Whether Bali’s beaches beckon, or you’re looking for something off the tourist-trodden trails, no trip to The Island of the Gods is complete without checking off these bucket list worthy things to do in Bali.
1. Bicycle through the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
When Led Zeppelin sang about the “Stairway to Heaven,” were they referring to the Jatiluwih rice terraces? These stunning verdant tiers resemble steps ascending to a paradisiacal Garden of Eden. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jatiwulh is often overlooked by the tourist trail, enhancing the area’s blanket of lush serenity. The Jatiluwih rice terraces are located in central Bali, about 40 km from Ubud, about an hour and fifteen minutes by car.
To many Jatilwulh is a challenge to get to which is why it remains so quiet, but worth the trek if you’re seeking pristine and scenic hiking conditions (or bucket list bragging rights.) We recommend renting a bicycle once you’re there to explore for a day or two. Breathe the fresh air deeply and be prepared to have your breath taken away by this beautiful spot (Jatiluwih translates to “real beauty,” or “really beautiful,” in Balinese).
2. Sway on a Balinese Swing
Calling all swingers! As in, adrenaline junkies who love the idea of soaring above the jungle canopy suspended on a swing. Hung high between towering palm trees, you’ll find this exciting yet peaceful experience in different regions of the island, the most famous ones being the Ubud Swing at Zen Hideaway, about 30 minutes from Ubud centre, the Bali Swing about 20 minutes’ drive from central Ubud, and the Wanagiri Hidden Hills Swing, about two hours from Kuta. You may want to mute your phone due to all the Instagram love you’ll get after posting your documented swing pics. Warning: the faint of heart need not apply!
3. Drink from the Fountain of Youth
Even before you’re inside Goa Gajah, also known as “The Elephant Cave,” you sense something mystical about this ancient rocky compound. The entry to Goa Gajah is through a chiselled doorway of a demonic mouth; the surrounding rock adorned with intricate carvings. Dating back to the 9th century, inside the Elephant Cave you’ll find relics of Hindu deities and other archaeological remains, and many, many tourists. Just don’t expect to see any elephants, despite the name. For an activity that never gets old, be sure to drink from the Fountain of Youth, two pools that have waterspouts held by six, larger-than-life-sized female figures. Goa Gajah is located about 2 km from Ubud and is accessible by public transit, or opt for what many travellers do and hire a private driver.
4. Go to Goa Gala-Gala
Maybe visiting a subterranean, labyrinthine cave home isn’t exactly on your bucket list, but this is one of the popular things to do in Bali, especially when you are in Nusa Lembongan, an island southeast of Bali. This unique former residence, carved from limestone, was built by hand using rudimentary chiselling tools, making the sprawling underground dwelling that much more impressive. To get there, take a 60 to a 90-minute high-speed boat from the sleepy town of Sanur.
5. Catch & Release in Kuta
The catch we’re referring to is catching waves in Kuta, one of the world’s premier surf destinations. The release reference is releasing oh-so-adorable baby sea turtles into the ocean. Thanks to its smaller swells and many surf schools, Kuta is a great spot to learn how to ride waves. And, from April to October at 4:30 pm daily, the Bali Sea Turtle Society releases baby olive ridley sea turtles into the Indian Ocean. For a small donation, which goes to conservation efforts, join the group and watch the tiny turtles swim into their resplendent new ocean abode.
6. Pilgrimage to Pakerisan Valley
This UNESCO-designated area is also called “The Valley of the Kings,” home to awe-inspiring shrines carved from stone to honour ancient royalty. The scenic splendour is also befitting of kings and deities, here on “The Island of the Gods,” Bali. Here, subak, the ancient irrigation system, is a marvel to behold.
Dating all the way back to the 9th century, this innovation evenly distributes mountain water over terraced rice fields. This amazing, ecologically sustainable water management method has both agrarian and religious significance. Be sure to visit the water temples found amidst the rice paddies, espousing Tri Hita Karana, a harmonious relationship between the earth, humans and the gods. Witness Balinese pilgrims coming to spiritually cleanse in the holy waters, or experience the soul-invigorating environment for yourself.
7. Bliss out in Bali
Thanks to Indonesia’s long history of Hindu and Buddhist spirituality, coupled with breathtaking scenic backdrops, yoga retreats are a cultural cornerstone, attracting travellers from around the world. Some say Bali yoga retreats are renowned for their ability to provide balance and stability, physically, mentally and spiritually. You’ll find many wellness holidays for seasoned yogis and yoginis or those wanting to spearhead a healthier lifestyle. Imagine, returning from vacation feeling better than when you left!
8. Pucker Up for Nyepi
If your bucket-list Bali includes customs you most likely won’t see elsewhere, such as mass lip-locking, then lock in your holidays for Omed-Omedan, “The Kissing Ritual.” Young unwed men and women converge on this day for a kissing celebration, with many spectators looking on. It is part of the Hindu holiday of Nyepi, the “Day of Silence,” primarily observed by the Balinese by fasting and meditating. On this hallowed day, everything – including the beaches and airport—are closed; the exception being emergency services. Depending on the calendar year, Nyepi occurs mid- to late March.
Ready to add -- and then strike off-- these incredible Balinese things to do from your bucket list?