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The Best of Ubud Bali

Ever heard of a magical Indonesian island called Bali? Chances are, you have. And if you’re into yoga, meditation or healthy living, you’ve also probably heard about a “must visit” destination called Ubud. 

When I first arrived, I liked Ubud, but I was conflicted. It felt so touristy. I wondered if I had made a mistake going there. With time, I figured out how to enjoy the best of Ubud, while also getting a taste of the “real Bali”. It took me a few days to figure this out, and this post is intended to share the best of Ubud with you, to help save you the struggle of figuring out how to fall in love with Bali… 

Rice terraces in Ubud

If you come to Ubud, these first five are my “must do, can’t miss” experiences, and then afterwards I’ll go into detail on places to eat, sleep, explore, etc., but first…

Top Five Things to Do While in Ubud

1. Take a bicycling tour with Sepeda Bali Cycling and Adventure.

I remember when someone first recommended I take a cycling tour, I scoffed at the idea once I arrived and felt the Bali heat. However, a week or so later, an ex-pat friend asked if I was keen to spend a day exploring the countryside of Bali on bike, led by a local, and I figured why not give it a go. I’m so glad I did, because it was *amazing*! If you’re at all curious about seeing the “real Bali”, this is the way to do it! Our tour took us to the luminescent Tegalalang rice terraces, then up to Mount Batur, where we had a tasty local meal to fuel us up while overlooking the majestic mountains and lake. We then entered the forest where we mountain biked past farmers’ fields, and stopped at a few various farms to learn about {luwak poo} coffee production, bamboo wind chime production, and to hydrate with a coconut water and fresh fruit pit stop before making our way to a waterfall for swimming. We finished the bicycling at the tour guides’ home where a delicious typical meal had been prepared for us. After eating we went to a black sand beach to watch the sun set, then returned back to Ubud. The authenticity and organization of this tour is unparalleled. The twin brothers who are running it are excellent ambassadors for Bali, and take great care of you along the way. Also, with this tour, you don’t need to be uber fit to participate- it’s nearly all downhill, making for easy riding. Also, don’t let the 600,000 rupiah price tag hold you back- it is worth every single penny. You can also customize the tour more to your preferences. 

Bike tour in Bali
Bike tour in Bali

2. Go to ecstatic dance at Yoga Barn on Friday night or Sunday morning…or both! 

Yoga Barn has quite the hype in Bali, but it earns it. The place is massive, attracts a good-vibe crowd, and has classes and events that are worth the price tag. However, if you can only make it to one thing, go and experience an ecstatic dance! Everyone joins together to dance their hearts out to some amazing rhythms and tunes. The beats are awesome, and it is incredibly freeing to let your body move however it wants in an atmosphere of no judgement and pure positive energy. My advice? Close your eyes, and dance how you feel. Another piece of advice? Get there early to get a ticket (the line starts about 2 hours before the event, but after you get your ticket you’re free to leave until it starts) or if you arrive and they’ve reached the 150 person limit, just stay and dance outside on the deck, and check about availability after the event starts, because sometimes people who originally got a ticket don’t actually come back to go in. If you go on a Sunday morning, do yourself a favor and go to a kundalini yoga class first (~7:30am), then line up for your ecstatic dance ticket when the class ends. It’s perfect timing, and you get to experience both an excellent yoga class, and attend an epic ecstatic dance session. Win-win. 

3. Check out the restaurant Pomegranate up in the rice fields above Ubud. 

Sure, it’s about a 20 min walk from the center of Ubud, but that’s exactly why you want to check this place out- because it’s beautifully nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The restaurant is in the middle of a rice paddy, and it is so peaceful; a perfect place to lounge and sip a traditional Balinese coffee, or to have a full on fresh and tasty meal. There are also a few artists stalls up along the path, so you can enjoy a browse of beautiful artwork in a tranquil setting along the way. 

4. Get a massage or treat yo’ self to a spa! 

When I was in Ubud, I went to a place called Pertenin and indulged in a four hand massage, followed by a coffee body scrub, a green tea body mask, and a soak in a flower bath. It was 2.5 hours of pleasure in a professional and upscale spa, all for approximately $25. After being spoiled like this, I don’t know if two hands will ever satisfy me the same way! 

Spa day in Ubud
Relaxing with a spa day in Ubud

5. Check out a fire dance or kecak performance. 

Sure, it’s touristy, but it’s really different than anything you’ve ever seen. The whole performance is set to the vocal rhythms of many men seated in a circle around a glowing fire. There are a few main characters of the show, and they all have amazing traditional costumes. Also, pay attention to the way the beautiful women move their fingers and arms as they dance- it’s almost like they’re doing a really smooth version of “the robot” as their fingers click into a new position with each “click chuck click chuck click chuck” of the men’s voices.
Now, apart from these top tips to enjoy Ubud, let me give you one solid piece of advice- get a scooter and get out of town! Whether you want to rent one yourself (they’re super cheap, about 60,000 rupiah/ day) or if you’d rather have a driver, either way, there is so much to see in the surrounding area that it makes Ubud a great base. 

My favorite driver ever is named Gede, and is an excellent tour guide and host. His whatsapp number is: +62 813 37003004 and his email is: gedetejabali@gmail.com.

 He will give you a fair price and help you customize a trip based on your interests and needs. Tell him Holly sent you. I spent a whole day with him and he was professional, fun, and informative. I only wished I had met him at the start! 

Now, allow me to give you a few pointers that will further help you to enjoy your time in Ubud. 

Where to stay?
Stay in a Homestay! 

Homestays allow you to have a peek into the traditional Balinese way of life. You will see the women making the offering baskets, canang, each day and placing them around the housing compound each morning. Each family has their own temple on their property, and if you ask some questions you can learn more about the Balinese traditions. 
I moved around a bit while in Ubud, and a few places I came across which I really liked were as follows: 

KT Kuaya Homestay: by far the nicest place, with super clean, fresh and spacious rooms, a gorgeous garden, and a lush pool fit for a queen. It includes a tasty breakfast and the family is nice, although not much for suggestions. Strong wifi. Higher end, with a minimum price tag of 250,000 Rupiah per night. 

Duana’s Homestay: located on the same property as KT Kuaya but a bit less expensive, at around 180,000 Rupiah per night, still including breakfast. The room wasn’t as pristine as Kuaya, but you are still staying in the same gorgeous garden compound, and I had a better time communicating with this family. Each morning I watched the father meticulously groom the frangipani tree and it was incredibly tranquil. Patchy wifi, but it works. 

Jati Homestay: lovely staff with decent English. Rooms have private patios overlooking lush green space and the common area is really peaceful. It’s set back off Hanoman street, so you’re right by everything, yet it’s still quiet. The owner is an artist so you will see his pieces in progress on the property. Around 180,000 Rupiah including breakfast. Strong wifi.  

Wayan’s Family Homestay: shared rooms, hostel-style. Clean and with a beautiful garden space and swimming pool, breakfast and wifi included, located off Hanoman. 
The places I have mentioned are best if you don’t have a scooter and want to be able to easily walk to the center of Ubud and around. If you have a scooter, I’d suggest staying further out of town. Although all these places are their own little reprieve from the bustling streets, the further out of Ubud you go the more tranquil life will be. 

Where to eat? 

Embrace both sides of Ubud- the local Warungs as well as the health-food influenced cafes and restaurants. 

Tasty traditional Balinese cuisine

My favorite Warung’s are:

Warung Makan Bu Rus, which teaches you not to judge a book by its cover. When you first approach it off the street it looks like a hole in the wall, but when you enter you can sit in the back garden and it’s gorgeous! If you go in the evening there is the soft glow of lanterns and candles, and typical Balinese music on a stereo. I went alone two nights in a row, and both nights ended up meeting other fabulous solo travelers over dinner. All the food is fairly priced, freshly prepared and delicious. Try the Cap Cay or GadoGado. Also, this street has beautiful temples on it, so take a stroll here during the day. 
Warung Bui Don– a new-ish restaurant that is simple, clean, affordable and delicious. Here I had my first ever bowl of Cap Cay and it changed my life. For a bowl of soup, some rice and a fresh fruit drink I paid only 35,000, and that was including a 5,000 tip for the super sweet staff. Tipping is not expected in Bali. 
Warung Popesh– tasty, affordable, authentic, and on a cute side street which is worth a wander. 

Warung Baih Baih – full of people enjoying the locals specials like Mei Goreng (fried noodles) and reasonable prices. 
And now for more western influenced restaurants: 

Kafe – all around delicious health food with hearty salads, mixed juices and a variety of coffees. Very chill place to either lounge or sit on the patio and watch the world pass by. Free wifi, but they charge for a glass of water. 

Kismet– tons of tasty options, again hearty salads, mixed juice concoctions, desserts and coffees. Free wifi. Nice sidestreet location. 
Bali Buda– Pure yum. Got the crunchy salad special two times in a row and was in love with its hearty wholesomeness. Strong coffee and a variety of juice drinks.

My all-time favorite off the beaten path place: Pomegranate Restaurant. Nestled in the rice fields about a 15-20 min walk above Ubud, it is the perfect place to feel at peace and remove yourself from the city. I didn’t eat here but all the food that surrounded me looked and smelled incredible. My traditional Balinese coffee was just what I needed to relax and recharge. 

Want to do some yoga and wellness activities?
My favorite places were Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive yoga studios. 
Yoga Barn is full of hype, but it earns it. When you go there you will most likely meet other cool, conscious travelers, and you will no doubt experience a first class yoga class or course. I went for kundalini yoga, both times on Sunday morning, and both times left me buzzing with positive energy. Another thing you absolutely must experience while in Ubud is ecstatic dance at the Yoga Barn, either Friday night or Sunday morning, or both! Get there early to get a ticket. The recent trend is to be there about 2 hours early, get a sticky note with a number (capped off at 150 people), then come back just before the dance starts to pay and get your wristband. It’s worth it. And if you don’t get in, hang around, dance on the deck outside, and see if they have open spaces about 15 minutes after the event starts. Inevitably, some people don’t show up to claim their space. 

Radiantly Alive is a gorgeous yoga studio set overlooking a lush forest. I went for a morning gentle flow session and really enjoyed the practice and the space. It’s also right up the road from Bali Buda, so indulge in a bite after your yoga, perhaps with newfound friends! 

Want to see some art? Apart from enjoying looking at all the local artisans, I’d highly recommend a visit to the Blanco Museum if you enjoy art and creativity. Artist, Antonio Blanco, was originally from Spain and married a Balinese dancer, then moved to Bali and began painting with his main subject being beautiful, bare-breasted women. The building is architecturally interesting and full of color, and the paintings often have specially designed frames to compliment the artwork. 

Into Temples? Go to Goa Gojah, the elephant cave temple! It’s just a few kilometers outside of Ubud and had a really cool, intricately carved entryway to an ancient cave temple where monks used to meditate. 

The Goa Gojah Elephant Cave entrance

Like outdoor walks? Check out the Campuhan Ridge Walk. It’s a lovely path that takes you up and out of central Ubud, walking through rice paddies and artists’ villages. Take it easy, take it in, and feel free to pause and enjoy a tasty meal or refreshing bevvy along the way. Also, take a moment and talk with the artists. Learn about their artwork. It’s a great insight into Balinese culture. 

Balinese artist with typical wooden painted eggs
There’s obviously much more to be found in Ubud, but let this serve as a starter kit to having a great time in this blissful Balinese city. 

Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Any other suggestions for Ubud? Feel free to share below!