Ubud means medicine, it´s derived from the balinese word „Ubad“ and this lush green town in the mountains near the center of Bali carries this name for a reason.
It has been the spiritual and cultural center of Bali for a long time and has gained the reputation for being a mystical place, a magical and cultural place for healing where shadow and light meet.
I won’t beat around the bush, every place comes with its pros and cons and the little main street of Ubud is nowadays -especially in high season – so congested with cars and tourist busses that it´s easy to end up with a feeling of „is this really it?“ After seeing the 5th Polo store in a row you might ask yourself what the fuzz is all about but take it easy, get annoyed but keep your mind open and stick around just a bit longer. Otherwise you might miss the magic if you don’t start digging deeper.
By now the word is out not just among the locals but also the ever expanding amount of foreign tourist that transformed this once sleepy mountain village into the health and yoga Mecca that it is now. Ubud is also a great starting point to explore the volcanos and the surrounding villages that as soon as you drive for 10 minutes still feel like „old Bali“ compared to the busy and dense south of Bali. Many yogis come here to do their teacher trainings or spend some time and deepen their practice. Over the years I have to admit the most common Ubud visitor is the one that is „in between“ two stories. The end of a job and now feeling out where the journey is going to head next. A relationship that ended, a sickness, a burn out, some form of challenge. A place for the search for meaning and a potential reset button in ones life. Maybe being a place for that is the best medicine that Ubud has to offer in our contemporary lifestyle. It doesn’t mean it will be easy but you will find all the support you need to go on your own healing and inspirational journey.
Ubud has a super rich variety of amazing healthy restaurants, from raw food to vegan to local cuisine you can eat in a different place everyday without ever getting bored. The cultural variety offered here is also mind-blowing for such a small place. Cinema, live concerts, poetry session, dance courses, coffee houses will all keep you inspired. And if you ever wanted to try out „that thing“ here is your place.
Colonics therapy? You got it.
Chakra alignment therapy? Done.
Sound healing? Sure, Sundays.
Primal scream therapy? Hopefully not next door to your house.
Tantra course, astrology session, Unicorn smoothies… Wait, the last one not yet but you get the picture of what is being offered here on a continuous basis.
The magic of Ubud is not the rather touristic downtown area but lies in the little pockets surrounding Ubud. The temples and rice paddies, the bonfire by the river, the local painter doing his thing in the rice field next door, the lush green tropical forrest, Tegalanang the area just north of Ubud in which you feel like you are trapped in a fairy tale, the sound of the local Gamelan orchestra practicing, the conversation you have over a coconut with a fellow traveller.
Ubud is medicine, but only for those that come to dig deeper and take the road full of traffic as a practice to let it just pass through (inner cursing totally allowed though) and keep an open mind and an adventurous heart. You should be able to dance within the dualities of shadow and light, expectations and reality, poison and medicine on the inside as well as outside.
Ubud is a love story waiting for you, and like every good lover and healer she will show you exactly the spots where you still need to grow.
How long you stick around for that challenge is up to you but with this guide you will have all the tools to make it a special time indeed.
Ok, let’s get right into it! Yoga shalas and yoga teachers! Our three favourite yoga studios in Ubud:
We love Yoga Barn. It´s the old school giant among the yoga studios in town with countless classes and events happening each week. The community gets together on Friday evenings and Sunday mornings for the ecstatic dance to shake it loose and the healthy food in the cafe provides a great ambience to hang out with friends afterwards. It is recommended to come a bit early to the classes as they can fill up quickly and in the back it is sometimes harder to hear everything. The lush garden and overall architecture makes the studio an experience in itself.
UBUD YOGA CENTRE
This studio is the latest addition to the Ubud yoga scene and is situated in Nyuh Kuning overlooking a river with its modern contemporary architecture that differs quiet a bit from all the other studios. Also the styles of Yoga offered here differ, it is the only place where you will find Bikram Hot Yoga in town. Additionally there is Kundalini Yoga and Fly High Yoga (if you are open for a bit of an airy practice).
Situated in a small street near the down town area this studio is one of our favorites as the class sizes are not too big and not too small and some of our favorite teachers are here. From Vinyasa flow to Yin yoga you will find a variety of different classes that you can choose from. It feels homey and inspiring and when you get out of class you can just cross the street and get a fresh coconut from the local vendor or head over to Bali Buda Restaurant to recharge with a smoothie or some other healthy treats.
Clear Cafe. You made our day so many times.
“Try the tropical twister. Try the tropical twister!” It´s my mantra on repeat when i come with friends and it usually ends with having created another smoothie addict planning his next return. The interior of the place is magical, a mix of contemporary minimalism meeting indonesian craftsmanship and much love for the detail in every corner. You can even slide down from level two back to level one in a ghostbuster style pole and burn some calories among the way out. The same love for detail and richness in textures you will feel in the menu and almost every dish has some kind of interesting twist to it that will surprise you. Fish, vegan and raw go hand in hand here and will leave you inspired and at times surprised.
And yes don´t forget to try the tropical twister. Just sayin´.
Moksa is another gem in health food heaven that Ubud is. Their plant based cuisine gets an additional fresh kick from their own permaculture garden that is within the same compound. Besides eating the delicious dishes you can also learn how to make them in their culinary classes and on their farmer’s market you can take home the ingredients and their own homegrown food. Chef Made Runatha created something extraordinary here with his vast knowledge of European and Asian cuisine. He celebrates the potential of fresh ingredients and surprises you with an ongoing list of raw and heated dishes. How to make healthy food taste great? This was the main question for him and the drive for creating this restaurant. Believe me, to find the answer to that question you just have to come by and find out yourself.
This cute restaurant is perfect for a healthy dinner date, the lighting is intimate and you will find vegan variations of selected classics that will nevertheless surprise you with its tastes. The jackfruit curry is one of my favorites and the vegan chocolate cake as well. Most other desserts are simply to die for as well. You aren’t overwhelmed with options here but each dish seems to be just right, tempeh tacos and cauliflower fritas are a great combination for your first visit. There are daily specials happening so ask the waiter for it and enjoy the culinary journey. And yes, definitely leave space for dessert if you can, you will not regret it.
Jl. Nyuh Bulan no. 1, Ubud, Indonesia
+62 361 976528
If authentic Thai food is your thing then look no further. The owner makes his own proper curry pastes and brought all the delicious dishes you wish for from his native home country Thailand. The Pad Thai, Penang Curry and Tom Yam are highly recommended.
Jalan Goutama No. 7, Ubud
This lovely couple put all their love in the food and you can taste it. For only 30.000 IDR you will get an amazing variety of local vegan goodies. Tasty, healthy local food, straight from the heart at very low cost. A must try!
The elephant is another favorite in a location overlooking the campuan ridge walk and serves you high quality vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The Laksa noodle soup is another all time classic that you should try. Can fill up during peak hours so be on time or give them a ring to make sure you get a spot.
On the top of the restaurant charts for ages, this tiny little restaurant won the hearts of many, many stomachs (technically challenging but you get what I mean). The herbs and resulting taste are out of this world. Go for the curries and you will find another level of richness that you could not have imagined before. Daily menu with changing desserts are tempting too. Must call before to get a spot, it is ALWAYS full. For a reason.
Jl. Gootama No.13, Ubud
$-$$ AIR / Artist Inn Residency
Air is the shortform for Artist Inn Residency and exactly that: a space created for creatives and yogis alike to stay in an inspiring environment and create, breath, play and meet. The rooms are beautifully designed with a mixture of Berlin meets New York meets Indonesian craftsmanship with Balinese nature environment and come with huge working tables. The 6 meter tall art studio on top will take your breath away and theres a yoga deck that overlooks the bypassing river as well. Book a bit in advance as it usually books out and preference is given to guests staying longer (1 week or more) to keep the community vibe. The place is close to the down town area (10 minutes walking by foot) but in another universe of rice paddies and gets you away from the noise and crowd in the city center. Favorite place in Ubud, hands down.
$$ Roam Co-Living
This co-living space is merely 1 of 6 under the “Roam” global co-living umbrella. Other Roam spaces you can find in London, San Francisco, Miami and Madrid, all reinforcing the brand’s dedication to providing a homey vibe for meandering digital nomads and wandering entrepreneurs. The yoga studio on top will be a plus as well as the swimming pool for the hotter days. If you are working on your new project or launching a new yoga website this can be a great landing spot to have other “working” people around you. The rooms are stylish and functional and the coffee on the rooftop is on point.
$$$ BAMBOO HOUSE
This unique bamboo house is a living work of art and has been featured in New York Magazine and CBS Morning. It’s set in the river valley landscape along Bali’s sacred Ayung River. You enter the house through a giant bamboo tube and follow the network of spacey corridors and staircases into a surreal collection of luxurious floors and rooms.
The jaw dropping architecture of this house doesn’t just wow the adults, we can imagine kids tripping out in this groovy space.
Popcorn and movie, who doesn´t love this? Paradiso also does other live events but our favorite thing to do is watch a carefully curated movie. It is Ubuds self proclaimed “first vegan movie theater.” Enjoy it Ubud style with a fresh coconut, vegan goodies and maybe some raw chocolate for dessert? The entrance fee is 50.000IDR and you get a voucher over that amount when you enter that you can even use for food. So an amazing deal all together!
Check their program:
This is a great place to spend an afternoon and get a feeling of the legacy of Balinese art and enjoy the beautiful garden and architecture of this cultural pearl. Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) was established for the purpose to preserve and develop Balinese art and culture and that’s exactly what is happening here. Sometimes foreign artist join for group shows, during the Bali Spirit Festival the entire place transforms into a musical stage and you can be sure that your stay is not complete without having at least a look at the artworks here.
OPEN MIC @ BALI BOHEMIA
Bali Bohemia´s open mic night on Thursdays quickly became one of our favorite things to do. Local musicians, travellers, poets, all team up and flow through the night. You can expect pretty much anything, from gangsta rap to poetry about polyamory to improvised jazz notes. Grab a drink or a juice and enjoy the show. Great spot to meet other inspiring people and mingle among the expats and locals. For more info check their fb page:
PYRAMIDS OF CHI
What are two 14 meter high pyramids doing in the middle of Ubud? That’s usually the first question that comes up when one hears about this place. The power behind pyramid architecture has been known for a long time, these ones in Ubud are made by the creators-couple for the purpose of sound healing and breath meditation, at times for whole night sessions during full moon. No matter how much you believe in the power of triangle shapes affecting your DNA, this place is a special one and the sound journeys are a beautiful way to enter into deep, deep meditation.
BATUR LAKE AREA
If you have some time and feel comfortable with a moto, then just ride up to the volcano lake area on your own on a beautiful day. Have a stop on the way up in one of the organic coffee tasting farms you will see left and right and then enjoy the day up around the little villages near the volcano lake, explore the hidden corners and watch the local farmers and fishermen do their thing, find a quiet spot and watch the majestic volcano hovering over the surface of the lake. There´s a special atmosphere up here, air is slightly fresher (bring a jacket if you intend to stay longer) and you will find many amazing spots to have a sit and quieten the mind and take your mala for a spin.
PESIRAMAN DALEM PINGIT SEBATU
This water temple is our favorite among all of the ones in Bali, it is not filled with bus loads of tourists like the more famous Pura Tirta Empul and you have to wander down quiet a lot of stairs through a jungle pathway that then leads you to this magical place with “holy” spring water that is believed to have many healing powers. Along the pathway there are faces carved into the stone, like little spirits, hanging out on the wall and watching you enter. Green moss, green leafs, the sound of water flowing gently and if you come early enough during the day you will be all by yourself. Bring your sarong and a towel as you get wet. After receiving the water’s blessing just find a spot nearby in nature and dive inside.
Pan Mega sounds a bit like the endboss of a computer game from the 90’s, but not only did he become a close friend over the years, this guy is the endboss in your battle against neck pain and a master of deep tissue massage and intuitive healing. His sessions usually take 2 hours minimum in which you will laugh, scream, release and that sometimes all at once. It’s surely not a rub-a-dub massage with a bit of oil smearing but a very precise medical deep tissue massage that goes to your core spots where you need to release. We can’t praise him highly enough as he has been working on our own backs for years and we know out of experience how his work can change your entire energy flow. Pan will come to your house or hotel, just give him a call or write him on whatsapp and give him an extra hug. We love you Pan.
+62-81337350365 (phone & whatsapp)
RATU BAGUS BIO-ENERGY SHAKING
Ratu Bagus is known for developing the method of “Bio-Energy Shaking.”
Since Osho’s dynamic meditation the Western world knows that meditation does not always mean just standing still but rather entering a state of no-mind. Ratu is a prominent figure and has attracted people from all over the globe that join the courses and retreats in his ashram. If you are serious about shaking it loose, and feel the regular sit down meditation practice isn’t for you then we can highly recommend Ratu Bagus as a doorway.
HERBAL STEAM BATH & BONFIRE
Sun is setting. You enter the herbal steam bath and relax among other travellers humming the ommm sound. You take a cold shower and watch the dragonflies float by and the sky slowly filling up with stars while you hear the sound of the bonfire hissing and cracking and you are about to go for another round of the herbal steam bath to grab a hot tea afterwards and stare into the flames. This is you at the Dragonfly Village every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday. Thursday is silent sauna so maybe leave your kids or talkative friends at home. Magical environment!
MOUNTAIN BIKE TOUR
Our friends from Sepeda Bali (“sepeda” means bike in indonesian) have created the ultimate fun experience. They will pick you up in the morning and drive you to the top area of the volcano and you will enjoy the entire day riding down towards the ocean, along little villages you would never see, rice paddies and rivers. The views are breath taking and the feeling of slowly coming from the mountain heights into the coastal area is magical. After 6-7 hours of full power in the saddle the day ends in taking a fully deserved jump into the ocean at a beautiful white sand beach and having a BBQ (they can organize vegan options as well) with the whole crew. It’s most fun with a group of friends but if you are traveling alone you can always join one too.
GREEN SCHOOL VISIT
You might have heard about green school from the famous TED talks about the future of education and in case you haven’t go watch it HERE.
Open classrooms, organic gardens, an entire different approach to what a school can be like. The entire architecture made from bamboo and kids from all over the world learning together and reinventing together what a school can be like. If you are interested in this, then you can take a guided tour and not only witness the breathtaking bamboo architecture but also get a more detailed view of how life at the green school looks like. Tour needs to be booked a bit in advance as it usually fills up quiet quickly.
CLIMB THE BATUR VOLCANO
Ever climbed a volcano in your life to watch the sunrise? No? Well, here is your chance. You gotta wake up at 2AM and might be a bit sleepy at the beginning but trust me it is well worth every yawn once you are up there. The view across the island with the sun slowly rising lets time stand still. You are on top of the world. Colors change and shift and intertwine. Oranges, pinks, yellows, blues. The birds fly by and you are witnessing a true peak experience. The guys from Bali Trekking tour do a great job in guiding you up there.
Many nice books have been written about Bali and especially Ubud. This is is our favourite list of them:
Balians: Traditional Healers of Bali
by Bradford Keeney
A “balian” in Bali is a healer. This book is dedicated to learning all about and from them.
The book presents the male and female healers from Bali, discusses their healing practices and shares the visions that have defined their way of life. In addition, the Lontar — a sacred text consisting of etchings on dried palm leaves — is presented and its medicinal teachings are explained. Illustrated by beautiful and mystical photos and drawings and accompanied by an audio CD of traditional music and readings from the Lontar.
BALI SEKALA & NISKALA
by Fred B. Eisemann JR.
The one book you should buy if you are serious about understanding Balinese culture in its complexity and richness in rituals and meaning. Sekala (the visible) and Niskala (the occult) are both elements in Bali’s cultural life. While travelling through rural Bali you will see and experience many things that you won’t understand, this book might help you to find some answers.
Highly recommended and a must for the culturally interested traveller.
Sometimes even the locals won’t be able to explain you the meaning behind certain things but this book can and will.
Eat, Pray, Love
Know your enemy.
The book that started it all, and created a huge hype around Ubud after the book was turned into a movie with Julia Roberts as the main cast in a search for meaning and in need for change. The book that cemented the “dream” to have magical encounters in Bali for the burn-out generation. I am including this book because it really speaks for so many that end up in Ubud for the same reason, the people “in between stories”.
Elizabeth Gilbert turned thirty, has it all, gets divorced, depressed, takes a year off to travel the world alone and also ends up in Ubud. Guess what happens next?
Mainstream hit with a beautiful message though.
Yes, we know getting lost can be exciting but sometimes finding the places can be quiet a full filling experience as well. We created this map with all mentioned spots that you can take with you on your phone. Enjoy the flow!
Best times to travel
Bali is located very close to the equator and therefore you can expect warm, tropical and humid weather all year round. Bali has two distinctive seasons, dry season and wet season. Rainy season starts normally in November and stops early April. July, August and December are the busiest months but climate has been changing and a bit unpredictable on this side of the planet as well. We love the in between months of April, May, June and September, October and November.
Temperatures and humidity can be intense in November, December, January and February, especially if you are not used to hot and humid tropical climate but Ubud as it lies in the mountains is usually much more fresh then the coast line.
Nyepi is the highest Hindu ceremony on Bali mostly celebrated in the second half of March. The Day of Silence brings the whole island to a standstill, even the airport is closed and nobody is allowed to walk the streets, work or create noise.
Ubud Community Facebook Group
To help you out with just about anything including finding roommates or social initiatives.
TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHY
Ole is a multidisciplinary German artist, photographer and filmmaker and an avid traveller. He lives in between Bali, Berlin and Brazil and is one of the makers behind Mahi. Ole has been exhibiting his work in galleries and museums around the globe and you can follow his work on Instagram: @oleukena or @oleukenastudio
Ole believes in the magic of slow travelling, conversations with strangers, early morning coffee, late afternoon waves, learning new languages and the ability to laugh at yourself and is absolutely okay with not always updating his website.
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