A first-timer's guide to Bali: See the island in one week

·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·13-min read

Bali is one of the most popular holiday destinations for Aussies, with the island attracting 1.23 million Australians in 2019. After a harsh lockdown, the borders have reopened and the country is encouraging visitors to help the struggling tourism industry.

With a diverse landscape, the island has an array of activities to suit any traveller. It can be overwhelming to decide what to do — there are stunning beaches, sacred Hindu temples, challenging hikes and more. If you only have one week to spend in Bali, here’s what you need to do.

A couple sitting on a bed swing in Bali, Indonesia
Bali is a popular destination for Aussie couples. Photo: Getty

SUNDAY

9 p.m. ARRIVAL TIPS

Most of the direct flights from Melbourne or Sydney land in Denpasar late, around 9 p.m. It can be handy to liaise a pickup with your hotel or direct with a local driver. Bali locals tend to use WhatsApp for communication, making it easy to arrange plans before departing. You can even grab a local sim card with data at the airport, or preorder one through Klook — you can get 18GB for approximately $9 AUD. Consider tipping any drivers you use: what may seem like an insignificant amount to you ($5-10) can make a huge difference.

RELATED

11 p.m. A FOREST RETREAT

Consider staying at Samsara Ubud, a luxury villa retreat tucked away in the forest. It’s so well hidden that as you arrive, you wouldn’t even realise the resort existed. Considered a perfect sanctuary, it’s one of the best places to base yourself while exploring the area. Each villa in the complex comes with its own private, heated pool, with an incredible view of the forest. The combination of contemporary Balinese décor and personal touches make it feel like you're at the height of luxury. Rates can vary, but a one-bedroom will set you back around $690 per night. There are also two-bedroom and three-bedroom villas, for bigger families.

Floating breakfast on a pool in Ubud, Bali
Tick off a floating breakfast on your bucket list. Photo: Supplied/Jeremy Garland

MONDAY

9 a.m. FLOATING START

One of the most popular activities in Bali is a floating breakfast, and Samsara's in-house restaurant, The Kelusa, is more than happy to oblige. It's a must-do when visiting the area, and dining in the pool is one of the most relaxing experiences you'll have. The Kelusa proudly uses fresh local ingredients, and can provide both Western and Indonesian fare. Try the Nasi Uduk, a traditional rice dish made with coconut milk, alongside fresh fruit and pastries. Let the staff know if you have dietary requirements, and they can cater for vegans. A floating breakfast for two will set you back approximately $48 AUD, and if you have time on your trip, the restaurant's traditional Balinese High Tea is a steal at $24 AUD for two.

11 a.m. LIVE ON THE EDGE

There are two main forms of transport on the island, with most tourists choosing to either hire a scooter or a private driver. If you choose to self-drive on a scooter, make sure your travel insurance covers you in case of an accident. There are many private drivers on the island, each with fantastic local knowledge — and air conditioning! You may have seen photos of the beautiful rice terraces that dot the island, but keep in mind that the view can change depending on what season you go. However, even if the rice has been harvested, it's still a spectacular sight. The Tegallalang Rice Terraces are one of the most popular sights in Ubud, and a visit will only cost around $4.75 AUD. You're able to walk through the terraces, right up to the edge and see rice paddies for miles. There are also a range of cafes on the edge of the rice terraces, with incredible views, infinity pools and swings.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud in the morning light
Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud are a must-do. Photo: Getty

1 p.m. LUNCH WITH A VIEW

Why not stop for lunch right next to a small rice paddy? Waroeng De Koi serves a range of Indonesian fare, fresh juices and more. While it's right next to a main road, the booths are tucked away, making it seem as if you're in the middle of nowhere. You'll find plenty of vegetarian and vegan options here, with the option for a cushioned traditional low table, or western-styled seating.

2.30 p.m IMMERSE YOURSELF

Purta Tirta Empul is one of the most visited temples in Ubud. It's a Hindu Balinese temple, with a bathing area that is said to contain holy spring water, used for ritual purification. There are strict rules, and every visitor is required to wear a 'kamen', or sarong around their waist. Women need to tie their hair up, and are not permitted to enter during their period. Some tourists choose to partake in the purification ritual, but make sure you consult with a guide or temple authority to make sure you do it respectfully. The entrance fee for the temple is roughly $4.80 per person, but if you are planning on bathing you will also need to rent a special water sarong.

4.00 p.m CHASING WATERFALLS

Ubud is famous for having beautiful waterfalls, but be careful which one you choose. Tibumana Waterfall is a little further away from the city centre, but the bonus is fewer people visit the area. Hidden in the Bangli region, you will be able to get some respite from the heat and crowds in Ubud. Entrance to this less-visited gem will only cost you about $1 AUD per person, which is definitely worth it.

Man with a cap stands watching the sunset after hiking Mount Batur, in Bali, Indonesia
Hiking Mount Batur is an unforgettable experience. Photo: Getty

TUESDAY

2.30 a.m. BEST VIEW IN BALI

One of the most popular activities in Bali is the Mount Batur climb, with hundreds of tour groups scaling the rocky path every day. You can easily find a tour group when you're in Ubud, or pre-book through a tourism operator like Airbnb or Klook before arriving. The hike takes place prior to sunrise, so you do need to be moderately fit and confident — you will be climbing the steep mountain with just a headlamp. Make sure you bring a warm jacket and plenty of water, as it gets quite cold at the top.

It takes around two hours to reach the top, and most tour operators offer a simple breakfast — expect banana sandwiches, boiled eggs, fruit and a hot drink. If you fancy a soda or souvenirs, consider buying one from the sellers at the top. Many of them climb the mountain each morning before school or other jobs, and they're very appreciative of any money you can send their way. The view from the active volcano is stunning, and being up there for sunrise should be on everyone's bucket list. Some tours also offer a dip in the local hot springs, to soothe tired muscles. While the tours are a steal at around $48 AUD per person, please consider tipping your guide as it can make a huge difference.

12 p.m. ROOM SERVICE

This is a great time to head back to your villa, order room service — and a massage! In Bali, Indonesian massages are extremely cheap at around $8-10 AUD per hour. The great thing about staying in a private villa is that you can usually order a masseuse to come to you! This means that you're able to get fully relaxed and then grab a quick snooze, after such a massive morning.

A monkey walks on a bridge in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
You can see hundreds of monkeys in the middle of Ubud. Photo: Getty

2.30 p.m. MONKEYING AROUND

The Sacred Monkey Forest is an oasis in the middle of Ubud. With three sacred temples and more than 600 Macaque monkeys, it's a fascinating place to visit. Make sure you keep your belongings secured and don't bring any food or drink — the monkeys aren't afraid to steal anything they can get their hands on. There's a photo opportunity with the monkeys, called a 'monkey selfie', but it's best to avoid this, as responsible travel involves not disturbing wildlife or contributing to future harm. It's a great way to spend an afternoon, as it's cooler inside the forest than in the city. An adult ticket will set you back approximately $7.70 AUD and $5.75 AUD for kids.

6 p.m. CHEAP LOCAL FARE

While there are plenty of great restaurants on the main streets of Ubud, consider taking some side streets to find equally delicious food. Try Warung Gauri, where dishes will only set you back around $3-6 AUD. For vegans and vegetarians, there's a huge range of delicious food, with many containing tempeh. After dining out, consider leaving tips for your servers.

Woman sitting on a hammock looking at Mt Batur in Bali, Indonesia
This cafe has one of the best views in Bali. Photo: Jeremy Garland

WEDNESDAY

6 a.m. ONE LAST LOOK

Mount Batur is one of the most iconic views in Bali, and if you want to get the best view, head to Montana Del Cafe in Kintimani. It's best to go early in the morning for the beautiful light, and to avoid swarms of crowds later. There's a hammock that sits right on the balcony, if you want one picture for Instagram — this is it! Prices at the cafe are a little more expensive than traditional Indonesian fare, but you're paying for the view. You can expect a meal to cost around $5.75 AUD. Enjoy your leisurely breakfast while taking one last look at Mount Batur.

10 a.m. CANGGU BEACH DAY

While Ubud is an exciting place to start your trip off, everybody needs a little bit of time on the beach. Head to Canggu, to eat, swim and just do nothing. Check out COMO Beach Club, a modern paradise that caters for those who like to travel with sustainability in mind. Relax with a sea view while sipping on cocktails and munching on fresh, regional dishes. Consider staying in one of their suites, which come with a bonus $48 AUD resort credit. Prices are variable but a suite with breakfast will set you back around $450 AUD per night.

Pura Tanah Lot temple in Canggu at sunset in Bali
Pura Tanah Lot in Canggu is one of the most popular sunset spots on the island. Photo: Getty

4.30 p.m. BALI’S FAMOUS SUNSET SPOT

Pura Tanah Lot, or Tanah Lot Temple is one of the most popular spots to watch sunset. The beautiful temple sits on a rock formation in the sea, and visitors can only walk up to it at low tide. There are a range of restaurants that sit within the complex, each offering snacks, meals and drinks. Grab a seat at a table with a front row view — which restaurant you choose will depend on the time of year. Near sunset, you will be able to see what spot the sun will go down, so choose accordingly. The entrance fee for adults is about $5.75 AUD, and $2.90 AUD for children.

8.00 p.m AN ELEGANT NIGHT

Canggu is filled with lots of exciting restaurants, and if you want to try some elevated cuisine, you should visit Kong Bali. The establishment is new, only opening its doors in September 2021, and it's perfect for an elegant night out. Not only will you find a range of delicious dishes, including high-end seafood, but all their offerings have been created with sustainability in mind. The restaurant boasts a huge cocktail list, including fresh herbs and island flavour. It won't come as a surprise that Kong is on the pricier side of things, but it's worth it for a night out to remember. Starters are around $14 AUD, mains from $19-$55 AUD, with speciality seafood or cuts of meat costing extra.

L: Red cocktail sits in front of a Hendricks Gin bottle. R: Chef pours smoke onto a fine dining food dish
Kong Bali offers an elevated dining experience. Photo: Instagram/kong_bali

THURSDAY

9 a.m. GO PLANT-BASED

If you're looking for some lighter fare that's also easy on the environment, give Manggis Canggu a try. It's a fully plant-based cafe that began as a family project. Combining both western and eastern cuisine, you'll find traditional Indonesian dishes as well as pancakes, and mouthwatering pastries. The interior of the cafe is also soothing, with their outdoor patio area completely surrounded by greenery. As a bonus, the food is quite cheap with meals ranging from approximately $5-10 AUD.

11 a.m. HIT THE SHOPS

If you're wanting to pick up some mementos from your time in Bali, Canggu is the perfect place to browse. The town is known for having a large selection of fashion options, with lots of boho-styled stores. There's a range of independent designers, with a quieter vibe than nearby Seminyak. Check out The Locals, a store that carries five locally sourced brands, from Nataoka to Universal Culture & Co.

L: Dresses and t shirts hanging on coat hangers. R: An array of jewellery on display
The Locals is a popular spot in Canggu. Photo: Instagram/thelocalscanggu

2 p.m. ESCAPE THE CROWDS

If you're wanting to head to a lesser visited spot of the island, head to Balian Beach. While you can't swim here, the black sand beaches are gorgeous and have incredible sunset views. There are few tourists in the area, but many come to surf or just switch off. You'll find some of the cheapest, but most delicious meals in town.

4 p.m. RELAX AND REJUVENATE

Consider staying at the Balian Prana Cliff House, part of a luxury resort in West Bali. Sitting on one of the cliffs by the beach, it's the perfect place to switch off and relax. The unique stay is different to a typical hotel room, and guests have particularly loved the 'million dollar views'. If you want to really settle in, ask about getting a traditional Indonesian massage in your room. Found on Airbnb, prices can vary but one night typically costs around $175 AUD.

Black sand Balian Beach at sunset in Bali, Indonesia
Black sand Balian Beach has stunning sunsets. Photo: Getty

FRIDAY

11 a.m. LOUNGE BY THE POOL

After a leisurely sleep-in, head to Pondok Pitaya which sits right on the beach. The hotel boasts a set of comfy sun loungers by the pool, and you can easily spend your day reading, eating and taking a dip. If you're not a guest of the complex, you need to buy a pool voucher. It will set you back around $4.75 AUD, but you'll get a bowl of delicious tempeh chips and two orange juices.

5.30 p.m. INSTA VIEWS

Make sure you spend your last night in Bali by taking in yet another breathtaking sunset. The beach is often applauded for the landscapes, and having the contrast of a fiery sky with black sand is something you shouldn't miss. The best part about the area is that there won't be many other people around, so you can have a seat on the beach in peace.

Canna Bali beach club in Indonesia at sunset
Canna Bali is a slice of paradise in Nusa Dua. Photo: Supplied/Canna Bali

SATURDAY

11 a.m. EXPLORE NUSA DUA

For your last day on the island, head to one of the island hotspots: Nusa Dua. Meaning two islands, the resort area is well known for stunning beaches and beautiful properties. For something slightly different, head to Canna Bali, described as a 'one-stop lifestyle destination' to recharge and relax.

Since flights from Bali back to Australia usually take off just before midnight, there's usually an awkward period of time between checking out of your hotel and heading to the airport. Luckily, Canna Bali is nearby and offers fine dining, breathtaking views and entertainment.

Yahoo Lifestyle was a guest of Samsara Ubud and Kong.

Never miss a thing. Sign up to Yahoo Lifestyle’s daily newsletter.

Or if you have a story idea, email us at lifestyle.tips@yahooinc.com.