Bali may not be a big island, but it is the kind of place you could spend a lifetime and still feel like you have barely scratched the surface.
A month may not seem like long enough (is any amount of time long enough when you are on a tropical island?!), but, with some careful planning, you should be able to get a good taste of all the island has to offer.
To help you out, I have put together a quick itinerary that, hopefully, has something for everyone, whether you are looking for mountains to climb, beaches to relax on, or towns to party it up!
How to Spend a Month in Bali
Nights 1 – 5: Seminyak / Canggu
To start your adventure, I would recommend staying in the south of Bali. First of all, you’ll be close to the airport meaning you won’t have won’t have the hassle of a long drive when you get there.
Secondly, this is the part of Bali where most visitors choose to stay, there are plenty of things to see and do and it is great place to get acclimatized before heading off to explore the rest of the island.
Seminyak and neighbouring Canggu are two of Bali’s trendiest and most stylish neighbourhoods, both of which are known for their beach clubs, boutique shops and vibrant nightlife scenes. There are a couple of differences though that you may want consider.
Image credit: Andreia (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
Differences Between Seminyak and Canggu
Seminyak is definitely the livelier of these destinations; it’s famous for its restaurants, designer stores and expensive hotels, and is a bit more at the centre of the action being so close Legian and Kuta (two of Bali’s other popular destinations).
Canggu, on the other hand, is a lot more quiet, and the town is surrounded by beautiful green paddy fields, meaning you never feel too far from nature. Despite recent development the whole place has managed to retain something of a more traditional feel.
Deciding between the hustle and bustle of Seminyak or Canggu’s more laid back vibe really is a matter of personal taste, but, both will give you plenty of chances to shop, surf, relax on the beach, or in a spa, and find some great bars / clubs to party the night away.
Our personal picks:
✯ Where to stay: Villa Zenitude
✯ Don’t miss: Tanah Lot – Bali’s famous water temple.
Nights 6 – 10: Ubud
Now that you’ve settled in, bought a few sarongs and knocked back a few Bintangs, its time for a bit of culture! For your second port of call, I’m suggesting you head into the highlands and check out some of the Balinese interior.
Unfortunately it does mean giving up the beaches (sob!) for a few days, but you’ll exchange them for rainforest, waterfalls and stunning mountains. The most popular town in this part of the island is Ubud.
Ubud is considered the cultural heart of Bali – basically, if you are looking to ‘find yourself’ then this is the place to go. In the early 20th century Ubud became renowned as a retreat for artists, local and foreign alike, and it has maintained a strong connection with the arts ever since.
What You’ll Find in Ubud
You will find the streets lined with art galleries, healthy cafes, yoga studios and the odd high-end store that has somehow managed to creep in during the last few years.
Ubud is also a great base from which to explore some of Bali’s other cultural gems, it is just a short drive from Tirta Empul, Gunung Kawi and Goa Gajah (the Elephant Cave), three of the most important, and interesting, religious sites on the island.
If you want to get up close to some Indonesian wildlife, the Monkey Forest, Elephant Safari and Bird Park are all close by Alternatively, if you would prefer a more action packed day, book a quad biking tour through the jungle, or go whitewater rafting down the beautiful Ayung river.
Our personal picks:
✯ Where to stay: Ulun Ubud Resort
✯ Don’t miss: The Ubud Royal Palace – go for one of the evening performances of Balinese traditional dance to get the full experience.
Nights 11 – 14: Lovina
Although the drive from Ubud to Lovina can be done in to 2 – 3 hours (depending on traffic and road conditions), it’s well worth setting aside a whole day for the journey, as it will involve travelling through some of the most beautiful parts of Bali.
Spend a few hours in Bedugul (take a jacket though; this is one of the few parts of Bali that is always chilly!), and the temple on the lake (Pura Ulun Danu). This is one on the most photographed in Bali, and the beautiful botanical gardens have a brilliant treetop adventure course.
The pace of life is noticeably slower on Bali’s north coast than it is further down south and it’s a great place to relax and soak up some of the island’s natural beauty.
Things to Do From Lavina
Lovina is made up of 7 traditional villages and is famous for its black sand beaches. The focal point is at Kalibukbuk (look out for the dolphin statue), where you will find art markets, restaurants and a few bars.
Once you are done exploring Lovina itself, go west along the coast towards Gilimanuk to explore the West Bali National Park, or head up into the hills in search of waterfalls (Sekumpul and Gitgit are two of the most well known).
If you are into diving, go to Pemuteran Beach where you can dive on a submerged Hindu temple (it looks ancient but was actually constructed only a few years ago as part of a unique reef conservation programme).
Our personal picks:
✯ Where to stay: Puri Mangga Sea View Resort and Spa
✯ Don’t miss: Lovina Dolphin Tour – get out on the water to see the local dolphins at sunrise.
Nights 15 – 18: Amed
When the time comes to say goodbye to Lovina, jump on the coast road and head East. The journey to Amed will take you a couple of hours but its a pleasant drive on a good road, with mountains on one side and the sea on the other.
Amed itself is comprised of several sleepy fishing villages strung out along a 14km stretch of Bali’s east coast. The black sand beach is lined with colourful outriggers and the majestic Mount Agung (Bali’s biggest volcano) provides a dramatic backdrop.
Tourist development only began here a few years ago, and, although it is gaining in popularity, the area still has much to offer for those looking for a taste of traditional Balinese life.
Things to Do in Amed
Popular activities include learning about traditional salt production and doing spot of early morning fishing with one of the local fishermen, but, the real star of the show here is diving. Amed is known to have some of the best coral reefs in Bali and the waters just offshore are teeming with tropical marine life.
Experienced scuba divers come from far and wide to explore Amed’s underwater world, whilst those who prefer to stick to snorkelling can still see some amazing sites (no need to get a boat, you can just walk in off the beach).
If you fancy a day trip, the royal water palace of Tirta Gangga, with its beautiful gardens, is just 30 minutes away by car. Alternatively, you could head over to Mount Agung, either to climb the mountain, or, to visit Bali’s mother temple, Bersakih.
Just remember that Mount Agung has been active in recent months and check to see if there is an exclusion zone in place before you set off.
Our personal picks:
✯ Where to stay: Palm Garden Amed Beach & Spa Resort
✯ Don’t miss: The USS Liberty – dive on a WWII era shipwreck.
Nights 19 – 22: Nusa Lembongan
The Nusa Islands (Lembongan, Ceningan and Penida) are just a short boat ride from the Balinese mainland. Reaching them from Amed takes about an hour and a half, you will need to go by car to Pandang Bai and from their catch one of the daily public ferries.
The lifestyle on all three islands is often described as similar to how Bali itself was 30 years ago. You won’t find much in the way of nightlife (although there are a few bars and restaurants), but you will get the chance to explore an area of incredible natural beauty – dramatic coastline, mangrove forests and lagoons with the bluest water imaginable. Popular activities include, diving, hiking and cliff jumping.
I would recommend staying on Lembongan, it is the most popular of the islands and is connected to Ceningan by a bridge, giving you two islands for the price of one (if you want to go over to Penida, it is just a 20 minute boat ride away)!
Accommodation is amazingly cheap, you will find plenty of perfectly nice, but ‘no-frills’, double rooms for as little as $15 AUD per night. If you’re not afraid of spending the big money, you can get yourself a lovely room in a 4* resort, overlooking the ocean, for the princely sum of $45 AUD per night!
Our personal picks:
✯ Where to stay: Harta Lembongan Villas
✯ Don’t miss: Sunset at the Devil’s Tears on Ceningan
Nights 23 – 28: Nusa Dua / Tanjung Benoa
Finish off the trip by spending the last few days relaxing on the beautiful golden sand beaches of the Benoa peninsula.
Nusa Dua was one of the first parts of Bali to be developed for tourism, it is a small enclave of high-end resorts as well as a shopping centre, restaurants, a theatre and art gallery; some say it is a little sterile, but it is not without its charms.
If you would prefer a bit more local flavour, go to neighbouring Tanjung Benoa, you will still get the great resorts (along with a few cheaper accommodation options) but the street life is a little livelier.
The beach is great for water-sports and, at high tide, the water will be thronging with jetskis, banana boats and parasailors. At low tide, you can walk out to the reef, and there is no better way to spend the afternoon than strolling along the beach path, calling in at the odd beach bar on the way.
Other nearby places include Uluwatu (a well known clifftop temple) and Jimbaran, home to the famous Jimbaran seafood restaurants. As another plus, you will be close enough to all the main shopping centres of the south, perfect if you are still regretting not buying that designer handbag your saw in the first week.
Conveniently Ngurah Rai airport is only a 25 minute drive away, allowing you to absolutely maximise your beach time, before you have to leave for your flight and finally say goodbye to Bali.
Our personal picks:
✯ Where to stay: Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa
✯ Don’t miss: All you can eat buffet brunch at the 5* Mulia resort
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