A salty paradise for surfers, a must for party-hungry backpackers, and a hallowed hotspot for fans of Eat, Pray, Love, Bali is one of the world’s dream holiday destinations. But with crowds come complications, and the island has had its share of negative effects from over-tourism; however, that doesn’t mean you should scratch this Indonesian isle off your list. Trade in the well-trampled coastal tourism track of Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu for the green interior for a considerate and culturally clued-in adventure in Bali.
1. Dig into traditional farming
Yes, Bali’s beaches are indisputably beautiful but venture inland and you’ll find a lush agricultural landscape that makes this island one of the most innovative rice producers on earth. After first opening their doors over thirty years back, Amandari is one of the island’s original luxury hotels and has become an intrinsic part of the village of Kedewatan in which it’s based. This year, the property launched a new experience in partnership with Astungkara Way, a community-based social initiative dedicated to teaching and maintaining traditional, regenerative farming methods, including the UNESCO-recognised subak irrigation system, which dates back to the ninth century. Located just 20 minutes away in the jade-green rice paddies and community gardens of Subak Uma Lambing, this regenerative farming experience and traditional food cultivation tour provides visitors a chance to connect with the land, as well as with those working it.
2. Rise early and hike up a volcano
Made up of two concentric calderas, Mount Batur is an active volcano that last erupted in 2000, but don’t let that put you off visiting. Located around two hours from the spiritual centre of Ubud, this mountain isn’t exactly under the radar, which is why it’s best to visit at sunrise. It takes around two hours to reach the 1,717m peak, and an expert guide is highly recommended, as you’ll be starting in the dark in order to reach the summit in time for dawn. Led by local Indonesian guide Kenny Ketut, the Mount Batur Trekking tour by ToursByLocals makes for an ideal option, and includes a well-earn soak at the natural hot springs of Toya Devasya at the edge of Lake Batur, after the hike.
3. Explore the roads less travelled on two wheels
East Bali is known for its unspoiled landscape of emerald hills and glittery black sand beaches, but this area is far less visited than the beach resorts and party spots of southern Bali, making it feel truly special and wild. Explore the tropical forests of palm, rosewood, and bamboo on a low-impact, local-led cycle tour of East Bali. East Bali Bike Tours offers adventures of all levels, but the high-octane East Bali Off The Beaten Track is especially exciting with forest trails, dirt roads, and even a stretch down Mount Agung, Bali’s highest volcano, as well as the most sacred peak in Balinese Hinduism. (Unlike the rest of Indonesia, which is primarily Muslim, Balinese Hinduism is the main religion on the island.)
Some of the area’s hotels also offer bike tours: Perched on a jungle-draped clifftop above the Lombok Strait in East Bali, Amankila has a whole fleet of bicycles. One of the most popular rural routes is Budakeling to Ujung, which starts under Mount Agung in Bakadeling, passes quiet villages, and ends by the ornate Taman Soekasada Ujung, the “floating” water palace built by the King of Karangasem in 1909.
4. Take time to breathe in Balinese botany
Everywhere you go in Bali there are flowers: soft pink plumeria blossoms stud the canopy; white tuberose scents the evening air; and offerings of fiery orange marigolds can be spied at every turn. At Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Flower Gebogan Making is offered as one of the on-site activities, where gebogan — a form of offering usually made with flowers and fruits — can be created with fresh foliage like frangipani and coconut leaves, arranged atop a wooden dulang plate.
Another way to stop and smell the flowers is with a Botanical Products Workshop by Ubud local, Dewi at Ubud Botany Interactive. In this 90-minute workshop, you’ll make all-natural hibiscus shampoo, sunscreen, aloe vera body scrub, and boreh (a traditional healing balm used to improve circulation, warm the body, and even improve headaches). They will serve as perfect handmade souvenirs, packaged in palm leaves or recycled glass bottles.