Last Updated on December 27, 2017 by Audrey Scott
For a relatively small island, Bali can pack in a lot of activities in just a week: volcano-climbing at dawn, scuba diving in coral reefs, cooking traditional Balinese cuisine, visiting Balinese Hindu temples, taking in a traditional Kecak performance, hanging with monkeys, enjoying a few Balinese massages, relaxing at the beach, and much more. If you only have one week to travel in Bali, here are our suggestions for putting together an itinerary filled with a bit of adventure, outdoor activities, culture, food, and relaxation.
Volcano Sunrise: Climbing Mt. Batur
To be perfectly honest, waking up at 3:30 AM was hellish, particularly since we went to sleep after midnight. But as we climbed in perfect darkness and the silhouettes of the surrounding cloud-swaddled volcanoes appeared, it was clear this was all worth it. Only 90 minutes later, we were enjoying a volcano sunrise.
After we'd admired the view, our local trekking guide took us to the edge of one of the craters, buried a bunch of eggs in the ground, and allowed the hot steam of the volcano to cook them. Volcano breakfast, no stove necessary.
Watch out for the hungry monkeys. They may look cute, but they snatched Audrey’s breakfast right from her hands.
How to do it: We spent the night in Kintamani and took a tour that included transport from our hotel, local trekking guides and breakfast for 250,000 IDR ($30). If you have low blood sugar, you may want to bring some snacks or Gatorade to help you get through the climb before breakfast.
Find a hotel in Kintamani | Read reviews of Kintamani hotels
Menjangan Island: Scuba Diving the Coral Reefs
Of our two days of diving in Bali, this was our favorite. Because Menjangan Island is a nature reserve, its coral reefs are relatively well-preserved. Visual artists can find inspiration in the shapes, patterns and colors of Mother Nature’s underwater designs. The visibility is fantastic and you don’t need to go very deep for a visually satisfying experience. Because this area is less susceptible to strong currents than other Bali dive sites, it makes for a relaxing dive experience where you can conserve a bit of your air and can stay down longer to enjoy the underwater journey.
Cost: With Sunrise Dive shop, 500,000 IDR ($60)/person includes transport from Lovina, two dives, all equipment and lunch. If you don’t dive, you can opt to snorkel for 300,000 IDR ($35).
Find a hotel in Lovina | Read reviews of hotels in Lovina
Special thanks goes to our friends Daniel and Juliet Jones for the underwater photos above.
Balinese Cooking Course
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of mediocre “Balinese” food served up in restaurants across the island, so much so that were almost about to give up on Balinese food. Then we took a cooking class in Ubud. We are so glad we did. Our understanding of and opinion of Balinese cuisine changed drastically.
Our cooking class began appropriately with a tour of the Ubud market. Deep in the fruit and vegetable stands (if you can make your way past the souvenir stalls, you’ll find local produce in the back), our instructor explained the various ingredients used in Balinese cuisine.
Then the real fun began. Together, we prepared seven dishes, including: Bumbu Bali (Balinese spice paste), Sayur Urab (mixed vegetables), Tuna Sambal Matah (shrimp with raw sambal), Sate Lilit, Opor Ayam (chicken curry), Tempe Manis (temple in sweet-spicy sauce), and Sambal Udang (shrimp with spicy sambal).
Cost: A Balinese cooking course with Bumi Bali restaurant in Ubud costs 250,000 IDR ($30/person) and includes a market visit, instructions on how to prepare seven dishes, a cookbook, an apron, transport from your hotel, and a lot of eating. Initially, we were concerned when we discovered the teaching facilities included only one cooking station. However, everyone in the class had the opportunity to participate in preparing multiple dishes and overall, the course provided an enjoyable, tasty and enlightening overview to Balinese cuisine. Recommended.
Note: For a deeper dive into Balinese cuisine and how it incorporates different roots, spices and chilies to create unique flavors and delicious sambals (sauces) read out Bali Food Guide.
Kecak Performance and Fire Dance
We have to admit that our expectations for this tourist staple were rather low. Everyone and his brother (and sister) seemed to be selling “Kecak Show” tickets across Ubud. While we can’t vouch for the quality of the other shows, we thoroughly enjoyed the performance at Pura Dalem (Mondays and Fridays, 7:30 PM).
Even if you read the show's plot description beforehand, you’ll likely be confused throughout the show. But that’s OK – the point is more to enjoy the chanting, dancing, and various beautifully-costumed characters that appear throughout the show.
The show concludes with a man who runs through and dances on piles of burning coconut husks. Talk about intense. After experiencing the pain of stepping on burning embers in Koh Samui, Thailand earlier this year, we have a real appreciation of this art.
Relaxing in Ubud
Ubud has become a popular place for travelers to relax, take yoga, and just be. But, don't let the touristy areas turn you off to the place. Keep your eyes open as you walk down the streets of Ubud, Bali. Tucked in between all those trendy cafes and shops, you'll find wooden doorways — sometimes plain, sometimes intricately carved — built into brick and stone archway gates.
Take a peek and you'll find these doorways serve as portals to other worlds of green and tranquility. Walk inside and you'll find altars dotted with offerings or perhaps a carved Ganesh adorned with flowers (my favorite Ganesh statues are those where his feet come together in a yoga pose).
At first glance, you might find yourself wondering if you've stepped into a Balinese Hindu temple complex.
In fact, these peaceful garden sanctuaries are often just family courtyards. As the father of our homestay explained, they usually feature a temple for the gods (where daily offerings and prayers take place), a temple for the people (where birth, marriage, and death ceremonies take place) and a home where multiple generations of family live.
Spirit and life, side by side.
Find a hotel in Ubud | Read reviews of hotels in Ubud
Balinese Hindu Temples
Balinese Hinduism differs considerably from Hinduism practiced in India, and it plays an integral role in much of day-to-day life in Bali, including daily offerings and rather frequent festivals.
Our visit to the 8th century Besakih Temple at the foot of Mount Agung featured a long walk with a local guide to the top of the complex. Along the way, we asked all the questions about Balinese life and belief that we'd collected — about its various gods, ceremonies, pagodas, and caste system — and a beginner’s course in Balinese Hinduism had emerged.
Lunch at Senang Hati Foundation
Balinese Hindus believe in karma and rebirth, making it challenging for those born with disabilities. The prevailing perception is that if a person is born disabled, they must have done something in a previous life to deserve it. Families of disabled children will even go so far as to hide them from society.
The Senang Hati Foundation attempts to break down this cultural discrimination by providing a supportive community environment and skills and empowerment training to people with disabilities.
When we asked about whether companies on Bali were open to hiring disabled people, the women at the center told us, “Now companies hire disabled people because our people are better trained in English and professional skills. We may be physically disabled, but we have an advantage in our skills.”
G Adventures supports this organization by bringing its tour groups by for lunch to meet the people behind the organization and learn more about its activities.
Did we see all of Bali in a week? Absolutely not. But in this week, our aim was to get an introduction to the island and have some fun. And in that, we succeeded.
Practical Details for Traveling in Bali
- Accommodation in Bali: Find hotels, guest houses or hostels in Ubud, Sanur, or Lovina. Airbnb also has a good selection of apartments or homes to rent if you're staying in one place for a while. (Note: Get $25 off your first Airbnb rental.)
- To reduce plastic bottle waste, refill your reusable water bottle in cafes, restaurants and other businesses for free or a small charge. The Refill Bali map shows all the refill stations on the island. Very cool.
- Recommended travel insurance: Don’t travel to Bali without travel insurance. You never know if you'll end up with some bug or sprain your ankle when climbing a volcano, or your phone gets stolen, or some illness or injury means you need to cancel all or portions of your trip. With all of these scenarios, travel insurance will be there to help you and ensure that you don't end up with a huge bill at the end. We recommend and used for years World Nomads as travel insurance for trips throughout Southeast Asia (as well as the rest of the world).
Pin for Later:
If you plan to book this or another tour with G Adventures, please consider starting the process by clicking on one of these links. The price stays the same to you and we earn a small commission to continue sharing stories from around the world. Thank you!
26 thoughts on “How to Spend a Week in Bali: Volcanoes, Diving, Temples, Cooking”
I love the idea of taking a cooking class while on the road. I’ve never done it, but it sounds like a lot of fun and you probably learn quite a bit about the food and culture all at once. Hopefully I can work something like this in one of my next trips. Unfortunatly, I probably won’t stay long enough in one place to actually do it anytime soon. Nice pics!!
@Sabrina: Fortunately, taking a cooking class really only takes 1/2 a day so hopefully you can fit it into one of your trips soon. We love them as they help us break down the cuisine of the country and usually provides some insight into the culture as well. We’ve taken courses in Thailand (Chiang Mai), Cambodia (Battambang), Vietnam (Hoi An), and some impromptu classes along the way.
@Stutapa: Thank you for your kind words about our photos!
Love, love, love your photos! I am always blown away by them!! Bali is spectacular!
That is a great article! Loved the picture of you two under water! I hope I will have a chance to go to Bali as well 🙂
It seems that it was rather foggy )
Thanks!! Wonderful. Are you guys in Italy now?
@Agne: One of the wonderful things about being in Southeast Asia is that stuff is relatively close and flights can be cheap. There are Air Asia flights from Phuket to Bali directly – go to the website now as they are having a big sale this week. Or, you can go to Kuala Lumpur and fly from there (our last flight was $45 one way!!). I think you’d enjoy Bali 🙂
@Alex: The day before we climbed Mt. Batur, it was raining all day and you couldn’t see a thing. Now that’s foggy! When we climbed Mt. Batur, we climbed through the clouds to get above them at the top – this gave us nice views to Mt. Agung along the way.
@Sutapa: Glad you enjoyed the other Bali photos! Not in Italy at the moment. We like to mix things up with our Panorama of the Week sometimes and show panoramas from different places around the world instead of where we are at that moment.
Naughty monkey! I enjoyed the volcano breakfast too when I was there a couple of years ago.
The kecak dance was, yeah, confusing, even after reading up on the story beforehand. I tried to follow the storyline but I think got lost with all the movements and chanting, haha.
Cooking class eh? How interesting. Never thought of that. Noted for my next holiday. Thanks!
@Alfee: We’ve done cooking classes in several countries during our travels and have really loved them. There’s no better way to learn about a cuisine than to cook it yourself!
Yes, the storyline of the Kecak dance was confusing but it almost didn’t matter with the chanting and different characters.
Love that GAP Adventures actively works with orgs like Senang Hati Foundation. When I travelled with them to Peru, we stopped in a small village called Ccaccaccollo where they support the local weavers.
That Tuna Sambal Matah looks delish! Sounds like you guys recuperated during the Bali break?
We recently watched a foodie show based in Turkey and now the hubby and I are stoked on culinary trips. Will add cooking classes to the itinerary now when we travel.
@Lola: We just completed another GAP tour in Tanzania and I was happy to see that it also included two NGO/community tourism activities. It’s really important for tourism money to go back to the local community and help organizations like this grow.
Definitely recommend adding cooking classes to as many trips as possible! At the end of our walking tour with an NGO in a town near Lake Manyara, we were treated to a wonderful Tanzanian feast. We were trying to convince the NGO that what would be an even better end to the tour would be to go into the kitchen and learn how to cook some of these dishes. Really makes you appreciate the local cuisine.
@Tania: For your first visit, we would recommend Mt. Batur. It’s plenty beautiful and also accessible in terms of approach and hiking. For a relatively short hike, you get a pretty vast sunrise view. Be sure to spend some time in and around the volcanic fumaroles. I’m not sure of your accommodation budget, but we stayed at Lakeview Hotel in Kintamani. Nice view, pretty nice breakfast (a lot of thin, crepe-like pancakes). Regarding how to get there, you can probably get a van/bus transfer from Seminyak (or wherever you happen to be). I hope that helps. Let us know if you have any more questions about Bali!
This is our first time to bali and we have booked a villa for 5 nights in seminyak and then planning to go over “the other side”to volcanoes. Not sure where to stay or how to get there. Would it be Mt. Batur or is there another more special place we should visit.
It sounds like you really had a great time in Bali. I have lived in Indonesia, (Sumatra), but never made out there to Bali. All of those food names sound unfamiliar, but they sure do look good.
I have been to the Borobadur, but Besakih Temple complex also looks very inviting.
@Jim: I think the food across Indonesia probably knows endless variation. If you are interested in more detail regarding Balinese Food, check out our Bali Food post. When you visit Bali, one recommendation that I’m sure resonates with where you are: go deep and away from the trail, as parts of Bali are heavily developed for tourism.
I’m heading to Bali on Sunday from Kuala Lumpur and I’m really looking forward to a slower pace of life. But after reading this, maybe it won’t be a slow pace at all! So much to do in so little time…
@Simon: That’s the great thing about Bali – you can do as little or as much as you’d like. Lots of options out there, but it’s also possible to just chill at the beach or in Ubud by the rice fields. Enjoy your trip!
Bali will always have a place in my heart. I can recommend to rent a house out in the rice fields outside Ubud if you like to have it a bit more quiet. That is the only disadvantage, that it is very noisy with all the motorbikes.
To discover in more depth I absolutely recommend to visit and learn from organisations like Senang Hati, I visited them some years ago as a friend of mine worked there, and it was great! They had a wonderful art exhibition on the coast that year, excellent artists!
I also recommend to support an organisation like BAWA – Bali Animal Welfare Association – who do a terrific work for all the street dogs that not have an easy life. I support them myself with my newly launched eBook “The Dogs in Bali.”
I hope you enjoy your time in lovely Bali!
@Anna: Thanks for all the terrific Bali travel suggestions and perspective. Your comment about staying in the rice fields seems spot on — a beautiful space, but motorbikes are the choice transportation to get around everywhere.
Glad to hear that you know of and can recommend Senang Hati. As for stray dogs, their plight is a universal one. Glad to hear there’s an organization on Bali helping to manage the situation.
Tanah lot first around 1999 looks nothing like that, you can fine road connecting it to the edge of the temple land, all might have been destroyed because of the big waves are always a hit
@arthur: Good to know. Remarkable how much things have changed on Bali.
Heading to Bali in a few days and cannot wait 🙂 From your post and photos it looks like a place where is worth to stop and recharge! Enjoy Africa, guys 🙂
Ivana, hope you have a great trip to Bali and enjoy the recharging there! Be sure to take a cooking course if you can 🙂
We would definitely like to do one! We went already for Kecak Dance and climb Mt. Batur. Ohh, the views were just spectacular!!
Hi! Thanks for the tips 🙂
I am currently planning a trip to Bali with a friend, and we are hoping to climb Mt Batur and also go diving!
Did you climb Mt Batur before diving? How many days break in between each activity?
Hope to hear from you soon! 🙂
Gina, we did climb Mt. Batur before diving and I believe we had about 3-4 days in-between. It wasn’t an issue at all. As long as you don’t try and do the two activities back to back you should be OK. Enjoy your trip!