When researching our holiday to Bali, we found it difficult to determine which key sites to visit, where to visit them from and how to travel between them. Driving is best avoided in Bali due to the sometimes traffic filled, dangerous and narrow roads, with many people opting for the more convenient and accessible moped option, a private tour guide/driver or a group tour.
As tours are the recommended option, particularly for first timers, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on the best tours to take to get a good feel of the different destinations, the most reputable companies and drivers to use and recommended things to see. Tours are arguably the best way to see the key sites in a full day without getting lost, however you’ll need a private driver or rent your own vehicle to explore the less popular areas to the west of the island (most tours take place in the east).
Is it better to book tours on arrival in Bali or online before you go?
In our experience, it’s definitely cheaper to book your tours on arrival in Bali. You’ll find tour operator booths and stores throughout the main tourist areas and you can negotiate prices for good rates. However, this doesn’t always guarantee that you’re booking a good quality tour. Hostels and hotels also offer a range of tours and can be a little more reliable than roadside travel booths.
Websites such as Tripadvisor list many of the main tour operators in a specific area that have built up a good clientele and number of good reviews. These are generally more expensive, however many can be booked online pre-arrival and give you peace of mind that you’re going on a tour that others have had a great experience on.
If you like adventure holidays with little planning, don’t have a concrete itinerary or you’re on a budget, we’d recommend booking when you arrive at your accommodation. If you have a busy holiday schedule and like to plan everything in advance, use Tripadvisor as a resource to find your tour and book direct with the operator. Remember most hostels and hotels have Wi-Fi so you can still book somewhat ahead.
Deciding on where to visit on your tour:
The good news is that Bali is a relatively small island, so if you’re staying in the east, where most holiday seekers do, you can stay almost anywhere and quite easily catch a tour elsewhere on the island. However be prepared for the 2-4 hour drive if you’re staying slightly further away from specific sites.
Although you’ll find lots of tour operators (private and group) when searching online, it’s difficult to compare them and decide on what you should see on your tour. After all, you can’t see everything on a 2 week holiday! Follow our guide below for our top recommendations on things to see in each area of Bali and our recommended tour options.
Best tours in Central Bali
Tours in Central Bali will take you on an expedition to the lush green valleys of Ubud and its surroundings. Visit waterfalls, rice paddies, plantations and plenty of cool tropical scenery.
Tengenungan Waterfall – a tall waterfall in the jungle where you can bathe beneath the falls or walk up the river creek for a nature adventure.
Coffee and Fruit Plantations – there are many coffee and fruit plantations in the area. Learn how local blends of coffee are made or have a fruit feast at a tropical garden. Many tours have a plantation visit included.
Elephant Cave (Goa Gajah) – a less visited temple just outside of Ubud’s main street. In addition to the intricate cave opening, the grounds have numerous shrines, temple buildings and beautiful gardens.
Saraswati Temple – in our opinion, Saraswati is the best temple in central Ubud due to its divine serenity and peaceful nature. It has pretty fountains and ponds amongst the impressive stone carved buildings.
Pura Tirta Empul Hindu Temple – located north-east of Ubud, Pura Tirta Empul Temple is one of the largest and most famous Hindu temples on the island. The temple grounds attract many locals and tourists alike to worship and marvel at this intriguing location. The temple is a water temple where Hindu’s come for purification. You’ll find intricate fountains and water features throughout.
Tegallalang and Jatiluwih Rice Terraces – Tegallalang Rice Terrace is one of the most visited attractions in Bali. This towering collection of staggered rice paddies is very touristic but worth seeing regardless. It’s a 15 minute drive north of Ubud town centre. For an equally, if not more impressive rice field adventure but with less tourists, check out the Jatiluwih rice terraces to the west (1hr40 minute drive).
Bike tour of the rice fields, hills and general tropical scenery – Our favourite tour in central Bali was definitely a bike tour of the luscious green hills and rice fields. You’ll get to see all of the cool sites but with the wind in your face and less walking. See below for our recommend tour option.
Bali Traditional Tours – Book a group or private tour with Bali Traditional Tours, one of the most popular and top rated travel agencies on the island. They have lots of options to choose from.
Puri Garden Hostel’s Full Day Ubud Tour –Puri Garden Hotel & Hostel is located on the main street in Ubud. Their cheap but excellent tour departs every day and is a big hit with the younger crowd.
E-Bikes Bali Electric Biycle Tours – Navigate Central Bali’s rice paddies and hills with ease on an electric bike. We highly recommended seeing sites on a bike and this company has a good selection of tours to choose from.
Best tours in Southern Bali
Southern Bali has the more popular beach area, with a large tourist population and plenty of hotels to choose from. Jump aboard a boat tour to see the surrounding coastline and islands, embark on a scuba diving trip or book a tour to take you further inland to central Bali.
Tanah Lot tour – Tanah Lot is the iconic temple on the south coast, which is situated on a rock stack just offshore. It’s a cool place to visit at sunset, rich in Balinese culture and interesting facts and only 30mins – 1 hour away from the beach resorts of Canggu, Seminyak and Kuta.
Nusa Penida boat trip – If you want to leave Bali’s southern beaches for a boat trip to the less visited but visually stunning islands of Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan.
Scuba diving and snorkelling – Although you’ll find snorkelling and scuba diving tours across Bali, the south has the highest concentration of organised tours and dive centres on its many beaches.
Uluwatu Temple and museums – Visit the famous hilltop temple of Uluwatu, which looks out at the ocean. The area also has a number of cultural museums and traditional events such as the Kecak Fire Dance.
Bali Driver Seminyak Day Tours – A wide selection of private tours to take you on trips throughout the island.
Neptune Scuba Diving – A well located and top rated diving centre in Sanur, providing diving tours to the south-east region of Bali and the Nusa islands.
Manta Manta Diving – Scuba dive and snorkel with manta rays just off Bali’s south coast.
Best tours in North and North East Bali
The far north and northeast corner of the island is home to the towering Mount Batu volcano. This more cultural and rural area of Bali is great for adventures and features some of the best temples on the island. Tours are highly recommended. Venture further north to the beaches of Kubu for boat and snorkelling excursions.
Mount Agung Sunrise Trek – One of the best tours available on Bali. This early morning trek proves a challenge, but is well worth it for the breath-taking sunrise views and close-up encounter with the volcano wilderness.
Tirta Gangga Water Gardens – North-east Bali has the best temples and this is our favourite. These enchanting and peaceful gardens are a great place to visit. You’ll find intricate stone carvings, towering temples and impressive water features.
Taman Sukasada Ujung Palace – Another must-see temple in the area is Ujung Palace, a large palace with running streams and lakes throughout. You’ll take some amazing pictures here and will love exploring the hidden corridors, pathways and towers.
Tulamben Dive Sites: USAT Shipwreck and Underwater Temple Garden – The north-east is the best place to see these truly unique dive sites. Explore a sunken navy ship or get up close and personal with a long lost temple that has fallen to the depths of the ocean.
Gili Islands tour – The northern coastline resort of Amed is the best place on Bali to travel to the Gili Islands. Fast speedboats only take 45 mins so you can visit the Gili’s for a day trip or stay overnight to catch a glimpse of the island nightlife.
Adventure Divers Bali – An excellently reviewed Amed based diving centre to take you to the best dive sites in the area.
Eco Bali Tours East Bali Tour – Have an action packed day in Bali’s north-east, exploring temples, villages and gardens.
Mount Agung Sunrise trek – book at your hotel or at a roadside travel agency booth for the best prices – many operators use the same guide company.
Best tours in west Bali – Off-the-beaten-track Bali tours
The west of Bali is the less frequented area of the island and furthest from Denpasar Airport. Here you’ll find quieter beaches, lots of jungle and hill terrain and local villages and fishing towns. Take a tour is west Bali for a less touristic experience with sites that you may not find on Instagram.
Daytrip to East Java – East Java has a jungle island terrain that provides endless adventure. It’s located to the west of Bali so you can catch a private boat for a tour of the island if staying on the western coastline.
Yehembang Village Cliffside Walk – Conquer your fear of heights and ascend to the hills of Yehembang for a panoramic view of western Bali and the ocean afar. In Yehembang Village itself you’ll get to meet locals and observe their temples and traditions.
Gelar River and wilderness adventure – Gelar River and its deep jungle terrain and hidden waterfalls is another off-the-beaten-track gem waiting to be explored. Spend your day trekking through the forest, swimming in the river and bathing under the falls. Be sure to book a professional tour guide!
Batu Belah Waterfall and lagoon – Not to be confused with Batu Belah beach resort in the east, the waterfall and lagoon is another hidden gem away from the tourist trail. It’s popular to locals ‘in-the-know’ and provides a tranquil nature experience.
Bali Barat National Park (West Bali National Park) – This protected jungle and beach oasis is located to the far west tip of Bali. Trek through the forests to see beautiful scenery and descend to the beaches for untouched white sands and views of nearby East Java.
Menjangan Island scuba diving and sea exploration – Menjangan Island and its beaches are the best place in west Bali for scuba diving and beach relaxation. Its white-sand bay beaches are spectacular and you won’t find many tourists.
Ocean Dreams Pemuteran – A friendly and professional diving centre for exploring the western waters of Bali.
Bali National Park Jungle Trekking Tour – Explore the jungles of the north-west with an experienced tour guide.
Recommended private tour guides and resources, wherever you’re staying:
Top booking tips for Bali tours and excursions:
- Book your tours in advance and decide on an itinerary pre-arrival. There’s so much to do in Bali that you’ll struggle to fit everything into a short holiday. Pick the places that are simply ‘must-sees’ for you.
- If you’re looking for the best prices, book your tours on arrival at a hotel, hostel or travel agent store/booth on the road-side. Prices can often be negotiated and you’ll pay local prices. However, this is a riskier option as you won’t have the satisfaction of reviews and comparison.
- If you don’t mind paying extra for the almost guaranteed quality of a tour and like to check reviews, book online directly with a tour agent or use a website such as Viator where you can compare local tours and read what others have to say.
- Group tours are the cheapest way to see Bali and are a good way to meet other travellers, however private tours allow you to see more of the island in the same time and often come with a more attentive and knowledgeable guide. Book the option that best suits you.
We hope we helped you decide on a tour for seeing the key sites in your destination. If you have any more questions or loved a tour and would like to tell us about it, get in touch! For help on picking a place to stay for your Bali holiday, check out our destination comparison guide here. **insert link**