Many travelers visit Ubud in Bali, Indonesia because of its well-known spiritual- and health-conscious atmosphere.
I focused my time on experiencing a handful of these mind-body-spirit activities. This post describes what to expect from these experiences, why I chose to focus on them, and how you can experience each on your own!
From yoga retreats to eco-green cafes, you will not be short of rejuvenating activities during your stay in Ubud.
1. Choose a bicycle over a motorbike
You may want a little help getting around Ubud while you're there. Maybe your hotel is not located centrally or perhaps you don't have the budget to hire a driver or motorbike for days on end. Lots of people hire a motorbike when they visit Southeast Asia (I did in Thailand). But maybe this even scares you too much, as it does me. That's why I encourage riding a bicycle over a motorbike.
I cannot impress this upon people enough—you'll be so much safer riding a bicycle around Ubud than a motorbike. Ubud is very traffic dense. It's much easier to navigate the roads by bicycle and stay off to the side and out of the way of impatient drivers.
Not to mention, you'll get extra exercise and feel better about not contributing more CO2 to the Earth's atmosphere. It's responsible travel at its best and a truly healthy decision to make if you are able.
Speaking of ability, I actually had a bum foot the entire time I was in Bali. An old injury was acting up from all the airplane travel I had done between New Zealand and Indonesia. Walking around felt like agony at times.
The pain paired with feeling as though I had already pushed my luck motorbiking in Thailand meant a bicycle suited me wonderfully.
2. Try free yoga
With nicknames like Island of Peace, Island of Gods, and Island of Love, Bali truly is a magical, spiritual setting in which to practice yoga.
I'm not really the spiritual type—I giggle every time people say "Om" in unison. But I do love yoga.
I took up yoga for physical health reasons during the latter few years of graduate school in New York City. I love the stretch and the muscle engagement involved in the yoga practice. So I appreciate when I can get a bit of a work out from my yoga experience!
Most of the teachers you find around Bali are White Europeans or North Americans who have latched onto the magic of Bali and never let go.
Take, for example, Amy. I met her on the street in Sanur as we both caught a cab ride together to Ubud.
Amy is an American who moved to Bali several years ago after falling in love with its energy. She makes a living as a yoga teacher. I have Amy to thank for cluing me in to the free yoga options in Ubud.
There are two places I learned about: The Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive.
The Yoga Barn is clearly the yoga spot in Bali. They have a huge property with classes, staff, and clients far outnumbering that of Radiantly Alive.
The Yoga Barn's free community yoga class has probably around 50 people in it. They turn away late-comers so be sure to be early to their Community Yoga class which is on Fridays from 6-7pm.
The class at Yoga Barn was excellent. They had a live musician who played beautiful music (including light singing!) during the session. And the teacher was amazingly inspiring. She had been paralyzed in an accident several years prior and now she was bending in ways I couldn't dream of bending!
Radiantly Alive also has a donation-based (anything you can afford) community yoga class lasting 1.5 hours. The time of the class seems to rotate per week but I went to it on Sunday from 5-6:30.
The space at Radiantly Alive was much smaller and so the class size was only about 15. The yoga session was also more intense than at Yoga Barn. Perhaps the reason is that Radiantly Alive did not have as many first-timers in the room as Yoga Barn.
Either way, both experiences were great in their own way. I left both feeling rejuvenated.
3. Eat well and cheap
Bali in general is a great place to go to find healthy food options. For the omnivores, there are usually always vegetarian and even vegan options on the menus all over Bali.
Ubud is one of the best locations for eating well. They have tons of organic restaurants all within very short walking distance from each other. I was also intrigued by the multiple raw food restaurants I spotted around.
The best part is food all over Bali is mad inexpensive. Your body will thank you for what you eat in Bali and your wallet will, too.
One of my favorite places to eat was Biah Biah. I could try 3 different traditional Indonesian appetizers, have a full meal, and a fruit smoothie for only about $4.00 USD (61,000 IDR).
Another favorite meal was getting a huge plate of fruit and eating only that for dinner or lunch or breakfast. The cost? Less than $1.50 USD (20,000 IDR).
Don't forget to stay hydrated in the heat. I bought a big water bottle from my hostel and refilled it regularly. The hostel did refills for only 5,000 IDR. I suggest doing refills to avoid adding to the trash sadly strewn about all over the island.
4. Take in the art
Ubud is the art epicenter of Bali. You cannot walk down a single street without bumping into a place selling paintings, handcrafted items, and sculptures.
I spent an entire afternoon walking around Ubud picking up gifts to bring back to friends and family. I get much joy from looking at artwork and even more when I am buying it to give to others.
Not only am I doing something nice for my friends and family, I am also giving back to the community who crafted the items I buy. A win-win!
You'll find several common themes in the artwork around Ubud: rice terraces, geckos, Hindu deities, and phalluses.
The phallus is a symbol of Shiva, one of three major Hindu Gods. Supposedly, these penises mean good luck—but the people selling you items all over Bali will argue their items will bring good luck! Either way, these intricately carved wooden penises are everywhere and are a fun gift to bring home.
They'll often give you a good, hearty laugh. And nothing is healthier than laughter! :)
My favorite gift was a painting I picked up across the street from the Yoga Barn. I was unsure about carrying it through airports for the remainder of my trip. But I couldn't resist buying it. It was beautiful! And it turned out to be easily rolled and stored in the overhead bin on my flights.
My parents loved the painting as their gift over the holidays. It's now framed and hanging prominently on the family room wall.
Art is everywhere in Ubud, not just in the things you can buy. I especially loved the stone carvings I found all over.
I made a special effort to stop and observe these carvings on road sides and outside temples. My hostel's street of Titra Taman had numerous to see on the 5-minute cycle down to Ubud Center each day.
5. Do the Campuhan Ridge Walk
Rise early in the morning to avoid the heat when you do this infamous walk through the rice fields around Ubud. You'll be surprised how quiet and serene it is as soon as you veer off track from the main street.
Locating the start of the track can be a bit confusing so I'll try to explain.
Find the IBAH hotel off of Raya (the main road in Ubud) and walk down the red stone pathway next to it. Turn left and go down the hill avoiding the main entrance to IBAH.
At the bottom of the hill, you'll see a small white sign pointing down stairs and along a lower, stone path.
The sign reads "This Way Trekking Campuhan Ridge." It also mentions the Karsa Kafe which is 2 kilometers away marking the end of the walk.
The stairs will prevent you from cycling parts of Campuhan so my advice is to walk it. When you do, you'll see why it's all the rage.
The walk itself is easy-going. You won't really get out of breath here other than up the couple of hills you'll encounter. This allows you the chance to focus on the views surrounding you.
Reaching the top of the first hill, you'll suddenly find yourself overlooking sun-soaked fields and thick forests with cute little buildings and huts peaking out. There are banana trees, flowers, and other colorful plants to observe along the way.
Near the end of it, you'll walk through a small village and end up at the Karsa Kafe and Spa.
Treat yourself to a spa treatment, massage, or simply have a meal.
I decided to sit in one of their huts built up over a pond while I had breakfast. I felt so relaxed as I nibbled on some fruit, granola, and yogurt, breathing in the sweet lilies and watched the coy stir in the water below.
There are many other healthy activities you can take up in and around Ubud. For example, numerous tours depart at all hours of the day offering hikes, retreats, spa experiences, and more.
There's even a tour leaving at 3am to climb up nearby Mount Batur to see the sunrise. Now that would have been an uplifting experience—for mind, body, and spirit!
While I didn't rush around to try and experience everything Ubud has to offer, the above were certainly the perfect health-focused activities for me.
I contemplated including in this post my Macaque encounter on Monkey Forest Road or my 12km uphill bike ride to the glorious water temple, Titra Empul. But both of these could be seen as equal parts healthy and stressful. So I'll save them for next time!