Otherwise known as the Island of the Gods, Bali has been on the travelers map for decades, but has only gained popularity on Instagram in the last few years (think floating breakfasts and inflatable unicorns), mostly due to the meteoric rise of social media. Bali is arguably the most photogenic island in the world, with lush jungle, cascading waterfalls and intricate temples galore.
When to go?
The best time to visit is between March-May and September-October, when the weather is fair and the island is not so busy. The summer months of June, July and August see an influx of tourists, whilst November through to February sees the most rain. I visited in December 2017 and saw almost 3 weeks of constant rain, leaving me stuck in my hotel room ordering GO-JEK for the entire duration of the trip.
Public transport is virtually non-existent in Bali, and so cheap train and bus journeys are out the equation. I’d therefore recommend that you hire your own vehicle (preferably a motorbike as traveling by cars in Bali can be terribly long-winded). If you’re not comfortable riding a scooter, there are plenty of taxi drivers that will be willing to take you around the island for a reasonable day rate. I use a great driver, so drop me a message and I will be happy to share his WhatsApp. Fortunately for us all, the island is fairly small, meaning photography spots are within close proximity to each other and so less driving time and more shooting time. You can also buy a SIM card with data when you arrive, so download Google Maps as you’re going to need it.
Anyway, that’s enough of the nitty gritty. Now time for what you’ve all come here for; my ultimate guide to the best photography spots in Bali.
One of the most “insta-famous” photo locations in Bali, Handara gates is actually the entrance to a golf resort (not so glamorous now, eh?). The traditional Hindu gate symbolises the entrance from the outer world to the temple, or in this case, golf course, and plays an important role in Indonesian culture, particularly in Bali, Java and Lombok. You’ll see these gates frequently in Bali, but Handara is one of my favourites to shoot due to the mountainous backdrop and piercing sunlight if you get there at the right time.
Getting there: Handara Golf Resort is on the way north to Munduk; about a 2 hour drive from Seminyak and an hour and a half from Ubud. If you’re aiming to be up there for the early morning (recommended), the traffic won’t be as bad and so it shouldn’t take you that long.
Entrance Fee: 30,000IDR.
Best time to go: Head to Handara around 30 minutes after sunrise to catch the light pouring over the hills behind for some dramatic shadows.
Photo tip: Use the long shadows to your advantage, especially if you have a model who will walk down the road for you.
PURA ULUN DANU BRATAN
Just a few minutes drive from Handara you will find Ulun Danu Bratan Temple, a temple complex on the shores of Lake Bratan in Bedugul, Central Bali. Built in the 17th Century, the temple is one of the most iconic landmarks in Bali. If you go on a clear day, the sky lights up the lake below and the reflections there are just perfect.
Getting there: Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is a 2 minute drive down the road from Handara Gates, making them the ideal sunrise combination.
Entrance fee: 50,000IDR.
Best time to go: Sunrise is undoubtedly the best time to visit the temple, as the light is good and the majority of tourists haven’t even awoken yet!
Photo tip: Find the caretaker at the temple and ask if you can take one of the outrigger paddle boats out on the lake. You’ll have to pay 100,000IDR, but the photos are so worth it.
TEGALALANG RICE TERRACES
My favourite sunrise location in Bali, Tegalalang really encompasses the beauty of the island, with the vast terraces sprawling down into the valley below. The terraces are a great place to take a morning walk, and if you can catch the light rays coming through the trees just after sunrise, you are in for a real treat!
Getting there: Tegalalang is just a 15 minute drive north of Ubud, making it an easy place to visit if you are based up there.
Entrance fee: Donation.
Best time to go: Sunrise! Always sunrise. Start early and walk over the hill in the middle of the terraces to the other side to watch the light rays piercing through the trees on a clear day. It’s also important to note that the terraces will look different at during each season. I prefer shooting just before the rice is due to be harvested, usually around March-early April and September-October.
Photo tip: There are now makeshift fences on most of the rice terraces to stop people from walking through them and instead forcing you to stick to the path. However, if you find the elderly local landowner (Wayan) and pay him (around 50,000IDR), he will move the fence so you can take photos in the terraces. You’re welcome.
Nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven, Pura Lempuyang sits opposite the almighty Mount Agung, with a perfect view of the volcano through the gates on a clear evening. The complex is actually home to seven temples, with the first being the most photogenic. This spot has become incredibly busy in recent months with the increase of social media photos taken there, so I’d recommend going out-of-season to get the most out of this experience - unless of course you enjoy being yelled at through a microphone and counted down for each pre-planned pose.
Getting there: Pura Lempuyang is located in the far East of Bali, around a 2.5 hour drive from Seminyak and Ubud.
Entrance fee: Donation.
Best time to go: Both sunrise and sunset are great for visiting the temple, but make sure you go on a clear day so you stand a chance of seeing Mount Agung in the background. Sunrise generally has less people, but sunset (in my opinion) brings the best photo opportunity.
Photo tip: If you stand slightly to the left of the gates when taking the photo, you'll be able to line up Agung centrally. By the way, Agung isn't as big as it appears in 90% of the photos you've seen on Instagram...
TUKAD CEPUNG WATERFALL
We visited Tukad Cepung for the first time 2 years ago and we were the only people there for the whole morning. Now, though it’s quite a different story, the waterfall is still worth a visit as it is so unique.
Getting there: Tukad Cepung is to the North-East of Ubud, and driving takes about an hour.
Entrance fee: 10,000IDR.
Best time to visit: Depending on the season, the light rays come through the cave roof between 09.00 - 11.00 AM. This is also the busiest time of the day for the waterfall, so be prepared to queue.
Photo tip: The rock just before the waterfall is also a great spot for photos, especially when the light rays hit it, and if, like Soph, you fall over during any hiking or climbing activity, the locals have now built a ladder to help you get up there.
Bali is home to scores of waterfalls, but Sekumpul is by far the most impressive. Located in Northern Bali, you'll have to be prepared for an early start to capture the waterfall before the tourists flock. Bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet, as getting here requires wading through a stream or two.
Getting there: Sekumpul is located in the very north of Bali, and takes around 2.5 hours by car/scooter from Ubud and Seminyak. You can tie it in quite nicely with a sunrise mission to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and Handara Gate.
Entrance fee: 20,000IDR. Drive to the main car park and don’t listen to the locals insisting you need a guide for 200,000+ IDR/pp on your way there. The official ticket price is 20,000 and you don’t need a guide, just a moderate level of fitness to climb the steps. (Of course, the locals are just trying to earn money from the tourist attraction, so if you would like a guide then go for it!)
Best time to go: As early as you can. I usually go to Sekumpul after having shot Pura Ulun Danu Bratan at sunrise, as it’s only about 45 minutes further on, so would aim to be there for around 9am.
Photo tip: Arriving early morning means you’ll be shooting in the shade, therefore the waterfall itself won't be blown out by the sun. Make sure you take a lens cloth to remove those pesky water droplets, too.
CAMPUHAN RIDGE WALK
An easy nature trek just minutes from Ubud centre, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is a perfect excursion for when the sun is rising/setting, and makes for some beautiful photos too.
Getting there: You can walk to Campuhan Ridge from Ubud town centre (approximately 10 minutes).
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: I’d recommend going for a misty sunrise or just before sunset. Good, vibrant sunrises/sunsets are few and far between in Ubud, however, so try and choose a clear day to go.
Photo tip: Send your drone up for unparalleled views of the thin ridge walk with two huge valleys sweeping down to the river below.
KARANG BOMA CLIFF
Set high above the surf of Uluwatu, this cliff is one of my favourite places to chill in the evening and watch the sunset with a beer in hand. A necessary change from the hustle and bustle of Badung, I could spend hours up here- and it helps that there are a lot of of different opportunities for photography too.
Getting there: Karang Boma Cliff is located in Uluwatu, in between Uluwatu temple and Nyang-Nyang Beach. It takes about an hour to drive from Seminyak and nearly 2 hours from Ubud.
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: The cliff is the perfect place to watch the sun set out to sea, and if you can stay through until it gets dark, it makes a great place for some blue hour/astrophotography shots.
Photo tip: Obviously the cliff is the main subject of photos here, so make sure you take a friend brave enough to stand on the edge. Also consider shooting from the cliff, with your subject just in front of you, as the coastline makes for an epic backdrop.
PANTAI KARANG KARANG
With views of Mt Agung on a clear day, Karang Karang is a popular spot in Sanur to watch the sunrise, before taking a stroll along the beach. As the tide breaks far out to sea in the mornings, the water close to the shore remains fairly still, and reflects the colourful morning sky beautifully.
Getting there: Karang Karang Beach is just off the main road in Sanur, a short 30 minute drive from Seminyak, or an hour from Ubud.
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: Head there for sunrise to shoot the reflections in all of their glory.
Photo tip: Get low to the sea with your camera to perfect the reflections. Also, check out the docked wooden fishing boats along the shoreline, which make for a fantastic subject.
KELINGKING BEACH, NUSA PENIDA
Oh Nusa Penida, the island that stole my heart on my first visit to Bali in 2016. Just a short boat ride from Sanur brings you to Nusa Penida, an island that is very much considered to be as Bali was 20 years ago. Head over to Kelingking and walk down the treacherous path to the beach below to catch the sunset.
Getting there: From Sanur, hop on the next speed boat which will get you to Penida in around 45 minutes. Speed boats run fairly regularly throughout the day. Pick up a scooter at the other end (or organise a tour beforehand) and ride to the other side of the island (approx 45 minutes).
Entrance fee: None.
Best time to go: Both early morning and late afternoon are great times to visit when the light is fairly flat. Make sure you give yourself enough time to hike back up to the top if you’re going for sunset as it can get pretty sketchy at night.
Photo tip: Drone people walking across the beach later in the afternoon, and watch their silhouettes and shadows pale in comparison to the mighty cliffs.
So there we have it- a list of my ten favourite places to shoot in Bali. Let me know in the comment section down below which blogs you’d like to see next!