“Go North!”, as The Village People sang (or would’ve done if they’d just turned 90º clockwise). In any case, ‘Go North!’ is my rallying cry to all novice scooter riders wanting to take a pleasant day trip from Ubud. The roads are quiet and heading up towards the lakes of Batur or Beratan, you are guaranteed a plethora of things to do; from waterfalls to temples, to breathtaking rice terraces.
Ubud really is ideally placed in Bali for all kinds of exploring around the island. I’ve picked out a few of my favourites which – avoiding major junctions and dilapidated mountain roads – are suitable for beginner drivers.
The beauty of taking your scooter is that no planning is needed. Simply wake up with a feeling of adventure and off you head!
Take your pick of the following:
Kintamani and Water Temples Tour
Morning Food Market, Tegallalang Rice Terraces, Tirta Empul Water Temple and Lake Batur Hot Springs
This trip is one of my favourites as there is so much to do on the way. The times given are estimated times if you go straight there, without any other stops. You can make as many stops as you like or go straight to Kintamani, depending on how much time you have and what you feel like doing. The stops could, of course, be done just as easily on the way home.
Tegallalang Market (15 minutes)
Head north up Jl Raya Andong from the Arjuna Statue and after about 15 minutes you will arrive at Tegallalang Market which will be busy with early morning hustle and bustle. If you need breakfast before heading off, pop up the stairs and head straight down the middle aisle, which is lined down the left side with all kinds of cheap and tasty options, both sweet and savoury.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces (20 minutes)
Shortly after the market, you will pass through Tegallalang Rice Terraces. If it’s still early you may want to park by the side of the road and take some pictures or even have a wander around while enjoying your market breakfast. Once the tourist buses have started arriving though, the place soon becomes teeming with selfie-snappers and sarong sellers (see Cultural Heritage Tour for a better trip to way better rice terraces).
Gunung Kawi Sebatu / Pura Mengening / Tirta Empul (30-35 minutes)
These three water temples lie in close proximity and you can take your pick, or visit all three.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu is a small temple, with a big pond filled with Koy Carp and closed water temples for both men and women. Don’t be surprised to find people performing their ablutions here, as it seems to be used more for washing than for blessings. Still, the water coming from the spouts is clean enough to drink and there are the 7 spouts for you to perform a spiritual cleansing ritual if you like, just try to ignore the single-use packets of shampoo littering the floor! It’s 15k to get in although before and after sundown the ticket booth is usually unmanned.
Go back on yourself from Sebatu temple a few minutes until you get to the junction and continue further down the road until you come to Pura Mengening. Again, this temple is used more by locals than tourists, but it’s a real hidden gem with beautiful landscaped gardens, water spouts and two natural bathing pools at the bottom where you can rinse out your hair under a mini-waterfall. The entrance fee is ‘donation’ although you are politely advised that 20k might make a good donation fee.
Pura Tirta Empul is the jewel in the crown, famous in this area and throughout Bali for having the holiest water on the island. When a really powerful water healing is needed, this is the water that is sought. Come early or late if you want to avoid the solid queues and take note of holy days and full moons when it is even more packed than normal.
Bistro Bali (35 mins)
It’s a good idea to get lunch before you start heading any further North. The road leading up to Kintamani and the area around the lake has somewhat of a reputation for being a rip off joint and my experience has not suggested anything to the contrary. In fact, I have rarely made it up to Kintamani without being ‘befriended’ by a local who really wants to show me his coffee plantation. This has even happened whilst riding along at 50kmph!
You will see the ‘Cat Poo’ coffee places lining the sides of the road as you ascend to Kintamani. Avoid them, there are plenty of authentic coffee plantations that you can visit (see Food Lovers Tour).
So, in order to ensure you are fully fed and watered and ready to answer with a polite ‘No thanks, I’ve just eaten lunch / drank coffee’ before entering the danger zone, I recommended stopping off at Bistro Bali. If it’s too early for lunch, you can just as easily stop off on the way home.
Batur Lake view (1hr 15mins)
As you continue your ascension to Kintamani, look to your right to catch some great views of the mighty Mount Agung. I was lucky enough to get these shots of it spewing ash clouds back in late 2017.
Enjoy the ride and the views as you ascend higher and higher, eventually arriving at the main road which overlooks the lake. You can stop here to take some breathtaking shots of Mount Batur and the lake, then follow the switchback as it descends down to the shore.
Take a right to follow the shore around or go left to the hot springs.
Batur Hot Springs (1hr 40mins)
The hot springs are right on the shores of the lake and offer beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. They tend to start filling up around 11am as trekkers who have been to see the sunrise from the top of Mount Batur return from their walk. If you can avoid this slot, it’s a nice place to hang out for a while, with numerous hot pools, small cascades to sit under and a full sized swimming pool.
Entrance fee for bulés (foreigners) is a hefty 120k and includes a welcome drink and snack (a very sugary watermelon juice and some fried banana), plus towels and a locker.
After that, you can head straight home or you can take the road which continues around the base of Mount Batur and through moonlike, volcanic landscapes. Beware though, this route takes longer than it looks as the roads are extremely rough and filled with trucks. I ended up down this road on my first ever bike trip, just 4 days after first getting on a scooter and it was a bit nerve-racking, I have to say. However, it’s worth it for the weird vistas. Just make sure you have a face mask for all the dust!
Route: Google Map url
Cost: Breakfast (5k), Lunch (50k), Hot springs (120k), petrol (20k)
Food Lovers Tour
Start your day with an amazing cup of Bali Beans coffee in the beautiful surroundings of Plaga and take a tour of the organic plantation where the beans are grown, processed and brewed for your delectation. On the way home, cool off in the pools of the spectacular Nung Nung Waterfall and stock up on your favourite bars of Pod chocolate.
This ride is another ride North, this time taking the road up to Plaga. Not at all on the tourist trail, this road is very quiet and takes you through beautiful rice fields and sleepy villages. You can start your ride from the South end of town, my suggested start point is the Pepitos supermarket in Singakerta where you might want to grab a pastry to accompany your morning coffee at Bali Beans.
Now, of course, you are free to stop first at Nung Nung waterfall on the way to Bali Beans, as you need to drive right past it anyway. However, if you want to start the day with a decent cup of coffee, I recommend heading straight there. It’s about a one-hour drive through increasingly beautiful countryside and as is perched on the roadside, a fresh and modern looking building in the middle of nowhere.
Send a message to Ayu before you arrive and she will take you on a little tour around the family plantation (you can read more about it in my blogpost), maybe even helping with the harvest if you manage to visit between May-July.
The little coffee shop overlooks the Plaga countryside and it the perfect place to enjoy a freshly brewed coffee, straight from crop to cup!
You could argue for hours over which waterfall is the best, biggest, most beautiful in Bali, but it would be pointless. When you get the chance to visit one, go for it and you will rarely be disappointed. Nung Nung falls from a great height and offers plenty of space at the base for bathing and sitting around. Yes, there are a ton of steps, who’s counting?
Pod Chocolate is probably the most well-known brand in Bali, and deservedly so. They have a huge range of flavoured bars, using local ingredients such as cinnamon, banana, coconut, etc and from white and milk, for the sweet tooth, all the way up to their premium dark range for the chocolate connoisseur.
Bars in the shop are priced no cheaper than in Ubud but it’s well worth the visit for all the free tasters.
Yes, you can freely wander around the shop, tasting a sample of every single one of their flavours. There’s a coffee shop which unfortunately does not do a hot chocolate, but does serve a variety of sickly sweet creations.
There is also the option of doing a chocolate workshop and even elephant rides (not quite sure on the chocolate connection in that case.)
Route: Google Maps url
Cost: Pastry from Pepitos (20k), Coffee (25k), Waterfall entrance fee (20k), Bar of Pod for later (50k), Petrol (20k)
n.b. The google map shows a detour in order to reach Pod. This is an error on the map, Pod in fact sits right on the main road (on the right if you’re coming back to Ubud) and you should spot it easily.
Cultural Heritage Tour
Visit the spectacular National Heritage site at Jatiluwih, where you can trek amongst some beautifully sculpted rice terraces. After that, stop at one of Bali’s most important temples, stunningly located at the foot of Mount Batukaru.
This trip can be done as a standalone or can be added on to the Food Lovers Tour. There are many trails through the rice terraces so it depends how much time you would like to spend there. You can start your ride from the South end of town, my suggested start point is the Pepito’s supermarket in Singakerta where you might want to grab a couple of snacks for your trek in the rice fields.
As you travel North to Jatiluwih, you will find the roads get quieter and more deserted the further you get. These rice terraces benefit from their relative isolation by receiving much fewer daytrippers than those at Tegallalang. Besides this, they are much more expansive, offering opportunities for trekking amongst uninterrupted vistas. You will walk amongst farmers ploughing their fields or gathering the harvest, depending what time you visit.
The usual tourist touting is evident around the parking area and you can eat at one of these restaurants if you need to.
A map at the beginning of the trail indicates the different paths you can take, the shortest of which is a loop which takes about 45 minutes, and the longest, around 3 hours.
Not too far from the rice terraces and nestled at the foot of Mount Batukuru lies one of the most important temples in Bali – well worth a visit whilst you are in the region. There are many gardens you can wander through and enjoy the peace and quiet as, although the temple is well-known to the Balinese, it is still a little remote to make it onto the main tourist trail.
Route: Google Map url
Cost: Jatiluwih entrance (50k), Temple entrance (20k), Petrol (20k)