The key to a successful trip to Bali is choosing the best places to go. There is so much variety on offer and so many little towns and “tourist areas” catered to vastly different people. In this Bali itinerary I’ll show how much you can see in two weeks and some of the best spots to base yourself. A trip to Bali doesn’t mean you have to stay on the main island either – there are a few other islands included in this Bali itinerary including the Gili Islands (a trio of white-sand paradises) and the nearby “Nusa Islands”.
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Bali Itinerary: Seminyak / Kuta / Another Beach Resort (Two Nights)
If you’re flying into Bali you’ll probably want to stay at one of the seaside suburbs close to the airport for the first couple of days. I personally prefer Seminyak out of all the other “popular” beach spots in Bali – it’s close to the airport, has heaps of nice places to eat and drink, some affordable boutique hotels and is close to a nice stretch of beach. It is popular though and if crowds aren’t your thing you’ll want to move on pretty quick. Seminyak is a good place to get recover from your flight, do a day trip or two and do some shopping. You can also learn to surf or have a big night at one of the upmarket beach clubs.
Ubud (Three Nights)
The first week of my two-week Bali itinerary mostly keeps to the main island, and what an island it is! It may not have the best beaches in the area (head to the nearby Gili Islands for those) but the interior is full of interesting sights. Ubud makes for the logical base while exploring the interior of Bali. These days it’s a bustling tourist town but it still as plenty of charm, especially as you get away from the main traffic-filled streets. There are heaps of things to do in Ubud, including a walk through the rice fields, a visit to a temple or two and a walk through the Sacred Monkey Forest (just don’t bring any food if you don’t want monkeys crawling all over you!).
Day Trips from Ubud
You’ll want to rent a motorbike, a car and driver or join a tour to explore some of what central Bali has to offer. You could do the hike up Mount Batur (surely the best hike in Bali), explore rice terraces and waterfalls and soak in the spiritual vibes at one of the many temples scattered around the island. You can cover quite a lot of ground on a day trip from Ubud – I’d recommend doing the Tegalalang rice terraces and a few temples and waterfalls close to Ubud on one day and maybe Mount Batur and the Kintimani region on another. Or, just hang out in Ubud for a bit longer and get a massage, eat some amazing food and relax!
Munduk (Two Nights)
Munduk, a small town in the north of the island, is far quieter than Ubud. It makes for either a good alternative to Ubud or a little add-on to your exploration of the interior. There are some nice waterfalls a short walk from town and some awesome views from the restaurants and guesthouses lining the ridge. From Munduk you can also do day trips to waterfalls, rice terraces (Jatuliwih is bigger than Tegalalang, the one closer to Ubud) and temples. Munduk is hard to get to on public transport, so a good idea might be to organise a day trip in Ubud which drops you off in Munduk at the end of the day (you should be able to keep your bags in the car).
The Gili Islands (Four Nights)
From Munduk, you’ll want to get an early start (you’ll probably have to hire a car / driver – more on that later though) to Padangbai, where you’ll be able to take a fast boat to the Gili Islands (the boat trip takes a couple of hours). You can also book these from the tourist towns such as Seminyak and Kuta which should include the transfer to Padangbai.
The Gili Islands are home to beaches far more impressive than you’ll find on island of Bali itself. If you’re spending thousands of dollars to go to a tropical travel destination you really want to get to the best beaches possible, and the Gili Islands don’t disappoint. There are three islands in the main “Gili Islands” chain (there are other “Gili” Islands nearby as Gili just means small). They are all nice and cater to slightly different crowds – check out my Gili Islands travel guide to see which island is right for you!).
There isn’t a lot to do in the Gili Islands. You can snorkel or dive (you should see some sea turtles and other marine life) and relax on (or near) beaches. The islands are fairly upmarket in places but you can still find cheap places to sleep and eat if you need to. If not, you’ll want to hang out at some of the cool bars, cafes, restaurants and resorts scattered around the islands. This really is the ultimate lazy island destination, but come night time on Gili Trawangan (the largest of the three islands) you won’t struggle to find a party.
The Nusa Islands (Two Nights)
This little chain of islands sits just off the coast of Bali and is growing in popularity all the time. From the Gili Islands you can catch a boat to Nusa Lembongan (a couple of hours) and from there you can do a day trip to Nusa Penida, where you’ll see one of the best coastal views anywhere near Bali. You can also do a day trip to either of those islands from one of the popular beaches in Bali.
Nusa Lembongan is more geared-up for tourists at this point and is probably the best island to stay on in these parts. There is heaps to explore on the island (and Nusa Ceningan, which is separated by a bridge), including interesting coastal formations and some nice beaches. Nusa Penida, with its iconic Kelingking Beach, is also worth exploring. Of course, if you’re in need of more relaxation you could just stay in the Gili Islands for longer as the beaches you stay near are better and the Nusa Islands are a little rougher around the edges.
Seminyak / Kuta / Another Beach Town (One Night)
It’s a good idea to head back to the mainland a day or two before your flight home, as sometimes boats get delayed or cancelled and you wouldn’t want to be stuck on another island! Another good option (depending on how much you like exploring / relaxing) is to return to Seminyak (or another beach town) straight after the Gili Islands, which would give you three more nights on the mainland. This is a good idea if you’d rather have a couple of big nights out before you go or if you’d rather hang out in cafes and do some shopping than explore another beach. You can also do a day trip to either Nusa Penida or Nusa Lembongan / Ceningan from Seminyak etc. Basically, you have a lot of options!
Looking for great deals on Bali hotels? Check out Booking.com — I always use it when travelling!
Getting Around Bali
The public transport situation in Bali is confusing and not of that much use to your average tourist. Even when you can find a bemo (small bus thing) the driver might try to overcharge you. There’s a bit of a taxi mafia thing going on too and it can be frustrating trying to find a ride for a decent price. You can use Grab or Uber but there are places they won’t go (because of the taxis). A good idea is to find a good driver and use them for your day trips. Expect to pay around IDR 500,000 for a day. The boats to other islands are generally easy to organise but again, make sure you bargain!
Other Islands near Bali
This is just one example of a Bali itinerary, but there is so much more you can do. From Bali you can explore parts of Java, catch a short flight to Flores and cruise through Komodo National Park or head to Lombok and climb a volcano or explore the uncrowded coastline. Indonesia is a beautiful country and is so much more than just Bali and its surrounds – if you have the time it’s a great country for an extended backpacking trip (make sure to visit Lake Toba if you’re have some extra time – it’s one of my favourite places in Southeast Asia).
Are you planning a trip to Bali? What did you think of my Bali itinerary? Let me know in the comments below!
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