The Indonesian islands are a Mecca for breathtaking beaches and thriving nightlife scenes — but have you visited the inland city of Ubud, Bali? Located in the foothills of central Bali, Ubud is for adventurous travelers seeking a less touristy Balinese experience. The best way to dig into the local Bali culture is by taking a bike tour through the intimate heart of the city, where you’ll discover local villages (with lots of smiling and waving villagers), rice paddies, and more. There are countless things to do in Bali, and there’s no better way to immerse yourself in the traditional Balinese way of life than by bike.
Not great on two wheels? Well, I’m not what you would call a graceful gazelle on a bicycle — I am a gangly giraffe. So if you also have a bicycle phobia like me, don’t worry — it’s worth the awkward teetering and tottering. Plus, the tour mostly sticks to backroads (with a nice downhill slope), so you won’t be doing any intense cardio or dodging those infamously unpredictable Balinese drivers.
Ready to get started and hop on a Bali bike tour? The good news is your tour begins in a van, which does all the climbing for you and drops you off at your starting point. So sit back, relax, and start making plans to bicycle through this bucket list experience.
Breakfast with a View
Before starting on your Bali bike tour in Ubud, you’ll stop for breakfast from an awesome vantage point overlooking Mount Batur, an active volcano in north Bali. While munching on banana pancakes (they offer an omelet as an alternative — but why would you skip banana pancakes?), you can soak up the breathtaking views of the volcano and the gorgeous crater lake at its base.
If it’s not too overcast, take lots of pictures! If the early morning skies are still filled with fog, take pictures of your delicious banana pancakes instead. Now strap on your helmet, hop on that bike, and get to pedaling. (Again, it’s mostly downhill, so your brake will come in handy far more than your pedals.)
There’s WHAT in My Coffee?
The first actual Bali bike tour stop is a coffee plantation, where you’ll take a quick tour and see how the coffee is grown and processed. And you’ll get to sample the world’s most expensive coffee — kopi luwak. Ever heard of it? Go ahead and take a sip first before I tell you what’s in it.
Basically, these cat-like creatures known as civets are fed coffee beans, and then their poop is collected and made into coffee. Don’t pass up the chance to try it though (it honestly just tastes like, well, coffee). So drink up, and then mark it off your bucket list.
If coffee just isn’t your thing, you can also sample locally-made chocolates and teas at this stop. But seriously, try the kopi luwak.
On the Other Side of the Wall
Hanging out with a Balinese family at their traditional home is hands down the best experience of the bike tour. These family compounds are surrounded by high walls, and there’s not much to look at from the outside. But you’re a VIP on this tour, so step inside and get an intimate look at the Balinese homelife.
Each compound is an open-air maze of pavilions, a family shrine, and stand-alone buildings that serve as bedrooms, kitchens, and food storage rooms. Since several generations all live inside, you’ll meet lots of different family members, young and old, as well as a small entourage of happy, prattling children.
Here, you’ll sit on the steps, sip freshly brewed Balinese coffee (minus the civet poop), and chat with the family — with your guide as a translator. You’ll even get a guided tour and history of the family shrine, where spirits and ancestors are believed to dwell. The intricacies of the daily offerings and innumerable ceremonies of Balinese Hinduism are fascinating!
Being enthusiastically and warmly welcomed into such a private and intimate space is truly an amazing experience (another bucket list item — check!).
Paddies and Terraces and Fields, Oh My!
Bali has rice fields galore! The greenery stretches as far as you can see, broken only by swaying palm trees and narrow paths crisscrossing between the paddies or looping around the sides of the terraces. (Side note: Narrow paths that are not really made for cycling – they’re muddy and, well, narrow!)
Rice fields come in flat paddies or sloping terraces. On your Bali bike tour, you’ll get to see a bit of both (my favorite are the terraces). While many of the rice terraces are overrun with tourists, you won’t run into any tourists on these backroads – leaving you free to soak up the peace and quiet of the countryside.
Carb-Loading at Lunch
Hey, you made it! You powered through hours of (mostly downhill) riding through the heart of Ubud, Bali, and it’s time for a reward: lunch. Indonesian comfort food is bangin’. Order the mie goreng (fried noodles and veggies) and refuel with all the carbs.
On my Bali bike tour in Ubud, I narrowly missed running over a dog in the street. I almost went off the narrow paddy trail and into the soggy rice paddy itself. I made two unplanned “dismounts”. And I STILL highly recommend a bike tour to experience the true local flavor of Ubud!