There's something magical about Bali that draws in travellers the moment they arrive. In fact, no matter how many times I've been to this breathtaking island, I still find a way to keep coming back… and on every visit, I find something new and fall in love with it all over again.
Living in Hong Kong can really take its toll; a couple of months of non-stop noise and pollution always leaves me feeling stressed out and ready to raise the white flag. So on my millionth visit to Bali, I decided to unplug from busy city living and head straight to my favourite escape – Ubud. Away from the loud nightlife and touristy beaches of Kuta, Ubud really does feel like the beating cultural heart of this incredible island.
Entering Ubud is like stepping into an alternate universe where healthy living is the norm. Home to an abundance of adrenaline-pumping activities, Ubud is the perfect base for exploring Bali and it's easy to become one with nature in this stunning place.
Trek a volcano
If you're not too confident with your hiking skills, I recommend tackling the gentler-on-the-knees Mount Batur. At 1,717 metres above sea level, Mount Batur is one of the most sacred mountains in Bali where you can enjoy stunning vistas of the island looking over Lake Batur; on a clear day, you can even see Mount Rinjani on Lombok. For more hardcore hikers, try Mount Agung instead. At 3,031 metres, this volcano is the highest point on the island and is definitely not for the faint-hearted – you'll find yourself going on all fours for the final ascent, but the view from the top is most certainly worth all the blood, sweat and tears!
Go wild at Ayung River
If you're still feeling adventurous, consider white water rafting in Ayung River. Here you can launch into a 9.6km river stretch, navigating your way through Class Two and Three rapids – all against a backdrop of towering gorges, verdant rice fields and lush rainforests.
Explore the countryside
There's so much to see in the picturesque and charming Ubud. Rent a bike or join a bike tour and explore the countryside, or get off the beaten path and visit local villages, ancient temples and even coffee plantations. Be sure to pass by the picture-perfect Tegelalang Rice Terraces on your travels!
Get your ommm on
When you're ready to wind down, head to Yoga Barn in the city centre for a much-needed yoga session. Nestled amidst lush rice fields, Yoga Barn is a mecca for yogis looking for a serious practice in a relaxing environment, offering various class types at all levels of expertise. I highly recommend attending Vinyasa Flow for a more upbeat and challenging yoga session.
EAT CLEAN – AND DELICIOUS
It's hard to stay away from Ubud's addictive suckling pig and roast duck … but do not fear, there are actually lots of good healthy restaurants in the area too!
Eating at Sari Organik is an experience in itself. Tucked away in a rice field, this café serves a variety of delicious organic dishes – but it's not just the food that sets it apart. Its leafy setting provides an extra oomph factor to your healthy dining experience and while it requires a bit of a walk to get there, you're guaranteed a very scenic view en route. Sari Organik source their ingredients straight from the garden, so you'll be certain to receive only the most authentic fresh, local meals. Try the Bodag Salad of red pepper, mixed greens, beetroot, cucumber, tomato, feta cheese, sun-dried tomato, cashew nuts, onion and carrots with tahini dressing – yum!
Smack bang in the heart of Jalan Hanoman is the quintessentially-hipster café, Kafe. Designed for lounging, this vibrant café is a great place for a relaxing meal with a friend – or even on your own accompanied by a good book! The extensive menu caters to all sorts of healthy eaters; whether you're a vegan or gluten-intolerant, they've got you covered.
The super-pretty Clear Café is an organic and raw food lover's paradise. While its casual-chic interior appeals to a higher-end crowd, the food is still affordable and unpretentious, whilst their raw menu is one of the most extensive in Ubud. You're guaranteed a fantastic view of Ubud from the restaurant too – best enjoyed while slurping on one of their wonderfully fresh smoothies or juices!
Ubud is brimming with different accommodation options but for the ultimate rest and relaxation, be sure to stay at one of the retreats away from the city centre.
Nestled in the serenity of the Lembah Valley, Viceroy Bali offers a magnificent view of Ubud's lush greenery. The beautifully appointed villas all boast individual swimming pools and face outward, so you're guaranteed absolute privacy. Each villa features an expansive bedroom, marbled floor, and separate shower and bath and twin vanities; they also have their own outdoor bale pavilion or day bed, making it the ideal spot for some precious "me" time. For the ultimate pampering, book a treatment at Lembah Spa; the Viceroy Tropical Indulgence treatment alone will ensure you never want to leave!
COMO Shambhala Estate
Surrounded by lush jungle, COMO Shambhala Estate is a residential health retreat, combining holistic wellness with state-of-the-art facilities and luxury accommodation, alongside amazing views of the Ayung River below. Complimentary daily activities include yoga, tai chi, aqua therapy, daily walks, meditation and much more, meaning you can tailor-make your stay to be exactly as action-packed as you want it to be!