If you decided to looking for the true soul of Bali, your exploration must start from the small town of Ubud, which we have already discussed in our previous article (read here), and then expand to its surroundings: you will be fascinated in discovering the way harmonious in which nature intertwines with the sacredness of this land. In this article we give you some ideas for planning an itinerary of one or more days among the many attractions of this part of the island, considering that you will need a private driver (no panic, you will meet many of them walking around Ubud) for the whole day, otherwise the travel time will be longer.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
It is the top attraction of the island, the one that more than any other is associated with the name of Bali and absolutely do not miss it!!! When you think of Bali you inevitably imagine those beautiful landscapes, dominated by verdant rice paddies, which maybe that once had attracted your attention flipping through a magazine, watching a report or browsing the Facebook wall. If you are longing to take your next profile picture in front of these wonderful scenarios, giving evidence to the world that you have been in Bali, you absolutely must stop and visit the rice fields of Tegalalang. The walk is very tiring, especially with the heat, because of the ups and downs along the steps of the terraces, but everywhere you look you will be surrounded and enveloped by this crazy landscape, almost like an immense picture too beautiful to be true, and immediately your fatigue will be repaid. The ideas for a well-constructed souvenir picture are many: the high swings that will project you into the vegetation, the frames with a view, the typical objects of life in the rice field (hats, baskets, etc …), all under condition that you will pay a small sum of money to locals. The economic aspect is perhaps the only thing that has taken away a bit of magic from this enchanting place: in addition to paying an entrance ticket, in fact, along the way there are several barriers that through a free offer allow the continuation of the walk…we always talk about derisory figures, but the continuous demand for money can annoy the tourist. How to reach it from Ubud? Moving towards north for about 9 kilometers, no more than 20 minutes by car.
Immediately after visiting the rice terraces you come across another naturalistic attraction: coffee plantations. These, in fact, are characterized by elegant wooden structures that overlook the surrounding vegetation and rice fields, but be careful because the particularity of this place does not reside in the view which you can enjoy, but in what you can taste: the Luwaka coffee , the most bizarre coffee in the world. The civet, which in Indonesian is called luwaka, is a small carnivorous mammal that feeds on coffee berries. Once the animal expels the berries, these are harvested, washed and roasted to create one of the finest coffees in the world. In this place you can see these cute little animals, but do not be fooled by their tender appearance because they can be very aggressive, and you can do the tasting of the legendary coffee for 50,000 IDR (~3 EUR). The full tasting with 8 different types of drinks (lemon tea, ginger tea, ginger coffee, ginseng coffee, chocolate coffe, pure cocoa, vanilla coffee, Bali coffee) is included in the admission ticket of 100,000 IDR (~6 EUR). If you want to bring home the civet’s coffee as a souvenir, consider that it is very expensive, we are talking about 150.00 EUR/kg. You could buy it here or you can find it in all the souvenir shops and supermarkets. The coffee’s fans must absolutely insert this place in their to do list.
Pura Tirta Empul
A small deviation from the naturalistic stops allows you to reach this suggestive place, the Hindu temple of sacred springs. It owes its name to the waters that flow from the ground perpetually, creating an almost hypnotic effect. The temple is characterized by the presence of pools in which the Balinese immerse themselves and wash their heads under the jets of sacred water in order to purify themselves. The pools are also accessible to tourists who want to experience the purifying bath, but the cult areas are visible only from the outside: you can walk inside the temple remaining outside the fences that surround the altars and the sacred areas, to fascinate you in attending the Balinese rituals of offertory and prayer, get closer to the pools where the sacred springs are located and admire their continuous rebirth. Access to the temple is allowed by paying a ridiculous entry fee of 15,000 IDR, approximately 1 EUR, and on condition that you wear the sarong, a garment that the Balinese wrap around their waist like a draped skirt (who does not have, can borrow it at the entrance of the temple). Before leaving, do not miss the huge tank full of carp of every color and size, a great glance! At the exit, to get to the car park the route will force you to cross a market full of souvenirs and handicrafts. As always prices on goods are missing, so bargaining is a must.
Mason Elephant Park
Continuing in a northerly direction, about 17 km from Ubud, you will reach Taro, a town that is home for a no common zoological park, fully respecting the principles of animal welfare: the Elephant Park. The peculiarity of this place lies in the possibility of approaching these good giants in different ways, breaking down the barriers of traditional zoos; specifically you can:
- to caress the elephants;
- feed the elephants (the unattractive bamboo sticks available free to all visitors or a tasty fruit basket that can be purchased in the park for 100,000 IDR);
- take pictures hugging the proboscis of the elephants;
- make you “crown” by elephants with a wreath of flowers;
- bathing the elephants;
- go around the park “comfortably” sitting on the back of the elephant, we quote because the seasickness effect is assured.
Inside the park you will also find an elephant museum, a botanical garden, an art gallery, a photo point, a restaurant. But what is the cost of a such extraordinary experience in contact with these beautiful animals, we guess you are asking. Indeed, it has considerable costs. The only admission to the park costs 330,000 IDR, which corresponds to about 20 EUR and gives you access to all areas of the park, to the museum, to the botanical garden, to the pond where the elephants take a bath, but most of all gives you the possibility to meet the elephants closely and feed them. For all other activities there are combo tickets, which can be purchased online or directly at the park entrance. Costs change depending on the activities you decide to include during your visit and you can consult them directly on the park website. To give you an idea, the ticket that includes admission to the park and the elephant safari costs 1,080,000 IDR, or about 65 EUR, which is the solution for which we have opted. At the entrance they gave us a coupon with the number of shift and the estimated time, to show to the employees once reached the area of ascent/descent from the elephants. We advise you not relying on the time indicated for the tour, because they could call your number much sooner than expected: afterwards you will have all the time to explore it autonomously the park because there are no limits of permanence. The safari lasts about 20 minutes and runs along the perimeter of the park. The most particular thing of the ride, apart from the fact of being on an elephant, is the feeling of swaying back and forth with every step of the pachyderm, we advise you to hold firmly to the supports to avoid flying down from the elephant! If you really do not want to spend this amount for the safari, at least allow yourself the entrance to the park, since approaching, caress the animals and feed them for us was the most exciting thing ever. The staff proved to be very kind and professional, they were improvised photographers without asking for money, which is totally in contrast with the Bali customs. For entry to the park with the elephant ride cut out about 1 hour and a half. For further information we refer to the site of the park.
After leaving the village of Taro, continue north-east for another 25 km to the Gunung Batur, or Mount Batur, the island’s most active volcano. Despite being significantly lower than Gunung Agung, which rises above 3000 m, it is the favorite destination for tourists. The reason lies in its spectacular caldera structure within which, with the passing of the centuries, a lake has arisen, the Danau Batur; this particular conformation indicates that in the past the volcano had to be much higher, however losing its peak during a particularly violent explosive eruption. There are two ways to enjoy the mountain of Bali. The first, planning a trek of several hours of walking along the slopes of the mountain, up to the summit. The second, much more comfortable and affordable for anyone, enjoying the view from the village of Kintamani, having lunch in one of its restaurants with a view. Since the formula offered almost everywhere is that of the buffet menu, take the opportunity to taste different dishes of Indonesian cuisine, in this way you will satisfy the palate and sight at the same time.
After the return journey to Ubud, you could end the itinerary with a bit of refreshment in the lush nature, stopping at the Tegenungan waterfalls. The access leads along a staircase of 165 steps, along which you can stop to take a fresh drink or buy souvenirs at the market stalls. Once you have reached the valley you can choose between
- take a bath,
- relax listening to the roar of the water,
- try mini-walks to conquer the waterfall,
- create a totem with stones,
- take funny photo memories by holding signs with the most unlikely written;
- decide to do all the activities just listed, not one less.
At this point we can only wish you good luck for the ascent of the steps, as also a nice sign suggests!
Other places of interest in the area that could be included in the itinerary if you have enough time, or that you can replace the previous ones according to your tastes, are:
Goa Gajah – Also known as the Elephant Cave, it is a cave carved into the rock which can be accessed by entering the wide open mouth of a large demon. The water that gushes from the numerous statues goes to feed the pools. In the past it was to be one of the main Buddhist places of worship in Bali.
Pod Chocolate Factory & Cafè – A chocolate shop where you can taste cocoa-based products and drinks, create your own personalized chocolates in pretty elephant-shaped molds, visit the factory, take an elephant ride, take a souvenir photo with a bear in your arms (for more information consult the website).
Pura Gunung Kawi – Another Hindu temple, one of Bali’s oldest and best known archaeological sites, presents a series of commemorative sculptures carved into the rock and a path that winds through nature with enchanting views of the rice fields. Many many steps, refrain lazy.
Bali Bird Park – A well-groomed and well-organized park that houses over 250 species of birds from Africa, America and the Indonesian islands. You can admire the Bali starling, the only endemic bird on the island, today at risk of extinction, characterized by white plumage, with two blue areas around the eyes. Opportunity to participate in educational shows, feed the birds and take souvenir pictures with them (for more information consult the website).
Rimba Reptil Park – Located close to the ornithological park, the visit is often combined with the possibility to make a combo ticket. Structured similarly to the ornithological park, it houses the Indonesian reptiles, the most famous being the Komodo dragon, crocodiles, snakes, salamanders, iguanas. With some of the reptiles you can interact and take souvenir pictures.
At the end of this reading you should have clear ideas about what to see around Ubud, but the possibilities do not end here: the island is full of small temples and sites of minor interest that you can include in your visit depending on time you will have available. Between an attraction and the other you will find numerous possibilities to practice outdoor sports and if you are a very dynamic person you can opt for an alternative break. Also know that if you decide to climb Mount Batur, you will have to spend a day just for that. We therefore hope that the itinerary is a good starting point for you, but be flexible and above all…let yourself be inspired by all wonderful things around you!
See you soon