As you descend into the coastal Ngurah Rai Airport, watch as the waves lap up against the runway and the azure ocean extends endlessly on either side. The moment you touch down, you’ll know you have arrived somewhere truly special. But if you think that Bali is simply bars and beaches, you’re in for a surprise. This is the “Island of the Gods”, where adventure meets luxury, art meets life and tradition meets modernity. From mountain temples to sacred forests, seaside cocktail bars to sumptuous eateries, prepare yourself for a journey into the unknown.
Your first night in paradise will be spent at The Legian. In the heart of Seminyak, arguably Bali’s ‘trendiest’ area, this luxury beach-front hotel has successfully revived an old class almost forgotten in modern hospitality. Finely furnished with a blend of traditional and modern Balinese design, it is the epitome of refined local living. After your exhausting travels, put your feet up and settle into your surroundings. Acclimatise to the warm weather, let your skin feel the soft, salty breeze of the coast as your ears tune into the sound of crashing waves. We suggest relaxing by the beach-front infinity pool, taking a cooling dip and savouring that first celebratory sip of one of the local concoctions.
For dinner, take a seat at The Restaurant, an al-fresco, fine dining brasserie that offers spectacular sunset views. Using the freshest Balinese produce available, the menu features local and Asian delicacies prepared in a contemporary European style.
Start your day by the sea with a leisurely breakfast under the swaying palm trees. The Legian at night and day are two exceptional but wholly different experiences. Bask in the gentle morning sun and take a dip in the beach-side pool to freshen up for the day ahead. Before midday, say goodbye (for now) to the ocean views as you head inland to Ubud, Bali’s cultural capital.
On your way up to the Bali highlands, take a pit stop at The Sayan House, a Japanese-Latin fusion restaurant with dramatic views over the Sayan gorge. Enjoy a light nibble of the delicate and delectable offerings like Sashimi Tacos and Latin Wagyu while you take in the fresh jungle air.
The long drive to Bisma Eight is well worth every mile. The suites take inspiration from nature, using natural materials like wood and bamboo to evoke a true sense of zen. Modern and artisanal, the rooms are comforting havens that blur the barriers between the interior rooms and the exterior surroundings of a lush green oasis. Take a Forest Suite for a balcony view out onto the jungle, a welcome contrast to the ocean views of Seminyak.
Before the day is over, go out on foot to explore the area, for there is a wildness dwelling within Ubud’s village borders that is waiting to be discovered. The Sacred Monkey Forest is where man and nature intertwine; in 12.5 hectares of forest land, 700 monkeys roam free on the grounds under the canopy of this protected area. The 14th century stone temples and carvings that spread through the forest are covered in moss and vines as if nature has fully accepted them into its realm over time. Walk in the cool shadows of the forest, watch the playful and wise monkeys – said to be protectors of the land – and soak in the mystical atmosphere of this sacred space.
Just up Monkey Forest Road, a lively destination beckons. As its name suggests, the Laughing Buddha is a fun and happy place. This small, casual eatery is a magnet for Ubud music lovers, with live gigs playing front and centre every single evening. Serving a range of Mediterranean and Asian bites, cold beers and happy-go-lucky cocktails, take a front row seat for dinner and a show. You may not be sitting too long though, as the live music often has diners getting on their feet for a dance and a jive, drink in hand.
Sit at one of the tables overlooking Bisma Eight’s stunning rooftop infinity pool and watch as the water spills out onto a view of untouched jungle. Enjoy a light breakfast of fresh local fruit including mangoes, passion fruit and dragon fruit before getting on the road. A long but scenic drive up north will take you to the rural depths of the Buleleng Regency. Here you will find Sekumpul, an area home to numerous waterfalls that you can discover on foot as you hike through jungle and scramble up rivers.
Nature remains pristine here, with prehistoric-like ferns climbing up the walls of rocky cliffs and thick forest vines clinging to the branches of ancient trees. Dive into the plunge pools of the waterfalls and soak in the mountain spring water for a refreshing morning start.
On your way back down to Ubud, take a little detour into Gunung Kawi. This ancient temple complex dates back to the 11th century and was constructed by one of Bali’s past kingdoms. It is a holy place used for pilgrimage and meditation. 8-foot temples and shrines have been shaped by man out of the natural environment, creating a stunning, dwarfing sight to behold.
Back in Bisma Eight, Copper Kitchen & Bar welcomes you back to luxury comforts with a contemporary dining experience. Through a casual twist on fine-dining, a meal at Copper bursts with flavour and the plates are artistically designed, complementing the modern decor.
A mixture of International and Asian cuisine peppers the broad menu with Indonesian delicacies like the Balinese-Style Duck Confit and Traditional Coconut Ceviche. Each dish comes with an expert pairing recommendation of either wine or a special creation from the mixologists at the Copper Bar.
There is no better way to see the everyday lives of the Balinese than by visiting the local pasar or bazaar. When dawn breaks in central Ubud, the locals have already stirred to set up the morning market, and to shop for their daily necessities. Pick up some nasi goreng (fried rice) or mie goreng (fried noodles) from one of the market stalls for a delicious indulgent breakfast.
In the tight alleys packed with stalls, where only small leaks of light enter through the gaps between buildings, watch as Bali life unfolds before you – a great moment for any travelling photographers. Pick up some handcrafted treasures, from woven bags to wooden statues.
Twenty minutes south of Ubud centre is Bali’s carving community, Kemenuh Village – the perfect location for the Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets. Here, in a peaceful plot of land spanning 1.5 hectares, seven 100-year-old joglo buildings hold over 1,300 traditional masks and 5,700 puppets from Indonesia and around the world.
Why a ‘house’ and not a museum? In Indonesia, masks and puppets are used in cultural performances and the stories told through these mediums are sacred, often calling on the spirits or gods to take hold of these masks and to give them life. These ‘live’ objects therefore, deserve a real home. As you walk around the quiet grounds, there is a palpable mystery. Look deep into the eyes of the masks and see if you can see into the soul of the spirit that resides within it.
For a true gastronomic delight, head to Mozaic for dinner. Enter through the traditional Balinese doorway, stroll down the path through the tropical garden and arrive at a candle-lit oasis. Combining quality ingredients and delicious flavours, the menu at Mozaic is ever-changing according to local produce availability. Be blown away by the knowledgeable waiting staff and the sommelier ready to pair your meal choice with the perfect wine.
Spend the morning taking in the last of Ubud as your next journey takes you to Bali’s east coast. Before heading off, enjoy a fresh brew and some pastries at Anomali Coffee. Specialising in Indonesian single source beans, you can tailor your coffee exactly to your liking. The east is referred to as ‘the Bali of the past’ – before tourism brought development to the island’s shores and changed its southern landscape forever. Rural, agrarian and mostly untouched, here lies Bali’s past spirit.
A magnificent, sprawling complex marks Bali’s most eastern tip. This is the Taman Ujung Water Palace, the word ujung literally translating to ‘the edge’. Built over 100 years ago as a place of rest and refuge for the royal family, it was once a retreat of the local region’s king. Now it remains a remnant of a bygone era, a monument owing to the monarchical riches of the past. There are many pavilions in the complex, from the central ‘floating’ pavilion in the centre of the lake to the viewing pavilion that looks over the palace and out beyond the sea.
Alila Manggis is a true escape. It sits behind a black beach of volcanic sand, spreading backwards into an open, palm tree covered garden and tropical pool. The resort is known for its traditional-meets-minimalist design, which allows the surrounding nature to take the limelight. Arrive, check-in and enjoy bathing in the Balinese sun by the pool. Be sure to indulge in one of Alila’s legendary spa experiences that harness the healing powers of natural local ingredients.
Championing the sea salt they use, which is farmed in the salt pans of Goa Lawah nearby, Seasalt is the restaurant at Alila Manggis. The menu offers traditional Indonesian food with a contemporary twist and boasts serene views of the hotel’s beautiful grounds.
Rise early, enjoy a freshly-brewed Balinese coffee and prepare for an exhausting but truly magical day. Join Balinese local, Mr. Mudi, on a special Meditation Trek up Mount Lempuyang. Dressed in sarong and sash, trek through the mountain jungle to discover Lempuyang – and yourself. Mudi will guide you through the mist-shrouded trees, high above the cloud line until stopping at a shrine where for 20 minutes you will meditate with him, listening intently to the sound of rustling trees and local wildlife around you.
The journey continues to the top of Lempuyang at the summit temple where Mudi and the temple priest will guide you through a Balinese Hindu blessing and prayer. Trek down the mountain to the stunning Pura Lempuyang Temple, carved out of limestone and guarded by giant dragon statues. Both temples offer views over to the holy Mount Agung, the abode of the gods. The adventure ends in Bali Asli, a solitary Indonesian restaurant looking out over East Bali. Translating to ‘the real Bali’, the restaurant serves delicious authentic Balinese cuisine.
Ending the day with an evening swim will become a much-loved ritual throughout your time in Bali. After your tiresome hike, come back to the hotel’s pool and take in the last of the day’s sun as you sit back on one of the sun loungers. For a relaxing dinner requiring little effort, treat yourself to some impeccable room service from the Alila Manggis kitchen.
Here in the east is where the sun’s rays first hit Bali, so sunrise is not to be missed. Jump into Alila’s traditional jukung fishing boat at 5am and wait for morning to wash across the land. Out at sea in the calm eastern currents, look to land as the light pushes out night’s blanket of darkness in a beautiful dance of hues before finally revealing the island’s magnificence. Return in time for breakfast back at the resort before checking out and heading back to south Bali.
On the road back down south, stop at Pura Goa Lawah – the Bat Cave Temple. This truly holy place in the Klungkung Regency is home to thousands upon thousands of bats that cling to the cave walls and ceiling. The temple is frequented by pilgrims who mount their offerings at the entry to the cave, said to be the home of the holy dragon, Basuki.
Back in Bali’s southern coastline, you will stay in the up-and-coming surfers’ destination of Canggu. Beyond surfing, the lifestyle of ‘The Gu’ is different from the rest of the island; with an upsurge of health cafés, surfer bars and artistic establishments, a younger, more alternative crowd has flocked to the area.
At the heart of Canggu is The Slow, a 12-suite hotel that exudes art, culture and island living. Raw, natural and clean, this luxury boutique hotel leaves space for life to enter the void with its own art gallery on display and curated music by L.A’s Reverberation Radio playing through the day. Only 200m from the beach, this is your effortless and impossibly cool Canggu home. Once settled into your suite, head to Echo Beach for a relaxed barbeque with incredibly fresh seafood. A real favourite of local ex-pats, the atmosphere is buzzing, the drinks are flowing and the food is delicious.
Wake up to a delicious breakfast of eggs sunny side up in the comfort of your own luxury suite. Prepared using the freshest ingredients, this hearty breakfast will keep you going for the day ahead.
The most breathtaking beaches in Bali are found on the island’s southern peninsula of Uluwatu. At Sundays Beach Club, a hidden escape below the cliffs, is where you’ll find idyllic white sand and crystal-blue waters. Swim, paddle board, play beach volley ball, eat and drink – this is the side of Bali everyone knows and loves.
After relaxing at the beach club, drive to Bali’s most southern tip. Here is the holy Uluwatu Temple, which hangs off the very edge of the island. While the temple itself may be humble, its surroundings are not; dramatic limestone cliffs fall a hundred metres down to the giant swells that crash against its walls. At sunset, in an amphitheatre that looks out over the temple, Bali’s most epic, theatrical display of the Kecak fire dance is performed. After the spectacle, head back to Canggu for a casual dinner at one of the many lively cafés that line Jalan Batu Bolong and Echo Beach Road.
Take it nice and easy this morning. Wake up and enjoy the blissful serenity at The Slow. Soft morning light fills the concrete open spaces. Grab a coffee, order a healthy breakfast and immerse yourself in the eclectic artwork on display.
On Batu Bolong Beach, surfers young and old gather together out at sea. Nicknamed for the slow, glassy swells that flow towards the sand, long and short-board surfers glide over the waters. Newbies and veterans share the sea in their excitement of the surf. Not one for the surf? No problem. A day under the sun with a coconut or ice-cold Bintang beer in hand is by all means, an exceptional way to spend your last day in Bali – watching the surfers can be just as exciting as being out in the water yourself.
It’s the last night in Bali and it needs to be memorable. Make your way to Ji Terrace by the Sea, a venue with 180°of ocean views and the best seats in the house for a final Bali sunset. Ji Terrace sits on the second floor of Ji at Bale Sutra, a Japanese restaurant inside a 300-year old Chinese temple. Savour the last taste of local flavours in both cocktails and food. Start with their signature Gin and Tea – gin infused with herbal Javanese tea leaves, or perhaps a Coco Sexo, inspired by the volcanoes of Indonesia. The food is an eclectic mix of Asian-inspired cuisine, put together by Chef Colin Buchan, once personal chef to the Beckhams and chef in Gordon Ramsay’s London restaurants. It will be an evening of local flavour, local views and local atmosphere to pay homage to your Bali experience.
It’s your last day but don’t rush off too quickly. The Slow’s breakfast is an experience worth savouring. Indulge in their interesting morning offers like The Slow Breakfast, or Drunkard Noodles and wash it down with a health tonic or fresh juice that will set you right for the long journey home.
Whilst you journey to the airport just remember one thing, there’s still so much more to discover on the island. Rest assured that these last ten days have just scratched the surface of what Bali has to offer. Before take-off, promise yourself, “I’ll be back”.