Eat, Pray, Ubud: Finding Zen In Bali’s Spiritual Capital

Doing yoga over a beautiful view over a valley.

3.29min read

Published 30 May 2017


Lush rainforests, hindu temples, yoga and meditation studios, spas and organic eateries. Bali’s, Ubud, has long been a spiritual and natural wellness haven. And while the Island of the Gods is one of the most popular destinations for Aussies the charms of this Zen-infused mountain town are still only known to a few, despite being only one hour north of Denpasar.

The natural beauty of the area is the ideal backdrop for the plethora of wellbeing-focussed activities that thrive here and though its status as a hippy haven has been long-held, in recent years the success of “Eat, Pray, Love” (partly set in Ubud) has put the small town on the international map attracting a new wave of travellers.

Regardless of whether you’re a bona fide wellness-warrior or a spirituality-seeking novice, there’s ample ways to accrue some Zen in this enlightenment-infused hub. Here’s 5 of the best.

Zen Capital Of Bali: Meditating Over Pool In Ubud
Meditation is just one way to find zen in Bali.

Get Your Om On 

Want to increase awareness, peace of mind and live a happy, productive life? Meditation could be the answer.

While playing a role in the daily lives of the Balinese - who have all been taught to meditate during prayer from an early age - mastering this ancient state of mind takes serious practice. Thankfully, there are more meditation centres and courses in Ubud than you can shake a stick at. Tibetan sound meditation, chakra meditation, silent meditation - there are too many variations to list.

A salve for today’s hyper-connected 24/7 culture, the practice is said to help restore harmony, heal the mind and reduce stress and fatigue. Who doesn’t need some of that?

Zen Capital of Bali: Rituals At Water Spring In Tirta Empul.
Balinese locals perform rituals at water spring in Tirta Empu.l


Join Crowds of Balinese for a Water Cleanse 

Want a double whammy body and soul cleanse?  At the island’s busiest water temple you can do both at the same time.

For more than a thousand years worshippers have been drawn to Pura Tirta Empul whose scared springs are believed to have wellness and curative properties and this tradition continues to this day.

Constructed in 926 AD around 30 water fountains fill two purification pools and each spout is said to cure everything from illness to nightmares. Cleansing aside, the cool natural spring water is the ultimate relief in Bali’s tropical heat.

Zen Capital Of Bali: Woman  admiring view over Bali valley.
The beautiful, five-star Mandapa offers an enticing range of indulgent spa experiences. Image: Mandapa.

Pamper Yourself 

Bali is famous for its amazing spa treatments and wallet-friendly massage island-wide, but in Ubud many treatments go beyond the surface and take a more holistic approach. Indeed, Ubud was historically known as a source of many medicinal herbs and plants as well as a base for energetic healers. Even its name is derived from the Balinese word ‘ubad’ which translates to ‘medicine.’

One of the best spas to experience this at its most authentic is at Mandapa. Set along the Ayung River amid Ubud’s lush jungle, it’s only the third Ritz-Carlton Reserve in the world. Designed to resemble a local village in miniature, the five-star accommodation is nestled between a working temple and rice terraces and each villa boasts private pools and deep bathtubs with amazing views.

The spa’s range of Alternative Healing Energy treatments go beyond the physical, targeting both emotional and spiritual health too. Standouts include the two hour-long Aromatherapy Anointing Oil ritual, which aims to balance and re-align the chakras of the body, reducing stress and releasing negative emotions at the same time. Other favourite are Reiki - energy transfer from the giver that promotes  feelings of peace, security and wellbeing - and Acupuncture, which uses thin needles to stimulate energy (know as ‘Qi’) flow.

Zen Capital of Bali: Four Seasons Sayan Balinese experience.
Four Seasons Sayan offers a range of authentic and unique Balinese experiences. Image: Four Seasons Sayan

Have a One-on-one Life Chat with a Former Buddhist Nun 

Equally as plush, but slightly further out of town (10-minutes from the centre) Four Seasons Sayan embodies the tranquility for which Ubud is renowned. 

Positioned within a jungle gorge the resort is spread over 18 beautiful acres - this is also where Julia Roberts stayed while on location filming “Eat, Pray, Love”. The wellbeing component here covers the Sacred River Spa, in-house yoga bale (the anti-gravity yoga in particular is very popular) and meditations and life talks from resident ‘wellness mentor’ - and former Buddhist nun - Ibu Fera.  Available within group sessions or individual ones, Ibu will lead talks on developing love and compassion and discovering that elusive state of being: happiness.

Music performers on stage at the Bali Spirit Festival.
The Bali Spirit Festival holds a great line-up events. Image: Bali Spirit Festival.

Perfect Your Downward Facing Dog 

This Balinese emphasis on balance is very much in harmony with the practice of yoga and contemporary travellers to Ubud have a trove of options. Improving flexibility, circulation, alignment and developing strength - there’s plenty of reasons for hitting the mat and contorting your body into shapes you never knew existed.

Undoubtedly the most famous studio in town is Yoga Barn, a drop in space that offers daily classes as well as multiple-day retreats. Mandapa is also a favourite thanks to their comprehensive range of yoga and specific asana styles, including restorative, dynamic, advance and sun salutation. Guests can also take advantage of one-on-one sessions in their villas or at the yoga pavilion with Mandapa’s resident yoga guru - and Ubud native - Nanda, who was born into a prominent family of holy priests and is known for his strong Hatha yoga practice.

If you’re in Bali in March, the the Bali Spirit Festival should be a go-to. Now in its eleventh year, the festival ore than 7,000 like-minded yoga enthusiasts and instructors from all over the world descend on the island for a packed five-day itinerary of more than 200 workshops in yoga, wellbeing, healing and breathing.

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