Thinking about taking some time out in Bali, but don't like the thought of battling the crowds in Kuta? Head for Ubud instead, where the main pastimes are relaxing, being pampered and maybe even getting in touch with your spiritual side. Here are 10 ways to relax and have a stress-free holiday.
Have an Ayurvedic consultation
Ayurveda is about finding balance, so if you want to take your relaxing seriously, you might want to start with a full consultation. The therapists at the Kush Wellness Centre can recommend the best ways to go about de-stressing, covering everything from diet to meditation to exercise. If you don't have the time you can book a range of massages and therapies which use soothing warm oils containing medicinal herbs selected for you.
Do a yoga class
One of the most beautiful places for yoga is the Yoga Barn. The rooms are open on two sides, giving you a breathtaking view over lush green rice fields. About seven classes a day are taught by teachers from Bali and around the world. The most relaxing are the restorative and earlybird classes.
For guided meditation, try the Tibetan Bowl class in which brass bowls are played, making a gentle ringing sound. The chakra meditation with crystals is aimed at getting the energy flowing through your body by visualising energy points. If you would prefer to meditate on your own, take a 15-minute drive to Ashram Munivara.
>> www.ubudbodyworkscentre.com and www.balispirit.com.
Visit a day spa
There are dozens of places in Ubud where you can be wrapped in everything from avocado to aloe vera. Zen Bali spa has natural treatment rooms surrounded by water features. One of the more picturesque spas is the Bali Botanica. It overlooks lush tropical jungle and a running stream. A step up in price and decadence, the Kalangan spa has treatment rooms built to cater for couples, including side-by-side spas and massage tables.
>> www.zenbalispa.com, www.balibotanica.com and www.kalanganspa.com.
Take a cooking class
Warung Enak offers classes that start with a trip to the local food market where the chef points out different spices and vegetables. Each class makes food which you get to eat at the end of the lesson. Other options are Cafe Wayan and Bumi Bali. All three have vegetarian classes.
>> www.warungenakbali.com, www.alamindahbali.com and www.bumifood.com.
Have a long meal
In the relaxing restaurant stakes, it's hard to go past Murni's Warung. Cut into a sheer cliff face, the restaurant has three beautifully decorated levels all looking out over lush tropical jungle and a flowing river. For food so fresh you actually get to pick it out of their gardens, go to Sari Organik, one of the only restaurants in the middle of the rice fields. Follow the signs off Jalan Raya. If you're looking for something a little more up-market, try one of the new kids on the block, Clear Cafe. The decor is absolutely beautiful, with a waterfall cascading into a pool covered in lilypads in the middle of the restaurant. It's on JI Hanoman.
Wander around the museums
Considered the artistic centre of Bali, there is an amazing range of museums and private galleries in Ubud. Start at the private Neka museum, which has one of the most complete collections of paintings in Indonesia, with more than 400 traditional and contemporary artworks. Definitely worth a look is the European-style Blanco Renaissance Museum, which is by all accounts as bizarre as its founder, the eccentric Spanish artist Don Antonio Blanco. For a more traditional art experience, there is the Museum Puri Lukisan, which is the oldest museum in the area. Also a must see is the Arma Museum, set on 5ha of beautifully landscaped grounds. The museum also functions as a cultural centre, offering a wide range of two-hour courses including wood carving, Balinese dancing, offering-making and basket weaving.
>> www.museumneka.com, www.blancomuseum.com, www.museumpurilukisan.com and www.armamuseum.com.
Stroll through the botanic gardens
To leave civilisation behind, you only need to travel about 10 minutes from the centre of Ubud. The gardens cover almost 4ha of land with a beautiful stream running through the middle. They're divided into sections, including the Islamic garden, Indonesian orchards, bamboo grove and a labyrinth. The property also features a beautiful meditation court and herbal garden. The gardens are on Jalan Tirta Tawar.
Downhill cycling tour
On this tour, you'll spend more time eating than pedalling. The day starts with breakfast overlooking Mt Batur followed by a visit to a Balinese plantation where you'll taste local fruits, teas and coffees. You'll then cruise downhill through Balinese villages, making many stops along the way to see traditional family compounds and artists at work. At the end of the downhill part of the tour, guests are given a choice: take the van or cycle uphill to lunch, a bit of a no-brainer.
Watch the sun rise from Mt Batur
Getting up at 2am and walking up a mountain may not be your idea of relaxing, but seeing the incredible sunrise from the top will make it worth it. About an hour's drive from Ubud, Mt Batur is a pretty easy two-hour trek, but you will need a guide. The walk down is pleasant and a lot easier when you can actually see where you're going. After the early start, you might then find you want to do the most relaxing thing of all in Ubud - have a little nap.
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