How to Spend One Week in Bali

Panorama of the Taman Ujung Soekasada water palace on Bali, Indonesia
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Bali has been the go-to destination for hip, globe-trotting, and eco-conscious travelers, for more than two decades and it's easy to see why. Incredibly welcoming locals, fascinating history and culture, and every manner of outdoor activity under the sun have kept this island destination in demand. While areas of Bali can be a bit crowded—after all, more than 4 million people live on the island’s 2,232 square miles—it’s still possible to find your own slice of paradise if you know where to go.

From temples and waterfalls to craft classes and scuba diving, here’s the ultimate one-week itinerary that celebrates the best of Bali. We’ve packed a lot into it to highlight some of the best activities the island has to offer, but we recommend leaving yourself time to wander through Ubud’s small streets, along the beaches of Sanur, and through jungle paths on your way to a waterfall. Though there’s much to do, Bali is also great place for some R&R.

01 of 07

Day 1: Stroll Through Sanur

Aerial view of Sanur beach in Bali, Indonesia
@ Didier Marti / Getty Images

Your perfect week starts when you touch down at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. After gathering your bags, head outside to meet your transportation. We recommend arranging a ride with your hotel in advance, though taxis are usually available.

Because nearly every flight into this airport is going to be a redeye, you'll be lucky if you're well-rested. So head to Sanur, about 30 minutes from the airport, to spend your first night in this laid-back beach town. After checking into your hotel (consider springing for the Mulia Resort & Villas, or try the more budget-friendly bungalows at Sari Sanur Resort), relax on one of Sanur's wide beaches. Nusa Dua beach has umbrellas and loungers for rent in case they're not offered at your hotel. Rather than taking a mid-afternoon nap, walk to downtown Sanur for a light al fresco lunch at Soul in a Bowl. As with most restaurants in Bali, it has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

You have a few options for the rest of the day. Travelers tired from their fights may want to return to the beach or opt for a massage at one of the area's spas, which range from high-end to suspiciously affordable. But if you're anxious to dive right into sightseeing, grab a taxi or motorbike and head to Tegenungan Waterfall, about 35 minutes north of Sanur. Entry is 20,000 rupiah. Standing in the swimming hole of this roaring waterfall is bound to make you feel like you've arrived in a jungle paradise—because you have. This is Bali, after all.

Enjoy dinner in downtown Sanur. Keep it low-key at a warung (a locally owned kitchen and restaurant) or end the evening in true Sanur fashion at Genius Cafe. The casual restaurant has a romantic vibe, tasty food, and comfortable lounge seating under market lights on the beach.

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02 of 07

Day 2: Temples and Jungle Waterfalls

Pura Tirta Empul temple, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
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If there's one can't-miss destination on an island full of can't-miss destinations, it's Ubud. Wake up early and grab a taxi for the 45-minute drive to Ubud from Sanur. We recommend having breakfast after you've arrived, either at the warm and eclectic Lazy Cats Cafe or the open-air Bali Buddha. Both cafes represent what you should expect in Ubud: comfortable surroundings, healthy and organic food, and a laid-back clientele.

The rest of your day depends on what you'd like to see. If you want to explore Ubud, spend the day walking around the Ubud Art Market, Ubud Palace, and Ubud Monkey Forest. All three are in walking distance from downtown Ubud.

If you're more interested in culture, rent a motorbike or hire a taxi/driver and head to one of the many temples in the area. You can bathe in holy water at Pura Tirta Empul (50,000 rupiah to enter, plus 10,000 rupiah to bathe) or visit the carved temple and partial ruins of Pura Gunung Kawi in nearby Tampaksiring.

If you're keen to explore Indonesia's jungle, choose a few of the many area waterfalls to visit like Kanto Lampo, Tangkub Waterfall, and Tukad Cepung—which is inside a cave. You can book a tour to take you around to the various waterfalls, or rent a scooter and move at your own pace. All waterfalls have a small entry cost; it's usually no more than 20,000 rupiah. Be sure to wear shoes with a good grip as the paths and rocks can be slippery. You could also book an afternoon whitewater rafting trip, which usually includes pickup from Ubud-area hotels

When you return to Ubud, stroll down JL. Gootama, one of the town's main restaurant streets. If you're craving affordable Balinese food, wait for a table at Warung Blah Blah, or order the jackfruit or beef rendang (a spicy stew-type dish) at Waroeng Bernadette. Vegans may want to try the Seeds of Life vegan cafe, a raw food restaurant and herbal bar.

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03 of 07

Day 3: Explore Downtown Ubud

Aerial view of the famous Campuhan ridge walk in Ubud, Bali island in Indonesia.
@ Didier Marti / Getty Images

Ubud is Indonesia's yoga headquarters, so start your day with an energizing class at the famous Ubud Yoga Barn, or the (usually) less-crowded Intuitive Flow studio. Opt for a flow or hatha class if you're new to yoga. After class, head to Acai Queen for the best acai bowl you'll ever have before beginning your stroll toward the Campuhan Ridge Walk, which begins in the parking lot of the Warwick Ibah Villa & Spa. Passing through jungle terrain and rolling fields, the mile-long walk is a great way to stretch your legs and take more than a few photos. Stop for a fruit smoothie or iced coffee at Karsa Cafe or the Bamboo Garden before retracing your steps back into town.

This afternoon, spend some time wandering around Ubud's small shops and artisan boutiques. You may also want to take a class from a local expert; consider a jewelry-making, batik painting, or Balinese cooking class.

If it's a Saturday or Wednesday evening, catch the Kecak Dance and Fire Show at the Dalem Taman Kaja Temple; it's 75,000 rupiah per person and starts at 7:30 p.m. You can buy tickets at the door. Otherwise, make reservations for Lotus Restaurant, which hosts cultural performances every day (except Friday) at 7:30 p.m. Assuming you've overcome your jetlag, stay up a little later tonight and explore Ubud's nightlife. Head to Casa Luna for jazz on Friday and Sunday nights, CP Lounge for a happening late-night scene that runs every day until 4 a.m., or Laughing Buddha Bar for live salsa, dance, and acoustic bands every night.

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04 of 07

Day 4: Dive Into Amed

A colorful fish on the bottom of the sea

TripSavvy / Jess Macdonald

On day four, head to the laid-back beach town of Amed. It's not yet a major stop on the Bali tourist path, so it has a more traditional feel than Sanur or Ubud. It's best to arrange a taxi in advance for the 2(ish)-hour drive to Amed. While you could have breakfast in Ubud first, a great way to get a bit of local flavor is to ask your driver to stop at his favorite breakfast or coffee spot on the way out of town.

If you're a certified diver or want to give breathing underwater a try, stay at a dive resort like Puri Wirata. The beachfront resort is attached to Bali Reef Divers, which can arrange an afternoon dive on the world-famous USAT Liberty wreck for certified divers or a Discover Scuba Diving class for people who haven't tried diving before. If scuba diving isn't your thing, consider signing up for a freediving class or going on an afternoon snorkeling trip.

Have dinner at one of Amed's laid-back oceanfront restaurants like Warung Amsha or Sails Restaurant. Amed is more affordable than Ubud, so you should be able to find a high-quality seafood dinner for around 100,000 rupiah or less. Vegetarian dishes like gado gado (tofu and tempeh with peanut sauce) can be as low as 30,000 rupiah.

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05 of 07

Day 5: See the Sunrise or Bathe in Holy Water

Hiking around the crater of Mount Batur with Mount Agung in the background
Emma Tyers / Getty Images

Your itinerary today depends on what speaks to you more: temples and culture, or outdoor adventure.

If it's temples and culture, rent a scooter or arrange a driver in Amed and head to three nearby sights: Lempuyang Temple, Tirta Gangga Water Palace, and Taman Soekasada Ujung. Start at Lempuyang Temple as the lines to take photos between its famous "Gates of Heaven" can be quite long by mid-morning. Head next to Taman Soekasada Ujung, also called "Ujung Water Palace," and make the koi-filled ponds of Tirta Gangga your last stop before returning to Ubud. Entry to each location ranges from 20,000 to 50,000 rupiah, and unofficial guides are available for hire near the entrances. There are plenty of roadside coffee and lunch stands between the destinations, but be wary of civet coffee (also called luwak coffee). The civets are often stolen from the wild and forced to live in small cages.

Outdoor adventurers will want to do one of Bali's most ambitious adventures for day five: a summit of Mount Batur. To watch the sunrise from the volcano's 5,633-foot summit, you'll need to start the 4-mile hike by 4 a.m. The hike gains around 1,700 feet of elevation and takes most hikers around two hours to complete. While you could do it on your own, the easiest way to do the hike is to arrange a guided tour that includes an early-morning pickup from Amed, a guide, and a sunset breakfast from the summit. Spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach or treating yourself to a warm oil massage at the luxury Channa Spa to soothe sore hiking muscles.

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06 of 07

Day 6: Party at Canggu’s Beach Clubs

Taken at Canggu Beach, Bali
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On your second-to-last day, head to Canggu, every ex-pat's favorite beach town. The drive takes about three hours, but fortunately, Canggu is more of an afternoon and evening type of town, anyway. You'll probably want to have breakfast at your hotel in Amed before starting the drive (or have your driver recommend a breakfast stop again). Canggu has no shortage of stunning hotels, but an especially great choice for culture lovers is Desi Seni Village Resort—rooms are in traditional wooden homes collected from across the island.

Once you arrive in Canggu, stretch your legs by walking around the downtown area. Stop into any of the town's inspired coffee shops for a taste of Balinese or Javanese coffee (Café Organic is a plant-based garden). Canggu is a great town for wandering around and picking up souvenirs, so if you're interested in a little shopping, check out the highly photogenic Love Anchor Market (it’s twice the size on the weekends) or walk along Jl. Raya Semat to browse the many cute boutiques.

By mid-afternoon, it's time to head to one of Canggu's many trendy beach clubs. These lively destinations have pools, bars, beaches, DJs, games, and plenty of stylish young people trying to have a good time. Finn’s is the most popular with four pools, and The Lawn serves up great cocktails amid vintage vibes, but we like the bohemian-meets-"Swiss Family Robinson" decor of La Brisa the best. Clubs can get crowded, so you may want to reserve a sunbed or table online. (If you're with kids, skip the beach clubs and instead spend the afternoon at Splash Waterpark.)

Most beach clubs have at least one restaurant, so if you're enjoying yourself, stay there for the evening. Otherwise, end your Bali trip with a fantastic dinner at one of Canggu's trendiest restaurants. Grab a seat under market lights on the patio at Gypsy Kitchen & Bar, or make the 15-20 minute drive to Seminyak and snag a "floating" table at the high-end Bambu. Ask your hotel to call and make you a reservation in advance.

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07 of 07

Day 7: Hang 10 Before Takeoff

Indonesia, Bali, Canggu, two female surfer in the water watching sun
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Check-in for international flights at Ngurah Rai International Airport doesn’t open until three hours before takeoff, so don’t worry about getting to the airport too far in advance. Instead, start your day in true Canggu fashion: with a surf lesson. Canggu has gentle waves and sandy bottom beaches, so it’s a great place to learn to catch a wave. Classes usually start between 7 and 10 a.m., depending on the tides, so there should be plenty of time to get in the water before your flight.

If you have time before takeoff, grab lunch on the beach before heading to the airport, which is around 35 minutes from Canggu. There are several duty-free shops both before and after security in case you’ve forgotten to pick up the requisite box of Balinese snacks for your co-workers back home. If you’ve enjoyed the food on your trip, don’t miss the airport's small tea, spice, and artisan food shop (before security, by the larger DuFry shop.)