Diana Soler is a Market Manager with Luxury Retreats and an expert in high-end travel, having been to 12 countries and visited more than 20 luxury villas around the world. Traveling with her husband and another couple, she recently took her first trip to Indonesia, soaking in Bali & Lombok’s culture, food, and top-notch service. With nights booked at three different top-of-the-line properties, her gang was given the Balinese luxury treatment from top to bottom… and she’s already asking to go back! We asked her to share her favorite places and top tips for first time travelers to Indonesia.
Need to Know for First-Time Visitors
First of all: Be prepared to sweat. Leave all your hair tools at home because no iron or curler will help you deal with the humidity!
Second: How beautiful the people are – I mean their souls. How they are and how they treat you. They want to have you there, they want to make you happy. They’re very thankful and I would hope that tourists would reciprocate.
Third: Drink Bintang beer! It’s delicious.
Stop 1: Canggu
Canggu is a small coastal village about 20 minutes north of Seminyak. It is developing quickly and carries plenty of high end villas along its long black sand beaches, where many expats have chosen to live or rent to other travelers. Observe the daily rhythms of Balinese village life or watch the sunset from your surfboard in Canggu.
Where to stay in Canggu: Pangi Gita
Diana’s Take: If you’re into lounging by the pool, being pampered and waited on, and feeling all the summer feels, Pangi Gita is the place for you! Diana claims that her husband doesn’t go anywhere without his portable JBL speaker, and while taking advantage of all Pangi Gita has to offer, it was “on blast, all day every day, listening to music like this,” she says as we listen to Luis Fonsi’s Despacito. She calls it the song of the summer.
Most Memorable: Diana’s group of four were pampered with traditional Balinese poolside massages, an experience so special that Diana calls it one of the highlights of the entire trip. With the soothing white noise of the river as a backdrop, local masseuses worked their magic on the group.
Unusual Tradition: At Pangi Gita, when you hear the loud but pleasant sound of a bong being struck, you know it’s time to eat. “You would think it’s disturbing – it’s not, it’s actually really nice.”
Recommended For: Couples or those with older children
Stop 2: Seminyak
A stay in the dynamic region of Seminyak will probably include designer shopping, dinners at delicious restaurants, and at least one day at a chilled out beach bar. The region is a little more westernized than the rest of the island, but it’s certainly not short on fun. At any time of day or night, the legendary Ku De Ta bar and restaurant is the place to see and be seen.
Where to Stay in Seminyak: Villa Tjitrap
Villa Tjitrap is a paradox of a home. “It’s in the middle of Seminyak, so the hustle and bustle of restaurants, shopping, the beach, everything” Diana says. Seminyak is a lively beach resort with a mix of locals and tourists and an energetic nightlife. It’s not the least bit rural. “But then as soon as you enter the gates of Tjitrap, you’re in an oasis. And you hear nothing. You’re smack in the middle of what’s happening and all the amazingness that Seminyak and Bali have to offer, but you’re in your own personal oasis. That’s what captivated all of us, we were all like ‘How the hell is this possible?’ It’s like you’re going through an invisible wall.”
Most Memorable: While staying at Tjitrap, the gang had the fortune of visiting the Ubud Monkey Forest, where around 700 monkeys roam free. Diana suggests that you do your homework before visiting as there are some basic rules you must follow. Things not to do with the monkeys include making eye contact, feeding them, and wearing loose items or clothes as they’ll grab on to you or take jewelry off of you. Diana describes them as “self-taught little robbers.” A can’t-miss experience!
New Friendships: Diana and her gang became close to Tjitrap’s villa manager, Wayan, because of his friendliness, attention to detail, and engaging stories. Diana now counts Wayan among her WhatsApp contacts and Instagram followers. “We were choked up saying goodbye to him.”
Recommended For: Multi-generational families, honeymoon or couples’ getaway
Stop 3: Lombok
Across the Lombok Strait to Bali’s east lays this lesser known island. Also known for beaches and surfing, not to mention lush forest, scenic hiking trails, and dazzling volcanoes, you will not be shortchanged visiting Lombok. Just off Lombok’s northwest tip you’ll find the mythical Gili Islands, three mini beach islands that are a destination in their own right.
Where to Stay in Lombok: Anandita
Anandita is a villa you don’t need to leave. With a private beachfront oasis, professional chef, and a meal plan with eats Diana compares to Paris cuisine, there’s no reason to go anywhere. The staff is friendly and thoughtful from the moment you arrive to your personalized welcome party. Make sure to witness staff members climb the trees and remove coconuts with only hands and feet. Anandita means bringer of happiness in ancient Sanskrit – and it totally checks out.
Most Memorable: Every year, Diana and her husband travel in April, their shared birthday month. This year, the trip fell during his birthday. So on the last night of their trip, at Anandita villa, the couple found themselves blindfolded by the staff while a birthday surprise was playing out in front of them. When they removed their blindfolds, they saw a private dinner on the beach, a live percussion band, crowns for them to wear, and handmade chairs for them to sit on.
Going the Extra Mile: These chairs were not just any handmade chairs. “They plucked the petals from a flower and glued each one into pieces that they cut themselves. It took them hours if not days to make these chairs special for us.”
Recommended For: Families celebrating a birthday