The island of Bali has been a popular tourist destination for many years, but most tourists stick to the beach resorts of Kuta and Sanur and rarely explore more than what the standard day trips of temples and markets have to offer. Bali is a small island and pretty much any point is reachable within a few hours drive so there’s really no excuse not to get off the beaten path and see some amazing sights away from the usual tourist trail.
Here are our top ten attractions in Bali that you won’t find on most travel itineraries:
1. Sangeh Monkey Forest
The monkey forest in Ubud is more famous but unless you get there early in the morning you may well find yourself fighting through bus-loads of tourists all desperate to take the same pictures of the cute little monkeys.
The monkeys at Sangeh are wilder and you’ll need a guide to take you through the forest (included in the ticket price). Apart from the monkeys, this forest of giant nutmeg trees houses a temple – Pura Bukit Sari. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds and experience some truly stunning scenery, head to Sangeh instead of Ubud
2. Climb Mount Agung
This sacred mountain (and active volcano) is visible on a clear day from most points in Bali. Many have seen it from a distance or even visited the famous Besakih (Mother Temple) on its slopes but few attempt the climb to its summit.
Gunung Agung is the 5th highest volcano in Indonesia, at 3,142 metres tall. It last erupted in 1963 during a huge religious ceremony at Besakih that occurs only once every 100 years. Many villages and crops were destroyed, thousands of people died and the whole island was showered in volcanic dust. The temple however, escaped damage and remains standing to this day.
Mount Agung is a highly sacred mountain to the Balinese and may not be climbed during important Hindu ceremonies. It is also un-climbable during the rainy season from around November to March every year. The trek is steep and takes around 6-7 hours. A guide is essential and only people who are physically fit and have trekking experience should attempt it. Those successful will be rewarded by stunning views from the summit, right across to Lombok’s Mount Rinjani. Most treks are timed so that the summit is reached just before dawn.
3. Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida is a small island to the Southeast of the main island of Bali. While some tourists venture as far as the smaller island of Nusa Lembongan, few travel across to Nusa Penida itself. Those that do will be rewarded by a taste of the ‘real’ Bali, as this island remains relatively untouched by tourism.
The entire island of Nusa Penida is a designated bird sanctuary and is one of the few places where you may be lucky enough to see the endangered Bali Starling in the wild. Diving is also a popular activity around the shores of this island and the coral reefs are home to colourful tropical fish, Manta rays and sea turtles.
Pemuteran is a small fishing village on the north coast of Bali that has become popular with divers and snorkelers due to being home to the largest area of shallow reefs in Bali as well as a Biorock conservation area. As well as diving, Pemuteran is a nice area for trekking, cycling and dolphin watching. There is also a turtle-breeding program, which is worth a visit.
Pemuteran may be a less well-known destination in Bali but it is still set up well for tourists with plenty of restaurants and accommodation ranging from budget homestays to luxury beachfront villas.
Not so very long ago, Munduk was just your typical Balinese mountain village but some unique nearby tourist attractions and stunning scenery coupled with some enterprising locals have turned it into a successful example of eco-tourism.
Most visitors to Bali will go on at least one trek in the area – rice fields, coffee plantations and some beautiful waterfalls are all easily reached from the village.
But perhaps the most fascinating attraction in the Munduk area is the giant tree in the village of Gesing, estimated to be around 700 years old. This enormous Bunut tree (similar to Banyan) has a diameter of 70 metres and the root structure can be entered and explored. It’s said that during the Dutch occupation of the 1940s, hundreds of villagers hid in the roots of this tree.