Agung Rai Museum of Art in Bali, Indonesia

Agung Rai Museum of Art

The Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) in Ubud puts on a kecak dance—in which dozens of men make music using only their voices—at 7 p.m. at every new and full moon.

Sea View-Beach Walk: Seminyak to Tanah Lot Temple ,  Bali, Indonesia

Beach Walk: Seminyak to Tanah Lot Temple

Pack plenty of water and wear good shoes to climb over several rocky patches between the soft sand of Seminyak Beach and the stunning waterfront Hindu temple of Tanah Lot. Expect to trek for around two hours. Taxis are available to ease the way back. Stay awhile at Tanah Lot, an exquisite 16th-century temple that rises out of the sea (think of it as the Balinese version of France’s Mont Saint Michel).

Aerial View-Big Tree Farms’ Firefly Suppers ,  Bali, Indonesia

Big Tree Farms’ Firefly Suppers

Big Tree Farms’ owners Ben and Blair Ripple, who are American, sell their gourmet salt and spices to the U.S. and provide Bali’s top chefs with organic ingredients from their farms. They also host the extremely popular “Firefly Supper Series," six-course meals cooked with their own products. Torchlit tables (sometimes fireflies add to the lighting) are set under thatched-roof pavilions in midst of a coffee plantation. The frequency of these dinners depends on the demand and the Ripples’ schedule.

Food at Casa Luna Cooking School ,  Bali, Indonesia

Casa Luna Cooking School

Every Tuesday and Thursday, a knowledgeable guide from the Casa Luna Cooking School (founded by restaurateur and author Janet de Neefe) leads groups through the Ubud food market. The tour is followed by a cooking lesson taught by de Neefe, at the Honeymoon Guesthouse at Casa Luna. Classes are focused on popular Balinese dishes like fern salad and mie goring (fried noodles). There are also regular Balinese cooking classes offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

bamboo pavilion with a counter with a chef

Cooking School at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Balinese cooking is known for its unique and flavorful use of spices, and the cooking school at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan is a tasty and educational way to experience the cuisine. The cooking demonstration is held under an open-air bamboo structure, with all the ingredients prepped ahead of time. The chef and sous chefs take great pride in explaining the ingredients and the cultural significance, as many dishes come from local family recipes that have been passed down through generations.

The menu itself is varied, with both vegetarian and traditional options—we made beef skewers with root spices, fish wrapped in banana leaves with lemon basil, tomato and spices, seared tuna with raw shallots, steamed long beans and a pandan crepe with coconut filling. (The chefs are mindful about inquiring about allergies.) There is also an option to accompany the chef to the local market in the morning to pick the ingredients for the day’s meal.

The meal is then served at a simple picnic table alongside the Agung River. Bear in mind that though the food is delicious, on a sunny day the dining experience can get quite hot.

For those who can’t get enough of the Balinese cuisine, head chef Wayan Sutariawn has published a cookbook, Cherished Recipes From My Childhood. This is a collection of delicious recipes and thoughtful stories of his childhood and the Balinese culture and traditions.

This is great experience for couples, families and groups alike—though the Four Seasons Kids Club does also offers cooking classes.

Aerial View-Explore North Bali , Bali, Indonesia

Explore North Bali

An ideal exploration of the relatively serene north Bali begins from the island’s eastern shores, driving along Tabanan’s gushing rivers and lush ravines to the surprisingly cool mountain town of Bedugul, which rises more than 4,000 feet above sea level. Serene Lake Beratan fills the ancient crater of Mount Batukaru. Local people honor the goddess of the lake at Ulum Danu Bratan Temple, built on a small strip of land jutting into the lake. Visitors can ride motorized boats around the lake, parasail, go canoeing, banana boating or water skiing across the pristine surface and afterwards, pick up the region’s famous, fist-size strawberries at Candi Kuning market. A walk through tropical rainforest to see Gitgit Waterfall is a nice stop before continuing to the old town of Singaraja. On the way back (during dry season), travelers can stop for Firefly Supper, a six-course torch lit jungle banquet organized by Ben and Blair, a cute couple of expat organic farmers.

Finn’s Beach Club

Finn’s is Bali’s answer to St.-Tropez’s Club 55. The fun beach hangout gives a taste of Bali’s epic coast with sun beds and ample water sports during the day, and bonfires and sunset cocktails come evening.

Aerial View-Green School , Bali, Indonesia

Green School

Located about 20 minutes outside of Ubud, the Green School is the second act of acclaimed Canadian jeweler John Hardy and his Californian wife Cynthia, who have lived in Bali for decades. The world’s first sustainable educational institution, built entirely of bamboo, the school sprawls across 19 tropical acres. Take the daily tour of this architecturally innovative campus, including the world’s largest, freestanding bamboo structure known as Heart of School. Then harvest tapioca, lemongrass and rambutan alongside students in the perma-culture garden, milk goats (used to make the school’s organic ice cream) and enjoy a gourmet lunch made with ingredients plucked straight from the surrounding fields. Don’t leave without buying a handful of bamboo seedlings: they are distributed to local farmers who plant and grow this natural building material before selling is back to the Green School for a profit.

Exterior View-Jari Menari,  Bali, Indonesia

Jari Menari

Since Jari Menari (meaning literally ‘dancing fingers’) opened in 2001, the signature massage has earned its reputation as Bali’s best and the American owner now teaches the basic skills of her specific and effective technique. This team of all-male Indonesian therapists now shares those healing secrets during one-day workshops for up to 20 visitors, in an on-site, air-conditioned training center. The one-day program takes students through three hours of instruction in touch and technique, complimented by a workbook that lists the steps to delivering a muscle-relaxing, 25-minute massage. Teachers and students enjoy an Indonesian lunch together before the guests receive a full 90-minute massage from a Jari Menari therapist that deepens technical understanding and delivers one of the artful pleasures for which Bali is known. Beginners are welcome.

Exterior View - John Hardy Factory Tour , Bali, Indonesia

John Hardy Factory Tour

When John Hardy came to Bali to design his international jewelry collection, and ended up living there, he probably didn’t realize just how much he would add to the island’s increasingly important sustainability and eco ethos. A tour of his compound (to call it a factory doesn’t do it justice) is eye-opening not only in terms of the jewelry-making process but also how sustainability can provide both beauty and well-being (from the organic food served at lunch to the buildings’ all bamboo architecture).

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karma cleansing in Bali

Karma Cleansing

Melukat, a karma cleansing ceremony and local Hindu rite of passage, is believed to rebalance the spirit after or in anticipation of a life-changing event. Prince Ajoaes, a 10th-generation descendant of the King of Tabanan (who ruled Bali in the 16th century) performs this rite. Standing at the inky water’s edge on sparkling volcanic sand, the bearded Hindu priest seeks permission from the ocean god to cleanse. The ceremony is relaxed and fun, ending with the traditionally dressed participants feasting on grilled chicken, fresh fruit and neon-colored sweet rice cakes.

Traditional Dance at Mepantigan ,Bali, Indonesia


“Throw down to the ground” is the direct translation of Ubud’s latest cultural attraction: Mepantigan. Here, Judo, taekwondo, Brazilian capoeira, Korean self-defense, mud-wrestling, Balinese folklore and shadow puppetry are fused, and it’s fun for the whole family to watch or even participate. There is Balinese spiritual meaning behind the wet spectacle, sometimes performed in a mud pit or on the sand, to teach audiences about harmony between man, god and nature. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the action, which has performers moving quickly in fire-eating dances, imitations of Balinese shadow puppets, then mud-wrestling, all while acting out a classic Balinese love story.


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Exterior View-Mount Agung , Bali, Indonesia

Mount Agung

Local legend claims that Mount Agung, Bali’s highest peak, was created from a fragment of Mount Meru, the spiritual axis of the Hindu universe. Trekkers should make their way to the top before sunrise, then meander down towards the many spires of the 14th-century Pura Besakih (or Mother Temple), one of Bali’s most important Hindu shrines, on Agung’s southern slopes. At the bottom of Mount Agung, souvenirs are on offer from the indigenous Bali Aga village of Tenganan, famous for smoked grass baskets, lontar sacred leaf books and double ikat weaving.

Aeriol View-Sobek Bali Utama , Bali, Indonesia

Sobek Bali Utama

This company rents bikes and offers guides for jungle and village excursions, including white-water rafting, cycling and hiking.

Beach at Surf Goddess ,  Bali, Indonesia

Surf Goddess

Bali attracts its fair share of international surfers, especially to the beaches in Bukit, on the southern tip of the island. The Surf Goddess retreat combines surfing lessons with half-day yoga sessions.

People at The Yoga Barn , Bali, Indonesia

The Yoga Barn

Bali is a destination for those seeking tranquility and peace, so it comes as no surprise that it is also home to some of the best yoga studios in the world. Our favorite is the Yoga Barn, a serene retreat surrounded by rice paddies, which welcomes yogis of all levels.

Indian temple with orange walls

Ubud Palace

The residence of the royal family since the early 20th century, Ubud Palace is an expansive compound of gardens, palace buildings and temples. This lush park-like expanse is a peaceful space to relax in and admire the intricate stone carvings that ornament the architecture.

Painting at Ubud Traditional Balinese Performance Arts ,  Bali, Indonesia

Ubud Traditional Balinese Performance Arts

Among the long list of traditional Balinese arts performances around Ubud, fifty half-naked sweaty men dancing around a bonfire for the Cak Rina is the most dramatic. Catch them every full and new moon at the ARMA Museum (Jalan Pengosekan; (62) 361 976 659). Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., attend Wayang Kulit Puppet Theatre (Oka Kartini Bungalows, (62) 361 975 193). The filigreed puppets are carved from flattened water buffalo hide, and in the masterful hands of a dalang (puppeteer), they sashay across a fire-lit stage to act out Hindu epics.

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Auditorium at Ubud Writers & Readers Festival , Bali, Indonesia

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

Local restaurateur and author Janet De Neefe organizes this annual festival, launched in 2003. Each year has a different theme, with readings, special guests and lectures.

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Uluwatu Temple

Whoever picked the setting for the 11th-century sea temple of Uluwatu certainly knew how to create a dramatic backdrop; the spot perches over the edge of the cliffs with the emerald blue ocean sitting beyond. The best time to see the important religious site is at sunset, when you can also take in a traditional Kecak dance. Watch out for the cheeky monkeys, who have been known to run off with visitors’ belongings.

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