In Bali, there's an unspoken rule that wherever there are famous ancient Hindu temples and tropical vistas, there will be a swarm of tourists. But don't let this put you off visiting the Indonesian island's vast cultural treasures—sites like the Cliffside Uluwatu Temple and the sacred lakes of Tirta Empul retain their allure regardless of the number of visitors. You've come to the right place if you're looking for a primer on Bali's must-see attractions (together with suggestions for avoiding the crowds), as well as a few hidden and up-and-coming jewels. Here is a list of the finest things to do in Bali.
1. Sukawati Art Market
While it might not be a fun virtual escape room for kids, Sukawati Art Market is a less expensive and more tranquil alternative to Ubud Market and other major tourist destinations in southern Bali. From framed paintings depicting local farm life to giant wooden sculptures of Hindu deities, there is an astounding choice of handcrafted artwork for sale. It's a great spot to practice your haggling talents on brightly colored clothing and accessories, home products, and tote bags for all tastes without the daunting crowds.
2. Nyang Nyang Beach
The phrases "south" and "secluded" are rarely used together in Bali, but Nyang Nyang Beach in Uluwatu certainly fits the bill. If you're dedicated enough to discover it, you'll find white dunes, greenery-lined cliffs, and an astounding lack of tourists. Who knows, maybe you'll strike it rich and have the coast to yourself. If you've been frustrated by how crowded Bali's main beaches have grown, Nyang Nyang is the haven you've been seeking for.
3. Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall
The Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall, a new Northern Bali attraction, is a little difficult to find. You'll need to travel at least 90 minutes from Ubud and stroll through a banana plantation for 20 minutes. However, once you've finished the hike, you'll be rewarded richly with a thick forest concealing a quartet of enormous waterfalls that are surprisingly uncrowded. The main waterfall, a lush rock amphitheater with misty streams flowing down to a shallow pool, is the most magnificent.
4. Pura Lempuyang Temple
Lempuyang Temple is a famous seven-temple complex in eastern Bali best renowned for the Gateway to Heaven, which perfectly frames the mighty Mount Agung, the island's tallest peak. It is located far from the tourist commotion of Ubud. This is one of Bali's most beautiful sights—come early in the morning for the best, least crowded views—as well as a significant Hindu temple. A contribution, a sarong (also available on loan), and a 40,000 rupiah ($3) round-trip vehicle shuttle up the steep mountainside are all required for entry.
5. Ubud Monkey Temple
Ubud Monkey Forest may appear to be an open-air zoo, but it is actually a sacred location with a 1000-plus band of long-tailed Balinese macaques in their native habitat. Although some of the monkeys can be obnoxious—dangling jewelry, luggage, or food in plain sight will attract aggressive sticky fingers—the primates are revered by Balinese Hindus who visit the complex's three ancient temples.
6. Menjangan Island
Menjangan Island is a little, less-traveled jewel eight miles off the northwestern coast of Bali and is part of the West Bali National Park. It's known as "Deer Island" because of the abundant Javan rusa deer that wander there, and its bordering coral reefs make it one of Greater Bali's greatest diving and snorkeling destinations. On land, sashaying deer saunter around the island and take chest-deep dives in the beach water.
7. Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Tegalalang Rice Terrace is one of Bali's most photogenic—and visited—destinations, located 20 minutes north of Ubud. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to huge, undulating levels of rice paddies, which are maintained alive by an ancient, complex irrigation system and farmers who care for the terraces in the same way that prior generations did for millennia. This region is yours to explore at your leisure. Take a brief stroll or walk the full length; descend to some of the lower slopes for a fresh perspective (if the farmers don't object); or take a stop at an open-air cafe.