Oh, Bali. Where do I even begin? The island of the Gods is everything I expected and a lot more. I had heard stories about Bali's energizing vibe and addictive energy, but I really had to experience it first hand in order to believe it. And trust me when I say that the rumors are totally true. There's something about this place that makes you feel right at home. But I'll get on that later.
We started our 7-day trip in Ubud, the insta-famous town in the uplands of Bali. I had seen loads of pictures of the beautiful rainforest, but the real thing exceeded my expectations.
If you're planning your trip to one of Indonesia's most beautiful islands, or you're simply seeking some travel inspo make sure you read my ultimate Bali guides, starting with all the must-do's in Ubud!
Where to stay
We stayed at the Hanging Gardens of Bali, which is located in Payangan, a 40min drive from the center of Ubud. We had a driver for the whole week, who picked us from the airport and headed directly up north. It's a nearly 2-hour drive to the hotel, but you have your first taste of Bali as a whole - including the jammed traffic - during the trip so it's actually rather exciting!
If you're looking for a feeling of total seclusion, this resort is the one. Located in the heart of the jungle, the villas are literally "hanging" off the cliff overlooking the Ayung river. I have never seen anything more breathtaking than this. We stayed at a panoramic villa and we loved the novelty of our own private infinity-edged pool with fantastic views of nature and a temple right in front of the hotel.
The hotel's highlight is hands down the iconic main pool; a double level infinity pool set on top of a cliff surrounded by lush jungle. It is amongst the most stunning swimming pools in the world and with good reason. Imagine having breakfast overlooking this every single day. Unbeatable. It just didn't feel real.
Where to eat
Surprisingly there are loads of culinary options in Ubud, although menus are a little pricey by Southeast Asian standards.
On our first night, we had dinner at The Restaurant at Hanging Gardens, which IMO is not really worth its salt. It's a tad overpriced for the variety and quality they offer, but still a decent dining option if you're too lazy to leave the resort.
On our second night, we tried Mozaic, an award-winning gastronomy restaurant that presents a fresh approach to French cuisine by incorporating local exotic Balinese ingredients. The results? Mouth-watering!
Other good dinner recommendations include Locavore (it's super tiny and always fully booked so make sure you make reservations way ahead of time), Bridges Bali and CasCades, the restaurant at Viceroy hotel.
For a casual Indonesian lunch try Seniman Coffee Studio; their coffee & overall presentation is excellent, and their food is delicious. Other lunch options are The Seeds of Life (ideal for raw food lovers) and Atman Kafe for the best breakfast burritos.
What to see
Start by visiting the renowned Rice Fields. You really need to take that touristy shot, but make sure to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Also, when some generous local offers to take your photo and give you their traditional straw hat, remember that everything comes at a price.
The Sacred Monkey Forest is worth a visit too, just to see hundreds of cheeky monkeys freely running around. Be very careful with your belongings though, cause these little creatures are really into expensive things and your new Celine sunnies might find a new owner.
We also stopped by the Goa Gajah, aka the Elephant Cave, a fascinating old temple, which was built back on the 9th century and was used as a sanctuary.
You also need to try the swing. There are a lot of different versions around Ubud. We tried the one overlooking the rice terraces at the Luwak Coffee Plantation, which IMO is definitely not the best one, but it's still cool. The Luwak coffee though is really worth a try!
Other exciting outdoorsy things to do include a visit at the Tukad Cepung waterfall, water rafting at Ayung River and of course volcano trekking. The sunrise trekking is a once in a lifetime opportunity that you simply can't miss. Unfortunately, I felt super sick the day we had planned this activity in Mount Batur and we had to cancel, but I've promised myself I'll do it the next time I'm in Bali.
What to pack
Ubud, just like Bali as a whole, is super low-key, so your packing list should match the ambience.
Opt for versatile pieces that save space in your suitcase. Aside from tons of swimsuits and straw hats to lounge by the pool, bring loads of scarfs that can double as sarongs (you'll need them to get into the temples), denim shorts, comfy flat shoes and/or sneakers for your exploration days, and some cute dresses for your dinner dates.
That's pretty much all you need. You can check some cute outfit options below:
If you want to experience Ubud at its finest, I suggest you get a driver, who will also act as your personal tour guide. We had the kindest person driving us around for the whole week (Komang Colla we miss you!), who was more than happy to accommodate our every need. You really need to be patient on the road though, cause the traffic in Bali is a nightmare and unfortunately unavoidable :)
Next up; my guide for Seminyak & Canggu!