There’s a reason why thousands of people flock to Bali every year, but is it still possible to get away from the crowds? Can you still explore Bali away from the tourist trail? Well, we can tell you the answer is yes. After 6 weeks of travelling during high season we still discovered the off the beaten Bali, and, it’s bloody worth it.
Bali is no longer the alternative hippy destination it was in the 60’s. The cat is most definitely out of the bag and each year the number of visitors increases. This is all for good reason as Bali truly is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world, with a fascinating culture and the perfect climate. Whether you’re a hiker, a vegan yoga enthusiast or a wildlife lover Bali really has something to offer everyone, so it’s no surprise it’s a popular place. As a general rule of thumb we try and flee tourist hot spots as quickly as possible, looking to discover new locations. At first we didn’t know if this would be possible in Bali but the island looked too damn amazing to skip because of second hand information.
After 6 weeks of adventuring during high season (July and August) it reinforced our view that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. Bali may have a reputation for tropical honeymooners, hotels and boozy banana pancake backpackers but this reputation is largely based on the southern part of the island. Whilst there may be many draws for this area, it is touristy and we decided to skip it all together besides one night in Kuta before our flight. Outside of the South and the island still stays true to it’s romantic image from yonder years. You can still have undiscovered adventures, a welcoming and intriguing culture and an unbelievably amount of unspoiled natural beauty. You’re not going to be the first tourist locals have seen by any means but that shouldn’t put you off. Without wandering to the ends of the earth and without missing out any adventures you can easily discover the off the beaten Bali.
In this guide you’ll find tips on how to find the off the beaten Bali, a list of lesser travelled destinations and a map to help you plan your next adventure.
Tips for discovering off the beaten Bali
- Don’t put too much faith in guide books. Many guides are not regularly updated and are geared towards more touristy areas.
- Speak to the locals and ask where they recommend.
- Rent a motorbike. Transport in lesser travelled parts of the island can be unreliable and expensive. A motorbike will give you the freedom to explore, just make sure you drive safe!
- Download a GPS app like Maps.Me. You can use it to search for temples, mountains, areas of interest and hiking trails.
- Don’t always take the advice of other travellers. Everyone has different tastes and interests. A lot of times when we’ve spoken to travellers who have hated a destination we’ve ended up loving it.
- If you’re really looking for the off the beaten Bali then avoid the South and head to the North, East, West and central mountains!
Our Top Off the Beaten Bali Destinations
This majestic temple is actually the largest Buddhist temple on the predominately Hindu island. The main feature is the mini replica of the Borobudur temple complex in Java just without the flocks of tourists. It’s an important pilgrimage spot for Buddhists and onsite you have notable libraries, meditation rooms and beautifully kept gardens. Whilst you do have local Buddhists visiting and paying their respects you’re a long way from the crowds. If you do spot other tourists here, there won’t be many and are generally humbled by the incredible temple.
Wow, this place really is amazing and it’s no surprise as it used to be home to a royal palace. The whole area is filled with lush rice paddies, meandering streams and local communities. It’s the perfect place to utilise a GPS app and discover the walking trails that zig zag for miles along the valley. The Jewel of this area is the Tirta Gangga Water Palace which was built by the Raja of Karangasem. The palace is filled with ornate pools, fish ponds, fountains and stepping stones along with some amazingly intricate statues. It’s like something out of a Balinese fairy tale and you can spend the day swimming in the clear waters and being showered by the fountains.
Despite the small size of the island Bali has some great hikes and many of these are based around Munduk. The area is up in the hills with a misty, refreshing climate and immersive vegetation. An unforgettable hiking route takes you through small surrounding villages, to pristine rice terraces and then to a series of incredible waterfalls. Bali has it’s fair share of waterfalls but these are some of the best and you can swim in all of their refreshing waters. This is the perfect hike for nature lovers and if you don’t go on the weekend you might have the whole place to yourselves!
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Jatiluwih Rice Terraces
Rice terraces in Bali are popular business and further south of the island it can be difficult to get away from the crowds. The Jatiluwah rice terraces are much quieter but as equally impressive so should definitely be on your off the beaten Bali list. You still do get tour groups in the area but they tend to go in the morning and leave after not so long. Go slightly later and venture further into the rice fields. Once we had walked an hour away from the roads the only people in sight were the locals working in the fields who were surprised we had got so far.
Aling Aling waterfall jumping
This one’s for the adrenaline junkies! We said that Bali has a lot of waterfalls and we weren’t joking. On such a small island you literally have waterfalls around every corner. Out of all of these waterfalls there are a handful you can jump off and Aling Aling waterfalls has the best of them. You do have to buy tickets and there will probably be other travellers but you’re not going to realise when you’re trying to psych yourself up to jump from a 17 metre waterfall in the rainforest! We visited on a weekend during peak travel months and the majority of people there were locals. There’s a series of 4 waterfalls to jump from varying from ‘oh, this is fun’ to ‘holy shit, I’m going to die’. Enjoy, some places are worth putting up with a few other travellers!
Goa Giri Putri Temple, Nusa Penida
The whole of Nusa Penida is mind blowing – it’s honestly an adventurers dream. Unfortunately times are changing and the unexplored island we visited a few years ago has now become an ‘Instagram sensation’ and may be a lesser travelled destination for only a short time. The island really is filled with amazing experiences but the Goa Giri Putri Temple steals the show. This cave complex on the hillside is home to a Balinese temple which is very active with local worshippers. You really need to duck and squeeze to get into the cave and then you can watch the prayers and ceremonies in candlelit darkness.
Giant Banyun Tree
This giant banyun tree is over 700 years old and is said to have mystical powers. When you see it you won’t be surprised as it looks like something out of Avatar. The roots are so big you can actually walk through them and clamber inside the tree. Surrounding the tree you’ll find traditional Balinese communities, small temples and locals who are happy to point you in the right direction as road signs are non-existent.
Amed and the East Coast
Although I wouldn’t truly call this an off the beaten Bali destination, if you’re looking for a more relaxed coastal area then this is your best bet. The centre of Amed is fairly developed but venturing further along the coastline you can find more intimate spots. Apart from the laid back vibes the area is also great for snorkelling and scuba diving. In the stretch between Tulamben and Jemeluk there’s a variety of coral gardens and wrecks with a stunning variety of marine life.
Camping on Atuh Beach, Nusa Penida
Nusa Penida has many pristine beaches but I don’t think you can beat the experience of camping on Atuh Beach. The beach itself is idyllic with amazing rock formations and crystal clear waters so it’s a pleasant surprise it doesn’t attract more people. You can rent simple tents from the snack shacks on the beach and watch the stars once the sun sets. As the sun comes up in the morning you can get a killer view from the peaks on either side. Wake up early because the sun comes up fast!
Lake Tamblingan and Lake Buyan
These mystical lakes in the centre of Bali have so much potential for exploration but are rarely discovered by visitors. With a unique rainforest micro-climate you feel like you’re in another world when you’re exploring the area. Hiking trails around the lakes at points are easy to follow and at points disappear which all adds to the adventure! Along the banks of the lakes you’ll find dense vegetation, exotic wildlife and small, magical temples. Because of the cultural importance the government has limited development in the area, so fingers crossed this can stay on your off the beaten Bali list for years to come.
Banjar Hot Springs
Probably the most relaxing spot on the list, The Banjar Hot Springs are series of geothermal pools set within lush green foliage in the north of the island. The waters are thought to have healing properties and really are hot so you can spend the day soaking and easing your aching traveller muscles. Around the watering holes you’ll find snake and dragon statues which are said to be the protectors of rivers, springs and wells which add a spiritual element to holistic experience. Although it can get busier on the weekends during the week it’s a great place to unwind and is much quieter than similar spots in the South.
Off the Beaten Bali Map
That’s everything you need to know for your next adventures
Do you know any other off the beaten Bali destinations? Tell us in the comments box below!