How many places can I visit in Bali in a week?

Rachel Lovelock has lived in Bali for nearly 26 years and has written prolifically about this lovely little island for numerous magazines and guidebooks. Here, she answers a reader’s question about how much can be seen on a week-long visit to Bali.

Question: I’m planning a vacation to Bali and wondering how much of the island I can see. How many different places can I fit into a week-long trip? 

Answer: To really explore Bali, you’ll need more than a week. So, next time, make full use of your 30-day visa-on-arrival, and come for a month! For this trip, have a think about what it is you’re looking to experience on the island – do you just want beach time, nightlife and fun or are you after a more cultural journey? Here are two different ways to spend your week in Bali.

A clifftop temple surrounded by the ocean on a sunny day
You could base yourself in Uluwatu for the whole week and take day trips into the Bukit Peninsula © R.M. Nunes / Getty Images

Stay put for a week-long beach party in the south

If you’re only in search of sun, sea, sand, surf and nightlife, you might as well remain in the same place for the duration of your seven-day stay. Canggu with its dynamic waves, yoga studios, gyms, vegan-friendly restaurants, beach clubs and bars has garnered a reputation for being Bali’s hippest neighborhood, but day trips to other areas are hampered by the horrible traffic jams in and out of this once-rural village.

The alternative is Uluwatu on Bali’s southwestern-most tip, from where you can spend your week exploring the Bukit Peninsula. Here, you’ll find all of the above including astonishing cliff clubs, spellbinding views, the most thrilling surf breaks on the island and a series of white-gold and demerara-sugar-sand beaches, including the poetically-named Dreamland and Green Bowl, as well as Bingin, Balangan, Padang Padang, Suluban and Nyang Nyang, all of which are way more beautiful than Canggu. 

Or travel around and explore Bali’s culture

Feeling dismayed by the rapidly changing face of tourism on the island and the unregulated development of the land? I suggest you steer clear of the crowded southern plains. Forsake the excesses of hedonistic Canggu and the influencer tours of Bali’s most Instagrammable destinations. Rent a car and driver, or brave the self-drive option, and embrace the adventure on this route.

A pathway between two lotus-flower ponds leads towards a pale red colored temple
Ubud, with its temples and royal palace, is recognized as Bali’s cultural center © Andrey Danilovich / Getty Images

Start in Ubud, Bali’s cultural hub (2 nights)

For a cultural immersion, spend a couple of nights in popular Ubud, which has long been recognized as Bali’s artistic center, and continues to attract bohemians and cosmic seekers. Visit the museums and galleries, the traditional market, royal palace, and monkey forest with its ancient temples; watch the island’s most accomplished painters, stonemasons, woodcarvers, mask-makers and silversmiths at work in the nearby villages. Shops and restaurants are plentiful and there are some exceptional walks. Accommodation ranges from simple family homestays amid the rice fields to boutique hotels and villas set upon the steep sides of jungle-clad river gorges.

Explore agricultural life in Sidemen Valley (2 nights)

Sidemen welcomes visitors yet is still removed from mainstream tourism in the island’s royal regency of Karangasem. Here, Gunung Agung, Bali’s highest and most sacred volcano, provides a dramatic backdrop to a panorama of rice fields and forests as far as your eyes can see. This is a place that offers you a privileged insight into Balinese agricultural life. You might witness, for example, the planting or harvesting of the rice, or the gathering of the bright orange marigold flowers used as offerings in Balinese rituals. The Sidemen Valley is the start point for climbing the mighty Mt Agung, or rafting the Telaga Waja River. 

A pathway leading to an empty sandy beach
Pasir Putih on Bali’s east coast has a laid-back vibe © GWMB / Getty Images

Stop by Pasir Putih for lunch

Swing by the lovely beach of Pasir Putih, meaning “white sands” − actually more silver than white − only 26km (16 miles) from Sidemen. This beach is fringed by a coconut grove with a sheer cliff behind. You can lunch on nasi goreng or fresh fish at one of the grass-roofed warungs (food stalls), and relish the laid-back vibe.

Candidasa is a good base for diving/snorkeling (2 nights)

A 20-minute drive west of Pasir Putih, the charmingly old-fashioned seaside village of Candidasa is another convenient base for a two-night stay. There is a good choice of accommodations and restaurants − be sure to dine at Vincent’s, as well as making the most of an opportunity to enjoy some very cool diving and snorkeling experiences. You can charter a traditional jukung (flat-bottomed fishing boat), complete with captain and snorkeling gear. Ask a local guide to take you on a walk through the rice fields, and wander through the ancient walled village of Tenganan, 3km (2 miles) from Candidasa, where the residents practice a time-honored lifestyle based around ritual, ceremony and strict customary laws. 

Squeeze in a day trip to Kintamani 

Consider a detour to Kintamani; there’s no escaping the day trippers here, while en-route you’ll see Instagrammers galore at the Tegallalang rice terraces, but the active volcano, Gunung Batur and its crater lake is a spectacular sight.

Relax on the beach in Seminyak or Sanur (1 night)

Conclude your holiday with a night in either Seminyak or Sanur, both of which are fun, beachside locations only 30 minutes’ drive from the airport.

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