Bali is home to so many gorgeous places it's hard to know where to start. From ancient Hindu temples to gorgeous tropical beaches – and much more besides – these are the stunning sights that should be on every Bali itinerary.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan
Located around 50 km north of Denpasar in the centre of the island, this incredibly beautiful temple dedicated to Dewi Danu, the Hindu goddess of water, has become an iconic Bali landmark. Its setting on a manmade island on the shores of Lake Bratan means it appears to float on the water during wet season.
Nusa Dua beach
The tourist enclave of Nusa Dua is a beach resort with a lot of comfort but not a huge amount of authentic Balinese culture. What it lacks in culture, it makes up for in beauty, with one of Bali's most gorgeous beaches right on its doorstep. Not only is Nusa Dua beach usually spotlessly clean, the water is also incredibly warm thanks to the calming effects of an offshore reef.
Perched high on a cliff top 70 metres above the Indian Ocean on Bali's southern tip, Uluwatu Temple (in Balinese, Pura Luhur Uluwatu) is one of Bali's most-visited architectural treasures. Go an hour or so before sunset for an unforgettable view across the western horizon, and carry a big stick to protect your belongings from the temple's famously light-fingered monkeys.
Jatiluwih rice terraces
A short drive from Lake Bratan, Jatiluwih is a stunningly verdant district of lush rice terraces clinging to the hillsides around Mount Batukaru. Almost entirely tourist-free, it's a gorgeous and serene place to explore, either by foot – there's a main walking trail that winds through the area, plus tributary trails between the terraces – or on an organised tour. Nearby restaurants, many with splendid terrace views, specialise in dishes incorporating the locally grown rice.
Pura Tanah Lot
Dating from the 16th century, Pura Tanah Lot is one of seven sea temples dotted around Bali's southwestern coast (Uluwatu Temple at the southern tip of the island is another). A sunset visit to this spectacular cliffside temple is one of Bali's most popular day tours – you'll have no problem getting there, but be prepared for crowds .
The cultural, spiritual and artistic heart of Bali, Ubud – a collection of fourteen interconnected villages clustered around a central market – is the antithesis of the brash beachfront party scene further south. The must-see attractions around here are almost too many to mention, but your itinerary should include Puri Saren Agung, the former palace of the kings of Ubud; the massive tomb cloisters at Gunung Kawi; and the spectacular White Herons of Petulu, a village just outside Ubud proper.
Sunrise at Mount Batur
Mount Batur is an active volcano (it last erupted 16 years ago) on the northwest side of Bali, in the wild Kintamami region. If you're looking for a memorable and unusual experience during your stay, a hike to the top of the mountain to see the sunrise should be on your list. You'll need a guide, and be prepared for an early start – 3am is normal – but the stunning 360 degree views are so worth it.
The Gili Islands
Combine your visit to the Bali mainland with a side trip to one of the three Gili Islands, jaw-droppingly beautiful tropical paradises off the northwestern coast of Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the largest, with a more developed tourist infrastructure and a wider range of accommodation, Gili Meno is an unspoilt paradise with the group's best beaches, and Gili Air, the smallest, has a strong indigenous culture and a lot of character.