When, Where and Why
I spent two weeks in Indonesia in Summer 2017 with one of my best friends. We went late July into August, and still talk about the trip to this day! We visited Ubud and Uluwatu in Bali, and Gili Trawangan in Lombok. It was an amazing trip and I would recommend all of these locations to anyone in a heart beat. I will certainly return to Indonesia in the future! We wanted a trip that would combine nature’s beauty with culture – and we ended up with more than we bargained for: hiking, shopping, shows, massages, mopeds, tours, monkeys, sunrises, surfing, amazing food and more!
Here is a loose itinerary to help you with your planning. The prices/places listed were accurate as of August 2017.
We spent four nights in Ubud. I think we could have accomplished everything we wanted to do in three nights instead. Ubud is certainly very touristy, given its incredible shrines, palaces, and culture. However, that should not deter you from spending some time there. Plus, it’s a prime location to start your Indonesian adventures as transportation to and from Ubud is easy and abundant.
We stayed for 4 nights at Indira Cottages. It was the perfect location, the rooms were huge and clean! It was $177 via Booking.com for 4 nights, including (a really good, made to order) breakfast, so we each booked our own room with a king sized bed. The name of the hotel has since changed to Villa Sonia Bisma. I will not hesitate to recommend this hotel. The location is really great, literally steps from the main street, but tucked away in a quiet corner. The pool was never crowded, the rooms were cleaned daily and in great condition with upgraded furniture, and the staff was friendly.
We taxi’d from the airport to our hotel. Super easy and not too expensive.
Try This There: (time in minutes is distance from my recommended hotel)
- Bara Batur Mt. Batur Hike (2:30 am – 1:30 pm, booked at $60 pp). Yes, you have to wake up super early to drive to the mountain (company will pick you up at your hotel) and you hike up in the dark, but when I tell you that you are rewarded with the most spectacular sunrise you will ever see, I promise you I am not joking. This is one of the best things I have ever done in my life – and I’ve gone on some pretty incredible hikes. If you book through the company I’ve linked, you’ll have you option of trail (we choose the “hardest” option, as we’re both experienced hikers) and a great breakfast before sunrise – one you’ll help to cook at the top by dropping eggs in boiling crater water to cook! You’ll even have the change to make friends with some monkeys on your hike down. They’re very friendly! This is my number one recommendation for you. It is something I’ll certainly do again without hesitation.
- We hired a driver for Temple tours, rice fields, and waterfalls. It was the best thing we could have done and one of the highlights of our time in Ubud! I can not recommend Gede to you enough. His WhatsApp is +62 813 38982222 and his email is email@example.com He is simply the best. You can choose all the places you want him to take you to! I think he was with us for 8 hours and we paid like.. $50 or $60 with a generous tip? With him we went to:
- Tegalalang Rice Terrace
- Gunung Kawi (20K IDR entry fee)
- Tirta Empul (15K IDR entry fee)
- Goa Gajah – Elephant Cave (15K IDR entry fee)
- Coffee plantation
- We each had a palm reading (Unknown location, just trust Gede, I promise)
- After our great temple tour with Gede, we wanted to hire him again. Unfortunately Gede was already booked since this was a last minute request, so he recommended his friend, Mede. He was just as wonderful. I no longer have his contact information, but I would reach out to Gede first anyway!
- Tegenungan Waterfall (20K IDR entry fee) Go as early as possible! We arrived before 8 a.m. and had the entire waterfall to ourselves for almost an hour. After swimming, you can rinse off in “holy water”. Sneak a sip to stay young 😉
- Butterfly Palace (I’d skip, but my friend loves butterflies so we went!)
- Silver Store outside of town (We bargained and bought awesome rings here!)
- This amazing restaurant that Gede brought us to where we ordered the famed crispy Duck dish! I wish I knew the name of it. It wasn’t touristy at all and the food was amazing. This is a perk of hiring a local driver!
- Monkey Forest (30K IDR / 3 min walk) We paid, we visited, it was.. as interesting as you think it would be. Honestly, I didn’t think this was worth it. There are monkeys everywhere and if you want them to climb all over you, the ones on top of Mt. Batur are a lot less aggressive and much more friendly!
- Ubud City Center (10 min walk)
- Pasar Seni (Ubud Markets / 17 min walk)
- Ubud Palace for Legong Dance 7:30 – 8:30 p.m. (80K IDR / 17 min walk)
- Cooking class available 10 am or 4 pm
- Bar Luna: Friday live music, happy hour nightly from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
- Yoga Barn (10 min walk)
- Pura Taman Saraswati Temple – WALK
- Naily’s Massage – they don’t have an online presence. It is not even 3 minutes from the hotel I recommended. We went every single day for $7 ninety-minute massages and it was the best money I’ve ever spent in my life. 10/10 would recommend.
- Campuhan Ridge Walk (Takes about 2 hours, do at night when sun isn’t as strong / Free / 25 min walk / Starting point of the walk to the left of the entrance to Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas and Spa, just follow the path over the bridge and past the temple)
- Gitgit Waterfall (20K IDR entry fee, 20K for top)
- Angseri Hot Springs/Waterfall
Important Things to Note:
- You must wear maxi dress/skirt and bring scarf to cover your shoulders for some of the temples. Don’t fret – dress codes are clearly labeled at each temple/palace. Most even have free rentals. We ended up purchasing sarongs from local vendors because they were so beautiful!
- Everything is negotiable. Shop around, compare prices, and then haggle. However, be reasonable. If you can spent the $5 for a local’s handcraft good instead of spending your time and theirs trying to cut the price in half, just spend the $5.
We stayed for 5 nights at The Exile, which was such a great spot on the west coast (best sunsets) of the island. We booked directly through their website. The hotel had the most incredible food, so we ate lunch there every after noon on the beach. We stayed in one of the AC rooms. The AC worked great, the room was big and clean, and the semi-outdoor bathroom was amazing. I would definitely stay here again! It was an easy commute by bike (or a longer walk on foot) to the east coast, where most of the entertainment, shopping, restaurants/bars, parties are. The hotel has bikes though, so it makes it easy!
From Ubud, we headed to Gili Trawangan. This required taking a bus to the docks in another town, and then a ferry to the island. We booked all of this through Gili Getaway. They’re always running specials and we haggled via WhatsApp. I believe we paid less than $100 each for a customized roundtrip (Ubud – Gili – Uluwatu). If you have time to shop around, you can probably find better prices in person! We pre-booked this before even getting to Indonesia.
Try This There:
- Relax on the beach! It’s an island, this is a no brainer. We really loved Gili T. We just relaxed and spent every single day on the beach, which is exactly what we wanted to do. Bonfires, dances, performances, wine tastings, dinners – they all happen on the beach.
- On our second day there (after the first was spent on the beachfront of the hotel!) we rented bikes and rode around the entire island (this would probably take 1.5 hours if you did it without stopping). We made a day of it by stopping at all the cute beaches we passed along the way. We even ended up renting snorkels at one beach!
- Go shopping downtown! There are lots of cute spots to pop into. We spent an afternoon just strolling around. Pituq Cafe was a great place to grab a bite!
- We booked a snorkel trip off the island. We snorkeled in a few different spots – off T and Air. We saw turtles and some fish, but nothing too overwhelming. We stopped for lunch on Gili Air and enjoyed the beach for a bit there. I do regret not making a point to go to Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach.
- Visit the Night Market. The selection of fish is crazy and it is so fun to walk around the market! After eating local for a couple nights, we found a great burger place in the middle of all the chaos.
- We enjoyed the sunset drum circle outside of the hotel every night. Exile is a hotspot that many who aren’t stayed at the hotel come to hang out at!
- I went to the Turtle Conservation and learned all about how tirelessly the locals work to keep the turtle population safe and thriving.
- Get PADI Certified on one of the islands or go scuba diving* (Please note, the reef was white washed when I visited in 2017)
- Hike to the viewpoint on the southern end of the island for a view of the entire island and Meno/Air too
- Rent a paddle board
Important Things to Note:
- The reef around the Gilis is unfortunately dead. This was really devastating to witness in person. If you’re expecting coral, you’re a few years too late.
- A huge earthquake shook Lombok in 2018. It destroyed a lot on the mainland. The islands avoided the worst of the disaster, but still received quite a scare and suffered some destruction. They’ve begun rebuilding since then. Do your research before traveling.
We stayed for 4 nights at Uluwatu Cottages, which we found and booked through Booking.com, for $365. We shared one room. We also rented a moped to get around. This was another winner of a hotel that I would not only recommend, but return to myself! Lounging by the huge pool before or after the beach was great. The rooms were large and clean! I do highly recommend renting a moped or a car when you’re here, as Uluwatu is a lot more low key and spread out than the other areas of Bali. Things are further away from each other. Walking is always an option, but you’ll be in for some long walks.
As mentioned above, we booked our transport through Gili Getaway. They’re always running specials and we haggled via WhatsApp.
Try This There:
- Our visit to Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple was the highlight of our time in Uluwatu. We arrived around 16:15/4:15 pm for the Kecak dance performance. The dance is based on the famous epic Hindu story of the Ramayana. The dance happens nightly at sunset, but fills up quickly so arrive early to get a good seat! We sat in the upper left hand section – which granted us a perfect view of the performance AND of the sunset over the ocean. The temple is located on a cliff and boasts beautiful ocean views.
- We went to Uluwatu Point which is directly under Single Fin. It’s really neat to go through the cave and wade in the water – but it’s also rocky and the tide is strong. We only saw really skilled, local surfers out in the water. It is not a swimming spot and I wouldn’t recommend surfing there unless you’re skilled and with a local. However it is gorgeous to visit and you can hike back up to the famous Single Fin for drinks and food – and their big parties on Sundays.
- Visit Padang Padang Beach, great for laying out to tan and safe for swimming
- Visit Dreamland Beach
- Visit Blue Point Beach
- Day trip to Nusa Penida
- Visit GreenBowl Beach
WHEN I GO BACK TO INDONESIA SOMEDAY, I WANT TO GO TO..
- Padar (third largest island in Komodo National Park and a great place to hike)
- Kelimutu Volcanic Craters on Flores island (thanks to a chemical reaction from nearby volcano gas activity, these three color changing lakes can be aqua, emerald, chocolate, or red.)
- Sendang Gile Waterfall & Tiu Kelep Waterfall (located in Northern Lombok, great hike between the two waterfalls)
- Heaven’s Gate
- Floating Market in Lok Baintain Kalimantan