This was our second time in Bali, and we loved it even more than the first! We had eight full days and managed to travel to a lot of places on the island. On this trip, we stayed at Munduk (2 nights), Sumberkima (2 nights), Nusa Dua (2 nights), and Canggu (3 nights) before we headed to the Komodo islands.
How to get around?
Honestly, the easiest way to get around in Bali is by getting a driver or driving with a scooter, which I would not feel comfortable with. Especially, when you are not used to the Bali traffic, which can be horrible and terrifying at the same time :D. The question is how to find a good and responsible driver. Well, you could either google, look on Tripadvisor or check blogpost articles. We got super lucky, because the first hotel we stayed at, send a driver to pick us up from the hotel, so we stuck to this driver through our whole Bali trip, because his prices were reasonable and he was a safe driver.
The Munduk area is truly breathtaking with its gorgeous mountain views and waterfalls. If you are a coffee lover, Munduk is also the place to go. Keep in mind that Munduk is cooler than the rest of Bali because it is higher in elevation. So you might need a sweater in the mornings and evenings.
As mentioned earlier, the hotel sent a driver to pick us up from the airport, and it took us about 2.5h to reach Munduk and our final destination the Munduk Moding Plantation, where we stayed for the next three days.
What to do?
Munduk offers plenty of things to do. From endless waterfall options to beautiful temples, lakes and view points. Munduk is also a great area for mountain biking and hiking. So if you like adventures and lots of outdoor activities, Munduk should be on your list, when visiting Bali.
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
Ulun Danu Beratan Temple is a famous Hindu water temple complex on the western side of Beratan Lake in Bedugul, central Bali. The whole Bedugul area is a popular area for locals from the more urban areas in the island’s south.
This temple is only surrounded by water and appears to float when there is enough rain, so during the rainy season and if you are lucky even after the rainy season. If you want to see the temple float, you need to make sure you visit during the right season. We visited when there was no water, and it was still beautiful. The scenic background makes the temple views even more magical.
I think the best time to avoid crowds is visiting right when the temple opens at 7 am. If you want terrific colors and a nice mood, visit during sunset hours, but you will have to deal with the crowds since the temple is quite famous.
Opening time: 7 am – 7 pm
Cost: IDR 100,000 (~7 USD)
Banyumala Twin Waterfalls (Wanagiri)
There are so many great waterfalls you can visit in Munduk, such as Sekumpul, Munduk, Aling Aling, Gitgit, and Banyumala waterfall. It was quite hard for us to decide which one we wanted to see. Due to limited time, we had to cut down on activities and only choose the ones that we really wanted to see in such a short time.
After doing some research, we decided to visit the Banyumala Twin Waterfalls because those waterfalls were only a 30-minute drive from the hotel and are cascading falls. The waterfall is so beautiful and lush, and you can even go for a swim there. Not all waterfalls in Bali allow you to swim there.
When to go: I would recommend going early in the morning to avoid crowds.
Cost: IDR 50,000 (~3.50 USD)
Lake Tamblingan and Pura Ulun Danu Tamblingan
Ulun Danu Tamblingan Temple is unique because it has two different Meru shrines. One shrine was built and utilized by members of the Buleleng Regency and the other by worshippers from the surrounding villages of Catur Desa. During rainy season the temple is surrounded by water, and you can rent canoes and get closer to the temples. Especially during sunset, you can click the most mesmerizing photos.
During dry seasons, the water levels are low, and you probably will be able to walk around the temple area. No doubt, though, that the whole area looks more magical during rainy season.
When to go: During sunrise and sunset would be a great time to visit.
Cost: Park entrance is IDR 10,000 (~ 0.7 USD). In rainy season you can rent canoes starting at IDR 200,000 (~ USD 14).
If you want the instagrammable Bali photo, such as the famous Bali swing, a boat that looks like it is floating in the air, a bamboo nest with the fantastic backdrop of Lake Buyan and a lush valley, you need to visit the Wanagiri Hills. It is a little bit pricey but definitely will reward you with the perfect Bali shot. The guys there are so prepared; they offer reflectors, outfits to rent, changing rooms, and photographers. So if you travel solo, and need someone to click your pic, the Wanagiri Hills got you covered 😀
There are several places like that around the road and Bali, so even if you miss out on those viewpoints in Munduk, you might have a second opportunity.
When to go: This location is trendy, and you usually will have to wait in lines for the photo. We got lucky and actually did not have to wait in line. We spent about one h at this place and shot at all different stations.
Cost: IDR 100,000 (~ 7 USD). The actual Bali swing, where you can actually swing, is way more expensive, and we decided not to do it.
Where to stay?
We stayed at Munduk Moding Plantation and were in love with the place. The views from the infinity pools are to die for. The hotel has an upper level and lower level pool as well as a jacuzzi: both infinity pools and both perfect for sunrise and sunset photos.
Munduk Moding Plantation offers several villa options, we stayed at a Garden Deluxe Villa and had a nice view over the valley. Our villa had an outdoor shower and a cute patio area which was lovely and perfect for relaxing.
The hotel offers plenty of daily activities that you can book, such as a tour through their coffee plantations, where you can learn everything about the coffee production process. In addition to that, they also offer mountain biking, waterfall, hiking, and horseback riding tours. They even have their own spa, and we could not resist and had to book a massage at their spa. It was the best massage that we had on our whole trip, and I definitely can recommend it.
West Bali: Sumberkima
This part of Bali is not very well know yet and thus less touristy. So if you want to escape the crowds, you should visit West Bali during your next Bali visit and check out this little piece of paradise. Western Bali is the perfect place for nature lovers because it is home to over 200 species of plants, 300 species of birds. You may find including pythons, iguanas, barking deer, macaques, wild pigs, and turtles in West Bali. In case you prefer the underwater world, you don’t want to miss out on Menjangan Island, offering some of the best snorkeling and diving opportunities on the island.
Depending on the season, it can either look like the desert or like a lush forest. The rainy season starts end of November and lasts until April. However, it rains is much less compared to the south and center of Bali, which makes the north the best rainy season destination. The dry season is from April to October. We went in November, and it wasn’t raining at all, it was still very dry and hot.
What to do?
Snorkeling & Diving
North West Bali is home to the largest area of shallow reefs in Bali. It makes it the perfect spot for diving & snorkeling since the waves and currents are rather soft, and the ecosystem is colorful and lively.
Most hotels, including Sumberkima Hill offer such tours that will include a personal tour guide who will tell you everything you want to know about the ecosystem in Bali and the different kinds of corals.
Bali Barat National Park
The Barat National Park is an area of about 77,000 ha, and it mainly consists of monsoon forest, mangrove forest, lowland rain forest, savanna, seagrass vegetation types, coral reefs, sandy beaches, and both shallow and deep-sea waters. Since this area is protected, you can only enter with a guide who will show you around the park. The best time of the year to visit the Bali Barat National Park is at the end of the dry season, roughly from September/December. Depending on your preferences, you can either dive and snorkel at this national park or hike, do bird watching, and observe the variety of plants.
Climbing Mount Ijen (Kawah Ijen on Java island)
Climbing Mount Ijen was most likely the highlight of our Indonesia trip. It was something we have yet not done and seen before, so it was unique in its own way. If you want to reach the crater before sunrise and see the unique blue flames, you need to start your hike at night (which we did!).
Since the volcano is on Java island, you have to take a ferry from Bali first to reach Java island, which is why you will be picked up at 11 pm from your hotel. The Bali harbor Gilimanuk is around a 30-minute drive from Sumberkima; it may take longer or shorter from other locations. It will take about one hour to reach Java island and another 1.5 hours to reach the mountain where you will start your hike to the crater.
Before hiking to the crater, you will be equipped with a gas mask and head headlamp. Those mask are necessary to be able to breathe and not inhale any toxic sulfur gases. Since you are hiking in the middle of the night on a narrow and steep path, the headlamps are absolutely mandatory and necessary. Trust me; you will need them!
Mount Ijen is one of the world’s most unusual volcanoes. Unlike other volcanos with typical red lava and black smoke, you will see bright blue flames rising into the air at Mount Ijen. Those blue flames are a result of the sulfur that is burnt there. It is a truly fascinating natural wonder since this is one of the few places on earth where you can witness those blue flames. Mount Ijen is also home to the largest acid lake in the world, which is conveniently situated within the crater. The beautiful turquoise color of the lake is a result of the acid in the lake.
Hiking to the crater was incredibly hard for me, although I work out a lot. But I was sick that day and was super weak, so it was quite exhausting to hike up the steep mountain and climb down the rocky volcano. Breathing becomes extremely difficult, too, once you have to cover your face with the mask, which is about halfway down the crater. But those masks are essential to protect you from the smoke.
Depending on your speed, you will reach the crater in about 2-3 hours. Once you reached the crater, your guide will tell you a little bit about the blue flames, and you will also have the time to take photos and explore the area a little bit by yourself. You will see the miners extract the sulfur rock, which is an incredibly hard job. Those miners carry these large loads in baskets down the side of the mountain and are paid per kilogram. This makes this job most likely one of the toughest and dangerous in the world. They usually take two daily trips. Each local worker is paid about 680 Indonesian rupiahs per kilogram, the equivalent of about six USD cents.
The working conditions are highly dangerous because it requires agility and strength to carry up the sulfur rocks, and the miners are also constantly exposed to the sulfur gases, which often leads to health problems. Some miners are not even wearing gas masks or wear a mask that is already useless and worn out. It made me very sad to see those workers who have no other choice but working in the crater to be able to take care of their families.
Nevertheless, I have to admit that this was one of the most incredible hikes and things that I have ever done. Seeing the blue flames was mind-blowing, and I would recommend doing it if you happen to visit Bali or Java.
Hiking up the volcano was relatively easy compared to hiking down the crater and felt shorter as well. Once we reached the top of the crater we decided to make a detour and visit the famous tree that is hanging down the crater. The turquoise lake in the background makes this spot so picturesque. It is probably a 10-15 min walk to the tree and worth it – not only for the picture!
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Sumberkima Hill Retreat, and the name definitely does justice to the place. The place is a retreat indeed. If you are looking for a secluded place to relax and take some time off, this is the place you want to visit.
The villas are private, and you feel like there is no one else around you. We loved our huge villa that had a massive pool and the most amazing sunsets every day. All the villas have a living room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, and a pool. Each villa has either a perfect view to enjoy sunrise or sunset. The guests can enjoy two restaurants that are not a far walk from each villa: an authentic Balinese restaurant and a western restaurant. We tried both and enjoyed the food at both places.
Sumberkima Hill offers a bunch of activities for its guests that make the visit even more enjoyable. You can book canoeing, snorkeling, diving, hiking tours, and much more. Get more information here. In case you like yoga, Sumberkima Hill offers morning yoga classes, which we, unfortunately, did not have the time to do.
Nusa Dua is located in south Bali and is known for its beaches and luxury hotels. It is the perfect place, if you want to enjoy the beach and relax around the hotel for a couple days. To be honest, we actually stayed around the hotel area for 3 days and just relaxed at the pool / beach and enjoyed a massage in the hotel. People who love reading a book by the pool or beach are going to enjoy the peaceful resorts and beaches in Nusa Dua. If you want to have more action, you need to visit Canggu, Munduk or Ubud.
What to do?
Check out Bali’s most beautiful white sand beaches
Some of the best beaches in Nusa Dua worth checking out are:
- Nusa Dua Beach (Pantai Mengiat)
- Geger Beach (Pantai Geger)
- Samuh Beach (Pantai Samuh)
- Sawangan Beach (Nikko Beach)
- Pandawa Beach (Pantai Pandawa)
Visit the Water Blow
We did not make it to the water blow although we were just a foot walk away, but I sure this place is worth a visit. When visiting the water blow make sure to bring some extra clothing and a GoPro. The site is located behind Grand Hyatt Bali Hotel, where you can see cliffs of coral view where waves strongly burst between them.
Visit Pirates’ Bay
This place makes you feel like a kid again. It is literally a Pirate’s Bay which huge pirate ships where you can chill and enjoy drinks and food. We went there for sunset and had the pleasure to listen to live music. It was one of out favorite nights in Bali.
Address: The Bay Bali ITDC Area Lot C-0, Nusa Dua, Kuta Selatan, Benoa, Kec. Kuta Sel., Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Nusa Dua Resort & Spa and had a wonderful time over there. The resort is huge and almost feels like a maze, so you will definitely not get bored here. You can dine in 4 different restaurants, which all offer different kind of cuisine. We loved the breakfast in the hotel because it offered a variety of food.
Before making our way to the Komodo islands, we decided to stay in Canggu for a couple of nights. We heard that this is a great place to stay if you want to surf and try out different kinds of foods. We are both foodies and wanted to experience Bali’s famous smoothie and buddha bowls and have to admit that the food in Canggu is very delicious.
What to do?
We did not do much – mostly relaxed and ate at a lot of different restaurants. We wanted to use the time to recharge and get ready for our sailing trip around Komodo. But if you guys know us, you know we can’t just relax, so we actually did some surfing (well, Johannes did!) and went to see the famous rice terraces.
If you want to try surfing for the first time, you should stay in Canggu, since this area is perfect for beginners and a lot of surf schools offer daily lessons.
Visit the Tegallalang Rice Terraces
Have you been really to Bali if have not visited the famous rice terraces? Well, yes of course you have 😀 But you also miss out if you do not visit the rice fields, since they truly are an eye catcher. We decided to go there last minute and did not regret it. In fact, it was another highlight of our Bali trip.
Although this is a very touristy area, you do not feel like there are too many people, because the area is really big and you have plenty of space to avoid the crowds. You can wander around the rice terraces and there are several photo opportunities along the path, including the famous Bali swing and other staged photo options like the bamboo birds nest or heart nest. Make sure to have plenty of time to walk around, since the area is pretty big. I could have easily spend 2-3 h here.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Ametis Villa. This private villa was out of this world. With the open living room and kitchen area, it makes the place very special. Every villa has their own pool and offers in room breakfast. If you want a breakfast by the pool, you can ask the staff and they will bring the food on a tray so you can sit by the pool and enjoy breakfast there.