Visit Bali. 6 Best Things to Do To Unwind
It’s official: people in the Northern Hemisphere have traded their screen doors for snow tires. Meanwhile, the monsoon season has kept Bali’s doors from remaining open. The benefit for the winter-fatigued? Lower prices if you’re willing to take naps between sun-kissed beach walks and tropical downpours.
Experts estimate that 14% of Americans experience the winter blues, with another 6% suffering from a more serious related condition, seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
So, before a weather-related slump lands you in this statistic, book that flight and check out these things to do in Bali.
1. Beach Hop in Uluwatu
If Uluwatu doesn’t ring a bell, this likely will: Padang Padang Beach in Uluwatu was the filming site for “Eat Pray Love.” Julia Roberts gave the okay to film onsite, so her family could move there during the shoot. Now, that’s one lucky family.
However, Eat Pray Love isn’t the only thing Uluwatu is known for. Steep limestone cliffs cradle over a dozen beaches, boasting world-class waves and curious monkeys.
Green Bowl is one of the most secluded beaches in Uluwatu and a favorite among surfers in the know. Its staircase of over 300 steps leads to some of Bali’s most sought-out breakers.
Meanwhile, Nunggalan Beach is swoon-worthy for nature lovers. Wild monkeys and loose cows entertain hikers who trek 20 minutes off the beaten path through the jungle. The reward is a beached shipwreck adorned with colorful artwork sitting Instagram-ready on Nunggalan’s desolate shore.
Beachgoers seeking a more upscale spot to indulge and unwind will find it at Melasti Beach. Luxury beach clubs and villas surround this area, and vendors selling cold coconut water are eager to quench your thirst.
Visiting Canggu, Seminyak, and Kuta beaches are among the most popular things to do in Bali, especially for those that enjoy a nightlife scene. However, these beach districts are costly and sit outside the Uluwatu region. So if you’re seeking a more budget-friendly Bali trip, you’re better off basing your stay in Uluwatu or Ubud.
The entrance fees to Uluwatu’s beaches range from free to less than $1 per person. You can rent a scooter for around $5 per day plus gas or hop on the back of a Gojek scooter (Southeast Asia’s version of Uber) to have someone drive you around. Taking a Gojek between adjacent beaches often costs less than $2. Be sure to pack a poncho if a rain shower arises.
2. See Why Bali Gets Its Nickname “The Island of Gods”
Bali is the center of Hinduism in Indonesia, with Islam being the primary religion elsewhere in the country. (Over 80% of non-Balinese Indonesians identify as Muslim, despite Indonesia having six official religions.)
Hindu Balinese prepare elaborate offerings to the gods every morning, complete with incense and frangipani blooms. You’ll see these offerings around the over 10,000 temples in Bali. Be mindful of where you place your feet and hands, though, for you’ll also encounter offerings on the street and atop scooter seats.
Luckily for inquisitive tourists, the Balinese are enthusiastic about sharing their Hindu culture and customs. And one of the most meaningful ways to gain insight into their religion is by visiting a temple complex.
The Uluwatu Temple is an excellent starting point because it sits between beautiful Suluban and Nyang Nyang beaches in the Bukit Peninsula. It’s one of several sea temples on the island. Conveniently for tourists not wanting to break a sweat, it’s possible to see Uluwatu’s cliffs without needing to hike.
After you visit the Uluwatu Temple, head up the coast to Tanah Lot. Low tide offers a unique opportunity to explore the temple’s rock base. During high tide, strong waves picturesquely surround it, making the Tanah Lot Temple inaccessible for close-up viewing.
Exploring Bali’s temples inland gives way to countryside scenery. Lempuyang Temple sits over 3,800 feet above sea level, with cooler weather forcing some travelers to seek a sweater. Weather permitting, you can snap an Instagram-worthy photo with Mount Agung in the backdrop, the island’s tallest volcano. Besakih is another temple that offers views of Mount Agung on a clear day.
Despite being so popular with visitors, you can visit Bali’s temples for under $5 per person. Some operate on a donation basis. And if you’re interested in combining your temple outing with a full-day trip, you can see them after hiking Mount Batur.
Note that regardless of your gender, if you’re wearing shorts, you’ll need to borrow a sarong (a long piece of fabric that wraps around the waist). It’s also important to be mindful of the temple signs, as some parts of the sacred grounds are only for prayer.
3. Dedicate a Day to Ubud
People often dub Ubud the “cultural capital” of Bali, and for a good reason—many private entrances lead to family-owned Hindu temples. It’s also a hub for traditional art and dances.
Ubud offers some of the most popular things to do in Bali within walking distance of each other. If you arrive when the sun is out, make a beeline to Ubud Monkey Forest, when the monkeys will be most active.
Artists and souvenir seekers will want to allot time for the Ubud Art Market, an ideal place for stocking up on handmade woven bags and silk scarves.
When hunger strikes, seek out nasi goreng. Navigating Ubud’s narrow side streets outside the tourist center will lead you to warungs (family-run eateries), where you can get a plate of this traditional fried rice for less than $1.
You can then work off those calories with a walk along Campuhan Ridge. Jungle scenery will surround you, but don’t follow the crowd and stop when you arrive at the town. Instead, continue your walk to Karsa Kafe, a picturesque restaurant surrounded by a lily pond and rice paddies.
Round off your day in Ubud by attending a cultural dance performance at Ubud Palace. The temple has several covered seating areas, so they perform rain or shine. If you’d like to avoid splurging on a show, you can always visit the palace for free earlier in the day.
4. Wander Through Rice Terraces
Indonesia cultivated over 55 million tons of paddy in 2021, making it one of the top rice producers in the world. Visiting a rice terrace is among the most sought-after things to do in Bali because it offers a behind-the-scenes opportunity to see how rice goes from paddy to plate.
It doesn’t hurt that the rice fields are tropical eye candy. UNESCO World Heritage lists five of Bali’s green rice paddies under their Cultural Landscape of Bali Province category, thanks to the island’s use of the 9th-century subak. The ancient subak water system follows Tri Hita Karana, a philosophy that emphasizes aligning the human, natural, and spiritual worlds.
The Tegallalang rice terrace is an idyllic place to observe growing rice. Steep slopes plunge into a river at the bottom of Tegallalang’s valley, and fearless souls can swoop over them on one of those giant iconic Bali swings. Alternatively, grab a bike and cruise around the gently sloping Jatiluwih rice fields, a lesser-known rice paddy with a volcano backdrop.
Fear not if rain strikes. You can wait it out while dining at one of the many restaurants and cafes in Bali that overlook a rice terrace. Or, embrace the warm downpour and walk among the paddies. Clouds looming above the fields offer a mystical feel, offering photo ops the average Instagram feed overlooks.
Rice terraces in tourist areas charge a nominal admission fee, granting visitors access to stroll through winding paths and venture down staircases that tumble into valleys. You can also visit Bali’s rice farms by hopping on a scooter and driving into the Balinese countryside, where you’re sure to spot locals tending to their crops.
5. Eat Your Way Around a Market
Dining at local markets is one of the most culturally-enriching things to do in Bali if you want to treat your tastebuds to Balinese food without breaking the bank.
Because Bali is so hot, it’s common for food markets to open in the wee hours of the morning, closing by 9:00 am. Cooks fire back up their kitchens-on-wheels in the evening, giving these lively locales their “night market” title.
Some of the most popular food markets in Bali include:
- Gianyar Market
- Sanur Market
- Taman Sari Market
The initial price locals offer will likely sound like a steal if you’re fresh off a plane from a Western country. But bartering is a common—and expected—part of Balinese culture. Most locals speak some English, so don’t fret about language being a barrier in closing a deal.
Most markets in Bali are outdoors, with some food stalls offering small roof coverings. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you’ll want to have a poncho or rain jacket on hand; umbrellas add an unnecessary challenge when navigating a market’s crowded streets.
Another option is to book a cooking class. You can spend time learning how to make Balinese food so that you don’t have to go through nasi goreng withdrawal upon your return home.
6. Tap Into Your Yogi Side
Yoga is one of the six branches of Hindu philosophy, so there’s no shortage of yoga studios available when you visit Bali. Of them, The Yoga Barn in Ubud is among the most well-known.
You don’t have to shell out hundreds of rupiahs to enjoy yoga at a popular studio. Instead, many locals and tourist-turned-residents offer yoga classes throughout the island, allowing you to tap into your inner self after one too many Bintang beers at a poolside bar the night before.
If the weather cooperates, an early morning yoga session overlooking the water on one of Uluwatu’s white sand beaches is an option. Or you could catch a yoga sunset class, making for a memorable finale to your time in Bali.
Whether your idea of yoga looks like a modified downward dog or a one-arm handstand, this important Eastern practice will undoubtedly leave you feeling at peace. And with a dose of luck, you’ll adopt an accepting outlook to the winter weather that awaits you at home.
In Summary: Visit Bali!
Your snowy hometown isn’t going anywhere, but Bali’s low prices will be a thing of the past come the dry season in April. So, embrace the fear of missing out (FOMO) this winter and discover the top things to do in Bali before it’s too late.
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.