Bali has it all – lush tropical forests, stunning beaches, mountains and a volcano or three to climb, sunshine most of the year, a diverse and rich culture – no wonder it is called ‘The Island of the Gods’. An enchanting island to relax and unwind.
Whilst most tourists head for Kuta, Sanur or Ubud (made famous by Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert), if you travel to the north of the island, the pace is slower, more laid back and less touristy. Travel to Lovina in the centre, Bali National Park in the west or Singaraja in the East.
So if you want a different Bali experience, head to the North! Read our suggested tips to make the best of your holiday.
Top 10 things to do in the north of Bali
The best way to get around is to hire a small scooter and you can zip in and out of the traffic, but if you prefer you can hire a taxi driver for the whole day to give you a guided tour.
1 – Make a splash at the Waterfalls
Across the north of Bali, there are many amazing waterfalls each offering something slightly different. You are spoilt for choice. Gitgit, Sekumpul, Aling-Aling, Sing Sing, The Twin Waterfalls at Banyumala, and some of the lesser-known ones including Jembong, Lemukih or Nung-Nung are all worth visiting.
The heights of the waterfalls vary, but the water is always fresh and cold! For the more adventurous, go canyoning down or jump from the 5m, 10m and 16m rocks into the pool below at Kroya.
Entrance: the price to get into the waterfalls varies from around 20,000 IDR*
Tips: Be careful if there has been heavy rainfall the water will be flowing stronger than usual
2 – Visit Ulun Danu Beratan
Along the main road from Denpasar to Singaraja you pass through Bedugul. The iconic Balinese temple of Ulun Danu Beratan sits on the lake there.
Make your way down the gardens through the split gates and down to the lake. The sacred buildings have been built just off the side of Lake Beratan in such a way it gives the impression that they are floating on the water. The whole area is magical, very calming and serene, but there is also an energy about it that is hard to describe. It is a very special place to spend time.
The gardens are beautiful to wander around and there are three main shrines: One to the god Vishnu with 11 tiers, one dedicated to the god Brahma with seven 7 tiers and to the god Shiva with three tiers.
Entrance: the entrance fee is 50,000 IDR*, plenty of parking out the front
3 – Handara Gates and Golf Resort
The split gates at the entrance to the Handara Golf Resort are a great opportunity for a selfie or Instagram shot. The Handara Gates create a perfect frame for you with the hills and the golf course in the background.
Entrance: You can buy a 30,000 IDR Selfie Ticket at the ticket counter at the entrance. The ticket is meant to last for about 10 minutes, but they are lenient as there tends to be a queue to take photos.
Ps. You can also go and play golf. The website is Handara Golf Resort.
4 – Take your Instagram Shots at Wanagiri Hidden Hills
With stunning views over Danau Buyan lake below, you can take your pick of the various spots to take your Instagram photos. The most famous is the Bali Swing, which keeps popping up on Instagram feeds, but there are also wicker eggs, hearts and baskets to pose in.
Wanagiri Hidden Hills can get quite busy with tourists waiting for their turn, but use the time to watch for interesting poses and tips. If you are on your own, there are staff there who can take photos for you, and they take a variety of shots, landscape and portrait.
If you want to have different clothing in the shots, you will have to be creative with changing as there are no private places to change. Maybe long skirts over shorts, dress over a t-shirt or do as I did and hide in the bushes in the empty car park!
Entrance: We went to Desa Pakraman Wanagiri and it cost 50,000 IDR* but there are several along the road.
5 – Dawn trip to see Dolphins
To see dolphins in Bali, you have to go to the north. Most boats go off at 6 am so you can watch the daybreak as the boat takes you out about a mile off the coast. Then you wait patiently for the pods to appear and swim in and around the boats. A knowledgeable skipper will spot the pods and move you in position to watch them as they come up and swim in between the boats.
My advice, however, is to go later around 7 am. There are fewer boats and I have found that the dolphins are more playful
Cost: This varies from which Captain you use. Your accommodation will be able to help you with arranging it or you can go to one of the outlets near the Dolphin statue in central Lovina.
6 – Chill in Air Panas Banjar – Hot Springs
About 10km to the west of Lovina, are the Air Panas Banjar hot springs. Set in landscaped tropical gardens, hot, sulphurous spring water gushes from the carved stone dragon’s mouths into 3 public pools: a 1m deep one, the main pool which graduates down from 1m to 2m deep and another 1m deep one with high-level jets which give you more of a shower.
It is the ideal place to spend a relaxing hour or two soaking in the warm waters.
There are changing rooms, lockers and showers so you can rinse off. One word of warning, the sulphur in the water can give blonde hair a tinge of green, so try to keep your head out of the water!
Above the pools, there is a restaurant for food and drinks.
Entrance: The ticket price to get into Air Panas Banjar is 20,000 IDR for adults and 10,000 IDR for children
Read more: Relax at the Banjar Air Panas, Hot Springs
7 – Visit the Buddhist Brahma Vihara Temple
Sitting peacefully in the hills above Lovina in the north of Bali is the Brahma Vihara Arama Buddhist Temple and Monastery. The temple is the largest Buddhist temple in Bali and a popular place for Buddhist devotees and visitors alike.
As you walk through the entrance gates, you are enveloped in a gentle serenity and reverence that is hard to describe. The grounds are laid out on several levels with areas for meditation and contemplation including the meditation room with incense curling round the golden Buddha, large golden bell-like Nepalese pagoda and a three-tiered Chinese looking Pagoda Avalokitesvara with its lotus petals and guardian dragons.
As you move higher up, the Balinese style gates are protected on either side with large white Buddhas which frame the entrance to the plateau. Laid out in front of you is a scaled replica of the Javanese temple of Borobudur
Like all temples in Bali, you have to keep your clothes modest. For a donation, you can hire a sarong and top if you need to from the kiosk at the front entrance.
Entrance: The entrance is by donation, so you can give as little or as much as you want, but maybe around 10,000 to 20,000 IDR as a minimum.
8 – See Deer on Menjangan Island
Just off the north-west coast of Bali is Menjangan Island, which lies within the Bali Barat National Park. Along the shores, Javan rusa deer stroll and take shade under the palm trees. For around £20, a park guide can take you on a guided tour seeing the wildlife, flora and fauna and visiting some of the many shrines on the small island.
9 – Snorkelling & Diving on the North Coast of Bali
Whether you are a diver or a snorkeler like me, there is a whole world of colour to explore under the clear waters around the north Bali coast. With stunning reefs, sea turtles, sharks, fan corals and fish of every hue and colour, and purposely sunken structures, Bali’s underwater world is impressive.
The best places to dive are Menjangan Island and Pemuteran in the west, where you can dive or snorkel to your heart’s content.
10 – Visit the colourful Chinese Buddhist Temple in Singaraja
Tucked away on the seafront at Singara is the old Chinese Buddhist Temple, Ling Gwan Kiong. With intricate hand-carved wooden pillars painted in brilliant blues, greens, reds and golds, the dragon-topped bridge over the lotus pond takes you to the Temple.
You will need to take off your shoes when you enter the inner sections and keep very quiet. This is where devotees come to pray and light incense in from the beautiful altar.
Turtles roam the tiled floors and ponds in the temple and a temple guide will provide you with a history of the building, its many drawings and relics for a small donation.
Entrance: There is no entrance fee, though donations are much appreciated.
* prices correct as of July 2019
When you are in Bali don’t forget to try:
Most warungs or restaurants serve Bali Kopi. Balinese coffee is a rich, finely ground coffee which is normally taken black with a teaspoon (or two) of sugar.
There is also Luwak coffee which is made from beans that have been digested by the Luwak (Asian civet cat), then collected, washed and roasted. It is earthy, smooth but has a less bitter taste than normal coffee.
Cooking Class – Learn to cook delicious Balinese food
Bali cuisine is rich and varied and there are many places to learn how to cook a quick Mei Goreng, Sate Lilit or Ayam Goreng or a simple hot chilli Sambal to impress your guests when you get home.
Many of the courses include a walk through the local market to buy the ingredients and fresh vegetables and meat. Although these tend to have an early start (6am), they are worth the effort. I did several cooking classes with Wayan at Warung Wayan in Lovina.
Read more: How to make Sambal Matah (Lemongrass Sambal)
How to get to the North of Bali
There are currently no direct flights from the UK and it is a minimum of approximately 18 hours via one of the larger Middle Eastern or Asian hubs like Dubai, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia or Brunei.
At the moment, Denpasar International Airport in the south is the main airport, but there are plans to build a floating airport in the north by 2025. A motorway between Denpasar and Singaraja is underway with completion due in 2021 and talk of a potential railway.
As these are all a long way off, the easiest way to the north, is to get a taxi from the airport to your hotel or villa. Most taxi drivers speak some English and there are set fees to certain destinations or you can try one of the tours to the North of Bali from Get Your Guide.
It is a 3-hour drive up the mountains and down again, with many stunning views on the way, as you pass through villages festooned with colourful offerings to the Gods in the small shrines outside each home, the lakes, paddy fields and fields of flowers.
The North of Bali is truly the place to go for a slice of authentic Bali.
Have a look at our Map of the things to do below
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Larch has had wanderlust all her life, travelling as much as she can whenever she can. Now in her 50’s, she writes about her adventures on her travel blog The Silver Nomad to encourage travellers of all ages to look at different destinations. In early 2019, she qualified as a CAA PfCO Drone Pilot and now travels with her DJI Mavic Pro and Mavic Mini to capture aerial videos and photos to enhance her work.