Secret Bali: off the beaten track destinations

Ilse de Roo - Bali - Best-kept travel secrets

Bali is easy to love and once you set foot on this island you will understand why so many travelers flock here. Whether weekend visitors from Australia, digital nomads or honeymooners – Bali is one of Asia’s number one tourist destinations. While the island needs tourism, the boom in recent years has had its side-effects and many mourn the loss of Bali as it used to be. 

Fortunately, there are still places in Bali where you can get away from the tourist hordes and get a taste of traditional Balinese culture and experience a relaxing island life where the days are long and nightlife is non-existent.


This is a small town based in the north of Bali, approximately 800 metres above sea level. Unlike the busy Seminyak and Kuta, Munduk is a rural village town with only a few guesthouses and B&Bs and it’s where you’ll find a traditional slice of Bali. For those looking for hidden gems in Bali that will give them an insight into island life outside of the brunch cafes and bars, this is where you’ll find it. Beyond the village town itself, you can find some truly special gems, like the Tanah Barak and Melanting waterfalls, situated just north of the town, or in the southeast there are several lakes – including Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.

Nusa Penida Island

The beautiful islands Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan are frequently visited by tourists willing to escape Bali for a day or two – but the bigger island just after these more touristy getaways, Nusa Penida is still a somewhat unexplored secret that most people haven’t even heard of. If you’re looking for a slice of untouched Bali, Nusa Penida is the place to be, this island will send you back in time.


Many people know Suluban as one of the best surfing spots in Bali but the cave surrounding the coast is a real gem if you ask me. This is one of Bali’s most unique coasts, concealed by limestone formations and only accessible via a long stairway. Obviously, this isn’t the ideal beach for sunbathing but you can sure go for a little swim and take some amazing photographs here. The coast looks like it’s ready for the next part of  “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

Melasti beach

Talking about taking amazing photographs, I just have to mention this beach. Melasti is one of the most captivating beaches of the southern coast that’s (still) largely ignored by the tourist hordes.

Visit this beach during sunset after it rains and you’ll see a spectacular improvised waterfall that appears on the cliff top falling down into the ocean. You don’t have to be a good photographer to capture an award-winning photo with such surrounding.


Amed is another charming village where you can experience relaxing island life at its finest. The best part about Amed is that it’s surrounded by 6 other villages stretched out along the coast and no busy streets. Amed has (almost) no traffic and no public transportation, so the only real way of getting around is renting a motorbike. The village is home to one of the nicest and most pristine beaches in Bali, known as the Black Beauty.

Sukawati Canyon

If you’re still not impressed by the places you read about, you’ll surely be blown away by the Sukawati Canyon. Hidden in the dense forests of Bali, the Sukawati Canyon is the ultimate adventure for visitors. To fully explore Sukawati, you’ll have to climb rocks, pass rivers, and dive deeper into the canyon. The stone walls surrounding the canyon are uniquely shaped by Mother Nature.


Sideman is about a 45 minute drive from Ubud, and of all the hidden gems in Bali, the star of this place is without a doubt the soaring Mount Agung, the island’s highest mountain. Verdant rice fields, forested hills, and the rising volcano will make you feel as if you’ve stepped out of a holiday and into an adventure. Great for finding challenging hikes, and beginner trails, as well as trying out rafting down the Telega Waja River. There are also some fantastic restaurants in this area offering sweeping views, and some truly lovely places to stay. Just make sure you check Sideman out before it becomes the next big thing

Gunung Kawi Sebatu

The lush green gardens and beautiful water complex make Gunung Kawi Sebatu one of the prettiest places of worship in Bali. Nestled at the bottom of the valley along the winding backstreets of Northern Ubud you’ll find this hidden gem.

This water temple is regularly used by the local people of the village, and has a walled fresh spring bathing area with tranquil fountains. A golden carp pond brimming with lily pads is the perfect place to stop for a moment of peace.

The Secret Gardens of Sambangan

The gardens of Sambangan hide in the most  northern part of Bali. These gardens lie off the beaten track in Bali mainly because in order to reach there you need either insane navigation skills, or to be a local or have one with you. The gardens are basically a chain of azure pools and cascading waterfalls hidden deep within the lush rainforests of Northern Bali. If you would like to explore the whole area, you would need roughly (at least) 3-4 hours of walking.

Pinggan village

Mount Batur is one of the most visited places in Bali but actually, you can get the best view of the mountain from Pinggan Village. Pinggan is an isolated village on the eastern coast of Bali where you can experience one of the most stunning views on the island- the view of the active volcano in a solitary, meditative setting.

Bhuana Sari Waterfall

I really don’t know how this waterfall remained under the radar for so long, despite being so close to some other touristy spots, such as the Lekke Lekke and the Banyu Wana Amertha Waterfall. Bhuana Sari is actually the second setting of Banyu Wana Amertha. However, most people don’t make it here, probably because they aren’t aware that another divine waterfall exists, hidden deep inside the forest.

Watching this waterfall burst out of the rocks suddenly as you’re walking in what seems to be a never-ending forest trek is a real surprise. If that’s not enough, the soothing flow of water and birds chirping in the background will surely make you feel like you’re becoming one with the surrounding nature.


Hi there, my name is Ilse and I’m a travel enthusiast. When I travel to a destination, I like to explore the non-tourists areas and stumble upon hidden places and unknown gems. Follow my personal Instagram for more about me: @ilse.roo

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