesia) but because of their proximity, most people include them on their Balinese journey. And they do that for a reason. Gili Air was absolutely my favorite part of my Bali trip.
The island is rather small so you can reach everything by foot. Since no motor vehicles are allowed on Gili Air, you can also rent a bike or take one of the many horse carriages around.
Gili Air is all about relaxation and unwinding. Take a yoga class or even stay at a yoga retreat, sip a fresh juice on a hammock or ride a swing on the beach into the sunset. If you do decide to become a bit more active, you can go on a one-day snorkeling trip around all three Gili islands.
5. Kuta: Exciting nightlife, souvenir shopping, and surfing
Kuta is the most touristy region in Bali and has a much more westernized feel to it. Still, because of its exciting nightlife, stunning beach sunsets and close proximity to the airport, it’s a good place to end your Balinese vacation in.
Kuta Beach is great for surfing – regardless if you are a beginner or already have some practice. Just rent a surfboard from one of the surf schools or vendors at the beach and dive into the waves. They also offer classes if you want a full introduction and not rely on youtube tutorials. Don’t forget to get your reward afterward: a relaxing massage right by the beach.
Other than its beach life, Kuta offers endless possibilities of souvenir shopping, good eats (although more expensive than in the other regions of Bali) and some raging nightlife. If you are into big clubs you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet and party all night long in Bali’s biggest nightclub. Don’t go too strong though: your flight back home is waiting for you the next day.
Once you’ve been to Bali, you might end up coming back sooner or later. After all, you’ll miss your cheap foot massage, your fresh coconut and your turquoise beaches.