A visit here sparks the senses. As soon as you arrive, the intoxicating fragrance of incense and clove oil hangs in the thick tropical air. Peanuts sizzle at roadside stalls, petal-strewn offerings smolder on busy sidewalks, and traditional gamelan music jangles against the buzz of mopeds. Despite the clamor and chaos of the main tourist areas, the island is rich in natural beauty, with attractions for every kind of traveler. Surfers come for the legendary swells, hikers can trek up jungly volcanic peaks and to misty waterfalls, and cyclists can bike through lush landscapes bristling with rice terraces and traditional villages. The island’s rich arts scene is another top draw, and if relaxation is your top priority, the shopping in Bali and spa treatments are fabulous – and affordable.
Spirituality adds yet another layer to Bali’s allure, and seeing the magnificent temples and sacred Hindu ceremonies are top things to do. Since the famous book and film Eat, Pray, Love spotlighted Bali, the tourist throngs have undeniably swelled, but you can still experience old Bali if you stray off the beaten track.About 20 kilometers northwest of Kuta, Pura Tanah Lot (“Pura” means temple in Balinese) is one of Bali’s most iconic temples thanks to its spectacular seaside setting on a rocky islet surrounded by crashing waves.
For the Balinese people, it is one of the most sacred of all the island’s sea temples. (The largest and holiest Hindu temple in Bali is Pura Besakih, but recently local hagglers have been harassing visitors.) Every evening, throngs of tourists from Kuta, Legian, and Sanur find their way through a labyrinth of lanes lined by souvenir sellers to watch the sun setting behind the temple. Pura Tanah Lot was built at the beginning of the 16th century and is thought to be inspired by the priest Nirartha, who asked local fishermen to build a temple here after spending the night on the rock outcrop.
Although foreigners can’t enter any of the temples, you can walk across to the main temple at low tide, and it’s fun to wander along the paths taking photos and soaking up the magnificent setting. After viewing the various temples and shrines, you can relax at one of the clifftop restaurants and cafes here and even sample the famous Kopi luwak (civet coffee), while friendly animals snooze on the cafe’s tables.
From Tanah Lot, you can stroll along tropically landscaped pathways to beautiful Batu Bolong, another sea temple perched on a rock outcrop with an eroded causeway connecting it to the shore. When visiting any temples in Bali, be sure to dress respectfully, and wear a sarong and sash.Every day in Bali’s predawn darkness, hundreds of visitors begin the trek up the 1,700-meter summit of Mount Batur to watch the sun rise above the lush mosaic of mist-shrouded mountains and the caldera far below. This sacred active volcano lies in Kintamani District in Bali’s central highlands, about an hour’s drive from Ubud, and the hike to the summit to watch the sunrise has long graced the list of top things to do in Bali.
The hike along the well-marked trails is relatively easy and usually takes about two to three hours. Guided treks typically include a picnic breakfast, with eggs cooked by the steam from the active volcano. On a clear day, the views are spectacular, stretching all the way across the Batur caldera; the surrounding mountain range; and beautiful Lake Batur, the island’s main source of irrigation water. Sturdy hiking shoes are essential, and it’s advisable to wear layers, as the temperature can be cool before sunrise. You can also combine a trip here with a visit to one of Bali’s most important temples, Pura Ulun Danu Batur, on the lake’s northwest shore, and a therapeutic soak in hot springs at the beautiful village of Toya Bungkah on the banks of Lake Batur.