Posted: Feb. 20, 2023 | Last Update: 31. Mar 2023
Is Bali Overrated?
Let's face it - Bali has been all over social media for years and gained massive traction with yogis and influencers alike. So you have to ask yourself: Is Bali overrated?
I can say for a fact that Bali is NOT overrated - it is a truly breathtaking place that has a lot to offer: from stunning beaches to awe inspiring temple architecture, rich culture and history, jaw dropping landscape, delicious cuisine, friendly locals and affordability for any budget.
Coming back to the topic of ‘viral posts about traveling Bali’, I have to say that on one hand, that made it very easy to get an idea of the many places to visit, but equally more difficult to distinguish what the 'must see' destinations really are, when you want to get more out of a visit than just an instagramable photo.
Prior to our visit, I researched not only a possible itinerary but also a photographer, because I wanted some photos outside of the standard selfie. Hiring a driver+photographer was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Our two week trip, starting in Germany, allowed for four days in Bali (after three nights in Singapore and before ending with a week in Lombok).
Thus, I had to plan on how to get the maximum out of our four days in Bali.
Getting the most out of a short stay
In this article, you will learn how to make the most out of a short stay in Bali with an itinerary for three action packed days.
My recommendations are based on the following premises:
- daily point of departure and return is Ubud
- no overnight stays in other parts of the island
- driveable distances from Ubud to locations and enough time to enjoy the sights and activities
This itinerary was curated in cooperation with our local guide, whom I sent a list of what I did want to see and he had the final say in what was doable in terms of time and distance.
Our 3 Days Itinerary
Day 1: East Bali
- Monkey Bar at Bella Kita
- Tirta Gangga Water Gardens
- Taman Ujung Water Palace
- Gate of Heaven / Pura Lempuyang ((in-depth info in this article )
Day 2: Central Bali
- Ulun Danu Beratan , the temple by the lakes
- Handara iconic gate (gapura handara kosaido)
- Banyumala Twin Waterfalls
- Tanah Lot
Day 3: discovering Ubud on our own
- Sacred Monkey Forest
- shopping & pool
- Night Market
- Legong traditional Balinese temple dance in Ubud Palace
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Day 1: Exploring East Bali
First stop: Morning at 'Alas Harum'
Alas Harum is a tourist attraction located in the village of Tegallalang, Bali, Indonesia, just 20 minutes north of Ubud.
It is known for its coffee plantation and production of Luwak coffee, which is made from coffee beans that have been eaten and excreted by the Asian palm civet, a small mammal native to the region
Alas Harum provides a wide range of activities, including the opportunity to witness the production process of luwak coffee, as well as enjoy exciting attractions such as swings, zip lines, sky bikes and picturesque selfie-spots for taking memorable photos for Instagram and more.
Visitors can choose from a variety of locations, such as a private terrace view, glass floor, bird's nest, dancing bridge, and the magnificent gorilla face and pekak brayut curves.
Read more about our visit of Alas Harum here!
Read more on Alas Harum
Second stop: Lunchtime at 'Monkey Bar at Bella Kita'
The Monkey Bar at Bella Kita is a great place to spend the hottest hours of the day: swimming in the breathtaking infinity pool overlooking lush mountain greenery and enjoying a light bite from their international menu.
Bella Kita Mountain Retreat is the coolest and most chill place we visited in Bali! Tucked away in a remote mountain location in the Klungkung province of south east Bali, this gem offered the most relaxed vibes paired with a stunning view. You definitely need to hire a driver to get there.
The entrance fee is IDR 100'000 (about 6.50 Euros). However, this includes IDR 25'000 for the use of pool, sun beds and even a towel, as well as IDR 50'000 voucher for drinks and food, so it's really a very very good deal.
Watch our short video clip to get a better idea:
Third stop: Afternoon at Water Garden and Water Palace
Tirta Gangga Water Gardens is a complex of pools, fountains, and gardens, featuring a mix of Balinese and European architecture. Visitors can walk around the gardens, cross over small bridges, and admire the various statues and carvings throughout the complex. The centerpiece of the palace is a large pond filled with Koi fish, surrounded by statues and stone carvings depicting Hindu mythology.
In addition to being a popular tourist destination, Tirta Gangga also has cultural and religious significance for the Balinese people. It is considered a holy site and is used for various ceremonies and rituals throughout the year.
Taman Ujung Water Palace was built in the early 20th century and was originally used as a royal summer retreat.
The palace is situated on a hill overlooking the sea, and features a stunning combination of Balinese and European architecture. It has three large ponds connected by bridges and walkways, and is surrounded by lush gardens and pavilions.
The most notable building in Taman Ujung Bali is the grand palace, which was once used for hosting royal guests and state ceremonies. The palace was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1979 but has since been partially restored and opened to the public. Visitors can explore the palace's grand halls, ornate doorways, and intricate carvings.
Taman Ujung has a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and coastline, making it a popular spot for photography and picnics.
Taman Ujung Water Palace is only a 20 minute drive away from Tirta Gangga Water Gardens - but while the latter is hugely popular with tourists thanks to Instagram and other socials, the Water Palace is barely known. If I had to choose, I would definitely come back to Taman Ujung any time, it was such a serene and beautiful spot to visit, while Tirta Gangga was crowded with tourists queueing for that one koi pond photo.
Make sure not to miss Taman Ujung!
Fourth stop: Sunset at Gate of Heaven
Gate of Heaven, part of the temple complex 'Pura Lempuyang' is the most iconic and most photographed landmark in all of Bali. No matter what time of the day you arrive, it will be busy with tourists who all want their photo.
However, Pura Lempuyang has much more to offer than just the one photo prop:
The temple complex is situated on the slopes of Mount Lempuyang (be prepared for a bit of a climb), which is one of the highest mountains in the area. Pura Lempuyang is also known as the "Gateway to Heaven" due to the beautiful scenery and the panoramic views that can be seen from the top of the mountain.
The complex consists of several temples, with the main temple being Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang. This temple is situated at the highest point of the complex, and it is considered to be one of the most important temples in Bali.
You can find more information on this iconic location in my 'Behind the Scenes of Gates of Heaven' article.
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Day 2: exploring Central Bali
First Stop: Morning in Pura Ulun Danu, Temple by the Lakes
Pretty much every ad for Bali holidays will show this stunningly beautiful temple by the lakes, and the main attraction , the towering meru (multi-tiered roof) of the Pura Penataran Agung temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, it is one of the most photographed landmarks of the island. And for good reason, as its stunning architecture and picturesque location with mountain and lake backdrop make it a must-visit attraction for anyone traveling to the island.
What the photos usually don't tell you is that that one building, known as Pura Lingga Petak, is actually part of the wider Ulun Danu Beratan temples. So there is much m ore to see than just that one site :-)
The Ulun Danu temple complex is located in the central highlands by lake Beratan, approx 1.5h drive from Ubud and totally worth the visit. Especially, if you get as lucky as we did with blue skies and little to no other tourists. Make sure you get there early, as the visitors will start pouring in before lunchtime.
If you have enough time, you can take a boat ride to the small island and explore the shrines and pavilions, which are adorned with beautiful carvings and sculptures.
Second (mini) stop: Iconic Handare Gate
On our way from the lake temple to our next stop, the Banyumala Twin Waterfalls, we recommend taking a mini stop to see the iconic Handara Gate. You might have seen some photos of it - it is a large 'Gate of Heaven' that appears to be sitting in a lush jungle greenery. Handara Gate is a great spot for a quick photo, but be aware there is nothing else to see, as the gate nowadays marks the entrance to a golf course.
A bit similar to the Lempuyang Gate of Heaven, there are some helpers/photographers that will take photos of you, and you have to pay a little fee (IDK 30'000 = approx 2US$) to use the gate.
Third Stop: Banyumala Twin Waterfalls
Banyumala Twin Waterfalls is a hidden gem located in the highlands of Central Bali, a bit over two hours drive from Ubud, and about 45 minutes from the Ulun Danu temple.
If you are looking to get away from the crowds and the hustle and bustle of the tourist hot spots, or if you are a nature lover, this spot is for you!
The waterfall is tucked away in a lush forest, surrounded by tall trees and dense vegetation. Reaching the falls requires a bit of a hike and you will have to navigate a winding path through the jungle. Make sure you wear proper footwear, as the path is steep and can be slippery - especially during or after the rain (I am talking from experience here). The last leg of the track is climbing down some 'dirt steps' whose hand rail is held together by hope and chicen wire - or so it felt ;-)
However, once you make it down to the falls you will see the hike has been worth it: Banyumala Twin Waterfalls are simply beautiful and unlike many other waterfalls in the area, you can swim up right to them. The water, fed by a cool mountain stream, is fresh and clear.
Lunch Break: What to Eat in Bali? Our Warung Street Food Experience
Hungry? Time for a lunch break!
Street food in Bali is sold 'Warungs' - these little stalls or shops can be found everywhere in Indonesia and the usually specialise in only a couple of dishes, like smoked fish, fried chicken, baked banana etc.
However, Bali is about the only Indonesian island that sells pork, given that the other islands are muslim and hence don't eat this meat. The Indonesian word for pig / pork is 'Guling' and we saw signs promoting 'Babi Guling', as in 'suckling pig' everywhere.
Upon request, our driver took us to a Warung just by the side of the road for a totally authentic, non touristy experience.
The coveted delicacy in this dish is the crackling - the suckling pig's crispy skin. It is served along with some meat, rice and delicious vegetables 'urap sayur'.
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Fourth Stop: Sunset at Tanah Lot
Tanah Lot is another one of those conic and picturesque landmarks in Bali. This ancient temple is perched on a rocky outcrop just off the coast, surrounded by the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean and one of the best places to enjoy a great sunset.
As the sun sets over the ocean, the temple and surrounding cliffs are bathed in a golden glow, creating a truly magical and unforgettable experience.
However, you will not be alone - Tanah Lot is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Bali and everybody wants to get their photos, especially during the later hours of the afternoon.
The temple is a tidal island that can only be accessed during low tide. However, even during low tide, there is no paved road, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear to walk over rocky, slippery and wet surface.
How to avoid tourist crowds at Tanah Lot
Here is how to avoid tourist crowds:
Come a bit early and visit Tanah Lot. Then, just as the tourists start pouring in, leave the area and walk just a few meters to 'Sunset Point'
The benches there offer you the opportunity to see the sun set over the ocean just behind Batu Bolong Temple, which is located on a rock surface including an arched cliff in the water.
There is also a little gate that offers access to stairs down the cliff and onto the beach, that you can securely walk down.
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Day 3: Exploring Ubud
Ubud: Sacred Monkey Forest
Get ready for monkey business in the heart of Ubud!
Imagine a vast temple structure hidden in the jungle. Imagine statues and bridges. Imagine lush greenery, massive trees and hanging vines. And now imagine hundreds of long tailed Macaques monkeys going about their business while you stroll among them and gaze in awe - especially at those monkeys that have state-of-the-art selfie skills ;)
Ubud's Sacred Monkey Forest is an absolute must-see destination. And if your hotel is located in Ubud village, you can walk there on foot, as the monkey forest is situated in the heart of town.
It is however important to know that the Sacred Monkey Forest is not a petting zoo, much rather it is a complex of three beautiful temples Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal, Pura Beji, and Pura Prajapati. These considered sacred by the local community, and are an important part of the cultural heritage of Bali.
In addition to its cultural significance, the Sacred Monkey Forest also plays an important role in ecological conservation. The forest is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including over 100 different types of trees. The forest is also an important water source for the surrounding area, and helps to maintain the natural balance of the local ecosystem. Talking of water - you will see some truly 'entertaining' water fountains throughout the forest.
What we particularly enjoyed was the breeze of fresh air and slightly cooler climate inside the forest than throughout the buzzing town of Ubud. Enjoy your peaceful walk through the lush greenery, and observe the monkeys as they go about their daily lives.
The monkeys are free to roam around the forest, and are not shy about approaching visitors - so make sure you do not wear any jewellery or carry things that can easily be 'stolen' by a monkey - there are signposts advising of the dos and don'ts around the monkeys: be sure to observe them.
Balinese Temple Dance
Legong / Barong - the most amazing cultural experience of your Bali trip!
The unbeaten highlight of our time in Bali was watching the temple dance performance at Ubud Palace - it left uns speechless the whole time.
The Legong dance at Ubud Palace is performed every evening, starting at around 7:30 pm. You do not need to prebook the tickets - you can simply walk up to the palace and buy your admission ticket (IDK 100'000, approx 6.50US$) or get it for the same price from one of the accredited street vendors. It is definitely worth the money.
The performance takes place in the open air palace courtyard. Be aware that there are only limited seats (aka some slightly wobbly plastic chairs), if you are early, you can get one, otherwise just stand or sit down on the carpets on the ground.
Legong is a traditional Balinese dance that is known for its exquisite beauty, graceful movements, and intricate costumes. It is considered one of the most complex and challenging dances in the world, requiring years of rigorous training and dedication to master. While Legong is performed in various locations throughout Bali, we were so lucky to get to see it in one of the most popular places : at Ubud Palace.
Without a doubt, this performance is one of the most beautiful and enchanting dances you will ever see. It is performed by a troupe of several dancers who are dressed in stunningly beautiful costumes that are intricately embroidered and adorned with gold and silver thread, sequins, and gemstones and elaborate headpieces as well as fans.
We were quite taken by the accompanying live 'gamelan' music, which is a traditional Balinese music that is played using a variety of percussion instruments such as gongs, drums, and xylophones. I would describe it as unlike anything you have ever heard and you will remember it for a long time ;-) .
The performance lasts for approximately one hour, and since you are in town already, we recommend strolling along the Ubud Art Market and night market, where you can buy a variety of Balinese handicrafts such as Bali bags, clothes, textiles, woodcarvings, and paintings.
Watch my videos (with sound) to get a better idea:
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This was my comprehensive list of recommendations for your three days Bali itinerary. (in case this needs to be said: none of these were sponsored).
There are surely other options to spend three days in Bali, and they will depend on your own preferences and pace.
I would love to hear from you in the comments below if you thought this guide to be useful or if you have other recommendations to share with my readers.
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