To many, the mention of Bali evokes thoughts of a not-too-far away tropical paradise – with white sands and clear blue water populated by surfers and beach bunnies. However, once you visit Ubud, you realise that Bali is so much more. And one needs to grasp its essence to fully appreciate this unique island.

The magic of Ubud country side

A town in central Bali, Ubud is where the spirit of the island is evident. It’s Bali’s artistic hub that shares the most beautiful rice fields and ancient monuments with east and west Bali. It is also dominated by dramatic volcanoes, hillside temples and a tropical rainforest: great for soul searchers and nature seekers.

Yet, this small spiritual town has developed a large tourism industry. As you approach the centre of Ubud, the greenery gives way to streets filled with locals and tourists alike, weaving their way in and out of shops, restaurants, and temples on motorcycles. But not far away from the crowded centre, one can discover the timeless scene of rice farmers methodically sowing terraced emerald fields and a literal breath of pristine air. It is here, on the outskirts of Ubud, where one can have the most authentic Balinese experience.

Do a rice field walk or cycle

 It’s hard not to fall for Bali while cycling its quiet back roads, which are lined with stepped rice fields, temples and women in bright sarongs balancing religious offerings on their heads. See locals at work in the field, cultivating rice and tending to their flocks of ducks – all of this with no tourists around. In this part of Ubud, It’s so easy to grasp the island’s wilderness. Adventure and cultural discovery are also part of theholistic experience.

Go on a rafting adventure

Bali’s longest river and most holy waterway, the Ayung, flows a hundred-odd metres and is popular amongst rafters who enjoy alittle bit of adventure. Sobek, the first white-water rafting company in Bali, is based just up the road from the Estate.

Along the voyage down river, you have the opportunity to enjoy Bali’s forest scenery, wildlife and exotic plants. The rapids are rated class one and two, making it fun and exhilarating but by no means extreme.

Experience the Tjampuhan Ridge and Pura Gunung Lebah

Tjampuhan Ridge is not a secret to most travellers in Ubud, but if you do it in the very early morning you can still enjoy the magic atmosphere of the area and Ubud’s lush jungle for yourself. The trek starts at Gunung Lebah temple – dated from the 8thcentury and one of the oldest in Bali – nestled in the foothills of Tjampuhan Ridge Walk. Gunung Lebah marks where Ubud all began, at the auspicious confluence of the Wos rivers. The journey will take you to the base of Lover’s Hill, a hot spot for Balinese couples, until the ridgeline separates the rivers, where you can enjoy extraordinary views of rice terraces, traditional houses, and remote volcanoes.

Stay at Como Shambhala Estate

Located near the village of Payangan in rural Ubud, Como Shambhala Estate is a 23-acre wellness retreat unrivalled in Southeast Asia. The Estate provides a holistic and 360-degree approach that offers world-class massage therapies and beauty treatments. Although the cuisine is always nutritionally balanced, Como Shambhala appeals not just to those with specific wellness goals in mind, but also to travellers in search of pristine nature and culture.

From the room, you can hear a low but constant rushing sound of the Ayung. The Wanakasa residence – meaning “forest in the mists”- is the most private of the estate’s five residences and closest to the river, perfect for those who opt to unwind.