Ubud might have fought its fame by its arts and crafts, but nowadays, its glory is based on anything colored green. Thanks to it’s secluded location in the middle of the island, far from the surfing vibe and close to the sacred mountain of Agung, holy river of Ayung and dozen of most powerful temples, Ubud has been attracting spiritual crowd for years. It all started with yoga retreats and healing centers and then the infrastructure followed the hype. Now one can’t make a step without bumping into something marked as ‘eco’, ‘organic’ or ‘green’ – be it a cafe, a grocery shop or a market. We’ve picked up 10 places you can’t miss.
The pioneers of ‘conscious eating’ movement in Bali. This place is always packed with a crowd that may seem odd / slightly insane to a stranger’s eye. But a little crazy is part of the Ubud dress-code, so it’s best you don’t roll your eyes when a 100-year old hippie next to you gently talks to her food before stabbing it violently with her fork. Or when a group of people with no particular age or gender suddenly jump up for a massive hug over a plate of gluten-free brownies. It’s actually you who looks who looks a little strange out here, being all normal and appropriate. Speaking of brownies: they are delish. And so are all the cakes you can see on display. Half of them are sugar-free, others are made with no gluten or anything considered to be ‘cruel’, and some are even raw. And the main menu is worth checking out too. Years go past, but the Kafe’s kitchen crew never fail to master a great broccoli & chicken pasta (yes! Real chicken! Talking about compromising here…), lentil stew and amazing buckwheat pancakes with berry compote. And with a crowd like this you will forget about your IPhone, guaranteed.
Little K at Yoga Barn
A beautiful compound of traditional wooden pavilions that host daily yoga classes, crystal bowl group meditations, ecstatic dance sessions and all the stuff in between. Little K is the offspring of Cafe Kafe, and a juice and snack bar with the wooden deck over looking the palm trees and stunning jungle flora. Hang out with yogis having their pre-class power smoothie (only bamboo straws are allowed as this place is extremely anti-plastic), then indulge in a well deserved goji-berry-chia-seed-wake-my-inner-kundalini-up kind of energy ball afterwards.
A Destination for healthy elixirs, smoothies and tropical juices with a twist – think of fresh mango with cayenne! This beautiful space looks more like a contemporary art gallery than a full-on healthy food restaurant with a dynamic California trio as a mastermind behind the cooking stove. Bestsellers of Indian, Japanese and Mexican cuisines in their guilty-free versions, great breakfast options and all-time favorites like spicy tuna burger or thick buttermilk pancakes. Here they substitute anything with anything: regular bread with spinach loaf, eggs with scrambled tofu, dairy with almond or cashew milk and champagne with kombucha, all made in house. Wear flipflops as they ask you to leave your shoes at the door so you can ‘sense more’ with your bare feet. On the run to your 6-hand massage with no time for a proper meal? Grab one of the lovely vegan sweets or healthy snack at their street booth – warning, it’s highly addictive!
Down To Earth
You can buy a whole new life for yourself at this supermarket of eco-friendly goods. Chia seeds, cold pressed coconut milk, packs of flaxseed, unbleached oats, quinoa, raw cocoa beans, palm syrup, bee pollen – you name it. Almost everything is certified organic and half of the goods are locally produced. Food supplements? Tick. Spirulina in all ways possible? Tick. Eco-tampons and reusable pads (yikes! We mean – wow!) – even those. There is also a great selection of locally made cosmetics: check the Cantika range for their chemicals-free shampoos and body oils. And there is a popular cafe upstairs serving vegan and raw food which not only sounds healthy – it tastes great, too.
Probably the only vegetarian cafe in Ubud that attracts non-vegetarians, too. Because the food is beyond the ‘hummus-smoothie-salad’ standard, it’s creative enough to make the most violent steak lover curious. Here is your must-try list: polenta fries, red curry, parmesan gnocchi, Thai green papaya salad and lemony ricotta cake if you can (and you have to!) squeeze it all in. This place is a perfect hideaway on one of those tropical, hot sticky days as it’s basically a shaded open air terrace floating over the big green jungle. Get a table with a swing!
Centre of alternative medicine with great massages (try a very relaxing lymphatic or Thai), aquatic bodyworks pool and cafe with lovely healthy cuisine where strict vegetarians can unite with carnivores as there is something for everyone. Dive into Ubud’s holistic life by making an appointment for something that sounds as exotic as ‘Eternal Breath’ or ‘Access Consciousness’.
An epicenter of all things spiritual in town. Regulars of this vegetarian cafe/juice bar/organic shop are so enlightened it hurts. Jump for joy if you are one of the tribe and mimic if you’re an alien. Slow pressed juices are seriously good with a twist. Guess how beetroot & pineapple tastes? Divine. Alchemy won its glory with a generous and creative salad bar that opens up for lunch only. All the ingredients are homemade, even non-dairy parmesan, sun dried tomatoes, vegan bacon (no typo here!) and chips of various dehydrated seeds. They’ve recently started a salad bar for breakfast and it’s a fun game, too: fill your maison jar with homemade dairy-free papaya yogurt, cubes of red dragon fruit, crispy granola and top it up with freshly whipped coconut cream. Now you are good to join the group of longhaired folks talking tantra!
This tiny cafe can be easily spotted by the piles of young coconuts at the entrance. And the owner is quite a character: an extremely friendly Indonesian guy in his late 50s who wears a straw hat and sits pinching strings of his guitar like he’s under the tree on the uninhabited island. Don’t be surprised by his accent – Johnny has been living in California. Ask him if you are lost in the extensive menu of healthy elixirs or not sure if you should order a ‘live pizza’ or pasta made of raw zucchini. For the best vibe come in the evening when there is live music that attracts the cream of Ubud’s community.
Bali Buddha (Bali Buda)
Bali Buddha is an institution. Two levels of healthy food where you can purchase supplies downstairs or eat upstairs in a breezy bamboo bale where the chakras of the visitors are open wide. People watching at its best. Another must-do is an advertising board at the entrance – the most famous in town. Find your new housemate, a free reiki teacher, ‘singing vagina’ classes, ceramic workshops, Tarot readings and much more – this wall pretty much describes what Ubud is all about.
First, you have to leave your scooter in the parking area and then walk for good 15 minutes through the picturesque rice paddies. You may drive through the narrow path, but if it’s your 3rd day on the bike, don’t even think of it. Better let your feet do the walking, enjoy the stunning views, greet the smiley farmers and be rewarded with fresh mango juice when you finally approach the infamous cafe in the middle of the fields. The owner, an energetic Indo lady called Nila, established this warung years ago as an addition to her farm, just to ‘use the excess of the harvest’. Her simple but incredible cooking quickly spread by word of mouth, and the bamboo pavilion grew bigger. But the bestsellers of the menu are still the same: try tofu hummus, red sweet potato smoothie, chicken mushroom stir fry and ginger lemongrass tea. Then stretch at the mat and watch the clouds gliding over the rice fields.
Stay tuned for the next part in this series: ‘the other 10 ‘spiritual’ places of Ubud’!