Monkeys, white herons and spicy baths may all be on your agenda should you head to Bali. Here, we’ve rounded up five bucket list adventures that you can only experience on Indonesia’s ‘Island of the Gods.’
1. Visit a Hindu temple that’s 3,000 feet off the ground.
Live out all your Indiana Jones fantasies by making a pilgrimage to Besakih, the ‘Mother Temple.’ Set thousands of feet up the volcanic slopes of Mount Agung, Besakih is the largest temple complex on the island, with 22 temples spread across parallel ridges. But unlike Indy, your trip doesn’t have to be a death-defying crusade. In fact, if you stay at a hotel such as Alila Manggis, they’ll arrange the whole adventure for you.
2. Watch thousands of white herons descend on a village at sunset.
Fear not, this is not a Hitchcock-style bird encounter. The avian flash mob is peaceful and happens every evening in the small village of Petulu, just outside Ubud. The birds return daily to roost in Petula’s trees, and because of the sheer number, some say it looks like the branches are covered in snow. As the story goes, the herons only appeared after 1965, when a failed coup led to political backlash and a massacre in the town. Many believe the birds are the souls of the deceased villagers.
3. Take a stroll through the mouth of an ancient demon.
The adventure is slightly less harrowing than it sounds, though no less spectacular. Goa Gajah (aka Elephant Cave) is a rock carving that dates back to around the 11th century. The entryway resembles a monster’s mouth (to ward off evil, naturally), and inside you’ll find a stone version of Ganesha – the elephant-headed Hindu god who inspired the cave’s name – as well as a small (but impressive) collection of phallic sculptures. Make Kayumanis Ubud hotel your home base and they’ll be sure you get to the cave and back in time for some dinnertime Balinese skewers.
4. Wander through a sacred monkey forest.
Yes, you can see monkeys scamper freely in Sri Lanka or visit a monkey farm in Costa Rica, but only in Bali will you find scores of simians playing freely among Hindu temples. The Sacred Monkey Forest hosts some 600 Balinese macaques. Buy bananas from local vendors and feed the mischievous primates right from your hand.
5. Bathe in Balinese spices.
Soothe your well-traveled muscles by covering them in pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. The spa at the Uma by Como, Ubud offers a nearly edible treatment that includes a body mask, which is made of hand-crushed rice and local spices, and an Indonesian massage. Afterward, you’ll never look at your spice rack in quite the same way.