Adventures,  Bali,  Road Less Traveled

North Bali: Escape the Crowd and Discover the Raw Beauty of Bali

With Bali’s booming tourism, North Bali is quickly becoming a sought-after destination for visitors seeking a quiet, scenic, and authentic cultural experiences when traveling to the Island of the Gods. 

It’s clear why Bali’s popularity has grown over the years and how this island in Indonesia recently ranked as the world’s best holiday destination

Bali is an ultimate travel destination that offers something to see and do for just about everyone, including incredible beaches, iconic temples, vast rice terraces, surfing hot spots, countless waterfalls, volcano trekking, and some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world.

Despite Bali’s popularity, most of north Bali has managed to remain off of the popular tourist tracks  – at least for now.  But as I recently discovered, north Bali offers so much natural, cultural, and architectural beauty waiting to be discovered.  

In this post, you will discover some of the highlights of north Bali and helpful tips to facilitate your exploration so that you can create an epic holiday for your next trip to Bali!

Things to Do in North Bali

1 – 2.  Chase Stunning Waterfalls

Ah, waterfalls!  There are SO many waterfalls in Bali, and you can easily spend a few days just exploring the mountainside and chasing waterfalls if you wanted.

If you are somewhat active on Instagram, you may have already seen several of Bali’s popular waterfalls such as Sekumpul waterfall, Gitgit waterfall, and Tukad Cepung waterfall. While these waterfalls are undoubtedly stunning, there are many others worth exploring.

The two waterfalls in north Bali that are relatively unknown yet breathtaking are Banyumala and Banyu Wana Amertha waterfalls.

1.1 Banyumala Twin Waterfalls

bali north itinerary: Banyumala Twin waterfall
The view of the twin falls

Banyumala is located in Buleleng Regency, about 1.5-hour drive from Ubud.  The best way to visit this majestic waterfall is to arrange a north Bali tour with a driver, or create your own tour package including the highlights in the region!

The waterfall is called a twin because there are two cascading falls side by side, about 40 meters tall.  The gentle waterfalls come down a rocky boulder, forming a pool at the bottom where you can go for a nice cool dip.

With the lush green jungle surrounding the twin falls, the view is simply incredible.

You will need to talk about 20 minutes from the parking lot, but I say the trek is worth it!

How to reach the waterfall:

From the car lot, you will walk about 10 minutes downhill on a paved path, then another 10-15 minutes down dirt and rocky steps.  Some of the steps are quite steep, but if you take your time and use the handrails, the steps are manageable for someone in reasonably good health.

Keep in mind that you are in high elevation in the mountains, about 1,000m above sea level.  So you may notice that you will be out of breath particularly going back uphill.   I recommend that you take your time and have plenty of water with you.

north bali: steps to get down to the Banyumana waterfall
Steep steps to get down to/up from the Banyumala Waterfall
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  • Entrance fee: IDR 15,000/person
  • Parking: IDR 5,000/car; 2,000/motorbike
  • 2 changing rooms and 1 toilet at the waterfall
  • This area can get crowded after 12:00 due to the tour schedules. I arrived around 11:00 and there were only a few other people.  At 12:00 when I was packing up to leave, about 15 people were just arriving. 

1.2  Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall

With so many breathtaking waterfalls in Bali, it’s really hard to pick the best one – but if I must, I would say Banyu Wana Amertha is my favorite.  

Why?

Because there are four waterfalls in one location AND it is one of the most underrated waterfalls in Bali (meaning you are likely to have a private viewing to yourself, although it will probably not remain this way for long). 

Many travel guides and blogs have yet to discover this hidden gem.   I spent between 08:00 – 11:30 at this special place and only crossed paths with one family the entire time!

Banyu Wana Amertha is one of the north Bali attractions you don’t want to miss!  Give yourself plenty of time here because as I mentioned, there are four waterfalls at this location and you can easily spend an entire day here being mesmerized.  

Since no words can ever do justice to how beautiful these waterfalls are, I’ll just let the photos do the talking!

north Bali: Banyu wana amerta waterfall
Waterfall #1: it is even more beautiful in person!

How to reach the waterfalls:

Once your private driver drops you off at the car lot, you will need to hike about 15-20 minutes to the first waterfall, but the hike is not too difficult.   The path mainly consists of dirt hills and small steps.

Once you reach the first waterfall, you will be blown away.  Believe me, the hike is absolutely worth it!   You will wonder how such a stunning waterfall has remained under the radar for so long!

Waterfalls #1 and #2 are located within steps of each other, and #3 and #4 are another 7-minute hike away.

north Bali: Banyu Wana Amerta waterfall #2
"Spray Waterfall" #3
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  • Entrance fee: IDR 20,000/person 
  • Parking fee: IDR 5,000/car; 2,000/motorbike
  • Toilet and changing rooms are available throughout the grounds
  • The only area you can swim is at waterfall #3, but there is no area to put down your belongings.   Due to the powerful waterfalls, the ground in the entire area was wet.   Since my camera was getting wet pretty quickly, I didn’t spend too much time at #3 except to take a few photos.
  • There was a small stand that sold drinks along the path to the waterfalls, but there was no food for sale. You may want to bring your own supply of drinks and snacks.

3.  Soak in a Natural Hot Spring

The Air Panas Banjar hot spring is natural spring water that flows into a man-made pool.  

The hot springs consist of 2 pools on 2 levels, and what I enjoyed the most is the interaction with the local community.   The hot springs are frequented by the locals in the area, and the weekends and evenings get packed with families enjoying quality time soaking in the pools.

Go take a dip in the hot springs and ease your tensions from your tours or day trips.  It’s also good fun to observe the locals and meet fellow travelers.

The bi-level hot spring at Air Panas Banjar
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  • Entrance fee: IDR 20,000/adult 10,000/child
  • Opening hours: 08:00 to 18:00
  • You can go in your bathing suit, but keep in mind that the local culture is conservative and the local people wear clothing in the pool 
  • The hot spring is milky green color, and you will notice small algae and other particles floating in the pool.  Be careful going down and up the steps of the pool because you can’t see the steps and the bottom is slimy/slippery.  
  • There are dressing rooms and toilets, as well as concession stands for beverages and snacks

4.  View the Twin Lakes

The Twin Lakes consist of Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan in Bedugul regency, high in the mountains of north Bali about 1000m above sea level. 

Off of the main mountain road on Jalan Raya Wanagiri, there are several spots you can pull over to enjoy the dramatic lake views.  But there is only ONE spot where you can get a panoramic view of both lakes, which is inevitably crowded with visitors throughout the day who stop for a few minutes to get the scenic photo.

While you can make a quick stop to get some photos of the twin lakes, you can also choose to spend a night or two exploring the highlands trekking, fishing, and kayaking around the lakes.  If you are a nature lover, you will love the off-the-beaten-path adventures offered in this area – not too many visitors take the time to immerse themselves in the beauty of this volcanic crater.

A cloudy view of Lake Tamblingan of the Twin Lakes
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According to my guide, this area always gets cloudy and misty after 12:00.   True to his word, when we arrived around 12:30, the area was already overcast, and I had poor lighting for the photos.   If you want to enjoy a clear view of the lakes for quality photos, I recommend that you attempt to arrive in the morning.

Due to the altitude, the temperature in this area gets cold during the mornings and evenings.   If you plan to spend a night here, make sure to pack appropriate clothing to stay warm and comfortable!

5.  Become Insta-famous at Ulun Danu Beratan Temple

If you are even remotely active on Instagram, you may already be familiar with this iconic Balinese temple.

The “floating” temple provides a dreamy, misty backdrop for stunning photos at sunrise and makes a popular stop for day trippers making their way to the north Bali.

The grounds surrounding the temple are beautifully manicured and you can walk around and enjoy the various angles of Ulun Danu and the many photo opportunities.

I was both lucky and unlucky on the day that I visited the Ulun Danu Temple – the water was very low, so the temple was not “floating” for that epic shot.  But, the temple was hosting a very large ceremony, and I got to experience an elaborate cultural immersion on the day of my visit.

The crisp air of the highlands, the mountains in the horizon, the glass-like waters of Lake Beratan and the serene temple grounds make this picturesque landmark a must-see as part of a north Bali tour.

Ulun Danu Beratan Temple in north Bali
The iconic Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
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  • Entrance fee: IDR 50,000/person
  • Parking fee: IDR 5,000/car and 2,000/motorbike
  • Visit the temple along with other top Insta-worthy attractions in Bali!

6.  Walk Through the Rice Terraces

When you think of Bali, you may imagine vast fields of lush green palm trees peppered around perfectly sculpted rice terraces.   

The rice terraces in Bali are indeed, beautiful – let me rephrase that – they are breathtaking, jaw-dropping, mind-blowing.   I have seen many rice terraces in Bali from touristy hot spots like Tagallalang and Jatiluwih to those in the remote village of Sidemen – but it’s impossible to get tired of these stunning sceneries.

In north Bali, the rice terraces can be found in regions called Mayong, Pupuan, and Busungbiu.  Unlike Tagallalang and Jatiluwih, however, the rice terraces in north Bali are not made into “attractions” where parking lots are provided for your convenience or entrance fees are required for viewing.     

The rice terraces in north Bali are immersed in local villages so there are no clear locations or signs.  It is difficult to find them if you are simply driving around (believe me, I found out the hard way!).  

I recommended that you hire a local guide, book a trekking tour, or ask residents in the area for exact locations.

I booked a half day hiking tour with Putu at Mayong Trekking, and I can’t recommend him enough.  For IDR 300,000/person, Putu takes you through the rural countryside of Mayong village and explain many facts about crop farming and show you the incredible sceneries through the rice terraces.

After about 2 – 2.5 hours of hiking (~4.5 km), Putu takes you back to his home where you will enjoy a homecooked meal prepared by his lovely wife, Ria. Putu and Ria spoke great English, were warm and hospitable, and were a joy to interact with.  

rice terrace in Mayong village in north Bali
The breathtaking view of Mayong village in north Bali
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  • Even though the hike is not strenuous, I would recommend that you wear sneakers. I wore flip flops, and while I survived the tour, sneakers would have been preferable in hindsight.  
  • Wear a sunscreen and bug spray.

7.  Find Your Inner Peace at Brahma Vihara Arama

Brahma Vihara Arama is known as the largest Buddhist monastery in Bali.  Since the island is primarily Hindu, it is quite rare to see any other religious monuments in Bali.

The monastery is located on a hill in north Bali and hosts a small replica of the Borobudur which is beautiful and impressive, despite being a “mini” version.   There are several buildings that you can walk through and meditate in, or you can simply admire the sculptures and intricate architectures.

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  • Entrance fee: IDR 20,000/person 
  • Since the monastery is on a hill, you need to climb quite a number of steps to reach the various buildings on the property.  It may not be optimal for those with knee or other physical impediments.
  • Proper attire is required – you can rent a sorong at the entrance

8.  Snorkel the Menjangan Island

No trip to north Bali is complete without exploring one of the most magnificent underwater worlds in Bali: the Menjangan Island.

The reef around the Menjangan Island is arguably some of the best around Bali, with vibrantly colorful corals and its various residents such as garden eels, turtles, rays, and every tropical fish imaginable!

The water is crystal clear, blue, calm, and with the mountain ranges in the background, the island is quintessential paradise.

Depending on where in north Bali you begin your snorkeling trip, you will travel on a local boat for 30-45 minutes to the Menjangan Island.   Most snorkeling packages will include two snorkeling sites around the island and lunch on the boat for about USD 60/person.

Compared to other popular snorkeling destinations around Bali (mainly Nusa islands), I found Menjangan Island to be much less crowded and thus more enjoyable.  For a hassle-free holiday, consider an all inclusive 3-day package for your next Menjangan trip.

If you don’t do anything else in north Bali, make sure Menjangan Island makes your itinerary.  You will thank me later!

view of the Menjangan island and the crystal clear waters surrounding it
The crystal clear waters surrounding the Menjangan Island...

9.  Scuba Dive and Explore Macro Heaven

If you are an experienced scuba diver and enjoy hunting for macro life, you must plan for at least a day (more recommended!) to dive Puri Jati and Secret Bay.

The unfortunate part of my north Bali trip was that I did not schedule enough days for scuba diving.  But in the mere two dives at Puri Jati, I saw a seahorse, robust ghost pipefish, ornate ghost pipefish, blue spotted stingrays, reef octopus, frogfish, nudibranchs, pufferfish, Ambon scorpionfish, flounder, stonefish, crazy-looking crabs and much more.  

But the most exciting part of my dive was that I spotted my very first mimic octopus at Puri Jati!  In case you are not a diver, it is a rare creature and a master of disguise.

The interesting part about my dive at Puri Jati was that despite all the incredible critter sightings, my local dive guide confessed to me that our dives were actually “average” for Puri Jati.   I also met other dive guests during the surface interval who claimed that Secret Bay was even better than Puri Jati.  

I have yet to explore Secret Bay myself, but you can bet that I will be back.

So if you are muck diving fan, make sure you plan for scuba diving in your north Bali itinerary!

Mo is in full scuba gear walking the shoreline to begin shore entry at north Bali
Getting ready for shore entry at Puri Jati
Check out this post for diving tips if you are planning a scuba diving trip to Bali!

10.  Honor the Historic Beji Temple

Built in the 15th century, Pura Beji is known to be one of the oldest temples in Bali.  The small complex hosts intricately carved stone temple which is an impressive work of history and art. 

If you love architecture and appreciate the remarkable details, be sure to visit Beji temple – it is by far one of the least crowded temples I have ever seen in Bali! 

Located about 30 minutes east from Lovina Beach in north Bali, Beji temple is simple to get to using the main road of Jalan A Yani through Singaraja Bali.

The Beji temple and the intricate stone carvings
Can you see the details on this intricately carved stone temple?
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  • Entrance fee: IDR 10,000/person 
  • When I visited at 09:00, it was a bad time for photography – the sun faced directly at the camera at that time.  If you are a keen photographer, it may be better to visit in the afternoon 
  • Proper attire is required – you can rent a sorong at the entrance

How to Explore North Bali

Unlike South Bali, transportations such as GoJek, Grab Taxi or Blue Bird Taxi are unavailable in north Bali.  The main ways to get around north Bali are to hire a private driver, hire a motorcycle, or create a customized day trip.

I booked a “North Bali Tour” with Bali Golden Tour from Sanur Bali in the southeast part of the island.  From the very responsive email exchange I had with Adika to friendly and accommodating driver Widi who introduced me to the beauty of north Bali, booking with Bali Golden Tour was one of the most pleasant customer service experiences I had in 4 years of living in Bali.

I had such a great time with Widi in fact that I ended up contacting Adika again for my return trip to Sanur.

For IDR 650,000 (inclusive of all entrance and parking fees), the tour is competitively and reasonably priced (I did my research ;-)), and I highly recommend Bali Golden Tour for the impeccable service they provide.

Below is the north Bali map and the attractions discussed in this post:

You may also be interested in these posts on Bali Transportation Tips and Bali Airport Taxi Guide.

Where to Stay in North Bali

While there are many accommodation options around Lovina Bali, I found Mayo Resort in Seririt to be centrally and conveniently located to all the north Bali attractions mentioned in this post.

From the beautifully manicured gardens, the variety of menu options at the resort’s Bora Bora restaurant, magnificent sunrise and sunset views, superior staff service to the spacious, modern and comfortable rooms facing the ocean, Mayo Resort is a fantastic hotel if you are looking to spend a few days on north Bali adventures.

Tucked away from the main road, the Mayo Resort is located on the beach and is a serene and peaceful retreat in north Bali.   Although you cannot enter the ocean from the property for swimming or snorkeling, the volcanic, grey sand of the north coast makes an interesting attraction and an amazing backdrop for photos during the golden hour!

My only regret is that I didn’t arrange a longer stay to enjoy the beautiful grounds of Mayo Resort, particularly the pool with a built-in dining section 🙂

Ready to Plan Your North Bali Itinerary?

I hope this post introduced you to some of Bali’s beautiful hidden gems and inspired you to explore off-the-beaten-track on your next trip to Bali. 

The north Bali attractions in this post can also be combined with Bali’s other incredible destinations to create the ultimate Bali vacation! 

If you have visited north Bali and have additional recommendations, tips or feedback, please leave a comment below!

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2 Comments

  • Dia Jin

    Mo! since I’ve only briefly visited Bali and my partner haven’t been at all. Seeing all your Indonesia posts has me so excited for some future trips. Happy to have such a pro to get insights from 🙂

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