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Pura Gunung Kawi is a beautiful archeological site, and a sacred place for Hindus located in the island ofBali, in the heart of the village of Tampak Siring, roughly 15KM from Ubud.
Is a gorgeous place full of art history, stunning views, and the environment in Gunung Kawi still is very natural and untouched, this temple is also known as the ‘Valley of The Kings’.
The temple is built into a steep valley overlooking the Pakserian River, a river that also snakes its way past the sacred Pura Tirta Empul.
It’s best to visit the temple early in the morning if you want to have a relaxing and peaceful experience, although you will not miss all the vendors.
There are more than 100 stairs to the temple, with great views over rice fields, the river and, jungle. Once you reach the temple you will find 10 candi (shrines) that are memorials cut out of the rock face in imitation of actual statues and alters dating back to the 11th century. The shrines are carved into some eight-meter high sheer cliff faces.
This temple is quite a unique archaeological sites in Bali due to its impressive carved rock structures.
How to get there: the best way is the rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the journey is very pleasant and beautiful through lush green rice fields and coconut trees.
Entrance Fee:Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter
Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple as parts of the site are considered holy.
Bali it’s not only beaches and temples it’s also mountains and volcanoes. The Gunung Batur area is located in the center of the island of Bali, and since 2012 was added to the Unesco list of geologic wonders. Central Bali is the most mountainous area of Bali, and also the more isolated and thus more traditional.
Mount Batur has a height of 1717m above sea level the higher elevation also means that the temperatures are much cooler than in other parts of Bali. This region is perfect for trekkers and nature lovers.
Mount Batur is an active volcano, that has erupted several times over the time and has produced ‘black lava‘ which you can still see today. The most recent was eruption was in 2000.
The crater has stunning views and there are a couple of villages around to explore. Kintamani is the main one.
Kintamani has a network of traditional mountain villages resting along the rim of the Mount Batur caldera. Kintamani is also home to Pura Ulun Danu Batur, one of the holiest of the nine directional temples of Bali.
To the west of Kintamani lies Bedugul, situated at the shores of mountain lake Beratan.
To get the best views, get up before the sun rises to climbMount Batur, its a relatively easy 2-hour trek. The hike is mostly off-road trails and rocky terrain.
If you are looking for something more challenging the Mount Agung is the right one for you located in the east side of Bali. You can do a trekking to watch a breathtaking sunrise at Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali. This climbing is rather a challenge and requires physical fitness, so for serious mountain climbers
Central Mountains Highlights
Munduk area (mountain and waterfall)
Besakih Temple (the largest and holiest Hindu in Bali)
Pura Luhur Batukua (Temple)
Ulun Danu Bratan (Temple in Bedugul)
Danau Tamblingan (volcanic lake)
Gunung Batur (active volcano)
villages around Danau Batur (scenic views up the surrounding peaks)
Antosari Road (rural drives through rice terraces)
As I said in a previous post, you shouldn’t visit Bali thinking about the beaches, if you want great beaches, look at other Indonesian islands or even other countries in southern Asia. Said that what a better place to be than a city that doesn’t have a coastline, and is really well located to visit the best places around the island of Bali.
I’ve found that Ubud offers the best location, great and affordable accommodation and abundant vegan food options. Out of all the cities in Bali, Ubud is the best, not because is the most authentic one (far from that) but because it has good quality affordable touristic infrastructures in a perfect location to do days out to other places in the island. Within relatively short driving distances you have temples, museums, mountains, waterfalls, rice terraces, and many other natural sights.
The downside of Ubud is that feels a bit like the city is entirely set up to tourists, unfortunately, most places in Bali that offers good/affordable accommodation nowadays are like that. Although I still found that Ubud offered a good middle ground between touristic and local.
Ubud is located in the Gianyar region of Bali and is surrounded by lush rice paddies, and is one of the cultural centers of Bali. Ubud is extremely popular among tourists and a hub of yoga, spas and, vegan food.
Ubud like the rest of the island of Bali is a multi-religious place, but the predominant religion is Hinduism, called Agama Hindu Dharma, a blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. Their religion is a world apart from the Hindu religion in India. Ubud, like the rest of Bali, is home to countless temples, and their everyday life is inextricably intertwined with colorful and fascinating religious practices.
Bahasa is the language spoken and the currency used is the Rupiah ($1=Rp.14.800)
I have spent 10 days exploring the island of Bali, always based in Ubud, I had a motorbike to go to different places every day. Please be aware that I don’t advise in any way that you rent a motorbike there if you don’t have experience, Bali, its not the place to learn how to ride one. I never ever seen so many people with motorbike injuries during my travels like I saw in Bali. Road conditions are rough and traffic a nightmare, on top of that there are no rules…
Out of the 10 days only two were actually spent in Ubud, what I think is more than enough if you are not planning to do anything special like a yoga retreat or a course. So here are the top things to do in Ubud
At the end of the post check also what to avoid 🙂
What to do in Ubud
Campuhan Ridge Walk (8.5km, ~3h/4h)
This place is a serene and beautiful green path for an easy hike early morning, the path starts at the Campuhan Bridge and has an amazing view of the jungle, rice paddy fields, small villages, communities, temples, and passes over the lush river valley of Sungai Wos.
This is worth waking up early for, you can go any time during the day but it does get hot and crowded, at least the first part of the path.
The Puri Saren Agungis – Ubud Royal Palace
It’s far for being a spectacular place but is the hub of all of Ubud’s cultural events. The entrance is free.
Saraswati Temple (Water Palace)
Its one of the most beautiful temple in central Ubud with a great little walkway in between lotus ponds leading up to the temple. The Saraswati Temple is a Hindu temple built in the 19th century to adore the Goddess Saraswati (The Goddess of Knowledge).
It’s a road packed with organic everything, from restaurants, bars, cafes, ice-cream shops, etc. and has lots of local warungs serving cheap and delicious food. Here you will find restaurants for all tastes, budgets and, diets.
A road with messages written into the street paving. It’s really nice to stroll up here and read the message of peace, love and ‘vegan propaganda’.
The market is a great place to stroll around. If you go very early in the morning (what I recommend) you can visit the produce market in the far south-east corner, and this is as authentic as it gets (7h-10h). Later on, you only have souvenir stalls, with clothes, homewares, jewelry, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces. Prices are always fully negotiable.
Watch a movie at Paradiso Ubud
Paradiso Ubud is the world’s first organic vegan cinema and definitely worth a try! There are daily movie screenings and the food is delicious.
Balinese food is delicious, and anywhere you go in Ubud there will be delicious vegan options on the menu.
Ubud is blessed with an abundance of great eateries, although menus are a little pricey compared to the rest of Indonesia if you don’t scuffle around backstreets. Local warungs or Padang rumah makan (eating house) are great options.
There is a tonne of little spas lining the roads in the center of Ubud with very reasonable prices. Why not treat yourself with a full body Balinese massage? You can find prices as lower as RP70.000 to 100.00 ($4.70 – $6.80) for one hour massage.
This is true for any place you visit, stroll around without a plan or a schedule, and lose yourself through narrow streets.. Because Bali is a predominantly Hindu island, there is always something to see, experience and smell.. for example, each morning you will find hundreds of little boxes called Canang Sari filled with flowers, offerings and burning incense.
Unfortunately, there is also a downside here, Ubud has Jammed traffic from vehicles and pedestrians, severely uneven, damaged and broken sidewalks, broken drainage holes with jagged metal bars, sidewalk vendors, shop displays and sometimes even motorbikes. So you are guessing correctly, walking can be a challenge that requires energy and art.
Motorbike around the Ubud countryside
Bali is a small island, so renting a motorbike gives you the freedom and access to explore the Balinese countryside. On your way to places is easy to stumble upon local festivals, cremation ceremonies, pass by beautiful structures of intricately-carved stone, people flying kites in the fields, beautiful rice paddies, waterfalls, mountains, markets, temples…
⛔️ what to Avoid in Ubud
Sacred Monkey Forest
This is considered a must-do for many, for me is a must not. You do not need to pay to go to a jungle and to see macaques in Southeast Asia, literally you can do it everywhere, for free and without the crowds.
Plus these monkeys are not as cute as they look in the pictures they can be scary aggressive. If you are still planning a visit don’t take anything with you that you aren’t prepared to lose, monkeys can open bags with ease and are professional thieves. They are well trained at efficiently robbing tourists.
I know I’m just telling you to avoid one of the most popular Ubud attractions, but trust me on this one.
Well maybe I’m a bit suspect on this one because to be fair I don’t shop, I’m already carrying my small bag around with me, and the last thing I need is extra weight 🙂 plus Ubud is extremely expensive (for Indonesian standards) you will find the same things much much cheaper somewhere else.
If you are into shopping go to the market but be prepared to haggle. Even if you don’t want to do any shopping I still think that you should give the market a visit but early in the morning, because by afternoon it gets seriously crowded.
Don’t buy spices or coffee on the market, most of it is fake.
Sungai Ayung Valley (6.5km ~4h)
This was sposed to be a great trekking through the lush, tropical river valley but sadly has become an extortion scheme.
When you arrive at the Sayan Terrace hotel, you take the path downhill, there you will find some locals that are blocking the passage with a gate and you can only pass through if you pay RP.150.000 ($10) per person. We refused to pay and they didn’t allow us to pass. So we headed up the hill and we did a different trekking around the same area but instead of the 6.5km took us 15km 🙂
Be aware that the locals carry large sickles or machetes (that they are not using as farming tools) but for the threatening effect.
how to get to Ubud
If you arrive by air, the best option is unfortunately to take a taxi. As you know is always hard to negotiate taxi fares so it’s probably best to have that arrangement done in advance. Most places in Ubud will offer that service, negotiate with them and skip the hassle at the airport in Denpasar.
In August 2018 the taxi fares from Denpasar to Ubud were around RP. 250.000 to RP. 350.000 ($17-$23)
Just get ready for a very slow ride from Denpasar to Ubud, the traffic is just unbelievable. Ubud is about the same distance and time from the nearest port, where boats go to Gili Islands and Lombok.
Where to Stay
My suggestion is to stay close to the center, in a place that includes breakfast, offers transfer and that rents motorbike, this will prevent that you get in one of those motorbikes scams. Ubud has plenty of options with a great relation between quality and price. Make some research and look at the reviews.
I stayed in a great central place, and still in a quiet street. The family was really nice and welcoming, the room was clean and comfortable, and the price excellent, $8 per night with breakfast (I’m happy to pass the name of the place if you want).
To visit temples, you must be dressed appropriately which includes wearing a sarong, that is basically a long piece of cloth that you wear wrapped around the body and tucked at the waist. Just bring one from home so you don’t need to buy or rent one.
Small temples are all around the city and each temple is unique in its own way.
Don’t buy water bottles, Bali has a project for water refills. Download the app and find the closest location. Ubud has several places offering this service for free or for a small fee (https://www.refillmybottle.com).
Indonesia is an affordable place to travel but especially in Bali, you need to be extra careful to not spend more than you budgeted. Prices offered to tourists are always inflated and haggling is the only option to bring it within reason.
First of all, I need to say that Southeast Asia is till now my favourite region on the planet. I’ve visited nearly all countries and some of them more than once. The last one I’ve visited was Indonesia, and here things were a bit different. For the first time, I’ve disliked several things about a country and probably would not choose to visit it again.
Bali for me is an overrated location, and other islands in Indonesia are way superior in many aspects and don’t receive as many tourists as Bali.
The first thought you have when you think about Bali it’s probably the paradisiac beaches, but you should think twice, Bali doesn’t really have the best beaches in Indonesia not even close. If you are not a surfer, the beaches will disappoint. Even for surfing, there are better waves elsewhere.
You can go to popular destinations like the Gili Islands, or Lombok, but for a more relaxing and less crowded experience, you have the island of Borneo, the Banyak Islands, The Raja Ampat Islands, East Sumatra, Sumbawa, and the province of East Nusa Tenggara.
Bali is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world but still has a few (not many) sites off the beaten path await to be discovered.
So what does Bali have to offer then?
Bali has a rich and diverse culture, incredible places and sights, exotic temples and palaces, stunning natural backdrops, towering mountains, pristine jungles, looming volcanoes and, lush man-made terrace rice fields that exude peace and serenity.
Bali can also enchant with its dramatic dances and colourful ceremonies, its arts, and crafts.
It’s also heavenfor vegans, vegetarians and, anyone that likes to try new flavours. Be prepared for the grandiosity of the vegan food scene there.
Negatives about Bali
Comparing with other places, Bali has quite a lot of negative points in my opinion.
Although finding Vegan options around Bali is quite easy, on the other hand, a new report by World Animal Protection (WAP) has criticised Bali, for being among the worst destinations in the world when it comes to animal cruelty in captivity, claiming the region is responsible for the most “horrendous” cruelty towards animals. If you care about animals avoid the parks and so-called “sanctuaries” altogether.
The obvious ones are the elephant rides, marine attractions, horses with carts, cockfights, and zoos with cage sedated animals that are used for photography purposes. The less known animal cruelty attraction is the Luwak (Civet Cat) Coffee, where civet cats are caged in small enclosures and force-fed to respond to the high demand for coffee. Don’t visit any coffee plantations that offer this kind of coffee.
Make ethical choices when you visit Bali, and research if you want to see wildlife, because there are options for ethical tourism experiences where you have chances to see mammals, birds and, fish in their natural environment.
I think that is great when a country gets a boost through tourism but some regions in Bali are just too spoiled by that, where you are constantly accosted by locals trying to sell you all kinds of stuff all the time. It is exhausting and you lose the opportunity to create true and meaningful human contact because to them you are just a wallet walking around.
The constant hassle is definitely something very negative about the island that will drive tourists away eventually one day.
Traffic is another big problem, getting around Bali can be painful, the streets are completely overloaded, plus some of Bali’s infrastructure is at breaking point.
There is also no, or broken tiled sidewalks, rubbish EVERYWHERE, chaos, noise, and pollution.
Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest contributor to marine debris after China, and a colossal 1.29 million metric tons is estimated to be produced annually by Indonesia (Source: AFP).
The scale of the problem is huge, and you don’t see locals or tourists take responsible actions to minimize the island’s rubbish problem. The island is overwhelmed by garbage, little of which is recycled. Trash fires are also common, creating toxic pollutants.
Unfortunately, natural disasters are also quite common. Indonesia is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire (an area with frequent tectonic activity), so they have a high risk of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and, tsunamis.
During the time I was there, I felt three massive earthquakes and too many smaller ones to be able to count, and we also had to deal with a tsunami alert. The experience was pretty scary and stressful.
The first one came as a complete surprise, I was laying in bed and I didn’t understand what was happening straight away, because I had never felt something like that in my life, was such a surreal experience. The way the ground moves under your feet and the noise is very hard to explain and describe.
The earthquake had a magnitude-6.9 but didn’t damage the place we were in. For the following ones, I knew what an earthquake feels like and had a much quicker response. During the second one, all the walls in my room cracked, and during the third one we run to the middle of the street and grabbed our motorbikes to drive as fast as we could while people were shouting “tsunami”.
Sadly these earthquakes were quite deadly, they killed hundreds of people and injured thousands, not to talk about the astonishing number of people that have been displaced, rendered homeless.
There are not many good ways of transport to get you around in Bali.
Despite the abundant tour packages, taxis and private drivers/guides you are only left with the option of renting a motorbike or a car. There’s no public transport in Bali.
Do I recommend Bali?
If you don’t have the opportunity to travel much, I wouldn’t waste time visiting Bali, there are so many other great places over there to be explored, much nicer than Bali. But it all depends on what you like and what are you looking for.
There is a big difference between a holiday and traveling. If you are looking for some lazy days around the pool, in a stunning resort most likely Bali is a great destination.
I have visited almost all Southeast Asian countries and Indonesia (mostly Bali) is by far the one I enjoyed the least. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed my time in Bali, I saw great places and had amazing experiences. But on my list, Bali ranks as the most overrated destinations.
I know that what I have written here is quite controversial, some people will have the same feeling about Bali and others feel the opposite. It’s always a matter of personal taste and sensibilities.
Bali without a doubt is a major touristy place, as well as Ubud. Nevertheless, has amazing places to be discovered.
Ubud for me really is the best place to use as a base for all kinds of exploring around the island. Taxis and private drivers are expensive and don’t allow you to be as flexible as you want, and public transports don’t exist. So the best option by far is to go for a scooter!
The beauty of taking your scooter is that no planning is needed. It’s easy to find a scooter from 40,000 – 70,000 Rp ($2.64 – 4.62USD).
Riding a scooter on the roads of Bali is dangerous, so make sure you have experience and insurance (check the fine print as some insurance companies won’t cover motorbike crashes).
Ubud’s location allows for easy access to the surrounding Balinese countryside where you can enjoy the impressive scenery.
Have a look at the list below for some inspiration, on some easy Day Trips from Ubud on a Scooter:
From Ubud you can reach lots of different places there is no shortage of day trips opportunities from Ubud. But keep in mind that the police in Bali is corrupt, and even if you follow all the rules you may have to pay a fine. Expect to be stopped and pulled over by the police especially around Ubud.
Always use a helmet even if the locals don’t, try to avoid the main roads and choose the smaller ones, have the registration of the rental motorbike, your passport with you, driving license and international license.
Theoretically, if you have all the documents, a helmet and you haven’t broken any road rules, you should not be subject to any fine.
If you get pulled over, and you can’t find a way out of it better have a second wallet with a small amount of money with you. The fines aren’t fixed, so the officer generally sees how much money you’re carrying and decides how much he will be charging you.
Have you been to any of the places I’ve mentioned? Do you have any other recommendations? leave your thoughts on the comments section, and thanks for reading 🙂
Sofia Fernandes, is a 22 years old Portuguese women, that works in Cambridge in the tourism area. Sofia is an easy-going and sociable person that enjoys spending time with her friends, travel and to do exercise. Last month she did her first solo travel trip to Bali – Indonesia. Have a read, and feel free to leave any comments and questions.
“Traveling solo was a life-changing experience.
New cultures, new people, different costumes and food, you find yourself at home because everyone is so friendly.
Mainly, I consider it’s quite easy to find vegetarian options. They serve the typical fried rice or noodles with vegetables that is actually quite tasty. It usually comes with a fried egg on top, so if you are vegan, just ditch the egg. They have a vast selection of fresh juices that you can order for breakfast, so sweet, refreshing and all natural. My favorite was the watermelon juice that we got as a welcome drink in one of the places we stayed in. The locals are so welcoming and genuine, definitely fell in love with the people, always willing to help with a smile on their face. Since it’s a very poor country, they normally grow their own food,
Since it’s a very poor country, they normally grow their own food, obviously, everything is organic and tastier. We had the amazing chance to try home cooked food by one Balinese family and it was incredible. They offered a buffet with a lot of vegetarian options including tempeh and tofu so you wouldn’t miss out. They had the famous Bakwan Jagun which is basically corn fritter served with rice and chili sauce, my favorite – Keripik tempeh pedas – thinly sliced tempeh, fried, and doused in spicy, sweet sauce and much more. However, they mainly eat pork and chicken. Kuta is probably the easiest place to eat because it offers a lot of different restaurants with all kinds of food, it’s more western since it’s a very touristic place. I definitely recommend visiting, it’s a piece of heaven with a lot of healthy options!!”
photography – all rights reserved – Sofia Fernandes