The rice paddies around Ubud, some of which date back to the 9th century are perhaps the most magical and unique aspect of life in the area. An enormous part of Balinese life community and spiritual revolves around these rice fields (see Rice Culture).
When walking through the fields, you’ll see stunning green terraces, farmers at work with scythes, gaggles of ducks dipping in the mud, and other aspects of traditional village life. It’s hard to remain unmoved by the ravishing beauty here.
Some of the best walks and tours in Ubud’s rice paddies are listed below. Alternatively, pick up a copy of the Bali Pathfinder map, which details the best walks around Ubud. It’s inexpensive and available at the Ganesha Bookstore, on Jl Raya, as well as in other shops and tourist venues in town.
The best time to walk is early in the morning shortly after sunrise. It’s the coolest time of day, and the lingering mists of the night add an extra special magic to the rice-paddy vistas. This is what renowned local art collector Agung Rai calls the “golden hour” because it’s so inspiring.
Walk 1: Abangan
Perhaps the most accessible walk, which can be done in a loop from the Ubud main street, takes you past one of the best restaurants in town: Sari Organik. Take the path either from a steep gravel driveway ascending to the right just before the road dips down under the Campuhan Bridge (following the signs for Sari Organik), or starting at the other end by following Jalan Kajeng to the end until it becomes a walking track through the fields.
This walk is sheer delight. Several farmers will try to sell you fresh coconuts on the way, or there’s a little shack with wooden seats run by a lovely Balinese called Gusti, who’ll shimmy up a tree to fetch one for you.
Sari Organik is well worth a stop for a drink or a meal en route; it’s open from 8am to 8pm daily.
Walk 2: Campuhan Ridge
This walk starts at a path next to the Ibah Hotel, and leads you down a steep and mossy staircase, across an old stone bridge to the Tjampuhan temple, Pura Gunung Lebah.
Walk 3: Sayan
In Sayan you can be slightly more intrepid than in the Ubud town centre, exploring the banks of the Ayung River and venturing into the rice paddies on the opposite side. Often the farmers don’t seem to mind if you cross their land, as long as you do so respectfully. There are many points where you can access the river and the fields beyond, but one of the best is at the Sayan Terrace hotel.
Bali Bird Walks
There are hundreds of bird species living around Ubud, particularly in the rice fields and near the gorges and waterfalls. Whether you’re normally a bird-fan or not, the Bali Bird Walk is terrific fun. English eccentric Victor Mason has been conducting bird walks in Bali for over fifteen years. He’s immensely knowledgeable about the local birdlife and a highly entertaining guide.
Victor and his colleagues operate local bird walks several times a week, commencing at 9am and culminating with lunch in a beautiful restaurant. Along the way you’ll see around 30 exotic bird species including the Java Kingfisher, the Black-winged Starling, and the Scarlet-headed Flowerpecker. You’ll also come across a host of different butterflies, and learn a little about plant medicine and rice cultivation.
10% of the proceeds from the walks go towards Victor’s conservation project, the Bali Bird Club.
Bali Herb Walks
For centuries, the Balinese have used a wide range of native plants & herbs for therapeutic, medicinal & health enhancing purposes. The Herb Walk is a unique opportunity to explore the prolific plant life that flourishes here.
Familiarize yourself with a wide range of native plants and herbs; learn to make identifications by sight, smell and taste; gain insight into the techniques and practices of traditional and contemporary Balinese herbal healing; explore various methods for diagnosing and treating common ailments; learn how you can interpret various plants effects for individual constitution; and be introduced to the plants that are used for first aid, emergencies and the treatment of chronic illnesses.