Bali has so much more to offer than the party towns and tourist traps of Kuta. If you are looking for an authentic experience, there are plenty of excellent options available across the island. These allow you to connect with the local culture in history, and see the real Bali. Here are some great ways to get more out of your stay on our beautiful island.
- Visit the villages of Ubud
Ubud should be your first stop for getting to the heart of real Bali. As mentioned by Albert van Niekirk on PlanetD, the region consists of small villages that are packed with local artisans selling their goods. This is a great place to pick up some unique souvenirs – including jewellery, wooden crafts and local art work. What’s more – you will be supporting local creatives rather than throwing your money at international chains.
You can also enjoy some great cuisine in the area, filled with the indigenous flavours of Bali. Many of the restaurants and cafes also come with excellent views over the spectacular Ubud scenery.
- Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Whilst in Ubud, you absolutely have to stop by the Tegalalang Rice Terrace. The beautiful rice terraces of Bali are famous for their sweeping vistas and unique formations. This is where the locals farm rice – one of the largest crops in Indonesia. Tegalalang is perhaps the most famous spot, and Little Grey Box have an excellent guide to them.
- Balinese Dancing Lessons
Everywhere in the world has their own dancing traditions, and Bali is no exception. A great way to experience the local way of life is to learn their dance moves and embed yourself in the culture. Psychotraveller recently listed this as one of her top unique experiences in Indonesia, and it’s easy to see why. This is a great way to mingle with both locals and fellow visitors.View this post on Instagram
Wandering through the rice fields of Ubud, contemplating the previous 10 days. There is something about finding yourself in a moment when you're surrounded by nature that is so beautiful. Life is fast. Sometimes it's too fast to focus. Sometimes you can't even comprehend how you feel or what you are seeing. Slow down. That's what I'm about to do in order to process everything I just experienced. ** Candid shot by @sadak_chap ** #tripofwonders #wonderfulindonesia
- Sample authentic coffee
Though Java and Sumatra are more famous for their coffee production internationally, Bali has its own unique method of cultivation. There are a number of great cafes across the island – though we suggest you head north to the Kintamani region for some more local places.View this post on Instagram
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The infamous Kopi Luwak – coffee extracted from civet cat poop – is also available in Bali, though it can be controversial due to the modern production methods and high prices. By all means sample it, but you should also check out the updated coffee houses whilst here. Vilondo have a great guide to Balinese coffee to check out before you arrive.
- Discover local temples
There are loads of great temples across Bali that allow you to experience local history and culture up close. The most famous is probably Tanah Lot Temple. It’s location on a small islet makes it very scenic, and the best time to visit is during sunset when you can capture that perfect Instagram shot.
Aside from Tanah Lot, the other temples scattered across the island offer unique insights into the real Bali. Whether you are looking for a spiritual experience, or simply to check out the local monkey population, it is worth looking into the best before you go. Tziaaa provides a great guide to the temples in her article about Bali.
- Hire a local guide
There are certain parts of Bali that you will struggle to find without the help of a local. Saxon Templeton of Better Homes and Gardens opted to hire a local guide to assist with their trip on the island. Many of these guides hope to show you a side of Bali that is hidden from the tourism circuit which gives you a more authentic experience. At the very least, you are sure to hear some interesting stories from your guide throughout the journey.
- Dine in a warung
Traditionally a warung is a small business, usually family-owned, in Indonesia that provides local cuisine at great prices. Not only are these great for the budget conscious, they also give you a more authentic dining experience whilst in Bali. The region has a vibrant and varied cuisine.Caroline from Villa Bossi has an excellent guide on what dishes you should try whilst on the island.
If you are sticking to the larger towns, the street food stalls are another great way to get a similar experience. Food is deeply entwined with local culture, and you will learn a lot about the Balinese people simply by sampling their cuisine.
- Make your own chocolate
Cacao is grown across the island, and you can take a workshop on making your own chocolate whilst in Bali. Laura Gavin from Skyscanner mentions Big Tree Farms in their post about local experiences in Bali. Coconut, salt and cacao are all cultivated by the farm, which gives locals the opportunities to sell their products. Not only will you get to enjoy a delicious treat, you will also learn about local farmers and help fund community projects in the area.View this post on Instagram
Here’s a great recipe for chocolate Pavlova, a light meringue dessert using our Golden Coconut Sugar 💯 😋 MERINGUE: – 6 large egg whites – 1 1/2 cups golden coconut sugar – 2 pinches of sea salt – 1 tsp balsamic vinegar – 1/4 cup cocoa powder, sifted – 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped TOPPING: – 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream – 2 tsp golden coconut sugar – 1 tsp vanilla extract – 4 cups mixed fresh berries – 1 oz semi-sweet chocolate, to grated Heat your oven to 350 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Make the meringue: Beat the egg whites with a mixer until peaks form and then beat in the coconut sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Add sea salt, cocoa, vinegar and then the chopped chocolate over and gently fold everything with a rubber spatula. Mound the meringue into the 9-inch circle, smoothing the sides and top if you desire. Bake the meringue: Turn oven temperature down to 300 degrees. The pavlova will bake for 60 to 80 minutes. It should look crisp on top and feel dry, but when you prod the center it should feel a little squishy. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely inside. To serve: place the cooled pavlova onto a big plate. Whip the cream with the coconut sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Pile it onto the meringue. Scatter with fresh berries and shave chocolate shavings. #pavlova #desserts
- Witness a traditional cremation ceremony
This might seem a little morbid, but can be a very rewarding experience if you’re up to it. The various cultures across Indonesia have different approaches to death from the Western world, and many of these end up as celebrations of the deceased’s life. They can become large community events for notable people, and are open to anyone. As always, make sure to be respectful and follow the lead of the locals. A small contribution is also expected, as these ceremonies can be expensive. Ruslan Wiryadi wrote a short guide on Ubud Community about them, so be sure to give that a read before participating.
- Sample the flavours and smells of the night markets
The popularity of night markets across Asia is no secret, and you simply cannot visit Bali without experiencing one. Kura Kura Guide has a fantastic run down of the best ones on the island. If you want to experience the real Bali, however, we suggest keeping away from the most popular one in Kuta. Instead, head to the island’s capital – Denpasar – and check out the markets there. The largest is Badung Market, but if you want something a little more off-the-beaten-path head to Kereneng Night Market. This also draws slightly smaller crowds if you are worried about how busy it may get.View this post on Instagram
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One of the best ways of experiencing the real Bali is to choose accomodation inspired by local culture and traditions. We offer a variety of villas that allow you to have a more local experience, whilst still keeping some of the home comforts you would expect from holiday homes. The surrounding nature and luxury facilities will make you feel right at home. Check out our rates and availability to plan your stay in Bali.