By Amanda Little
Bali is known for being a haven for those seeking a spiritual retreat. Sound baths, temples, sacred sights, cleansing fountains, and more can all be found on an adventure through this incredible Indonesian island. But there is so much more beyond the temples and stretches of beach. Check out the unique activities and opportunities Bali offers once you leave the beaten path.
While visiting Ubud with all of its wonderful yoga studios and rolling green rice terraces is fun, it’s also a little crowded. If you’re looking for a break from the bustle of Ubud, try visiting Sidemen, an often overlooked area filled with beautiful waterfalls, stunning vantage points, hiking paths, valleys, and of course, a sea of ancient rice terraces.
See the silver in Celuk
A visit to Celuk is easy to do from the highly popular Ubud, and the half hour journey is well worth it to see the huge array of silverwork. The whole village is known for its stunning and intricate silverwork, while many of the locals have been silversmiths all their lives. Shopping there you could walk along the main street with stores selling the silver creations, but stopping in by an artist's studio will guarantee the money goes straight to the creator. You can buy what they have available, or you can custom order anything you like. Remember, here it’s standard to haggle over prices. Be sure to start at half the asking price and work your way to an agreed price from there.
Witness a Kecak Dance
Follow the fire, music, and crowds to witness a breathtaking Kecak dance. This dance tells the story of Ramayana, from Hindu myth. Most of these dances are done by men, but women groups are steadily growing more popular. The dance gets its name from the sounds repeated throughout the performance. Be sure to catch one of the many performances of the Kecak dance that go on throughout Bali, usually under the stars.
Harvest your own rice
Those looking to get knee-deep into Bali’s culture may want to take a trip out to Tabanan, home of endless rolling rice fields. Follow locals throughout their daily work to see the effort that goes into their food staple, and gain an appreciation for the grain. The adventurous can even wade into the knee-deep mud in one of the paddies to harvest their own rice!
Crave some cocoa
You won’t see any small orange men at the chocolate factory in Bali, but you will be overwhelmed by the amazing chocolate being produced before your very eyes. Indonesia is one of the top producers of chocolate in the world, and visiting the Pod Chocolate Factory in Pajangan is a sweet treat. Find out how cocoa is grown, harvested, and turned into the chocolate you find in stores. The factory offers a variety of tours, and of course the gift shop at the end of all of them offers some tasty souvenirs to take home.
Visit Menjangan Island
Double the spoils of an island getaway by visiting Menjangan Island, off the northern coast of Bali. “Menjangan” means deer, and the island is home to many of them, but they aren’t the only wildlife you’ll see. The island is covered in 944 acres of deep forest and jungle, most of which makes up the Menjangan National Park. Ride through the park on horseback, go on safari, and explore all of the exciting opportunities along the coast. Menjangan Island is also known for its world-class scuba diving - see turtles, crabs, stingrays, octopus, a colorful array of fish, and thriving corals reefs. Along with calmer activities like kayaking, coast-side dining, and wonderful massages, Menjangan Island should be on everyone’s Bali bucket list.
Get godly in Batubulan
Seek out Balinese Gods and Goddesses in Batubulan, a village known for its stunning array of stone carvings. Found about a mile outside of Denpasar, the gods and their stories are etched in blue and black stone for all to see. Walk along scenes from famous epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. The stone is made up of volcanic minerals, making it a unique souvenir. If you’re looking for one to take home, many shops in the area sell them!
If you’d like to see similar stone in a larger-than-life setting, head south to the magnificent Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park, where the Giant Arms of Garuda Wisnu Kencana reside. Also made up of the black and blue stone, the arms look like they were once part of the gods themselves.
Unwind in a spa
It’s no secret that Bali is a hotspot of massages, holistic cleansing, rejuvenation, relaxation and more. Go for Balinese massages, very often done on the beach or overlooking beautiful scenery, indulge in an enzyme wrap or a mandi lulur scrub and soak, or do what the locals do and enjoy a lovely hair cream bath. Local ingredients combined with skill and know-how make any spa day a luxury. You can find massages along the beach for just $8, or pop into a local hair salon for a genuine (and very affordable) hair cream bath and blowout.
Wander through the Bali Provincial State Museum
There are many museums in Bali, but the oldest is the Bali Provincial State Museum. You can easily spend hours in this absolutely stunning museum, which is home to over 10,000 items on display. The museum was built with Balinese architecture and traditional style in mind, and features otherworldly royal pavilions. Prehistoric artifacts, art, weapons, ceramic galleries, stone inscriptions, traditional textiles and masks, bronze piece collections and more can all be found here.
Shop the boisterous Pasar Badung
Whether you like shopping or not, a trip to Pasar Badung is almost necessary when visiting Bali. This massive market in Denpasar is right along the Badung River and sprawls over four floors. Move through the throng of locals and tourists enjoying the market as you shop for fruit, vegetables, spices, unique local items, and more. There are also tours of the market that show you all of the genuine Balinese items for sale, which may help you find that perfect souvenir. Nearby there are also quite a few temples to explore. Perhaps leaving a fruit offering from the market will bring you luck.