Bad Yogi City Guide: Ubud, Bali
Nestled in one of the most special places in Indonesia- Bali, especially Ubud, is world famous in the yogic and holistic lifestyle community. If the chaos of India is not your thing and you prefer jungles mixed with yoga goodness, smiling locals, easy access to Vegan food, tropical rain storms, gecko song, and temples galore then Ubud, Bali is right up your street. Ubud is a popular vacation destination for the yogis, hippies, digital nomads, and bohemian types. The statement “You’ll fall in love with mama Bali” is extremely true, I’m very well travelled and yet spending two months on this Indonesian island beats my adventures in Nepal, Morocco, and Vietnam combined!
Fun facts about Bali:
1) It consists of three islands- Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan form a small cluster of islands just a 20-30-minute boat ride from Sanur – well worth the trip if you like surfing, exploring quiet roads and lying on paradise beaches with no crowds.
2) Bali is actively volcanic with two towering peaks being far from dormant and thrill seekers can actually arrange a day trip to visit the Kintamani volcano.
3) Nyepi, a Hindu celebration observed mainly in Bali, sees the entire island fall silent, with businesses closing and even the airport shutting up shop.
This ‘Day of Silence’ is seen as an opportunity for self-reflection, and its observation is enforced by pecalang – local security officers. Beaches and streets are closed to all – including tourists, so check your dates when traveling to avoid losing a day of exploration.
4) Bali is an island of thousands of gods. Combining Hinduism with some Buddhist mythology, ancestral spirits, animism, (black) magic and indigenous deities, Balinese Hinduism has a higher than average number of gods.
This complex belief system results in an island with more than 20,000 shrines (pura) and why the locals pray with (canang sari) flower offerings daily to their home and family temples, which is also why it’s called the Island of the Gods.
Yoga Studios and Teacher Trainings
Yoga studios and yoga teacher trainings are plentiful all around Bali, Ubud is the heart of all things yoga related, much like Rishikesh is in India. Two of my favourite yoga studios that offer yoga teacher trainings too, are Sama Yoga and Intuitive Flow and both are nestled in the quieter area of Ubud called Penestanan. Sama Yoga (also nicknamed “Under the Banyan Tree”) offer an array of trainings and talks as you take in the breathtaking views of the jungle in the outdoor yoga shala. A small community of teachers live here and this is also home base for The Be Woman Project which focuses heavily on women’s health, women circle trainings, vedantic teachings based on Hindu goddess archetypes and sharing circles. Intuitive Flow is a small yoga studio, comprising of only one upstairs, loft-like space, giving you gorgeous rooftop panoramic views of the jungle as you practice your flow. There is also a shop below selling an assortment of clothing, mats, music and more.
Radiantly Alive and The Yoga Barn are both situated in Ubud’s town centre. Both offer numerous yoga classes from vinyasa to restorative, Kirtan to gong baths. Radiantly Alive has their own Vegan cafe and offerings such as Craniosacral therapy, astrology and spiritual counseling whilst The Yoga Barn has its own wellness centre and Ayurvedic Spa!
Eat & Drink
Ubud is a paradise for Vegans with plentiful restaurants and cafes to explore. What I love about Ubud, Bali when it comes to food is, that you have a million options to choose from: local warungs, food market, street stalls, trendy hipster restaurants and fancy dining places. Where to eat in Ubud was never that difficult! It is a real paradise for foodies!
These particular favourites are situated away from the tourist trap of the town centre.
Alchemy-is the Island’s first 100% raw, organic and vegan restaurant. It was established as a place for transformation in 2011 by a group of conscious, creative, live food enthusiasts. From the simple lines of the decor, to the gorgeous varied food, to the welcoming staff! This place is perfect!
Akasha Restaurant-The restaurant itself is stunningly beautiful with bamboo architecture, comfortable blue couches, dream catchers swaying in the gentle breeze and overlooking a green rice paddy. Serving Vegetarian, Vegan and raw Vegan options. This place is a dream visit.
Yellow Flower Cafe-Situated in Penestanan and a short walk from Alchemy, yet tucked away down a quaint pathway, this is a hidden gem in Ubud. The price of the food is very reasonable, they also welcome you with freshly made flower essence water. Suitable for those of you who need tranquility while in Ubud, and breathe fresh air in the countryside in the morning.
Moksa Restaurant-located in Sayan-Ubud in a breezy grove overlooking their vast gardens and rice fields beyond. Adjacent to Penestanan village, and a quiet stone’s throw from the bustle of downtown Ubud. This restaurant is 100% plant based with a huge permaculture garden and small yoga studio at the back for hire. A small farmers market is ran on Sundays.
Lala & Lili– With so many Ubud cafes trying to be as modern as possible with decor as well as food, Lalla Lilli is set in the quietest of small lanes that run along narrow paths behind the main Penestanan road that is full of noisy traffic. You can sit here and listen to the ducks and frogs in the Lily pond surrounding the cafe while you eat. The food is traditional local Balinese, good sized servings. It seems to be open for long hours from early morning til later at night.
Ting Tings-Situated opposite a temple and close to Sama Yoga, on the outside peering into the restaurant it has a cute boho vibe. Upstairs is an inviting terrace, comfortable bench seats and an overall warm atmosphere. Prices are really reasonable with plentiful options for traditional Balinese cuisine, vegetarian and vegan options as well as the usual “western” foods like burgers and chips. Loved the shabby chic decor and friendly staff here.
Where to stay
When it comes to Ubud accommodation, this is a town where you get a lot for your money. While there are a few larger hotels out of town (including luxury brands Viceroy and Four Seasons), the majority in the town centre are small guesthouses, villas, B&Bs and Homestays.
Many have pools, great facilities and include breakfast. To be honest, I was surprised that there were so many Ubud hotels with private pools – it really is an amazing place for value!
In Da Lodge– is an excellent choice for travellers visiting Ubud, offering a budget friendly environment alongside many helpful amenities designed to enhance your stay. Good value for money, nice spacious rooms, includes a swimming pool and bar.
Gerebig Bungalows-Close to Alchemy and Intuitive Flow yoga studios and only a 10 minute walk (or 5 minute scooter ride) to Ubud town centre. Gerebig Bungalows are at the heart of all you need during your stay. Ran by a lovely Balinese family and very friendly staff, the Bungalows are styled like traditional Balinese huts surrounded by jungle and gardens. This is a lovely piece of paradise in Ubud.
Lala & Lili Homestay-These homes are set in a tranquil oasis in a tropical paradise, surrounded by beautiful rice paddie. Situated in the quiet village of Penestanan, near the Campuhan River and within walking distance to the main town of Ubud.
Ubud is a popular town rich in culture, creativity and natural beauty in the center of Bali. The area has become popular because of its surrounding rice fields like Tegalalang, countless waterfalls, yoga retreats or to hike up Mount Batur. Everyone spends their time in Ubud differently. While one prefers to stay out of the city in a retreat another will go restaurant hopping or explore the surrounding nature. Others visit to experience the culture, spirituality and lifestyle. Some visit to learn traditional skills and the arts or volunteer. There’s plenty to do and see.
You can visit the Sarasvati temple, monkey forest and Ubud central markets in one day. The Sarasvati temple is on the main road of central Ubud, as are the markets. The monkey forest is a slight detour and well worth the visit but they are cheeky so pack your bag wisely and securely! A friend of mine had her bag snatched and wallet dropped down a well by a mischievous monkey!
Tegallalang rice fields– A very popular tourist destination and can be over crowded however still worth the visit to experience authentic rice paddy fields and for a small price you can have a go on the terrace swings that hang from palm trees. Cafes, restaurants and stalls are plentiful too. Spend about an hour here before moving on to another place to explore.
Gunung Kawi– With its extraordinary, pre-Hindu candi temple complex Tampaksiring still breathes the atmosphere of ancient legends and long lost tales of forgotten Balinese kings who lived in an obscure but important period of Balinese history. The term candi refers to the abode of Candika, Goddess of Death, and consort of Lord Siva. The rock-hewn candis are a wholly Balinese phenomenon, unknown elsewhere in the world. Walking around this complex and you are transported to an ancient world, the temples are slowly becoming part of the earth.
Holy Spring water temple– Tirta Empul, Bali, is one of the largest and busiest water temples in Indonesia. The temple was founded in 926 A.D. and is dedicated to Vishnu, who is the Hindu god of water. The name of the temple actually means ‘holy water spring’ in Balinese. The Jaba Tengah is the most famous part of Tirta Empul temple. This section contains the two purification pools. The water in the pools is believed to have magical powers and local Balinese come here to purify themselves under the 30 water spouts that feed the pools.
Tegenungan Waterfalls– Walking down nearly 200 steps, a breathtaking waterfall almost leaps out of the flora and fauna. I’ve truly never seen such a spectacular waterfall. Come here before 10am to avoid larger crowds and if you dare- skip the first ramp that takes you over the flowing water and brave the second ramp which takes you over to the other side away from any people- here you’ll get fantastic views and memorable photos.
Treat yourself to a massage, reiki, crystal healing and traditional Balinese healing from an array of Spas and Holistic centres.
I highly recommend Karsa Spa which is a unique heaven, perched in between the Balinese rice fields in the village of Bangkiang Sidem, 30 minutes walk from Ubud central or 10 minutes drive. They only use Ayurvedic and organic essential oils and the plants used for specific treatments are all locally sourced. Also, Karsa Spa is a sustainable spa: they recycle with Eco Bali, they use Bio Soap nut liquid and they are involved in encouraging waste management in the village where they are located.
Cantika Zest is also a favourite. Perched in between the little village of Penestanan Kelod, Cantika Zest in an absolute hidden gem. Ketut Jasi is the creator of the Spa, expert in plants, massages and healing since 1997. He opened Cantika with the passion for sharing plant wisdom to make people feel more connected to nature, the Earth, and to themselves.
There is no place like Ubud, Bali. This place is heaven on earth, surrounded by the lushness of jungle life, the richness of Balinese culture mixed with a dash of yoga and a sprinkle of holistic healing and you have one divine holiday fit for any Devi or Deva.
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