Bali is breathtaking and diverse in landscapes, cultures and the people its attracts.
The island is unique with roughly 90% of the population Hindu followers. The familiar (good) scents of India - the burning of sandalwood and nag champa mixed with the sultry breezes of fresh flowers follow you down the streets. As you explore the island, you weave through sidewalks lined with small poojas - banana leaves, incense and other offerings for the gods. These poojas are such small, yet profound reminders of why I love the Eastern cultures and their practices. In Bali, these simple rituals hold deep meaning and remind us of our potential to connect with the Divine in any moment.
Besides the beauty of the local culture and ancient traditions, this island is a hotspot for those looking for a diverse paradise to play, create, learn and simply be within.
Below are my favorite things about Bali and my top suggestions to include in your journey!
1. Get lost in Ubud:
Ubud is a magical, bustling little town filled with locals and foreigners who are both a part of a rapidly growing eco-friendly community. It's become a hub for creativity, attracting a blend of travelers, healers, artists and everything in between. It's eclectic and bohemian vibe has put it on the map as one of the most inspiring places in the world. It's abundant with cozy cafes offering high quality organic plant based food, juices, smoothies and sweets. Rich with art and culture, yoga studios (with internationally recognized teachers) and ample wellness spas, boutiques and funky bars, Ubud is one of the most diverse places to get lost in. Minutes outside of the hustle and bustle of the center, you are surrounded by pristine nature - rice paddies, jungles and lush gardens are immersed within ancient temples and ruins.
Stay: You can easily stay at one of the hundreds of home stays (most families live in little complex's off the main roads with gorgeous courtyards and gardens, and often rent a private room with bathroom to guests) which is a nice way to stay reasonably in the heart of Ubud. There are also many beautiful boutique hotels and bohemian style eco-resorts for all sorts of budgets.
Eat: Kismet, Kafe, Soma, Bali Buda, Down to Earth, Lotus Cafe, Anomali (coffee) Seniman (coffee), Gaya Gelato stand and so many more!
Yoga: Yoga Barn for classes, workshops and trainings: live kirtans, Tibetan bowl meditations, estatic dance parties, Ayurvedic & holistic healing workshops, and so much more!
The Green School is world famous as it is built out of 100% sustainable resources (mostly Bamboo) and focuses on teaching children life skills, awareness about the earth and academics. Watch the TED talk here.
Gunung Kawi Temple is nestled deep in the rice fields are the ancient ruins of the temple. You can spend hours here enjoying the landscape and soaking up the peaceful energy.
Tirta Empul Water Temple is a prominent complex of water temples, rich with sacred and holy mountain spring water.
2. Chill out in Bingin' Beach:
Bingin' is a stunning beach with dramatic views from limestone cliffs, overlooking the brilliant blue Indian ocean. Bingin' is a surfers paradise with world class waves that go on for miles. The town is still somewhat sleepy which appeals to those looking for somewhere quiet and serene to spend vacation time. There is just the right amount of artists and funky shops, high quality food and local Warungs, as well as chill out cafes and bars to soak up the sunset from. Bingin' is slowly becoming more widely known for more than its surf as an enchanting place which attracts a diverse blend of travelers and tourists.
Stay: You'll find a blend of small boutique resorts, private villas and guesthouse bungalows, which are walking or scooter distance to the beach. My top favorite is The Temple Lodge is a beautiful hidden gem. This boutique hotel is unique with it's rustic Balinese charm - old doors and artifacts painted soft pastels and lush gardens give off a dreamlike vibe. The Temple Lodge sits high atop a cliff with a pristine pool overlooking the unmatched sea views and volcanoes in the distance. The hotel boasts relaxation and well-being with daily yoga, healthy food and peaceful grounds.
Yoga: The Temple Lodge
Eat: The Cashew Tree, Kelly's Warung, Drifter, La Baracca, Bukit Cafe, Single Fin, Coco & Poke, and so many more!
3. Sunset at Uluwatu Temple:
This mystical temple is perched on the southwestern tip of the peninsula, atop sheer cliffs that drop straight into surf below. With an arched entrance, adorned with statues of Ganesha, the walls inside are covered with intricate carvings of Bali’s mythological creatures.
The views of the endless swells of the Indian Ocean from cliffs are expansive and soulful. At sunset, walk around the clifftop to the left (south) of the temple to more quiet and less busy areas of the temples and soak up the setting sun.
4. Play in Canggu:
This up and coming beach village is mixed with sophisticated spa resorts and boutiques, as well as earthy and chilled cafes, yoga spaces and surf shacks. It's a mecca for surfers and sun-worshippers, and has a thriving culture of chic venues, bars and parties offering a lively and creative vibe that attracts a diverse mix of travelers.
Eat: Betelnut, Canteen, Crate Café, Milk & Madu, Watercress Cafe
Yoga: The Practice, Samadi Bali
4. Bliss out in the Gili Isles:
These pristine isles lie off the coast of Bali (2 hours by boat) and are known as the 'banana pancake trail' by travelers, because they are small, flat and filled with banana trees. These islands are truly unspoiled and feel like a hidden paradise, as there are no cars or motorbikes, only bicycles and horse drawn carts. Bask in the sun, snorkel and dive, practice yoga or lounge in a hammock - these islands are made to relax and invite you to nourish by doing little or absolutely nothing at all!
Gili Meno is quiet and the most basic out of the three islands, with incredible snorkeling directly off the beach - turquoise waters & colorful red, blue & yellow corals entice the eye.
Gili Trawangan is more lively, with lots of backpackers and beach parties.
Gili Air is a blend between the two - not the full bustle of Gili T, but not the simple and minimalist vibe of Gili Meno. For many it's just right!
LAUREN LEE E-RYT 500 is passionate about living with purpose, exploring the world, and empowering others to live as their most authentic, radiant Self. Founder of Raise Your Beat, dedicated teacher and forever student on the path of yoga, she leads transformational workshops, retreats and trainings to awaken the individual and collective consciousness. Read more about her here