This mini-guide for short stays in Bali can be your quick reference for planning out a 2-day trip on the island. After touching down at Ngurah Rai International Airport, consider your 1st day out on the island’s southern coast, home to Bali’s famous beaches. Naturally, you’ll have most of the modern shopping, dining and nightlife in this area.

On day 2, you can head up to the highlands to explore a different side of Bali. With its mix of nature scenes and cultural highlights, Ubud is a rich central hub on the island. Admire centuries-old temples and palaces alongside modern art galleries, rice terraces, and lush valleys. Here are all the options to start planning your short trip to Bali.

  • Bali is famous for its pristine beaches, so your first day can be a full-on experience in Kuta, the closest beach to Ngurah Rai International Airport. You can enjoy sunbathing or surfing the waves at this popular coastline. Those new to surfing can sign up for lessons right on the beach. Located 35 km northwest of Kuta, Echo Beach in Canggu is another scenic surfing spot in Bali.

    Besides sand and surf, Bali attracts plenty with its majestic temples. The scenic Uluwatu Temple flanks a forest inhabited by gray long-tailed macaques, while Tanah Lot Temple is popular for its unique offshore setting and sunset backdrops. You can also visit Garuda Wisnu Kencana, a cultural park with a 121-meter-tall monument of the Hindu god Vishnu riding the mythic Garuda bird.

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    photo by wavehavenbali (CC BY 2.0) modified

  • Cool off with a refreshing drink and dig your feet into the sand, or end your day with a most memorable sunset dining experience at Kedonganan or Jimbaran. If Uluwatu Temple is part of your daytime itinerary, you can watch the sunset Kecak dance at the clifftop amphitheater.

    If you prefer a night at a bar, head for Rock Bar Bali at AYANA Resort and Spa to enjoy cocktails and tapas with views of the Indian Ocean. Get loose and party away at Bali’s liveliest nightlife areas – Legian and Seminyak are the best places to spend an evening at vibrant nightclubs, bars and lounges.

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    photo by Graham Hills (CC BY 2.0) modified

  • On your 2nd day in Bali, it’s worth traveling inward to discover the beautiful highlands. A must-visit is Ubud, where you can enjoy white-water rafting and hike through scenic green mountain ridges and terraced rice fields.

    Around 14.5 km north of central Ubud is Tirta Empul Temple, where you can see purification pools fed by natural springs. The Gunung Kawi Temple complex has towering stone shrines carved into a side of a valley, while the monkey forest sanctuary of Padangtegal is not only home to hordes of macaques but also several hidden temples.

    After all the sightseeing in the highlands, it’s time to shop for souvenirs. The Ubud Art Market is one of the town’s landmarks, with dozens of stalls selling everything from daily necessities to handicrafts. You’ll also find the art markets of Sukawati and Guwang, where you can put your bargaining skills to the test.

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  • End your last night in Bali with some of the best dining experiences in Ubud. Many restaurants and cultural spots in Bali have open stages showcasing traditional Balinese dances and gamelan orchestras. Laka Leke Restaurant serves a festive Balinese dinner accompanied by regular cultural night performances, while Ubud Royal Palace hosts cultural performances with a live gamelan orchestra from 7.30pm.  

    If you want a luxurious dining experience, you can book a table at award-winning restaurants like Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique, Locavore, and CasCades at The Viceroy Bali.

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Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler