Ubud is the perfect place to relax in the countryside, explore beautiful temples, eat great food and go for walks in stunningly picturesque rice fields, while Canggu is an awesome destination for surfers and beach lovers. Bali has something for everyone and despite running around trying to fit in as much as possible there’s lots that we missed!
Whilst we managed to explore lots of temples and plenty of Ubud’s gorgeous rural landscapes we pretty much completely skipped over the north of the island, and didn’t make it to any of the scenic waterfalls that we’d spied on instagram before our visit. Based on this you can see that our list is by no means definitive – but here are our favourite free and cheap things to do in Bali after our couple of weeks of exploring.
Temples & Museums in Bali
Known as the ‘Island of the Gods’ for a reason, temples are liberally scattered around the island and are one of the best budget things to do in Bali. They usually feature beautiful architecture, stunning settings along the coastline or in the countryside, and are great places to wander round and explore while learning more about Bali’s, predominantly Hindu, culture and spirituality.
Elephant Cave Temple / Goa Gajah:
One of the most popular temple complexes in Bali this is usually fairly busy but worth battling the crowds. It dates back to the 11th century and features a large open courtyard, a small cave and bathing pools. (Cost: 15,000 Rupiah)
We weren’t going to come here after hearing so many horror stories about aggressive monkeys and emergency rabies shots but we’re glad we gave it a go. The monkeys are only really likely to hassle you if you’re carrying bags and have food on you, and it really is a beautiful forest and temple complex. (Cost: 40,000 Rupiah)
Pura Tirta Empul Temple:
One of our favourite temples, this is also known as the water temple and contains baths with sacred water where people bathe and receive blessings, it’s in a gorgeous countryside setting. (Cost: 15,000 Rupiah)
Pura Taman Ayun:
Always included in ‘top 10 Bali temples’ lists this is another great spot, with lovely gardens and traditional Balinese architecture to admire. (Cost: 20,000 Rupiah)
Tanah Lot Temple:
Located on the coast on the south west, this has by far the most picturesque setting of any of the Bali temples and is particularly beautiful at sunset. Batu Bolong temple is just along the coast and both can be seen together easily. (Cost: 60,000 Rupiah)
Pura Taman Saraswati:
Another one in central Ubud, this is also known as the lotus temple with a pretty lotus filled pond in front of the main gate and a small temple complex at the rear. (Free)
Pura Gunung Kawi:
Not too far from the water temple, this features some impressive rock carvings and is set amongst lovely rice terraces – there are hundreds of steps to get down so not one for the midday heat! (Cost: 15,000 Rupiah)
Agung Rai Museum of Art:
Located in the centre of Ubud, this is a great collection of traditional Balinese art and if you’re an art lover, is more than worth spending an hour or two exploring. (Cost: 80,000 Rupiah)
Another one located so centrally that it’s hard to avoid, this is one of the best markets for shopping for clothes, souvenirs and jewellery. Make sure to bargain – generally you can get the price down to at least half what you’re originally quoted without too much difficulty if you’re not a fan of haggling. (Free unless you’re shopping)
A traditional historic temple, this was the official residence of the royal family of Bali – it’s a great first stop when it comes to discovering Ubud’s beautiful temples. (Free)
NB: Temples are amongst the best free and cheap things to do in Bali but there are a couple of things to be aware of before your visit. Most will state that menstruating women may not enter the complexes, and any people visiting temples must wear appropriate dress – sarongs are usually given out on entry.
Ubud is the best place to base yourself to explore Bali’s countryside, and best of all, almost all of the popular walks and destinations are free. You could spend weeks exploring the countryside and watching local ways of life take place in the fields, but here are our top choices of things to do in rural Bali.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces:
One of the most beautiful places we’ve ever been without a doubt, these rice terraces are incredible. They are pretty popular though so try to get there early for the best views without the crowds. (Free)
Head here at sunset to see thousands of white herons flock from the nearby rice fields to roost overnight in the trees. There are a few viewing spots and it’s an amazing sight to witness so many birds flocking in together. (Free)
The Ridge Walk:
A hill top walk through gorgeous countryside in Ubud, this is best attempted early morning before it gets too hot. Stunning views and some nice cafes for refreshments along the way make this an awesome thing to do in Bali if you want to discover the rural landscapes of Ubud. (Free)
Rice Fields Walk:
There are many of these dotted around Ubud, but this one is right in the centre of town and gives a scenic overview of the local countryside. (Free)
Activities & Tours in Bali
There are tons of activities designed for tourists, from snorkelling trips and dolphin watching to handicraft classes and various hikes. We chose to invest in two activities that were a little more expensive than the many temples and countryside walks we’d been enjoying – but still pretty cheap overall. Generally we found that tours and activities offered good value for money so most can be considered great cheap things to do in Bali even if you are travelling on a budget.
There’s a full blog post on this one coming when I finally get around to writing it, but as always, we decided to take a cooking class in Bali. We loved the food here so getting to cook a massive range of local dishes was fab. Our class was run by Paon Ubud and cost 300,000 Rupiah each.
Mount Batur Sunrise Hike:
An iconic activity that most people choose to do, we duly got up at 2am for a sunrise hike to the top of Mount Batur. Sadly it clouded over just as the sun began to rise and we were rewarded for our efforts with no views at all. It was still a great morning though and getting to hike an active volcano is always fun. (Cost: 300,000 Rupiah per person)
Beaches in Bali
Probably the most touristy beach located just outside of Kuta city, this wasn’t our favourite but is still a pretty attractive beach with lots of beach bars and plenty of space to relax and sunbathe.
Known as a more luxurious beach this is near to some great bars and restaurants and is a perfect spot for watching the sunset with a cocktail.
Considered more up and coming, although I think it’s pretty much over that phase, this is a popular spot for surfers and those looking for a more laid back beach experience.
And Some Bonus Extras That We Missed
If you’re looking for more fun things to do in Bali there are plenty we haven’t touched on – although here are a couple we’re particularly sorry that we missed.
Jatiluwih Rice Terraces: UNESCO world heritage site with beautiful rice terraces and rural landscapes.
Lovina Beach: Located in the north of Bali this is a quieter beach resort and popular for activities like dolphin watching.
Tegenungan Waterfall: We missed all of the waterfalls sadly, but we heard that this is the best and most popular to check out!
So many people have written blog posts and travel guides designed to help you plan your visit to Bali and I’m aware this barely scratches the surface, but we wanted to share our experience and some ideas for an itinerary that helps you to see the highlights. We’ve focused mainly on free and cheap things to do in Bali, so if you’re after a more luxurious experience this may not be the list for you, but hopefully it’s provided some inspiration. If we’ve missed anything that you loved while visiting Bali, let us know in the comments!