Bali has long been a magnet for foodies and creative types captivated by the island life. But beyond the tourist hotspots, there’s plenty to occupy travelers. Here, you can rest and relax in Ubud, indulge in savory and sweet gastronomy in Seminyak, or explore art and culture in Denpasar.
Day 1: Nature And Craftwork In Ubud
Begin the morning with a vinyasa gentle flow yoga session (USD5.40) at Yoga Saraswati, smack-dab in central Ubud. The 75-minute class in the high-ceilinged studio is the perfect introduction to the spiritual and wellness pursuits of local and visiting yogis. The intimate experience is also a well-paced, energizing way to begin your Bali adventure. When you emerge from your meditative state, take a quick stroll back out to the main road and then to Simply Social, for a wholesome vegan poke bowl (USD4.95), which you can wash down with a cold, earthy blue butterfly pea flower tea latte (USD3.25).
After the revitalizing meal, it’s time for a walk to the Usada cultural center for a painting class (USD25.15). Sessions are operated by appointment only, so be sure to call ahead of time. Secure a two-hour course with lontar, or palm-leaf manuscript, artist Kadek Ardita, where you’ll learn how to paint on a palm leaf with a small knife and candlenut oil. The dying tradition goes back hundreds of years, so your class with Ardita goes some way in sustaining the craft. He’ll supply you with all the materials you need for an art piece that you can complete and take home as a meaningful memento.
Now that you’re exploring more of your artistic side, the ceramics studio Arta Derau Ceramic Art Retreat, to the north in Tegallalang, can be your next stop. Ceramic artist Sekarputri Sidhiawati and her husband, a printmaker, run the space and offer a package (USD12.60) that includes a home-cooked Balinese lunch — served on her ceramic ware — and a visit to her studio. There, you can see her smart and whimsical handmade work — mostly inspired by women — and take in pretty views of the nearby emerald rice fields. Then venture north to admire more of the geometric rice terraces and small villages that feature ornately carved temples. Past all of that, you might find yourself at Mundak Asri (USD0.75 per entry), a natural attraction that houses some gnarly, Hobbiton-esque tree roots that look like they could be older than the Indonesian republic itself.
Round out the day in Ubud proper and accumulate good karma by vintage shopping at Smile Shop — all proceeds facilitate operations for children with craniofacial disabilities. Find it situated in a quiet, tree-lined street near the Monkey Forest. Books, for instance, are priced from USD0.40 to USD1.45 — very affordable, especially in the name of charity.
Then, at Embers Restaurant, also a short walk from the forest, reward yourself with a delicious seared duck breast with pineapple chutney (USD16.90), knowing that your earth-to-table Mediterranean meal was prepared with freshly harvested ingredients and locally sourced meat and seafood.
Day 2: Contemporary Art In Denpasar
Hectic Denpasar is usually bypassed for hip beach clubs or the lush countryside, and at first glance, deservedly so. But unknown to many, it has slowly become the heart of the island’s contemporary arts scene. Indie bands also keep the city pulsating at night.
Get ready to face traffic with a hearty breakfast at the recently reopened Pasar Badung, the largest traditional market in Bali, situated in the old town. Most food operators are located on the third and fourth floors of the market — the whole experience is a sensory delight; the colors and aroma of kitchen staples such as spices, fruit and vegetables (try the chicken feet congee, which starts from USD0.45), mixed with everything you’d need for a traditional Balinese ritual, including clothes and piles of young coconut leaves.
Escape the crowds of the old town and head south, where you’ll find Cush Cush Gallery, one of the hottest art destinations of the moment. It’s housed in a former textile factory, down a narrow alley. The discreet exterior belies a series of regular, intriguing exhibitions, by new and established Indonesian artists. There are also educational, community-based programs for the young ones — such as charcoal drawing classes — held by children’s workshop organizers. It’s also host to DenPasar, an annual event that showcases the works of young Balinese artists and creative communities of various disciplines.
Keep the art trail going at Canasta Creative Space, about 3km away. Situated in another nondescript neighborhood, Canasta specializes in edgy performance art pieces by mostly local artists. It’s here that you can enjoy shadow puppet performances by the Kacak Kicak Puppet Theater group.
When you’re ready for a break from your creative pursuits, hit up Lidah Lokal, a 24-hour restaurant located within the trendy Artotel — the hotel is part of a local franchise that collaborates with Balinese artists and designers. Look out for a red sculpture greeting guests out front. At the restaurant, opt for the Balinese minced chicken sate lilit, satay served on sugarcane sticks (USD4.35). Afterwards, linger for a stroll around the hotel and check out its regularly rotated public art installations.
From Artotel, take a three-minute walk to Rumah Sanur on Jalan Danau Poso. Accentuated by a giant kapok tree at its entrance, the visually arresting building is difficult to miss — think Balinese architectural elements meshed with upcycled shipyard materials, including ship stairs and disused water tanks. Rumah Sanur has been the stage for live music performances, exhibitions and workshops by local and international artists. Past programs have featured arthouse film screenings and live drawing sessions (entry varies for ticketed events; from USD18). Ready to hunker down or even while away the day there? You can fuel up at the in-house Kopi Kultur coffee shop, or Teras Gandum beer garden, along the way.
Day 3: Foodie Adventures In Seminyak
Seminyak is an epicurean’s haven: There’s an exciting international dining scene with industrious movers and shakers. But food here tends to be expensive. If you know where to look, you’ll realise that there are plenty of options available without needing to sacrifice the local dining experience.
Start your journey at Jalan Kayu Aya, otherwise known as Eat Street. The busy street is about 2km in length and lined with wall-to-wall restaurants, cafés, shops, beach clubs and spas. Spice up your morning with Eat Play & Love’s quinoa bibimbap (with extra pulled pork; USD7.20) — the spot, owned by two Korean brothers, offers serious Miami Beach vibes. After sharing its vibrant, tropical design on social media, make for Uma Seminyak via a shortcut through Gang Karna. Uma is easily the coolest retail and creative space in the area (Cebuano artist collective KoloWn is currently exhibiting there) — stick around for a bit and pick up a bunch of foodie souvenirs at Toko Pasar-Pasaran, a boutique that gathers unique merchandise from local artisans. Standouts include aprons, Indonesian food-themed T-shirts and an assortment of one-of-a-kind cutlery (from USD7.20).
When hunger hits, head south to Samik Eating House & Bar for something different — tuck into Middle Eastern-inspired eats here, such as mouthwatering lamb shish, with pickled aubergine and walnut salsa (USD5.05). For dessert, cross the road to Krakakoa Bali Factory & Store, a place Willy Wonka would approve of. Take a chocolate masterclass (USD17.95; by appointment only) to learn how a farm-to-bar chocolate is made. Participants are invited to decorate four bars of chocolate — which they can take home — and indulge in a tasting session. While there, be sure to try the signature frozen hot chocolate (USD3.25).
Take a walk up north to Jalan Petitenget — also known as Eat Street 2.0. Yes, all this walking is to find more delicious food! Look for Mannaka, a tiny and adorable Japanese-style café, tucked in a corner. Pick up a matchapresso to go (USD2.75) before you leave for the relatively less-crowded Petitenget Beach. Claim a spot for some of the best sunset views you can get on the island.
When you’ve taken in the sundown hues of the day — ranging from soft pink to bright orange — opt to round things out with dinner at Fika. The new minimalist café is a short stroll from the beach. Despite its name (“coffee” in Swedish), Fika has an extensive food menu that includes Sardines Two Ways (USD6.10), served pickled and grilled. True to its Nordic leanings, dishes are robust but not fussy — just the way to describe your maxed-out Bali island experience.
Here are three ways to navigate Bali — besides hiring a personal driver or private car or van.
- Hire a scooter: This is the most convenient method and rental fees can start from USD3.59 a day. Arrangements can be made through your accommodation.
- Kura-kura bus: This shuttle service takes you to all three places included in this itinerary — Ubud, Denpasar and Seminyak. A three-day pass can be purchased for USD10.76. Visit kura2bus.com for more information.
- Gojek or Grab: These ride-hailing services are friendly on the wallet, convenient to use and easily available across the island. There are restrictions in Ubud but your orders will still be accepted. Get a local to translate arrangements with your driver for pick-up at a discreet spot.