Finding Bliss in Ubud, Bali

Bali Travel, Travel

Ubud, Bali, Indonesia: one of the most popular tourist destinations in Bali

Nestled in lush green jungles, ingrained with rich culture, a health-conscious food lover’s paradise—I couldn’t have asked for a better place to begin my Bali holi-day.

Here’s how to find your bliss and make the most out of your time in Ubud, Bali!

bali rice terrace

Things to Do in Ubud, Bali

Ubud is full of tourist attractions. I was able to squeeze in as much as I could in three days, but there are plenty of other astounding activities that can be done in this enormous city.

I recommend booking a tour of some of the popular things to see, as they include transportation and local-tour guides who enhance the experience (check with your hostel or AirBnB experiences). Other things can also just be explored on your own.

Holy Springs of Tirta Empul

Pura Tirta Empul is known for its bathing structure filled with holy spring water where Balinese Hindus go for ritual purification.

I joined hundreds of Balinese people and tourists in this holy water purification ceremony on Christmas Day. This was by far the most spiritual experience I’ve had in Southeast Asia. The experience started with changing into a traditional sarong, then standing in queue for several hours with the hundreds of people waiting to have their turns under each of the thirteen holy water fountains.

What seemed like an over-populated, touristy attraction was in fact one of the most peaceful moments I had in Bali. I silently observed the Balinese families—from babies to elderly grandparents—line up with their banana leaf offerings and bless themselves and their family members under each water fountain. I found stillness in the cold water bath while koi fish swam through my legs, surrendering to the moment and remaining present.

Once it was my turn to perform the ritual and bathe under the fountains, I set an intention as I plunged under each one. I got quiet and listened to my soul, and allowed whatever word or phrase that came up to guide me through each plunge.

By the last fountain, emotion poured over me and I was in tears as I acknowledged all of my past habits, let them go, and allowed myself the freedom to move on and manifest joy and gratitude for my future.

I’m not sure if it was the holy water, or the intentions that I set throughout the ritual, but I received a deep soul-connection, out-of-body experience that I can’t even put into words.

I stepped out of the bath feeling light and refreshed with an involuntary smile on my face and my heart that I wore throughout the rest of the day.

I absolutely recommend this process for anyone looking to go deep into themselves and purify old habits, while welcoming new manifestations into your life. 

Truly spiritual, truly incredible experience.

Price: 60k IDR ($4 USD)

pura tirta empul
Holy Springs of Tirta Empul

Tegallalang Rice Terraces

Bali is famous for its rice production, and the pictures I saw before my trip could not prepare me for the reality of the gigantic Tegallalang Rice Terraces.

Our Balinese tour guide led us to the bottom of the terraces, descending deep grassy steps, surrounded by rice paddies and tropical plants. We hiked along narrow paths up and down the terraces in the humid-Balinese weather, spotting wildlife along the way.

We stopped at a hammock that overlooked the terraces to cool down, then took some time snapping picturesque photos of the lush green scenery. I remember being entranced by a wind-chime making the most beautiful sound that echoed throughout the terraces.

The Tellegalang Rice Terraces are where you can also take a ride on the infamous “Jungle Swing”. One ticket grants you the chance to take a swing from both directions, giving you a weightless feeling of flying as you soar over the rice terraces with the warm wind breezing you along. The Balinese guys who were maneuvering the swings were easy to talk to and kept cracking jokes with me the entire time.

This tourist attraction is a little pricey but it is definitely worth the “bird-like” experience and the epic Instagram pictures that come along with it.

Price: Donation 10k IDR ($1 USD), Jungle Swing 200k IDR ($14 USD)

bali jungle swing
Swinging over the Tegallalang Rice Terraces

Coffee Plantation

There are several coffee plantations throughout Bali— another one of the island’s famous crops.

Visiting the Satria Coffee Plantation brought about a few firsts. First time trying “Avocado Coffee” (which was so damn delicious that I bought a pack to take home), and first time trying coffee made from animal shit—literally.

Bali is famous for their “Luwak Coffee”, a brew developed from the dung of a Luwak animal, after they have eaten coffee beans, partially digested them, and released them out of their back end. The coffee bean is extracted from the feces, cleaned, roasted, and whipped up into a full-bodied robust cup of coffee.

The tour included a walk around the plantation, learning the process of making regular and Luwak coffee, sitting down with the “Grandma” of the plantation and roasting coffee beans with her, then getting to taste through a flight of coffee and tea.

Some of my favorites: Avocado coffee, Luwak coffee, and Roselle Tea (all of which were vegan-friendly!)

Price: Free—Luwak Coffee 10k IDR ($1 USD)

bali coffee plantation
Sipping Luwak Coffee @ Satria Coffee Plantation

Tegenungan Waterfall

Bali is loaded with waterfalls, and the one that was included in my tour’s itinerary was the Tegenungan Waterfall.

Exploring this waterfall began with taking a hike down stone steps, deep into a canyon. Once we reached the bottom, I shuffled into my swimsuit and immediately plunged in the cool water at the base of the rushing waterfall.

This waterfall was huge, pure white, and made for a relaxing swimming area despite all of the tourists there. There’s several “nests” and other structures for photo ops around the area. I even witnessed a couple doing their wedding photos (suited up and in a wedding dress—the whole bit!)

Loved being able to witness one of Bali’s majestic waterfalls; it was the perfect, cooling end to a long day of touring Ubud.

Price: 20k IDR ($1 USD)

tegenungan waterfall bali
Tegenungan Waterfall

Sacred Monkey Forest

Located at the heart of downtown, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a vast jungle settled right in the middle of the local businesses and accommodations.

The area features several temples, trails…and hundreds of monkeys.

I’ve encountered many monkeys on my travels through Southeast Asia, but none as up-close and personal as this. They are literally crawling all around you, swinging above your head in the trees and running below your feet on the ground. I even had one jump up on my purse, bite a bead off, then finally let go as I hesitantly walked trying to get rid of my new friend.

You can spend hours walking through this sanctuary, interacting with the monkeys and wallowing in the nature.

*Tourist Tip: Be sure to take off all your jewelry, sunglasses, and tuck away your water bottles to be able to make it through without a hassle from these furry fellas.

Price: 80k IDR ($5 USD)

sacred monkey forest ubud
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary

Joged Dance Performance

I’ve recently become motivated to seek out more cultural and artistic attractions in my travels, which is why I bought into this “Joged Dance Performance” as I was walking back to my hostel after dinner one evening.

The performance was hosted in the back of the Café Lotus, on a stage in front of a stunning Balinese Temple, surrounded by two ponds filled with lily pads. This made for the perfect scene to witness my first sunset in Bali.

It began with a live musical performance from a group of Balinese men, led by an impressive flute player who stayed in tune and played throughout the entire 2-hour show. A range of Balinese instruments were played, including a set of bamboo xylophones that created the most soothing sounds.

The women dancers who trickled out in their intricate costumes, bright makeup, and dazzling jewelry moved along to the beat effortlessly. My favorite thing about this style of dance was how they moved their eyes and their fingers to the beat. Every movement was intentional, and I was completely captivated by their performance.

Could not recommend this experience more for someone looking to really encounter the ancient, artistic culture of Bali.

Price: 80k IDR ($5 USD)

joged dance bali
Joged Dance Performance

Campuhan Ridge Walk

I took a stroll through this nature walk twice, not only because of the breathtaking Bali jungle views, but because it allowed me the chance to get a workout in as well.

The Campuhan Ridge Walk is a trail that is located near downtown, (conveniently right across the street from my hostel). The entire trail is surrounded by abundant green foliage, with a steep hill and jungle huts on one side, and a deep valley with a river streaming along the bottom on the other.

The steep rolling hills allowed for a great exercise as I joined many other joggers and walkers on this gorgeous outdoor track. Fresh crisp air, the most green I’ve ever seen, and bright blue skies accompanied me along my venture through the Campuhan Ridge Walk.

It’s free, a great place to get in a little exercise, and an even better place to connect with the unreal nature that Bali has to offer.

Price: Free

Yoga Class

Bali is full of yogis and yoga studios to find your inner flow in the midst of your adventures.

Yoga Barn is one of the most popular yoga studios in Ubud—I could tell by the almost 50 people that were in the class I joined. The property is huge and features a spa, cafe, detox center, and several yoga shalas. 

Myself and three hostel pals took the Vinyasa Flow class with Marcus. The outdoor yoga shala created a perfect envrionment for the practice, free yoga matts/blocks/ blankets were provided, and the facilities had free water and showers as well. 

The 90-minute class was an intermediate/advanced level, leaving me challenged and sweating by the end.

The instructor was kind and assisted me during the practice, the other yogis were welcoming (and pretty damn impressive), and the overall energy of the place was the perfect reset from all the hustle of traveling. 

Price: 130k IDR ($9 USD)

yoga barn ubud
Yoga Barn, Ubud, Bali

Where to Eat in Ubud, Bali

Before I went to Bali, I didn’t realize the significant vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free dining scene that this island had to offer. I spent the entire trip (with the exception of 1 meal) eating vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free, had some of the best meals/desserts that I’ve ever tasted—and felt great after eating this way for eight days.

Gluten-Free Kitchen

The best eggs benedict I’ve EVER had. Smoked salmon, spinach, sweet potato and sesame patties drizzled with creamy coconut hollandaise sauce. Tons of other healthy gluten-free options to choose from on their menu, as well as detox juices. Upstairs patio to chill out and observe the town while you enjoy your meal at Gluten-Free Kitchen.

Price: 114k IDR ($8 USD)

gluten free kitchen ubud
Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict @ Gluten-Free Kitchen
seeds of life ubud
Pesto Burger & Gnocchi @ Seeds of Life

Seeds of Life

Love love loved the atmosphere at Seeds of Life. Take your shoes off at the front, floor tables with boho pillows, all-vegan menu—this place was a vibe. Went with a hostel-mate and shared the “Gorgonzola Blue Cheese Gnocchi” and “Pesto Burger with Cauliflower Buffalo Wings”.  Couldn’t help myself but try the “Raw Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake” which was a light treat to end off an amazing meal.

Price: 127k IDR ($9 USD)

My Bella by Sage

Italian restaurant suggested by one of my hostel-gals. The most Pinterest-worthy interior design. Got the “Field Pizza”—both vegan/GF—and devoured the entire thing. Def recommend My Bella by Sage for health-conscious Italian food.

Price: 100k IDR ($7 USD)

my bella by sage ubud
Field Pizza @ My Bella by Sage

Clear Cafe

Clear Cafe is one of the coolest restaurants I’ve ever been too. The front door is a huge swivel-style circle with intricate carvings, there’s a koi fishpond inside, floral messages on the stairs, and a huge pole from the top to the bottom story. 

Shared the “Tofu Summer Rolls” with the table (the tamarind dipping sauce was to-die-for). I had the vegan version of “Nasi Campur”, a traditional Indonesian dish, and the flavors of the different components were rich, bold, and left me wanting more.

Price: 112k IDR ($8 USD) 

clear cafe ubud
Tofu Summer Rolls @ Clear Cafe
clear cafe ubud
Nasi Campur @ Clear Cafe

by Cafe

The panoramic view of the rice terraces plus the incredible food options made by Cafe the perfect stop for a Christmas lunch. 

Ordered a comfort-food favorite, “Potato Pie” served with Mango Chutney, all vegan/GF of course. And the raw desserts were what really got me—snacked on the vegan “Snickers Bars” while I waited for my main course to come out!

Price: 120k IDR ($8 USD)

by cafe ubud
Potato Pie @ by Cafe
by cafe ubud
Snickers Bars @ by Cafe

Toro Sushi

If I was going to break my vegan diet-streak I was on, it was most definitely going to be for sushi (although they did have vegetarian options). 

Toro Sushi has a great location right in the center of downtown Ubud with an open concept design that gives you a view of the street while dining. The “Volcano Roll”, with an assortment of baked fish on top, and covered in eel sauce was the perfect sushi fix.

Price: 93k IDR ($6 USD)

toro sushi ubud
Volcano Roll @ Toro Sushi
gourmet gelato ubud
Gelato Flavors @ Gourmet Gelato

Gourmet Gelato

Vegan gelato and GF cones…hell yes! And they have Ferrero Rocher flavor…literally my favorite candy. I may have eaten Gourmet Gelato more than once during my time in Bali, they have the chains all over the island.

Price: 40k IDR ($3 USD)

Where to Stay in Ubud, Bali

WW backpackers Ubud
View from the Common Area @ WW Backpackers

WW Backpackers

I was originally attracted to WW Backpackers hostel because of its location. The pictures on Hostelworld showed it to be nestled in the jungle, right next to the river, and a short walk from the center of town—and that’s exactly what it was.

The dining/common area of this hostel features a breathtaking view of exuberant green jungle with the sound of the river running gently in the background. It’s such a beauty to wake up to, especially with the large window from the rooms.

The FREE breakfast isn’t just toast and an egg that you get at most hostels; there’s a menu that you can choose from with things like omelets and banana pancakes, plus your coffee or tea.

I love the stone-walled outdoor shower (the first one I’d ever been in), and there’s a river-side pool that guests can use at their sister property “Ani’s Villas” right across the street—with a cute little café-library as well!

The staff is so welcoming, always willing to chat, and helpful in booking tours. I stayed here on Christmas and they left Oreos and chocolates near our bunks with our names on it—how freaking cute!

Price: 300k for 3 nights ($21 USD)

WW backpackers ubud
Private Pool @ Ani’s Villas
WW backpackers ubud
Banana Pancake
WW backpackers ubud
Veggie Omelette

Book a bunk at WW Backpackers Hostel with Hostel World !

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