Getting Spiritual in Ubud, Bali / by Erika Belavy

Nestled amongst the rice patties of Bali is beautiful Ubud. Made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert in her bestselling novel, Eat Pray Love, Ubud now has a thriving expat community of spiritual seekers. I spent a month on this lovely island, and cannot wait to go back! Here are some of my recommendations for your next trip:

The beautiful Tegalalang Rice Terraces

The beautiful Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Where to Stay

Before arriving in Bali, I booked my first few nights at a lovely hotel in central Ubud. I opted for the Alaya resort, which is right in the heart of town and also right next door to The Yoga Barn (it seems everyone who comes here knows it!). 

My plan was then to orientate myself around the city, and then commit to a place long-term, once I got my bearings. The Alaya resort was lovely overall, don't get me wrong, but I would have preferred something with a bit more charm... Then again they have a beautiful pool and kombucha, so that's winning in my books!

Most long-term visitors stay well outside the centre of town and rent scooters for the duration of their stay. Central Ubud is busy and frankly I had heard too many horror stories of scooter accidents to go for this option. Instead, I found a lovely home-stay called Umah Dauh on a quiet street and within walking distance to everything. The place was spacious, clean and  provided me with my own balcony where I could star-gaze and watch the sunrise. It was perfect!

Sunrise from my balcony at Umah Dauh

Sunrise from my balcony at Umah Dauh

Where to do Yoga

There are two main studios in the centre of Ubud, the Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive. Everyone raves about the Yoga Barn and overall I found it to be a well organised place with highly qualified teachers and a variety of classes and workshops outside of traditional yoga.

Otherwise, I found the Yoga Barn to be rather impersonal. Sure, you can meet some nice people while sitting at the cafe there, but for the most part you feel like a number and are constantly monitored. I once came to an empty yoga space where I thought I could do a bit of my own practice before meditation class, but was quickly kicked out.

Radiantly Alive on the other hand was a lovely studio with a really nice vibe. Everyone was always welcoming and kind at reception, and you really felt a nice sense of community there. My only advice would be to bring your own mat to class, because they tend to be on the smelly side.

In the end, I did my yoga classes at Radiantly Alive, and only went to the Yoga Barn for other classes that I couldn't find elsewhere, such as Shamanic Breathwork, Ananda Mandala Meditation, Women's Circles and Ecstatic Dance (what YB is most famous for!). More on that below.

Ecstatic Dance at the Yoga Barn

This is THE PLACE TO BE on a Friday night Ubud.... at least if you're amongst the spiritual seekers. Tickets are very limited and sell out fast. I know people who would line up at 6:00pm to be amongst the first to purchase wristbands when the sales opened at 7:00pm. This seemed to be the only way to go, as many people who came later would be refused a wristband. In the event that you can't get a wristband, don't fret! There is usually a big group of people who dance outside anyway :)

If you are one of the lucky ones and manage to get in, be prepared to bust all your wildest dance moves. People REALLY let loose here (and are completely sober when doing so!). I've seen snake dances, people dancing with sage or palo santo in their hands and even some wild yoga-inspired dance moves. Anything goes, as long as you let yourself go!

What should you wear? My first class I wore a workout outfit, because in my mind, this was supposed to be more of an exercise class - wrong! Oddly enough people get really dressed up for this class. From glitter and sequins to psychedelic leotards and bohemian gowns... so don't be afraid to dress up.

Where to Eat

I wanted to take advantage of my stay in Bali to make it a full on detox. So, I opted not to drink alcohol and to stay on a fully RAW food diet at the time. That essentially involves eating all kinds of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains. This would have been impossible to do at home, but Ubud is a hub of raw food restaurants. I ate like an absolute queen and tried a variety of dishes that I was keen to make when I got home. I lost several pounds (that could be from cutting all the red wine out of my life, haha) and my skin was glowing! I never felt better.

What's great about the places below is that even the most unadventurous omnivore is sure to find something delightful on the menu. Here are my fave places:

  • Alchemy: Just outside of the town, this is by far THE place to eat raw vegan. Yummy breakfast bowls and delicious, fully raw, vegan sushi are on the menu.
  • Clear Cafe: Newly built on two floors on the main street. Some of THE BEST KOMBUCHA in town!
  • Soma Organic: A lovely relaxed vibe and nightly jam sessions. Fridays and Saturdays everyone gathers around for a spontaneous kirtan.
  • Seeds of Life: Another raw food favourite. They have a full tonic-bar and the most delicious desserts!
Sacred Monkey Forest

Sacred Monkey Forest

Things to See

  • Sacred Monkey Forest: Being surrounded by monkeys and having them climb on you is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Make sure not to smile at them, because they see teeth as a sign of aggression. And whatever you do, don't bring food in your bag... they will find it!!
  • Tegalalang Rice Terraces: A beautiful place for your perfect photo opps. Go early (7am!) to avoid the crowds and catch the perfect lighting.
  • Traditional Fire Dance: It's a bit touristy, but a cool show!
  • Gili Air: When you're crazing some beach time, head over to beautiful Gili Air. Time stands still on this quiet little island is free of motorized vehicles. If you enjoy seafood, you'll get the freshest catches here, served up on a nightly BBQ. There's not much nightlife though, so Gili T is the place to be if you want to party.

Children in Gili Air

Children in Gili Air