I’d been dying to visit Indonesia for a while before I finally went this year. I’d literally planned three different trips, all of which ended up morphing into another destination (south america, europe, central america). But there was a part of me that knew just how special this country would be, so I kept suggesting it, until I finally got the “ok, let’s do it!”). And OHMYGOSH am I glad I did, because I absolutely LOVED our (albeit limited) time there.
Here’s a little bit about Indonesia. As you’re likely aware, it’s made up of tons and tons of islands. But did you know that “tons and tons” number is actually somewhere around 13,000?! That’s a LOT of islands, and Bali is just one of them! Another fun fact is that Indonesia is home to a little over 260 million people. I don’t know what I thought the population would be, but I didn’t realize just how massive the country is. Bali itself has around 4 million people (though that’s probably doubled in high tourist season). Indonesia is also the world’s most populated Muslim-majority country, though the island of Bali is predominantly Hindu.
All of that being said and knowing just how many islands there are, you could literally spend years exploring Indonesia. But likely you have a full time job that only allows you a brief amount of time away from work, so I’m going to focus on how to make the most out of a week in Bali, with half of the time spent in the jungle and half by the water. Some of you will want to spend all your time in the jungle, others will spend your entire time by the water, but to me, doing both was a perfect way to experience unique facets of Indonesian culture, and of course, to see more breathtaking sights.
First stop, Ubud. This charming little town grew significantly in popularity following the release of the book (and later movie) Eat, Pray, Love. So in short, yes, it is a massive tourist destination. But it’s also a must if you’re going to be in Bali. It’s the cultural heart of the island, it’s a chance to experience the jungle/monkey forest, plus it’s a great jumping off point for day trips to explore the surrounding parts of the island. Read my specific post on Ubud here to see how to spend 3-4 days in the northern part of Bali.
**HOTEL RECO: we stayed at The Kayon Resort, and it was probably my favorite hotel that I’ve ever stayed in. Everything from the grounds to the staff was absolute perfection. You can read more about The Kayon Resort in this post.
Second stop, the beaches. The great thing about Bali is that there are SO. MANY. OPTIONS. when it comes to beaches. The most popular beach destinations on mainland Bali are Seminyak, Kuta, Legian, Sanur, Jimbaran Bay, Canggu, Nusa Dua, and Uluwatu (I told you, it’s a lot!). We chose instead to hop on a 30 minute ferry from Sanur and spend the second part of our time in Bali on Nusa Lembongan. For some, traveling to the Nusa Islands feels like a lot more work than just transferring between locations on mainland Bali, and I totally understand that (though it really isn’t that far away, I promise!). But if you’re up for the (half hour) speedboat ride and have 3-4 days to spend once you get there, I’d absolutely recommend staying on Nusa Lembongan and spending your days exploring the insanely beautiful (and largely untouched) beaches of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and Nusa Ceningan. Read this post for how to spend 3-4 days in the Nusa Islands.
**HOTEL RECO: If you find yourself in the Nusa Islands, hotel options can feel a bit limited compared to the mainland, but there are tons of incredible places if you know where to look. After an exhaustive search, we decided to stay at Batu Karang Resort & Spa, and I could not be more grateful we did. It was the perfect home base for our time in the Nusas. For more on Batu Karang, check out this post.
What are your favorite parts of Bali?