Bali through the lens: How to avoid the Kuta cliché

A blogger’s guide to travelling Bali.

Bali. As one of the closest beach destinations to Australia, it’s a popular haunt for schoolies teens and Bintang bros.

But if you’ve only ventured as far as Kuta and Seminyak, you’re missing out on one of the most photographable destinations on the planet. So maybe it’s time to put down the coconut, pick up the camera and come with us on a bucket list tour of some of the quieter corners of the Island of the Gods.

Here’s our guide to photographable Bali, without a single Bintang in sight. Ok, maybe one…

Tegalalang rice terraces

Grab a bike and spend a day getting lost around Ubud. It’s the chilled out cousin of Seminyak and Kuta, high up in the hills, and favoured for those seeking yoga-flavoured serenity. But for me, Ubud was all about the picturesque landscapes and the hyper-green architecture of the rice terraces.

Top tip: Take a day trip to the Gunung Kawi carved temple. If you haven’t yet found photographable rice terraces in Ubud, you definitely will there.

Where to stay: Kupu Kupu Barong is one of the most private jungle villa compounds, with not one single private pool overlooking another, as it cascades down the valley. You also get your own private butler…

Pura Ulun Danu Beratan

Forget the crowds of the temples near Semi and Kuta, grab a driver and head out of town to the temple that’s featured on the 50,000IDR note. The water temple floats on Lake Bratan, reflected in the still water. Zen to the max.

Top tip: Make this one-day trip from your base at Ubud. It’s a good hour-and-a-half journey, so flag down a taxi and negotiate a half day rate. You’ll save money AND won’t have to book an expensive tour.

The crystal blue waters of the Gili Islands

I have been meaning to get to Gili for a very long time, and when I finally arrived last month it didn’t disappoint. Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air are a collection of three small islands near Lombok, technically (not really) Bali. A simple hop skip and a jump either to Lombok’s airport, or via boat from one of Bali’s harbours delivers you to laid back, horse-drawn cart-only heaven.

The crystal blue waters around all three islands are breathtaking – no filter required – but if you’re looking for the ultimate experience, snorkel off Meno Wall. We saw 14 wild sea turtles in less than three hours, so take a waterproof GoPro.

Top tip: Don’t miss diving off Meno Wall

Where to stay: The quieter end of the island at the retro-fantastic Le Pirate Beach Club. So instagrammable.

Sunset at the Gili swings

If the previous paragraph wasn’t enough of an incentive to head to Gili, then the Gili sea swings at sunset (or anytime, really) are possibly one of THE best island photo ops in the world. There are a couple of different ones, but for sunset, head to the swings at Ombak Sunset beach bar.

Top tip: After you grab your pics, settle in to watch the sun sink below the waves with two-for-one cocktails. It’s even more gorgeous in real life.

Ayana Resort and Spa

I realise this is a resort, but this ain’t just any resort. If you want to talk lustworthy photographable luxury, the architecturally designed Ayana infinity pool is a next-level Insta opportunity. While you’re there, head to the always-packed Rock Bar, precariously perched over the sea, for yet another dramatic sunset that your camera probably won’t do enough justice to. Order a tiki cup, because, Instagram. 

Top tip: Make an advanced booking at Rock Bar to grab a guaranteed table, and don’t wait for the lift. You can walk down the steps via another jaw-dropping infinity pool in less time than it takes to whip off your Loubs. Also, don’t wear Loubs.

Seminyak moments

Take a moment to drag yourself away from your private pool to wander the backstreets of Seminyak for some serious photo inspo. Some of my favourite Bali moments have been captured away from the shopping strip, getting lost among the tiny laneways covered in flowers, palms and the occasional curious local.

Top tip: See if you can find the obscure door to Revolver for a fresh coconut water and some of the best coffee on the island.

Where to stay: Villa Kubu for some of the biggest private pools, best service and largest living area in Seminyak. It’s a little further out, but think of all those laneway snapping ops on your way to the main drag…

The Mulia statues

Again, The Mulia is a resort, but their huge pool statues have become one of the most iconic photography opps in Bali, following its ranking as the Condé Nast Traveller #1 beach resort in the world. 

Top tip: If you can’t afford to stay at the Mulia (or its even more luxe private villas), head to the restaurant Soleil for the most instagrammable – and delicious – all you can eat Sunday brunch ever. Even better? It overlooks the iconic pool and its statues. Can anyone say champers selfie…

Bianca was a guest of Le Pirate Beach Club in Gili Trawangan, Villa Kubu in Seminyak, Ayana Resort and Spa in Uluwatu and The Mulia, Nusa Dua. See more of her photographable journey through Bali at @alphabetponymag

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