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How to become more than a tourist in Bali.

Allianz Travel Insurance
Thanks to our brand partner, Allianz Travel Insurance

Bali is known for beach culture, thumping nightlife, and adventure type holidays, but in reality it is so much more than that.

It’s a mecca of cultural wonders, foodie delights and breathtaking adventure activities, and being a hop-skip-and-a-jump away from Australia (around six-hours on a flight to be exact) it’s the perfect way to indulge your wanderlust without having to battle a hint of jet lag.

Bali is where I go to relax, where I go to indulge and where I like to send my friends when the circles under their eyes grow too dark and their will to live gets less and less.

Here are a few of my favourite places, hidden gems you won’t find within the pages of the popular guidebooks.

"Hidden gems you won’t find within the pages of the popular guidebooks". Image: iStock.

Eat.

If you’re looking to try some traditional Balinese cuisine, outside of the fancy resorts, you should pop into Bali Asli.

This little gourmet slice of paradise is located in the Gelumpang village, near the town of Amlapura, and the restaurant is nestled in the foothills of Mount Agung. Mount Agung itself is worth a visit; it is Bali’s most sacred mountain, surrounded by rice fields, ripe for exploration.

Bali Asli promotes the nearby townspeople who fish, farm and forage, using only locally sourced produce to create their tasty dishes. The food is cooked on wood-fired, mud brick stoves, allowing the real flavours of Bali to shine through, giving it a flavour that’s distinctly different from Australia. If you’re looking for options, try the Babi guling (suckling pig) and Lawar (a mixture of vegetables, grated coconut meat and fresh blood, yes really).

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Enjoy Balinese delicacies, such as the coconut. Image: iStock.

You can also try your hand at a cooking class, just make sure you take extensive notes, it’s a lot to take in.

If you head to Bali, you have to try a range of seafood. It’s kind of a requirement that gets checked off your passport during your return trip. In my experience, Jimbaran Seafood Cafes is the best place in Bali to enjoy grilled seafood. Here, you’ll find seventeen seafood cafes lined up and waiting for you on the white-sand beach locally known as ‘Pantai Muaya’.

FYI, this is also the place to catch some of Bali’s best sunsets, so cameras at the ready people. And leave the Instagram filters at home, these sunsets speak for themselves.

Now, I’m going to let you in on my favourite place in Bali to enjoy some drinks and try some tasty snacks.

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A travelling holiday is all about trying the cultural foods you wouldn't get at home. Image: iStock.

Located in the gorgeous Nusa Dua region is a pirate’s hideaway. Yes, you read that right.

At Pirates Bay Bali, you’ll find tree houses, a pirate ship and desert tents. Trek through the sand and you’ll find a place that captures your long forgotten imagination.

Climb up into one of the many tree houses (yes, the ladders are a bit rickety. So watch your step) and you’ll be able to relax on some cushions and ring a bell for a few –drinks to share with friends. You can also enjoy delicious food from the Pirates Bay Café & Restaurant while seated on an actual pirate ship that has been beached on the shores of this hidden Bali hotspot.

The area is also shaded with trees and the ground is covered with fine sand, so it’s perfectly safe to bring along the kids.

Explore.

Pemuteran’s Hidden Underwater Temple is a little off the grid for most travellers, but if you can find your way to this little fishing village you’ll be in for a treat.

Below the inviting blue waters lies Pemuteran’s mysterious temple (seriously, you’ll think you’ve found Atlantis).

It was constructed underwater as part of an environmental conservation programme and features 10 immense statues and a four-metre-high temple entrance-way. If you visit one underwater city in your life, make it this one.

Goa Gajah, or ‘Elephant Cave’ as it is also known, is a beautiful piece of Balinese history as well as an archaeological site of significant historical value.

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"A beautiful piece of Balinese history". Image: iStock.

It can be found right on the western edge of Bedulu Village, six kilometres out of central Ubud. Here, you can descend right down into the relic-filled courtyard and check out the rock-wall carvings, the central meditational cave as well as the bathing pools and fountains.

If you want to ditch the crowds that gather in Southern Bali, then embark towards East Bali, it’s out of the way without being a hipster paradise.

When you get to Soka Beach, you’ll need to do a double take. The beach features actual black sand and is surrounded by lush greenery.  You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into another world as you try to decipher the tangle of coral rock formations and head down into the hidden caves. Head 25 km west from Tabanan and you’ll hit Soka Beach.

Bali is known for its stunning beaches, and so it’s equally stunning lakes often get left behind. But trust me when I say they are also well worth the visit.

Relax.

Kuta is where to go if you’re looking for bright lights and raucous times. If you’re looking to relax and recharge your soul I suggest you head to Sanur instead.

It’s only around a 30-minute drive from Denpasar airport on Bali’s east coast, then you’ll land in a quiet land of seaside resorts area. It’s so quiet that a few people I know have labelled it ‘‘snore’’ rather than Sanur, but that’s part of its charm. There are cafes, quiet bars and you’ll have no trouble finding a lounge on the beach.

North Bali is a treasure trove of attractions just waiting to be discovered. An attraction not to be missed is the serene waterfall known as Git-Git, located near Singaraja.

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Git-Git is beautiful, but on a sunny day it tends to draw a crowd of locals. However, just nearby, in the village of Ambengan is another waterfall which is under the radar and just as nice.

Bali is all about relaxation, sitting by the water for endless hours without feeling guilty. Image: iStock.

The Ambengan waterfall is 100 meters tall and cascades into two crystal clear mountain pools that you can sink into. And if you’re lucky, you’ll spot some monkeys playing by the waterfalls edge.  

Speaking of swimming, the hot springs near the tiny village of Banjar, 10 km west of Lovina on Bali’s north coast, are also worth a visit. Once you make your way through the thick tropical forest, you’ll come across a cluster of large stone pools, which have been crafted into the landscaped gardens under the forest.

Step inside the hot springs enclave, follow the few well-placed signs for ‘spa and massage’ across a wooden bridge and you’ll come to a hidden spa area free of noise and commotion. The perfect place to relax. Head to Banjar village, turn-off about 10 km west of Lovina and then travel about 2 km south to Banjar. You’ll never want to leave.

Bali is a whirlwind of excitement, cocktails and shopping. But it is also brimming with culture, peace and old world charm.

You just need to know where to look.  

What are some of your favourite travel destinations and why?

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