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The Complete Guide to Bali: Including Nusa Penida & The Gili Islands

The Complete Guide to Bali: Including Nusa Penida & The Gili Islands

Located in Indonesia, South East Asia the tropical island of Bali was my first experience of this side of the world and I have fallen in love with it.

In this complete guide to Bali I run you through everywhere we visited, the adventures we went on in each place that you need to visit, where we stayed and where we ate!

There is the perfect mix from the bustling streets, secluded rice paddies, thick jungles and wild waves to surf. Bali has something different to offer in every corner that you visit.

Bali is known as the island of the Gods for good reason and once you visit you immediately know why, there is a deep sense of magic and something truly special about this destination. Not to forget the wonderfully kind Balinese people who go above and beyond to make your stay unforgettable.

Kelingking beach, Nusa Penida Bali

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Canggu

Canggu is located about 30/45 mins north of Kuta, Bali’s capital, and is an up and coming hotspot! This trendy surfing village has the perfect chilled out boho beach vibe.

Imagine tons of incredible eats, cute little boutiques, surfers scooting to the beach to catch the waves & street markets filled with amazing food & handmade crafts.

Where to Stay

Surf Lodge – just 800m from the beach with good size, clean and comfortable rooms Surf Lodge Canggu is the perfect choice for a cheaper stay in Canggu. All rooms have private bathrooms, outdoor seating, storage, air conditioning & in room safes. There is also free breakfast and a shared pool.

LA Rose Villas & Suites – located in the heart of Canggu near to the beach and restaurants La Rose Villas has all of those quirky and luxurious features Bali is so well known for.

Where to Eat

Lacalita – this amazing Mexican is not one to miss

The Fat Mermaid – a mix of Indonesian & western food, they also do comedy night which was so much fun!

Tiga Canggu – fresh smoothie bowls, fresh coffee, poached eggs, this is the place for brunch

Milk & Madu – well known in Bali they have a huge menu serving westernised dishes from breakfast to dinner

What to Do

Explore the rice Paddies – Head from Jalan Pantai Pererenan to Jalan Raya Seseh for the best spots.

Wander the Organic Sunday Market – offering handmade products, fresh produce, fruits and baked goods this market is not one you’ll want to miss.

Visit Pura Tanah Lot Temple – the temple of the Balinese Sea Gods, this incredible building is located on a rock that at high tide is separated from main land.

Learn to Surf – either book a lesson with the locals or rent a board and head out yourself!

Chill at the Beach for the day – grab your favourite book and head down to chill out for the day, as Canggu sits on Bali’s west coast ensure you’re there to catch its epic sunsets.

Ubud

Set amongst jungles, temples and rolling emerald hills, Ubud is well known as Bali’s art & culture capital for very good reason.

During your stay in this majestic Balinese town you can explore ancient temples, wander through terraced rice paddies, haggle at vibrant street markets, chase waterfalls and laugh at the cheeky monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest.

Where to Stay

Villa D’Uma – nestled amongst the rice paddies, the atmosphere of Villa D’Uma is true to the Balinese culture with pieces of its tradition dotted around everywhere. The interiors and decoration throughout are colourful, clean and filled with lush greenery promoting relaxation and helping you to unwind.

Dupa Villas – Dupa Villas is a stunning hidden gem. Tucked away down a quiet road out of the centre of Ubud these rice paddy facing villas are in a wonderful location. Each villa has a good size bed with mosquito nets, a huge bathroom, a balcony and access to the shared infinity pool overlooking the jungle.

Where to Eat

Clear Cafe – organic, delicious, pure, natural is Clear Cafes slogan and it is just that. Serving up some incredibly vibrant healthy dishes & drinks this place is a must visit.

Toro Sushi – located down a busy market street the open air dining gives Toro Sushi a busy and vibrant atmosphere. 💡 ask to sit upstairs for wonderful views over Ubud.

Oia – if you’re looking for a Gyros fix in Asia this is the place. Boasting modern yet authentic Greek & Mediterranean food Oia is a little slice of Greece right in the heart of Ubud.

Keban – this little restaurant is just like stepping across borders into France. With some of the finest ingredients, decor and service it has a wonderful atmosphere.

Simply Social – this casual eatery and bar offers fresh flavours right in the heart of the bustling Ubud streets. Our go to for brunch and lunch!

Warung Pulau Kelapa – This local Warung serves incredible local dishes inspired by the richness and diversity of each province’s different culinary offerings.

Warung Lemongrass – This family run Warung offers delicious local food for excellent prices, they are so welcoming that is feels as if you are eating at home.

What to Do

The Sacred Monkey Forest – home to long-tailed Macaques this sanctuary is both a natural and sacred site. It is easy to find and the Forest can be found on Monkey Forest Street!

Traditional Balinese Legong Dance – you can buy tickets along the Main Street, this is a special piece of the Balinese culture and beautiful to watch each dance and performance has been passed down within the culture and preserved over centuries.

Taman Saraswati Temple – only the front is open to the public but make sure you step off the bustling Ubud streets to visit its idyllic lily ponds.

Ubud Art Market – open daily between 8am – 5pm here you can find tons of goodies from homemade trinkets, jewellery, clothes and so much more.

Tegegunan Waterfall – locally known as ‘Air Terjun Tegenungan’ it is the biggest and best waterfall in Ubud. If you only have time to visit one, make sure its this one.

Tibumana Waterfall – Tibumana is locally known as ‘Air Terjun Tibumana’. This waterfall is a beautiful hidden spot and is a lot quieter than Tegegunan.

Kanto Lampo Waterfall – another beautiful waterfall, but due to it’s smaller size and spectacular falls it can get very busy, early morning or late afternoon are the best times to visit to avoid the crowds.

Campuhan Ridge Walk – stepping onto the ridge you wouldn’t believe you are walking distance from Ubud. Walking high on the ridge here you can admire the palm trees and green jungles either side.

Tirta Empul Temple – This sacred temple has holy springs that are believed to have been created by The God Indra and it’s believed that if you bathe in them the water will purify you. Even as a tourist you are allowed to join in here experience the beauty of the purification rituals.

Goa Gajah Temple – sometimes known as the Elephant Cave, this temple has caves that are believed to date back to the 11th century and is a truly stunning place.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces – these stunning rice terrace are part of the Cultural Landscape of Bali Province UNESCO World Heritage site. Make sure to bring some extra cash if you fancy a go on the famous Bali swings!

If you are in Ubud make sure to check out my 11 Must Visit Places – here you can find much more information on each adventure!

Kintamani (Mount Batur)

Located in the Kintamani region Mount Batur is a famous volcano well known for it’s sunrise hikes. But that’s not all Kintamani has to offer visitors.

Where to Stay

The Lava Bali Villa – these bungalows offer cosy, clean and comfy rooms, private bathrooms, a shared kitchen and a hot springs pool that overlooks the stunning Mount Abang. Here you can soak after your mornings hike or relax in the garden and enjoy the sunset.

Oculus – boasting 5 levels with 3 restaurants, each with their own concept, an infinity pool & spa. Oculus is a truly luxurious stay in Kintamani.

Where to Eat

There is not a large selection of food in downtown Kintamani, however if you are able to rent a scooter you can head up to the main town where you can find more options.

Jaya Fried Chicken – similar to a KFC, they served the usual of chips, chicken pieces, chicken burgers and drinks.

Local Warungs – there are a few local Warungs located in downtown.

Olympus Coffee House – they have a large menu with both westernised food and Indonesian dishes, which is all very tasty. It also offers incredible views over Mount Batur!

Mount Batur crater

Oculus – there is the Kedisan lounge which is tapas and western fusion, Kaki Gunung which is Indonesian & Ruang Langit that has flame-smoked dishes. 

What to Do

Mount Batur Sunrise Hike – here you can find everything you need to know & more to get ready to hike this incredible volcano for sunrise whether you choose a local guide or a group tour.

Soak in the hot springs – if you accommodation doesn’t have a springs pool or if you are hiking Mount Batur on a day trip make sure you take a trip to one of the hot springs pools, it is the perfect way to relax after a busy morning.

ATV/Quad Bike Tour – These tours take you around Kintamani off road along valleys, through rivers and through volcanic sand from Mount Batur’s last eruption.

Trunyan Village – sometimes known as the Skull Island, across the lake from downtown Kintamani at the foot of Mount Abang is Trunyan village. This village is home to Bali Mula (original Balinese) where they do not believe in burying or burning the dead, instead they are laid out in the cemetery which today is filled with human skulls & bones.

Hike Mount Abang – Mount Abang is the 3rd highest mountain in Bali and is located at the highest point of the rim of the Batur caldera. Unlike Mount Batur, Abang is completely untouched by development and is a walk on the wilder side.

Nusa Penida

Attracting tourists from all over for its huge lime stone cliffs, blue waters & wild coastlines, Nusa Penida is like Bali before tourists arrived.

It captures the raw beauty of Indonesia perfectly and will provide you with some epic photos and memories to last a lifetime.

Many visit this chilled out island on a day trip stopping at all the tourist hotspots before heading back to Bali – but I recommend spending a few days here and soaking in this relaxed way of life.

‼️ Note – tourism has only been picking up here in recent years therefore a lot of the infrastructure and amenities are not yet in place, don’t be alarmed if you find ourself dodging pot holes on dirt roads. The Wifi here is also from the mainland which can easily be affected by storms or cloudy weather and ensure to withdraw some cash from the mainland before you visit as the island only has a few ATMs.

Take your time of Nusa Penida as the perfect excuse to switch off and wind down.

Where to Stay

Due to the roads being quite bad it can take a while to get around Nusa Penida, especially by scooter.

If you prefer to stay somewhere with easy access to restaurants, supermarkets and bars then head for Toya Pakeh or the North Coast.

To be in-between the main tourist hotspots and the restaurants head for the West Coast.

If you are looking for a quiet romantic getaway with untouched coastlines then head for the East Coast.

Abian Selumbung Bungalow – this beautifully positioned accommodation is basic but comfortable & the staff are very helpful. They can assist you in renting a scooter, booking day tours & finding recommendations.

Atalaya Villas Nusa Penida – this quirky accommodation offers rooms in the style of suites, With only 10 suites available the exclusivity of Atalaya Villas makes it feel extra special and is the perfect couples retreat.

Where to Eat

Penida Colada – this eco-conscious beachfront restaurant & bar is the place to go for yummy brunches, fresh smoothies, healthy eats & amazing views.

Sushi Island – Sushi Island is a small family run restaurant. The ingredients are incredibly fresh and excellent quality and the sushi is made fresh to order.

Amok Sunset – this is a very popular sunset spot in Nusa Penida, with great food and happy hour make sure to book a table if you want to spend the day here or catch the sunset.

Virgin Beach Club – serving up delicious local food, fresh juices and smoothies, cocktails and western food with a sunset view all on the beach, what more could you ask for?

Coco Penida – another beach front spot, here you can relax all day soaking up the sun then enjoy the buzzing atmosphere as the sun goes down and the tasty cocktails come out.

What to Do

Pura Goa Giri Puti Cave – this temple is a place of pilgrim for the Balinese but is also open to tourists. It is a beautiful hidden gem, tucked away half way up a hill in a natural cave, just be prepared to climb the steps to the top!

Tembeling Natural Pool & Beach – only accessible by scooter, make sure to make this trip through the jungle to the pristine blue lake. Just 5 minutes from the pool you can find Tembeling beach. 

Peguyangan Waterfall – this trip is all about the hike. The views throughout the walk are stunning, however I do not recommend it if you are afraid of heights. The walk is along 150 meters of blue iron stairs.

Manta Bay – Manta bay is the place you are *pretty much* guaranteed to swim with Manta rays. There are plenty of boat trips heading out every morning so check then out either by driving around the island or you can book online at Get Your Guide.

Broken Beach – Broken Beach is a natural pool that has got its name from a rock bridge separating it from the ocean, it’s not possible to swim here but amazing to admire from above.

Thousand Island (Pulau Seribu) Viewpoint – this viewpoint over the east coast will cause you to stare in awe for a good moment or two as you admire the 200 meter high cliffs, blue ocean with their crashing waves and white sandy beaches below.

Kelingking Beach – Kelingking beach is beautiful, you can either admire it from the top or climb down to the bottom and enjoy the powdery sand and wild waves. ‼️ be warned that the climb to the bottom is not for the faint hearted.

Crystal Bay – Crystal Bay is the perfect spot to hang for the day. Don’t forget your snorkel as just offshore there is a colourful reef that is a very popular spot for snorkelling.

Diamond Beach – Diamond beach is another gem on Nusa Penida. This beach is located on the far east of the island. It is a steep and precarious walk to the bottom but don’t worry it doesn’t take too long.

Atuh Beach – this large cove of crystal clear water is located on the east of the island and its iconic archway surrounded by thick lush greenery sets the scene perfectly paired with the blue waters.

Angels Billabong – here unique limestone rock formations have created a stunning and natural infinity pool. Angels Billabong has crystal clear water and you can see glimmers of emerald below the surface.

As scooting from place to place can take a long time on Nusa Penida, a great way to see the island is by booking a full day island tour, this way you stop off at all the best spots and can plan the day exactly as you choose!

Gili Islands

Made up of 3 different islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air, each one of these little paradises has something completely different to offer. It is also a breath of fresh air literally as there are no cars here, you can only get around the islands by bicycle or horse and cart!

Gili Trawangan is known for its parties, while Gili Meno is the honeymoon island and Gili Air sits somewhere in-between.

We spent 6 nights on these islands overall visiting Gili Trawangan and Gili Air, they are both incredibly beautiful and each one is magnificently unique.

Where to Stay

Martas Hotel (Gili Trawangan) – perfectly located for the beach and restaurants these cute little villas have a large bedroom upstairs with a big private bathroom and outside seating, they also offer breakfast, you can rent bicycles and spend the day relaxing at the shared pool.

Apalagi Villas (Gili Air) – these private and luxury villas are something extra special, a private bathroom and air conditioned bedroom can be found upstairs with an open air kitchen and private pool downstairs. This Villa was the perfect stay to celebrate Jack’s birthday.

Where to Eat

Gili Trawangan

Hello Capitano – holding the number 1 spot on Tripadvisor this is a great little cafe serving delicious breakfasts, freshly made smoothies and tacos for dinner.

Scallywags Seafood Bar & Grill – here you can choose off the normal menu or select something from the BBQ where you can go across the road and select your meat, sides and unlimited salad bar! 💡find them on both Gili T and Gili Air.

Gili Trawangan Food Night Market – this place is full of life and activity, here you can select from freshly caught fish, meat skewers, fruits and ice cream. All is from local vendors and served to you on large shared tables.

💡 I highly recommend trying the grilled corn that you can find from stalls along the beachfront in Gili T it is amazing!

Gili Air

Begadang – this is a family run hostel which is a great option if you are looking to meet up with other travellers during your stay. They also serve some incredible food from breakfast through to dinner!

Barefoot Blondie – the comfy seating upstairs makes this the perfect place to relax to grab breakfast and sip on a smoothie whilst watching the life in the jungles behind.

Blue Marlin Dive – You can just relax at Blue Marlin Dive with a cocktail or fresh juice and watch the swallows dipping and diving catching insects as the sky turns from beautiful blue to pinks and oranges.

What to Do

Turtle Beach – our fav spot in Gili T! The snorkelling was the out of this world, we saw a huge variety of fish, plenty of sea turtles, star fish and even an eel. It is incredible how much you can see from such a short distance out.

Gili Cooking Class – this cooking class drew me in from the moment I saw it, it’s an open air kitchen right on the beach and the Chef Eko is so knowledgable and makes it so much fun. Pick from a 3, 4 or 6 course meal. 💡find them on both Gili T and Gili Air.

Snorkelling Trip – you can either book this through one of the many stands along the beachfront in any of the Gili Islands or you can prebook a tour online. During this tour you will visit some of the best spots around the islands to spot sea turtles!

Sama Sama – a popular reggae bar known for its live music and late night parties, they start off the night with a live band located at the front of the venue then they move them inside onto the stage and open up an area for a dance floor.

Sunset Kiss Beach Club – this is THE SPOT to watch the sunset when you are on Gili Trawangan. Either hire a bike or take a stroll down the coastal path to the bottom of Gili T and around to the west coast. 💡 arrive early if you want to ensure you get a good seat!

Sand Bar – a beach front bar in the day and an excellent live venue in the evening. This place is always full and has some great musicians playing every evening. Sand bar has rows on bean bags right on the sand for you to sit back and enjoy the music.

Relax – take your time on these tiny little islands to get back in touch with nature, yourselves and just unwind in the beautiful surroundings and slow way of life.

Go exploring – rent a bicycle from either your accommodation or a shop around the island and get cycling, you can go all around the island spotting the places you want to make sure you visit!

How to Get There

Bali is an island located in Indonesia in South East Asia, the best way to reach Bali is by airplane into their international airport Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport, also known as Denpasar International Airport (DPS).

Alternatively if you have been travelling around Java before heading to Bali and don’t want to fly an alternative would be to get a bus and ferry the crossing between Java and Bali only takes 30 minutes but the bus overall can take around 10 hours. Check out some options here on 12Go.asia.

Or if you are coming from the other side and travelling over from Lombok and again do not want to fly your only way of transport would be by ferry. There are a few ferry companies in the area and they are not always very reliable.

‼️ the sea here can also be very rough at times so do make sure you check the weather and read reviews ahead of booking. If I’m completely honest, you get what you pay for with this service! You can check out some of the ferry options here also on 12Go.asia.

Getting these ferries is the only way on transport between Bali – Nusa Penida – Gili Islands as these islands do not have airports.

How to Get Around

The best ways for getting around Bali are either private drivers, taxis or scooter.

Bali does not have much public transport so unlike other countries in South East Asia getting around can make quite a dent in your budget.

The best recommendation I would have is speaking to the locals or your accommodation. They work with drivers and scooter rentals and will often be able to organise it all for you.

Booking a driver for the whole day is a great way to explore the island for the day or while you move from place to – this means as you pass temples, restaurants or anywhere else you’d like to visit you can ask them to stop. This usually costs around 500,000 IDR (£27).

‼️ if you book this through your accommodation check if you are paying them or the driver! We did not once and ended up paying twice…

If you are planning on scooting yourself around while in Bali I would suggest getting some practise in before you leave home or starting off in some quieter streets. Driving in Bali is nothing like the west and if you are not confident on a bike it could be very overwhelming.

Also do not be concerned by all the beeping! Here it is not seen as a form of aggression its used to let other drivers know you are there so if you want to drive yourself then get used to using it.

Best Time to visit Bali

Bali is hot all year round and only has 2 seasons, rainy or dry.

The dry season runs from April to October. During this time on Bali everything is a lot busier and more expensive, however for good reason as it is the driest time of the year.

Bali’s peak season is April to August so if you would like to avoid the crowds then the best time to visit is May or September.

The wet season here is November to March. While the temperature is still warm it will usually rain for 1 out of 2 days, visiting in the rainy season may mean activities such as diving or snorkelling may be off the cards however activities like yoga, waterfall hopping and temples are still accessible.

Coco Penida view beach Nusa Penida

My top tips for Bali

Smile all day everyday – Bali is the land of smiles, everyone smiles back at you and your kindness can go a long way.

Offerings – when walking around Bali you will see many offerings dotted around. Bali is Balinese Hindu and these offerings are a sacred representation of the Balinese peoples devotion to their gods. The offerings are forms of gratitude for what is and a wish for peace and abundance in the world. Please be mindful of them and their meaning to the Balinese people, do not take anything from them, move them and avoid stepping on them.

Bali Belly – I was terrified of Bali belly when visiting, I had heard horror stories of dodgy ice cubes and was told to avoid anything fresh! The food standard in Bali has increased massively over the years, and many restaurants now use filtered water. Just be mindful of where you are eating, is there good reviews? Does it look clean? Does the food look ok? Is it busy?

‼️ Tip – do not brushing your teeth with tap water, use bottled water only and avoid opening your mouth in the shower!

Religious Traditions – respect the religious traditions in place, when we visited we were there for the 5 year cremation ceremony (Ngaben) and there were certain roads closed near the temples and Legong music was played from first thing in the morning till the evening. You can check the full list of holy days celebrated by Balinese Hindu here, but just work around this and be understanding of their celebrations.

Balinese flowers and statue

Be Sensible – as with visiting any country or even in your home town be sensible, party safely and stay together. Don’t behave any differently or lose your respect just because you are in another country. It also goes without saying that drugs are a big no no in Indonesia and should be avoided.

Tipping – tipping is not expected here but the Balinese do not have high salaries, if you feel you have had good service then make sure you tip for it as it can go along way.

Final Thoughts

Bali is not one to be missed, this magical island is full of surprises and really does have something for everyone.

We spent 30 days here and only scratched the surface of Bali, Nusa Penida and The Gili Islands. You can spend so much longer really exploring these amazing islands and if you have enough time don’t forget about the rest of Indonesia!

Are you heading to Indonesia? Then make sure Bali and its surrounding islands are on your bucket list! Use this Complete Guide to Bali to make sure you don’t miss a thing. If you have any questions then please let me know in this comments below.

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