Bali is a small, pint-sized island tucked away amongst thousands of other idyllic Indonesian islands and islets. Though it is one of many, the aptly-named ‘Island Of The Gods’ offers so much that you won’t find anywhere else on the planet.
So what makes this little slice of paradise such a desirable holiday destination? Here are eight experiences that you won’t find anywhere else in the world (and also eight reasons to go Backpacking Through Bali for your next travel adventure):
Kecak Fire Dance
There are dozens of traditional dance performances in Bali but few rivals the fiery experience of the Kecak Fire Dance! This dance performance depicts the battle from the Hindu epic Ramayana - a battle between gods, demons... and monkey gods. Before the written word, these stories were how history was relayed from one generation to the next.
Unlike other Balinese dances that use instruments and orchestras, the Kecak is simply accompanied by the chanting of the chorus of men (and women since 2006!) representing an army of monkeys rhythmically chanting in unison. This is a definite can’t-miss and is featured on day 8 of our 18-day Bali tour.
Mangrove SUP Tour On Nusa Lembongan
A thick mangrove forest blankets the northern portion of Nusa Lembongan island. The ocean spills into the mangrove forest, down finger-like channels and canals. The best way to explore this unique ecosystem is via SUP (stand-up paddleboard). This is the ideal place for a first-time SUP experience with slow-moving, calm waters.
The route carves through the forest and feeds into the crystal clear sea. You can opt to head here to explore or back to relax at the trailhead. The sea here remains calm and is so crystal-clear that you can watch the tropical bounty of life that lives in the coral shelters without ever getting into the water.
Want to see the SUP route? Check out day 5 highlights over in the tour gallery!
Balinese Cuisine… For The Win!
Maybe you’ve heard tales of Bali's most beloved backpacker favourite, Nasi Goreng? Literally, “fried rice” in Malay and Indonesian, this will set the standard for rice dishes for the rest of your days.
Beyond this next-level fried rice, Balinese cuisine relies on the heavy use of local herbs, produce, and spices. The vibrant, colourful dishes are an intense sensory experience that punctuate and mimic life on the island.
Classic dishes are served everywhere from tiny, affordable warungs (restaurants) to high-end restaurants, making it easy for you to savor the flavors of real Balinese food anywhere and everywhere.
Bring home some of your own Balinese cooking skills! That's the plan for day 8 when a local family welcomes us into their home for a cooking lesson.
Ubud’s Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Monkey madness, indeed! Ubud’s Monkey Forest lies within the village of Padangtegal, which owns the land. The villagers view the Monkey Forest as an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation center for the village.
The forest sanctuary is inhabited by a band of over 700 grey-haired and long-tailed macaques. You will witness these furry families in their natural habitat in this ancient jungle forest as you wind through the many pathways. The park staff feeds the monkeys a heaping helping of sweet potato three times per day and this is when the forest really comes to life.
There are also three Hindu temples on the sprawling, 10-acre grounds. Locals and pilgrims visit the temples for prayer and to make offerings, which adds to the allure of this experience.
Side note & top tips: These rascals are undeniably cute but don’t let that fool you – they are very much the kings of this jungle. Keep your distance unless they approach you, keep loose items such as jewelry, phones, cameras secure, and avoid direct eye contact (yes, really). Park signs will give the same reminder.
Wander Tegallalang Rice Terrace
This is probably that spot from that photo in Bali that you always wanted to see! This is also where we visit on day 15 of the tour. The Tegallalang Rice Terrace is famous for its vibrant rice paddies designed with the subak (traditional Balinese cooperative) irrigation system, passed down from farmers dating as far back as the 8th century.
Tegalalang Rice Terrace is part of the Cultural Landscape of Bali Province UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprises cascading emerald-green fields worked by local rice farmers just outside of Ubud. Today, this is more of a spectacle for tourists than a working field of rice paddies but it is easy to imagine quiet times in the not-so-distant past when these fields were teeming with farmers.
The famous Bali Swings (featured in the main photo of this article) are dotted along these paddies and make for quite a thrilling experience.
Wealth Of Waterfalls
Waterfalls on waterfalls on waterfalls… and we are 100% good with that! One quick look at a map of Bali and you will see there is no shortage of waterfalls. These refreshing retreats are a great day-activity in a country, and especially in one that remains balmy throughout the year.
There are over 100 waterfalls spread over Bali and each offers something new. Our top suggestions are as follows:
Sekumpul Waterfalls (Day 16)
You can’t miss the 80 metre falls of Sekumpul Waterfalls (day 16) tucked away in the thick jungle of northern Bali. The waterfall is actually a cluster of six to seven narrow cascades that flow into a lush bamboo valley. Few tourists, unreal views, and plenty of pools to cool down after the moderately difficult trek down... this place is pure magic and somehow not on most backpacker's radar.
We promise the effort is well worth the views and you won’t find crowds or sellers hawking goods here aside from a few smiley fruit sellers. You can also pay a small fee to have a driver bring you to the trailhead via motorbike. Sekumpul Waterfall is undoubtedly one of Bali’s most scenic natural attractions!
Tegenungan Waterfalls (Day 9)
There is also Tegenungan Waterfalls (day 9), a scenic waterfall carved into a lush jungle setting above a shallow bathing pool. This is the more busy, crowded of the two waterfalls but there is plenty of space to explore and get away from the crowds. You can also chill out at the many cafes and warungs lining the pathways down to the plunge pool.
Pura Tirta Empul - Holy Springs
For over a thousand years, Balinese Hindu worshipers and pilgrims have travelled to Pura Tirta Empul… the Holy Water Temple. The sacred springs at this holy site bubble up from below the ground and are said to have been created by The God Indra. They are also said to possess both physical and mental curative properties.
Bathers begin in the pool on the left side submerged to the waist. Then you will (if you'd like) proceed to each spout with each signifying different meanings.
Today (day 15), you will find a mix of worshipers and tourists from all over the world to marvel at the beauty of this ancient relic... and take a sin-cleansing dip in its blessed water.
Land Of 20,000 Temples
A trip to Bali is never complete without a visit to at least a couple of the sacred temples. There are over 20,000 temples in Bali. Yes, 20,000! Temples, pura in Balinese, are hard to differentiate from local homes and often they are one and the same. Locals are so devout to their religion that they construct their homes in the likeness of temples.
[See the Top 5 Must-See Temples In Bali!]
Most Bali temples are normally peaceful, quiet, and desolate. They change into places of electric excitement during festivals or temple anniversaries. You’ll find that each of Bali’s temples is unique. They may either face towards the mountains, the sea or towards sunrise.
Uluwatu Temple (Day 2)
Uluwatu Temple offers spectacular cliff-top views towering 250 feet above the waves of the Indian Ocean. Ulu means the ‘top’ or the ‘tip’ and watu is ‘stone’ or ‘rock’ in Balinese. The sprawling grounds of the temple date back to around the 10th century. A small forest surrounds the temple where hundreds of monkeys dwell. Locals say they guard the temple against negative influences, bad spirits, and bad luck. Though please note the top tips from #3 above. They are indeed some cheeky monkeys!
Tanah Lot Temple (Day 3)
This is one of Bali's famous Hindu sea temples built in the 16th century - with all of the pura constructed within eyesight to the next to form a chain that is believed to protect the coast from evil spirits and ill-intentioned invaders. At high tide, waves flood in to surround the temple. At low tide, you may cross to explore the base where the legendary ‘guardian’ sea snakes dwell in crevices around the Tirta Pabersihan fountain… as the legend goes.
Though this is a seaside temple, there is a source of natural, believed-to-be holy water that curiously bubbles up from below. Priests at the fountain bless visitors by sprinkling them with the water and you can cup your palms and take a sip to prove it is amazingly freshwater.
Pura Ulun Danu Temple (Day 17)
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is a Hindu temple located in the north of Bali dating back to 1633. The name, Ulun Danu Beratan, literally translates to ‘the source temple of Lake Beratan’. The glassy, reflective surface of the lake surrounding most of the temple’s base creates a unique floating impression. The misty Bedugul mountain range surrounding the lake towers over temple's scenic backdrop. This rim of the mountains above was actually formed here over 30,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption!
Travel is about seeking the newness of a place; the cuisine, the culture, the unfamiliar smells, sights, and sounds. It is about seeking a new experience in a foreign land to shock you, and maybe even scare you, just the right amount - and in just the right way. For these reasons, and for so many more, Bali deserves strong consideration for that next holiday getaway. Oh, and the uber tropical beaches never disappoint.
If you know you want to get to Bail but don't know where to start with planning, check out our epic 18-day group backpacking tour adventure... ideal for first-time, solo backpackers!