What to Do If You’ve Got One Week in Bali

We’re not exactly the lounging type of tourists—we’d rather grab our bicycles and get completely lost. So if that’s your idea of an ideal vacation, our Bali itinerary in Ubud and Seminyak is for you:

TIP: Hire a driver. For $40 per day, one will happily take you to all of the Bali tourist destinations. Many speak decent English (check beforehand if possible—ours was a friend’s recommendation).

DAY 1: Ubud

Arrive and maybe hit up the pool, then grab dinner at your hotel and pass out. Because let’s be real, Bali is FAR from Europe or the U.S.—so you’re not going to be doing much that first day. We stayed at The Purist, just outside of Ubud, A gorgeous hotel created by designers. It’s simple and chic, with a large pool (for laps, like I did one morning) and a long canal of water running below the rooms’ doorsteps. It’s not cheap ($230 per night), but for that money you get MUCH more than many big cities in the U.S.

gado gado in Ubud Bali

gado gad, a traditional Balinese dish with veggies, tofu and peanut sauce

DAY 2: Ubud

Tegalalang rice terraces. We biked to Tegalalang—it’s about an hour from our hotel; add another 30 minutes depending on where you’re staying in Ubud. Much of it is uphill…which means best to start early. In our opinion there’s no better way than bike to see the countryside–the red brick homes, each with its own temple, artisan shops, rice fields. (Although, of course, you can also get a driver to take you there as well.)

personal Bali temple near Ubud

We had lunch overlooking the paddies (spring rolls, chicken skewers and lots of fresh juice) and then hiked down and through rice terraces surrounded by palm trees:

telelang rice terraces Ubud BaliTegalalang rice terraces

 

Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary. If you’re feeling extra energetic/courageous (or if you have a driver), you can hit up the Ubud Monkey Forest on the way back, with over 600 macaque monkeys in a 3-temple complex built in the 10th century.

monkeys in the Ubud Monkey Forest sanctuary

The park sells bananas, which some tourists hold above their heads so the monkeys climb their bodies to grab…but considering rabies is rampant in Bali (and these little guys can be super aggressive), it’s probably not a very bright idea…

an aggressive monkey at Ubud monkey forest bares its teeth

OR Yoga. Ubud city is brimming with visitors staying for summers of yoga and veganism in the forest. So if you get started early enough (and don’t exhaust yourself biking to the paddies…) you might want to hit up one of Ubud’s many yoga spots. Yoga Barn is the mother of yoga in Bali and one of the most popular (we hear it’s great, though we can’t vouch for it personally).

DAY 3: Ubud

Gunung Kawi Temple. About an hour drive east of Ubud, this 11th-century Hindu temple complex features 10 stone shrines cut into the face of a 23-foot high cliff, as well as five stone temples carved out of the side of a mountain—each built in memoriam of kings and queens of Bali.

Gunung Kawi Temple rock cliff shrine

an artisan making a candle holder out of coconut at Gunung Kawi Temple Ubud Bali

An artisan making a latern out of coconut at Gunung Kawi temple

sun over the forest at Gunung Kawi Temple near Ubud Bali

Tirta Empul Temple. A five-minute drive from Gunung Kawi, this temple, built in the 10th century, was created for a Hindu water goddess. Believers (and tourists, if it’s your thing) can participate in a ritual hot spring water cleansing in the temple’s two baths and 30 showers.
ritual cleansing in Tirta Empul temple near Ubud Bali

Kintamani volcano. A 45-minute drive from Tirta Emple, this active volcano last erupted in 2009. If you’re extra ambitious you can climb Kintamani—but there’s only one tour a day, starting at 4 am, where tourists hike to watch the sun rise from the peak at 6 am. Or, like us, you can have lunch in a restaurant overlooking the volcano, villages in the valley and nearby lake.

overlooking Kintamani volcano in Bali

Coffee plantation. On our drive back we visited a “luwak” coffee plantation (the luwak part is, apparently, a scam…but Bali has EXCELLENT coffee). The family running the plantation gave us a tour of where they grow all sorts of spices and fruits—vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, lemongrass, mango, papaya, banana, etc., then offered us a taste of a few coffees and teas. The most interesting (and sad) part was their animals, including a caged red parrot, squirrels and a fruit bat the owner captured in the jungle as a baby. This guy was 2 feet tall! I couldn’t stop watching:

Where to eat in Ubud: If you’re into vegan/vegetarian, Kafe is popular and flavorful (for veggies). Our favorite was Ibu Rai, which—according to the restaurant menu—started as a food cart in the 1960s run by a widow with nine kids, who later built the restaurant that has become quite popular among tourists. Great curries, noodles and fish.

DAY 4: Ubud

Taman Ayun royal temple. This string of straw pagodas and gardens, about an hour drive north from Ubud, was built in the 17th century for the royal family. Our driver told us a local legend: The temple was actually built as retribution by a king for killing an innocent villager. Story has it that eight generations later (that’s now), the ancestor of the victim was to be appointed as the local governor—and the dude was, just finishing up his term in office.

Taman Ayan royal temple near Ubud Bali

Jatiluwih rice terrace. Another two hours’ drive from Taman Ayan, Jatiluwih is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Acres of rice terrace, it’s much larger than Tegalalang, nestled at the base of mountains. It’s perfect for lunch and a walk (from 15 minutes to hours) along a trail through the terraces.

overlooking the Jatiluwih rice terraces near Ubud Bali

Balinese Kecak fire danceBefore dinner we hit up the Kecak fire dance, which shows every night at 7:30 p.m. in downtown Ubud. In this traditional Balinese dance, created in the 1930s, a circle of 150 men chant a percussive noise and dance, depicting an old Balinese tale and sort of exorcism. The music these men make with their mouths is incredible.

At the end of the 90-minute performance, a giant bonfire is lit at the center of the concrete stage, which a man riding a stick horse kicks out with his feet:

There are a handful of other traditional Balinese dances every night, including Lelong and Barong–we wished we had seen more!

DAY 5: Ubud to Seminyak

Tanah Lot temple: About an hour from Ubud and another hour from Seminyak, Bali’s most-visited temple sits on an offshore rock. Built in the 16th century for the sea gods, venomous sea snakes are said to protect the temple—monks help you cross the water to visit. Apparently in 1980 the temple was falling apart, and Japan (fun fact! for three years at the end of WWIII, Japan took over Bali from Holland) offered a loan to Bali to rebuild its temples.

Tanah Lot temple near Seminyak Bali

Potato Head and Seminyak beach. The Potato Head beach club in Seminyak is way past its prime (it’s now the Aussie version of Jersey Shore), but it’s one of just a couple places to access the beach. We had lunch (delish—lobster/crab rolls with Aperol spritz) and then swam in the ocean. Warm water, but a STRONG current. Swim with caution!

having a drink at Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak Bali

DAY 6: Canggu & Seminyak

Echo beach. Finally, beach day! A a 20-minute drive is Echo Beach, Canggu–“the new Seminyak,” a friend told us, or the Brooklyn of Bali. Unlike Seminyak, where the waves are violent, Echo Beach is ideal for the beginner surfer, with gentler but still surfable waves. We rented a board for the day for 50,000 rupies each (that’s about $5) and hit the water for our very first surf (lessons set you back another $30, but we just watched people around us…and still managed a squat on my surfboard). The beach is lined with bars and food shacks, perfect for an easy lunch and a beer after hitting the waves.

Canggu-beach-Bali

Where to eat in Seminyak: Our fave dinner spot was Char Char restaurant. The meat and fish was so tender and flavorful…and affordable. Plus you eat on stadium-style benches hovering above the street—a cheesy ad for the restaurant, but fun for a night.

DAY 7: Seminyak

Seminyak square shops. By now, Bali is so touristy that many of the clothing shops are just as pricey as those in the U.S. even though the cost of living is much less. But—and this is probably ethically questionable in so many ways, but throwing it out there—you can get gorgeous python bags and shoes as well as stingray accessories (bracelets, wallets) for CHEAP in Bali. I got a python bag and a pair of python sandals for $100 total. Do I feel a little icky inside? Yes. But I’m helping the local economy…right?

Run and sunset on Seminyak beach. We started from Potato Head beach club again and ran a bit past Canggu and back. And got drenched running through the creeks along the way:

crossing a creek on a run from Seminyak to Canggu Bali

We finished with a splash in the ocean, then watched the sun set…so gorgeous—especially with a cocktail in hand.

sunset at Seminyak beach Bali

DAY 8: Home!

Goodbye Bali! We had one last breakfast in our favorite coffee shop, Café Organic—which makes delish fresh juice bowls (essentially pureed fruit with oats and nuts) and avocado toasts and omelettes.

breakfast in a pineapple at cafe organic in Seminyak Bali

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