Before we dive into this Bali travel guide I have to warn you. If you’re looking for a super active, packed low-budget itinerary, this is not the post for you. There was just one goal I had in mind when I was planning my trip to Bali and that was to enjoy every second and leave completely relaxed. As exciting as traveling non-stop can be, at some point you do want a little break and Bali was going to be mine. What made it even better was that Jess was flying in from London to join me.
In theory you can stay in one place and then do different day trips on the island. But traffic is pretty slow which means you’ll be spending a lot of time on the road. We’re staying in three different hotels, in Seminyak (south-west), Ubud (north) and Sukawati (south-east) and explore different parts of Bali from here.
Day 1-4: Seminyak
Kuta is probably Bali’s most touristy destination, but Seminyak is a close second. After spending some time in Java, it’s hard to believe this is also Indonesia. The Indonesian food that I love so much doesn’t taste like it’s being prepared by a local chef. And shops and cafés are all focussing on tourists, looking the same as any other tourist destination around the world. Don’t get me wrong, some look really nice, but you don’t want to fly half-way across the globe to find something just like home, right?
Nyepi: Day of Silence
Although, it doesn’t really matter what I think about tourism in Seminyak, because most of the shops and restaurants are closed during our stay. The reason: Nyepi. The Balinese New Year and ‘Day of Silence’. Based on what you read about this holiday you could decide to either avoid it or plan your trip during the celebrations. I decide that since this is only happening once a year and only in Bali that I don’t want to miss it.
It’s actually a six day celebration, with Nyepi (the day of silence) being the 3rd and most important day. The island is basically closed and completely silent. No traffic (including air traffic) or people on the street, curtains are closed, and indoor music and lighting is being kept to a minimum. For us this means we can’t leave the hotel.
The idea is that with the island being completely dark and silent, evil spirits will think that Bali is deserted and so they will leave as well.
But the main reason to plan your trip during Nyepi is because of the night before: the Ogoh-Ogoh parade. After sunset locals carry huge ‘ogoh-ogoh’ (demons) statues accompanied with music and dancing around town to then burn them on the beach. It’s incredible to watch.
Where to eat in Seminyak
Since everything is closed because of Nyepi, we’re having almost all our meals at the hotel. But we do manage to find one really nice café in Seminyak that is open: Corner House. Again, not typical Indonesian, but worth checking out.
Address: Jl. Kayu Aya No. 10 A, Seminyak
Where to stay in Seminyak: Katamama
My hotel in Seminyak is the gorgeous Katamama. Still one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever stayed at. For more information, check out my review of Katamama.
Website: Katamama (check Rates & Availability)
Address: Jl. Petitenget No.51B, Seminyak
Day 4-6: Ubud
Since this is a super luxurious week, a driver from our next hotel is picking us up at Katamama to take us to our next destination: Ubud. This is the Bali I was expecting to find as we’re driving along the rice fields and through little villages. I won’t say Ubud isn’t touristy, because it certainly is, but the atmosphere is completely different compared to Seminyak. Less partying, more culture and creativity.
Things to do in Ubud
Tegallalang Rice Terrace
One of the images that first comes to mind when you think about Bali is probably that of a rice terrace. I was surprised to find them sort of on the side of the road instead of in the middle of nowhere, but that does mean they’re easy to visit. You can walk through them to take photos. Just be careful as it can get quite muddy and slippery.
Yes…I fell in the mud.
Ubud Monkey Forest
Another must-do in Ubud is the Sacred Monkey Forest. This was so much nicer than I thought it would be. For one, walking through a forest is a nice escape from the hot and humid weather. But most of all, the monkeys are hilarious.
By now they’re so used to people feeding them, that they’ll jump on you even if you’re not carrying food, but it still doesn’t feel like a zoo.
Address: Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud
The Saraswati Temple is a beautiful temple in the centre of Ubud. There’s even a Starbucks right next door.
Address: Jl. Kajeng, Ubud
Pura Tirta Empul Temple
But for a ‘real’ temple experience visit the Pura Tirta Empul (holy water spring) Temple, a 30 minute drive from Ubud and founded in the 10th century. The entire compound is interesting, but the most famous part are the purification pools. Locals (and some tourists) come here to cleanse their mind and body as they believe that the water coming from the sacred springs has healing powers.
Address: Jalan Tirta, Manukaya, Tampaksiring
Where to eat in Ubud
For delicious food and an incredible view overlooking palm trees and the Campuhan river, go to Bridges Bali.
Address: Jl. Raya Campuhan, Ubud
And you know I can never resist a beautiful café when I’m traveling. Lazy Cats Cafe is the perfect place to enjoy a nice refreshing drink sitting in comfortable chairs.
Address: Jalan Raya Ubud No. 11, Ubud
Where to stay in Ubud: Bisma Eight
When it comes to choosing our hotels for this trip we did good. In Ubud we’re staying at Bisma Eight. Again, a beautiful boutique hotel where the industrial design of the building fits in perfectly with the surrounding green garden and palm trees.
We start and end our day at their rooftop restaurant Copper Kitchen & Bar. I love the decor of this place.
And when we’re done exploring Ubud, the infinity pool overlooking the jungle is the perfect spot to relax.
Website: Bisma Eight (check Rates & Availability)
Address: Jl. Bisma No.68, Ubud
Day 6-8: Sukawati
As we’re coming to the end of our time in Bali, this is the most relaxing part of an already very relaxing week. Normally I never understand people who travel to another country and are then only interested in seeing the beach and their resort. But when we arrive in Sukawati I become one of those people: we never leave the hotel.
Where to stay in Sukawati: The Royal Purnama
When choosing hotels I normally go for modern, design boutique hotels. The Royal Purnama is different. It’s new, but the interior design is a bit more traditional which actually makes it the most Balinese hotel we stay in during our trip. And when it comes to service quality and hospitality it’s definitely the best of the three (and the others were already really good).
Hotels will always say you’re their guest but at the Royal Purnama it honestly feels like you are. The staff is super friendly, they know who you are and they go above and beyond to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. The only thing that could be slightly better is the food. It’s fine, as is the service, but again the Indonesian dishes don’t taste really authentic.
It’s hard to say what I love most about this hotel. The luxurious room behind a beautiful wood-carved door and yes…a private pool. Waking up early to watch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean on the black sand beach. Or the spa that is so good that I go back a second time the next day.
So back to our goal to leave Bali rested and relaxed: mission accomplished!
Website: The Royal Purnama
Address: Jl. Pantai Purnama, Sukawati, Gianyar