Central Bali boasts those quintessential Indonesian landscapes of steeped rice terraces, serene lakes and lush river valleys by the bucket load. It's also home to the charming town of Ubud, which is often hailed as the spiritual heart of the island. While the yoga bunnies, organic foodies and spiritual healers now take centre stage in town, the performers and artisans that first drew travellers to the region still thrive in the surrounding villages. Situated just over an hour from the beaches of Southern Bali, we wholeheartedly recommend spending a few days here during Ubud and central Bali holidays;
hole up in a charming boutique hotel or luxury spa resort on the outskirts of town and explore the beautiful countryside by foot or bicycle. As day trippers from the larger hotels in Southern Bali flock to the centre during the day, take the opportunity to escape by visiting artisans in nearby workshops where they carve wood, stone and silver, or perhaps chance upon a temple ceremony in one of the local villages.
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After a late afternoon spa session, or a few lazy laps of the pool, venturing out for dinner you will find that Ubud is a completely different place. Many of the colourful boutiques that line Jalan Monkey Forest and Jalan Hanuman will still be open and blissfully shopper free, the soft tones of Jazz will float out from roadside cafes, and a handful of candlelit restaurants will be serving up some of the finest Balinese cuisine on the island.
Due to its central location, Ubud also makes a great base from which to explore many of Bali's sights, including the beautiful Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, which seemingly floats on Lake Bratan, and the impending peaks of Mount Agung and Mount Bratan in the East. Though for those who really want to get away from it all, there are some wonderful hotels opening up in lesser known spots. Our favourite is the hilltop town of Munduk, which offers stunning views over Bali's north coast on a clear day, one of the most picturesque infinity pools at Munduk Moding Plantation, and some seriously impressive waterfalls to trek to.
As the spiritual heart of Bali, the focus on relaxation and healing here is amazing – as are the many spas and spa resorts to choose from.