Last updated: 29th January 2023
Bali has long been on our bucket list, it’s one of the world’s dreamiest holiday destinations and we were beyond giddy to be visiting this tropical island paradise. Most people combine ‘beach and jungle’ stays, but we decided to go for just the lush jungle in the centre of Bali in Ubud – the cultural heart of Bali. We chose two luxury dreamy properties each with a private pool villa, bucket list ticks. Garth being the photographer wanted to find the best Bali photography spots, we went all over the island doing the research for you. In this post we’ll show you our top 10 most beautiful places in Bali to visit for awesome photographs.
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Bali is one of the smallest of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia. Bali is called “The Island of the Gods” because it’s Indonesia’s spiritual island for Balinese Hindus, whilst the rest of Indonesia is predominantly muslim. Bali is gorgeous, it really is a tropical island paradise famous for its rice fields, temples, volcanic mountains, waterfalls and laid back beach resorts. The island is quite small and takes about 3 hours to get from one side to the other. It’s really popular with backpackers and Aussies because of it’s close proximity to Australia. We couldn’t wait to explore the island.
Top 10 Most Beautiful Places In Bali To Photograph
1. Tegallalang Rice Terrace
There are so many photo opportunities to be had at the dramatic Tegallalang Rice Terraces located a little north of Ubud. These stunning terraces seem to stretch for miles and look and feel exotic and made us realise we were a long way from home. Garth couldn’t wait to get his camera out to capture some cool photos. To this day farmers still use an ancient water management system called ‘subak’ which dates back to the 9th century. UNESCO recognised this and have it listed. Bali’s volcanic earth is extremely fertile, and the monsoon rain ensures most of the land is ideal for growing rice.
Our guide Gede explained how the community comes together to work in the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. It’s actually made up of 5 rice terraces, but the government takes all the ticket money and gives nothing back to the farmers. So we’d recommend the Abian Desa Rice Terrace at the far end of Tegallalang, which is just as good, if not better because half of the ticket money goes to the community and the other half to the government.
It costs a 10,000 IDR (60p) donation to enter or you can take in a free view from one of the many cafes at the top of the hill. It’s become quite touristy since Instagram made it famous, especially the iconic swings here. It’s a must visit for your first time in Bali. There are also other swings and zip lines to enjoy. Be prepared for people, so you need to get here before the crowds arrive at 9am and for the best photographs go at sunrise or sunset for the best light. Also be prepared for your shoes to get wet and muddy.
As you drive through Ubud to Tegallalang you’ll notice kites in the sky that look like hawks or something, they act like British scarecrows to scare birds from the crops.
2. Lempuyang Temple
Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang temple, also called “Lempuyang Temple” or “The Gates of Heaven” has to be the most famous photo spot in Bali and for good reason. This is the oldest Hindu temple in Bali located in a remote part of the island perched at the top of Mount Lempuyang, 1,175 metres above sea level. It’s one of Bali’s 9 most sacred ‘directional temples’ which have protected the island from evil spirts for centuries.
Lempuyang Temple has two photogenic stone dragon staircase gates. On a good day they perfectly frame the volcanic peak of Mount Agung as a backdrop. They are considered very spiritual and represent “the entrance from the outer world to serenity”. When you arrive you’re given a number and have to wait in turn to get THAT famous Insta photo, Apparently you can wait up to 4 hours, fortunately we only 2.5 hours. We arrived at 8.15am and our photos were taken at 10.50am after a cheeky swap of ticket by our guide, otherwise we probably would have had to wait another hour. To give you an idea our ticket number was 103 (then 85) when we arrived it was just number 21.
To pass the time if you like people watching and let’s face it who doesn’t, this is great for you. Our advice would be watch people’s poses and steal ideas from the best ones. Then practice your poses as you only get 1 minute to do your photographs. Pass some more time by visiting the rest of the temple complex. Be sure to photograph the impressive 3 towering dragon staircases that lead to the inner sanctum of the Pura Penataran Agung Lempuyang. You can walk up the outer stairs but not the middle, and tourists are not allowed inside when you reach the top.
When it’s your showtime, 2 guys at the centre of the courtyard take the photographs and videos you want so give them a small tip 10,000 IDR (60p). You might think from seeing this place on Instagram there is water infront of the gates, but it’s an illusion achieved with a black tile. You get 1 minute and every few seconds someone shouts “next pose!”.
To visit Lempuyang Temple will cost you 90,000 IDR (£5.30) for 2 which includes the shuttle bus to the top from the car park. Once you reach the top it’s another 110,000 IDR (£6.45) for 2 temple tickets. At this point you’ll be given a number for your photo and a choice of sarong to wear which are required to access the temple. Or you can bring your own and you must also cover your shoulders. We left Ubud at 6am with our guide and arrived at 8am. He told us to in order to beat the crowds some people arrive to queue at 4am and are allowed into temple at 7am.
TIP: Wear a white tee shirt. It really sets off the colours of the sarong you have to wear inside the temple.
3. Tirta Gangga Water Palace
The Tirta Gangga Water Palace used to be a royal palace until many parts were destroyed by a nearby volcanic eruption in 1963. Since then it’s been rebuilt and restored to its former glory, it has a nice atmosphere and gives you a flavour of old Bali. Be warned it’s super busy during the day like when we went. Tirta Gangga is named after the sacred River Ganges – the same river we floated our way down to Varanasi in India. The water here is considered sacred and comes from a natural spring, making it a place of pilgrimage for Balinese Hindus.
The palace is split into 3 areas each with its own tropical gardens, stunning ponds and stone sculptures of mythical creatures spouting water into pools. It was all designed in 1946 by the late King of Karangasem. We enjoyed stepping across the famous Bali Instagram stepping stones that lead to a 10 tiered centrepiece fountain. Buy a bag of fish food 5,000 IDR (30p) outside the palace to feed the huge koi carp fish in this pond, which makes for fun photographs. When you’re done wandering around the grounds you can go bathing in a separate pond without the fish, which costs an additional 10,000 IDR (60p). Sadly for Phil (who loves swimming) it was closed on the day we visited.
Tirta Gangga is one of the most iconic sights of Bali you don’t want to miss, it’s about 2 hours from Ubud. The entrance ticket costs 50,000 IDR (£3) per person. It’s open Monday to Sunday, from 8am to 5pm. Go early to avoid any crowds and have the place to yourself otherwise it will be packed like when we went at 11am.
Be sure to ask your guide to stop off at a viewpoint on the main road very close to Tirta Gangga to see some stunning rice paddy terraces.
4. Tirta Empul Temple
Located in the village of Manukaya, about a 30 minute drive from Ubud is the Tirta Empul Temple. It’s one of Bali’s most important water temples which dates back to 969AD. You’ll need to respect local customs and wear a sarong to enter which costs 15,000 IDR (90p) per person including the sarong hire.
Tirta Empul means ‘holy water spring’ a reference to the natural spring that’s located within the temple, which we could see bubbling away in a large pool. We started by exploring the temple complex with its 3 courtyards. We witnessed a prayer ceremony in the temple courtyard, which at first we thought we shouldn’t be watching. But our guide Gede said it’s absolutely fine to observe the locals, it’s a fascinating insight into Bali culture.
Balinese Hindus come here to pray and perform a water purification ritual in the large rectangular pool using the holy healing water that gushes out of 13 elaborately sculpted sprouts. At first we thought it was only for pilgrims and devotees but our guide, Gede encouraged us to participate, just like many visitors do. Phil decided to do the water ceremony, talking about his experience, he says:
“As I walked into the water it wasn’t too cold, our guide said it’s best later in the day to let it warm up a bit – which is a top tip, don’t come here first thing in the morning! I would say I didn’t felt enlightened but it was very refreshing. The pebbles in the bottom of the water are very hard on your feet so moving along the spouts is difficult. I hired a green sarong for 10,000 IDR (60p) that you can get wet, there is an open plan changing room with little privacy but no one is too bothered. You can also hire a locker 15,000 IDR (90p) to keep your things safe while you bathe. Make sure you do the water purification last as you’re not allowed to drip water in the temple’s courtyards.”
5. The Handara Gate
Another beautiful place to photograph in Bali is the Handara Gate. This was one of our favourite photo spots and really easy to find as it’s literally off a main road so you’ll see it straight away. It has an awesome backdrop of mountains and a lush jungle behind the stone entrance gates covered in tiny ferns. It might look ancient but the Handara Gate was actually built in 1976 in a traditional Balinese style as the entrance to the Handara Resort and Golf Course.
It cost us 30,000 IDR (£1.60) to take a few photos here and expect to queue for a little while, but nothing like the wait at the Lempuyang Temple, just 5-10 minutes. There is a guy here to take photos and videos with your camera or iPhone, we tipped him 10,000 IDR (60p). If you’ve brought your drone it costs an extra 100,000 IDR (£5.90) for a drone permit. As always try get here an hour after sunrise for the best light to photograph. The Handara Gate is located in the North of the island, 1.5 hours from Ubud.
6. Jatiluwih Rice Terrace
The Jatiluwih Rice Terrace, located in north west Bali, is 2 hours from Ubud is one of the most beautiful places in Bali to photograph because the panoramic landscape views here are just breathtaking. This is largest and most picturesque expanse of these stair-like rice fields you’ll find in Bali, covering approximately 2.5 square miles across the Batukaru mountain range. The terraces look immaculately maintained and probably no different to how they looked back in the 9th century when this ingenious water irrigation method was invented. Rice fields are more commonly know as paddy fields here which comes from the Malay word for unhusked rice called ‘padi’. The rice is usually planted in February and harvested in July.
Jatiluwih is easily one of Bali’s most scenic views and best seen from the vantage point at the top of the village. Where there are some restaurants lining the small road that overlook the rice terraces with super views. We stopped at Warung Dhea where we ate a buffet lunch along with nice ice cold Bintang beers for 100,000 IDR each (£6).
The Jatiluwih Rice Terrace feels authentic because it is, and not too touristy like the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. You can go mountain biking here or explore on foot by following one of the 5 hiking trails along the rice fields which vary from 1 hour to 4 hours. We took the red 1 hour walking route which offers elevated and magical views on a decent path and up close views right next to the rice. On our way back we got caught in torrential rain storm, the locals were saying the rain should come a month later in October, but it’s happening earlier … perhaps another sign of climate change?
The entrance fee of 40,000 IDR (£2.35) per person goes to the local community and supports the cleanliness of the park. To fly a drone it’s an additional 250,000 IDR (£15). Jatiluwih Rice Terrace is open from 8.30am to 6pm.
7. Pura Taman Saraswati Temple
The Pura Taman Saraswati temple, also known as ‘The Ubud Water Palace’ is located right in the centre of Ubud, so it’s very easy to access. This Balinese Hindu temple is dedicated to the goddess of learning and knowledge, Saraswati. It’s a very beautiful place and the famous lotus pond which surrounds the water palace offers lots of photographic opportunities. You don’t need a sarong to enter the water garden you must wear a sarong and cover your shoulders, if you want to go inside the temple. If you don’t have one you can rent one outside.
This is a must visit place if you’re staying in Ubud and there is no entrance fee, but it’s always good to leave a small donation to help with their maintenance.
8. Tanah Lot Temple
One of the most unique temples in Bali is Pura Tanah Lot. Famous for its dramatic offshore setting on a little rocky island. It’s accessible most of the day when the tide is low where you can simply walk across the rocky causeway to explore the temple. We decided to just view it from the outside.
It’s a stunning little island, which is why it’s on our list of most beautiful places in Bali to photograph. Situated on the west coast of Bali, Tanah Lot boasts some dreamy sunsets over the ocean, so get your cameras ready! It’s open daily from 7am to 7pm and costs 125,000 IDR (£7.35) for 2 people to enter the large costal complex.
We stopped off at Galang Sunset one of the many bars and restaurants that line the cliff edge, which have incredible views over Tanah Lot, especially for sunset. Go to the furtherest away bar like Galang Sunset to get photographs of the sun setting right behind the island temple. We waited till the sun went down but sadly it was a little too cloudy so it wasn’t spectacular for us, but the whole sky turned an amazing hue of orange and pink.
9. Floating Breakfast at The Hanging Gardens of Bali
You can order Balinese floating breakfast at most hotels and they make the perfect photographic souvenir to take home or make your friends jealous on social media. One of the most beautiful backdrops in Bali for a floating breakfast photo shoot is at the Hanging Gardens of Bali located in Ubud. Their private pool villa suite which we stayed offers a stunning jungle backdrop. For another amazing location try the Kayon Jungle Resort. Our opulent floating breakfast had so many dishes and was delicious!
10. Balinese Flower Pool at The Sankara Resort
Finally if you want something romantic and take incredible photographs then we highly recommend choosing accommodation that can offer a flower pool in Bali. It’s such an incredible experience and another huge bucket list tick, as it’s something we always wanted to do. We chose to stay at the Sankara Resort in Ubud as they said they could create our Phil and Garth logo in flowers and they sure did a beautiful job!
Thousands of flower petals created a stunning design floating on the water. It’s not cheap, but it’s well worth it for an amazing one in a lifetime experience.
It was lovely swimming against the flowers sticking to you, it feels like swimming through a soft blanket of confetti it’s a lovely sensory experience. 5 hours later the flowers and water are less delicate and have a more soup like texture.
Bali Facts, Information & Useful Advice
Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Bali Tips
- Tip #1: Beware of monkeys and dogs – if they scratch or bite they might have rabies.
- Tip #2: Watch ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (2010) with Julia Roberts before you go.
- Tip #3: Under Indonesian law, you must always carry identification with you.
- Tip #4: Don’t touch a Balinese child on their head. It’s considered a sacred part of their body.
- Tip #5: Study your hotel’s earthquake/tsunami evacuation procedure. Bali is vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Google Map Of The Most Beautiful Places In Bali To Photograph
How We Did It
- We booked flights from Manchester with Qatar Airways and booked accommodation separately for 5 nights at the Hanging Gardens of Bali, Ubud and 7 nights at The Sankara Resort in Ubud.
- We visited Bali at the end of August. The weather was mixed – cloudy, few sunny days and lots of tropical storms. The temperatures were around 30ºC, so it was always hot and humid even when it was cloudy.
- We took 3 full day tours of Bali with Gede, the Sankara Resort’s personal driver and guide, who was informative and good fun.
- When is the best time to visit Bali? April to October, the dry season.
- When is the worst time to visit Bali? November to March is the wet monsoon season. January is the wettest month.
- What is Bali famous for? Jungle clad volcanic mountains, terraced rice fields and coral reef beaches.
- Is water from the tap safe to drink? No. Don’t drink tap water in Bali, not even to brush your teeth. Loads of tourists get sick from this simple mistake.
- What language is spoken in Bali? Balinese and English is widely spoken.
- What are some basic Balinese words? Hello – selemat, please – tolong, thank you – terima kasih.