Set amongst misty mountains and surrounded by gentle swirls of rice terraces, Ubud is one of those rare places where days have a way of turning into weeks, and weeks slowly become months. Breathe into the rhythm of the city and your time will soon become filled with rose petal baths, morning yoga and strolls under the shade of coconut trees.
Ubud’s spirit is an an eclectic mix of the Balinese culture influenced by years of Dutch colonialism which gave rise to the vibrant arts scene that Ubud is famous for today- placing it in the centre of Bali’s cultural heart with dozens of art studios sprinkled across the town. Ubud’s cultural spirit cultivated by the town’s creative community goes hand in hand with its status as a spirituality and wellness centre. While there’s no denying that the fascination with all things spiritual is largely influenced by the success of Eat, Pray, Love that got curious travellers flocking to Ubud in the hopes of recreating Elizabeth Gilbert’s spiritual journey, the town’s status as Bali’s wellness hub is here to stay, with a plethora of spas and healing centres popping on every street corner. Add delicious food to the mix with Ayurvedic, vegan and organic options reigning the culinary scene, and you’ll understand why Ubud is so popular amongst expats. While the choice of things to do in Ubud may be overwhelming, here’s a list of my top 4 favourite things to do to get your adventure started.
Indulge at a spa. There’s no better way to cure your jet lag and ease yourself into Ubud’s slow-paced lifestyle than by enjoying a little spa treatment. The abundance of available options is likely to get your head spinning, but if you want to enjoy a truly royal treatment, head to Zen Bali Spa just off JL. Raya Ubud. Embrace your inner Cleopatra as you soak up the milky goodness of a rose petal bath, preceded by a deep tissue massage, all this at only 200,000 IDR (approx. $15). For a very different but equally delightful experience, head to Centika Alami, one of Ubud’s oldest spas. Set amongst the rice fields and shaded by coconut trees, the open-air centre overlooks emerald-green landscapes, better suited for a fairytale than a day spa. Sip on your lemon grass tea as you enjoy Centika’s staple – an all-natural hair treatment made from aloe, fruits and tekor-tekor leaves (150,000 IDR). An absolute delight!
Embrace the natural landscape. The landscapes surrounding Ubud, dotted with shrines, rice paddies and swirly strings of rivers, make up for one of Bali’s most iconic landmarks. While the misty terraced fields of a short but indulgently scenic drive away from Ubud are considered a must-see, don’t miss out on rice paddies spread across the Eastern part of the city. To get there, walk down Jl Raja Ubud past The Ubud Palace and head towards the river. Once you see a sign pointing to Abandon Bungalow’s on your right, take the rural road going up the hill. It’s a bit of a walk from the city centre but you’re efforts will get rewarded once you’re greeted by the vibrantly green rice fields stretched for miles. If you’re feeling peckish, stop by at Kiss Me Ketut and enjoy a fresh coconut juice as you’re taking in the blissful surroundings.
Eat your heart out. Ubud is a foodie’s heaven. From innovative fusion joints catering to the expat community and local warungs serving heavenly tasting local classics for as little as 25,000IDR, to Western-style tex-mex and pizza spots, you’ll never run out of options. Ajuverdic and organic food has been taking the town by storm so if you’re in the mood for healthy munchies, look no further than The Garden Kafe at the Yoga Barn. This retreat-style yoga centre, tucked away from the busy street and hidden amongst the greenery specialises in healing vegan and organic foods.
If you’re craving a raw juice fix, this is the place! For more delicious vegan options head to Alchemy where even chocolate is guilt-free – their chocolaterie uses raw organic honey from Java and pure cocao powder, so you there’s no reason to refuse a second helping. Will Goldfarb’s Room for Desert, another nod towards Ubud’s ever growing expat community, will get your taste buds asking for more as you’re sipping on a cheeky cocktail and indulging in wonderfully presented, hand-made desserts. My favourites, however, are the tiny, family-run warungs serving traditional, local dishes. Wonderfully tasty in their simplicity, local eaters bring you closer to the Balinese culture with each delicious bite. Be sure not to miss PuSpa Warung where you can enjoy a delightful fish satay served on banana leaves for only 25,000IDR. Warung Lokal, another great local spot, serves a fabulous selection of freshly cooked curries and other local classics. The place gets busy in the evenings, giving you the chance to mingle with the local and expat crowd.
Get your yoga fix. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Ubud is nothing short of a yoga mecca amongst Bali’s spiritual seekers, so if there’s one thing you need to do before leaving the town, then it’s hopping on your scooter, rolling a yoga matt under your elbow, and heading to the nearest yoga centre. There are a lot of places to choose from, The Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive being some of the most popular options. To enjoy a truly unique experience, I recommend visiting Sharing Bali and indulging one of their yoga retreats. Sharing Bali is what dreams are made of – tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the gorgeous estate is set amongst emerald-green rice paddies where the only disturbance is the soothing sound of the stream running across the bamboo bungalows. Dreamed into life by Karen Willis, who left her highflier fashionista lifestyle in Australia to embrace a simpler life in the Bali countryside, Sharing Bali build on the concept of a simple luxury. Your stay here is bound to make your soul sing!
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