It was another beautiful morning in Ubud, Bali. Today was sure to be one of the highlights of our trip: a visit to the famous Tegalalang rice terraces and a drive around the still-active volcanic peak of Mount Batur.
Breakfast was at the fabulous little French cafe, Le Moulin, just a few minutes’ walk from Kamandhani Guesthouse. One of our favorite things about Ubud is the amount of truly stellar food you can find. On one little stretch of road near our guesthouse, you pass Greek, French, Italian, Mexican, and Turkish restaurants, not to mention the local cuisine!
Sufficiently stuffed and ready for the day’s adventure, we set off on the main road leading north out of Ubud. The sun was in and out of the clouds as we drove around half an hour to the tiny town of Tegalalang and their idyllic rice terraces.
We parked across the street and began winding our way down the steep hillside (lots of stairs!) towards the stunning rice terraces. Although technically free to tour, the locals have set up little “toll stations” with suggested donations (less than $1) for your visit.
We didn’t mind our first “toll” – these people do need to make a living, after all – but by the third “toll” we felt empowered to say no and continue on our way. Use your own judgment here, and do whatever your conscience moves you to do. It’s a minor annoyance in what’s otherwise a beautiful and awe-inspiring place.
As usual, we got so caught up in exploring and taking photos that we soon found ourselves off the beaten path…well off the beaten path! We started backtracking until we met a kindly old farmer who showed us a shorter (and more scenic) way back.
While I don’t recommend purposely getting lost, I must say it was nice to have the place to ourselves. While the rest of the tourists were jammed up on the main trail, we were the only souls in sight for close to an hour, save for a few hard-working locals.
Eventually we found our way back to the main path, where we joined the rest of the tourists in completing the circuit (granted, our tour was probably a tad longer than theirs was).
The Tegalalang rice terraces were stunning, but it was time to move on! We retrieved our car, consulted Google maps, and continued north towards the volcanic peak of Mount Batur.
This area is truly unique because the volcano is actually made of two calderas. The large inner caldera is now home to Lake Batur, while the majestic (and still active) stratovolcano peak rises over 2,000 feet (700m) from the water’s edge.
The rain and clouds that had chased us from Ubud cleared long enough for us to enjoy some breath-taking views of the peak and lake. Eager for a closer look, we started down the long, winding road towards the lakeside. Along the way we discovered Batur Natural Hot Spring, perched right on the edge of the scenic lake.
We weren’t prepared for hot springs (and the weather was a bit too warm, anyway), but we took the opportunity to stop for lunch and enjoy the unique scenery. Then we studied the map to determine if we would return to Ubud the same way, or take the more scenic route around the backside of the volcano.
As you probably guessed, we opted for the scenic route.
In an unexpected treat, we reached an area where the lava flow occurred during the most recent eruption in 1968. Not about to pass up the opportunity, we parked the car and hiked up to check out the dried lava.
It was like visiting another planet! The lava dries razor sharp and very uneven, so you definitely have to be careful as you traverse it. It was really incredible, though, to see plants pushing their way up and nature slowly restoring itself.
A steep switchback road led us up out of the caldera and back onto the road to Ubud. Dinner that night was at a funky little restaurant on Monkey Forest Road called De’Warung. We ordered a Balinese feast (literally) and washed it down with some amazing lemongrass mojitos (why has no one else thought of this?) as we watched the tourists go by.
Bali’s eastern beaches are lovely, but its central interior is TRULY spectacular. A visit to the Tegalalang rice terraces and Mount Batur are a must on any Bali road trip itinerary!
And in case you missed it, be sure to check out my blog on Ubud Horse Stables, too – definitely the best way to explore Bali’s lush interior.
Next up on our road trip…two of Bali’s most beautiful (and hidden!) beaches.