This post comes from our Australia contributor, Miann Scanlan. Follow along with her on Instagram @freepeopleaustraliaBali will always have a place in my heart. It was the first place my parents escaped to during a forbidden romance when they were young and in love. It’s an island where my father lived for a few months as a young man, spending his days from sunrise to sunset surfing and hanging with the locals. It was the island of Bali where I went to heal after losing a parent to cancer. For the two months I spent on the island, it was the Balinese people’s love and healing spirit that enveloped me and began to place the pieces of my broken heart back together. Palm trees line the beaches, while a hot tropical breeze washes over the shore year round. The air throughout Bali smells sweet with the burning incense of holy offerings made throughout the day, and during times of worship at the temples, the delightful ringing of bells sweep through the calm dawn or dusk air. The island speaks of simpler times, the yesteryears, where all you need is less.
Beyond the palm trees and crystal blue waters, there is a deeper spiritual undertone to the island than meets the eye. Ubud is where my journey began. Nestled in the jungle deep in the middle of the island, Ubud is a mecca for all things health and wellbeing.
There are so many beautiful hideaways in Ubud. Pop into the more upmarket stays like The Hanging Garden and the Viceroy, but I love the accommodation at The Yoga Barn. They tailor yoga retreats and programs around your personal travel dates, and it’s the best way to meet like minded yogis to continue your adventure though Bali.
I have a feeling there are more organic raw vegan restaurants in Ubud than anywhere else on earth. Try Clear Café, Soma, Alchemy, Down to Earth, Yellow Flower, Kafe, Little K… the list is endless!
Walk through the Monkey Forrest, try yummy Balinese coffee Kopi Luak, do the lush Campuhan Ridge Walk, but my absolute favorite is visiting the Tutra Empul temple to receive a blessing submerged in rainwater surrounded by 1000 year old ancient ruins.
I’ve traveled around Bali, a lot! But Canggu was where Bali, to me, felt most like home. Perhaps it was all of the Aussie ex-pats, or the truly creative community hub where amazing Australian collections, shoots and contemporary artworks were born. The roads are much more quiet compared to neighboring Seminyak and Canggu, which gives you the sense that it’s a destination for travelers, not tourists.
Desa Seni is a yoga village resort with a beautiful open yoga studio and organic café onsite.
Betlenut is hands-down my favorite place to eat in Bali. Serving up delicious, wholesome meals (pictured above), you can meet locals, catch up on work using the wifi and hang out in what feels like a tree house overlooking the rice paddies.
Head to Deus for free tattoos and cheap taco’s on Tuesdays. Drink Bintangs while the sun sets on the Berawa stairs. Stick around for Sunday night at Old Man’s.
Where: Nusa Ceningan
Little (and lesser known) island sister to Nusa Lembongan is Nusa Ceningan, one of my favorite islands in Bali! Complete with rickety bridge and endless sunsets.
I lucked out and found Jenny’s Place on Trip Advisor after my accommodation fell through at Sanur. As they say, everything happens for a reason! You get your own little private hut with a communal infinity pool, which looks over the surf break down below called Secret Point.
There are a few local warungs on the island to get your fix of Nasi Goreng, but I loved watching the sun set at Le Pirate while sipping on a cocktail.
Take a scooter around dirt tracks at the bottom of the island and find the Blue Lagoon, possibly one of the most beautiful lagoons I have ever seen! If you have the courage, jump off the rock jump and the locals will lower down a ladder into the ocean for you to climb back up.
Where: The Gili Islands
Home of probably one of the world’s most famous swings (pictured above), but I didn’t know the swing was there until I found it! Which is why you just have to go and find it all for yourself! These islands are seriously beautiful. Crystal clear water, no cars, no motorbikes – only horse-and-cart and bicycles.
There are two sides to the island, the backpacker side, and the “five star” side. Try and find somewhere to stay in between the two for a balanced experience.
Head to the night market and eat traditional Baliese foods – bonus points if you find the guy who makes Nutella pancakes!
Develop gills from all of the snorkeling you will do! Find the sunken motorbike and have sunset cocktails by the swing!
I’ve left so much off this list, these are just the highlights. The rest, well… you have to find for yourself! But I advise you to keep an open mind, pack very light, be careful on the motorbikes and never plan more than three days ahead at a time – this means finding accommodations along the way.
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