Bali, Indonesia: 8 Can’t Miss Experiences for the Traveling Yogi

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As originally published on YogaTravelTree.com.

People from all over the world flock to Bali for its lush landscape, crystal blue waters and to connect with its long history as a healing and spiritual center. It is a soft, safe place to land for the spiritual seeker and offers many opportunities for the international yogi and yogini.

Find Your Center in Ubud

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Rich in art and culture with a long history as a hub for natural medicine and healing, Ubud is the spiritual center of Bali. It is the perfect place to restore from long hours of travel, begin your journey, find your footing and ground back into your uprooted center of self. Gamelan music performances, cultural dances and leisurely strolls along the avenues watching the grinning Balinese working on their art and crafts are perfect ways to get into the spirit of the island and begin to understand its rich culture. With the excitement and energy you bring to the beginning of a trip, you’ll enjoy wandering through Monkey Forest, hiking around the area and visiting local artists in working studios. Make sure to spend some time sipping coffee or a smoothie at one of the many cafés backing up to the lush and peaceful rice paddies. There are also a wide variety of yoga classes available in Ubud and Yoga Barn is a notorious stop for yoga inspired travelers.

Get quiet and go Within at Balian Beach

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This rich, black sand beach is off the beaten path and offers its low key travelers majestic waves, long beaches, sacred waters, lush tropical forests and a peace perfect for meditation and self reflection. There is a drastic separation here from the commercialism and tourists you’ll find in other parts of the island. Come here when you’re ready to go deep within and have some peaceful alone time. Yoga classes, healthful meals and retreats are close by at Shankari’s Bali Retreat.

Take in a Spiritual Sunset at Tanah Lot Temple

One of seven sea temples around the island of Bali and one of the most important temples for the Balinese, Tanah Lot brings in a large number of tourists in the high season. As one of the most recommended places to go, you’ll want to make sure to bring a little cash and a lot of patience for the local vendors and their wares. There are many opportunities from the surrounding areas to go for a day trip and take in a stunning sunset. Wear your water shoes, you’ll have to get your feet wet to get to the little rock/island temple, but the excursion is well worth it.

Let Your Spirit Soar Atop Mount Agung

When you’re ready to take your spirit to the next level, book a guide and hike up this ancient but active volcano. It is the highest mountain on the island and the place with the most spiritual significance for the Balinese. The Besakih temple on Mount Agung miraculously survived the devastating eruption in 1963 reinforcing its spiritual substance for the island population. Begin your climb in the lush forest at the base and make your way up through the barren volcanic rock at the top giving way to spectacular views. There are three intermediate to advanced climbing routes, guides should be organized in advance.

Choose Your Own Adventure in Padangbai

This port town is the perfect point to intersect with other travelers on their way out to the exterior islands. This small backpackers spot is a high energy and transient place to go when you’re ready to get moving and need direction; come to Padangbai and let it launch you into your next adventure. Spend the day at Blue Lagoon Beach then charter a small boat out to the Gili Islands or Nusa Lembongan. Make sure to negotiate a snorkel as part of the ride.

Return to Civilization by way of Kuta & Seminyak

Kuta is a bustling city with the best nightlife in Bali. When you’ve been secluded on a quiet island for weeks, it’s just the ticket to get you back into the swing of civilization and get socialized and ready to re-integrate into the world. There are many interesting spots where you can spend your remaining rupiah on a hot shower, some fresh seafood and a live show during dinner on Jimbaran Beach.

Spend a Day at the Beach in Sanur

When you’re ready for a break from adventuring, this upscale resort town offers one of the biggest and best beaches in Bali. You can sit in a lounge chair on the beach or swing in a hammock, frozen cocktail in hand. There is a long stretch of oceanfront boardwalk, ideal for gift shopping or a romantic stroll. The sand in Sanur is white and soft, not rocky underfoot like most other beaches on the island. There are lots of places in town for healthy eats and a beautiful spot for yoga on the beachfront at Power of Now Oasis.

Get Back to Basics on the Island of Nusa Lembongan

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Escape the main island and ferry or charter a boat out to Nusa Lembongan to experience the simplicity of island life on this speck of map. You’ll spend easy days napping, diving, doing yoga, sipping smoothies and watching beautiful sunsets. Rent a bicycle and cruise through the mangroves to the Beach Club at Sandy Bay for lunch, a cocktail and a swim overlooking a stunning ocean view. On Lembongan you’ll witness the simple life of locals who work as seaweed farmers in this small working town. If you’re a diver, spoil yourself in the crystal waters with instructors and masters at Big Fish Diving and get to a yoga class with Yoga Travel Tree writer Caroline Layzell at Yoga Shack.

When traveling in Bali, it’s important to take advantage of the balanced experience the island allows for. Spend some quiet, healing moments in reflection, meditation and yoga and then explore her many opportunities for adventure, diving, climbing, snorkeling and surfing. Bali is a special place. Enjoy your exploration of her countless treasures.

Off the Beaten Path: A Bali Yoga Retreat

bali retreatAs originally published on YogaTravelTree.com

315704_10150425029770086_1095314045_nI left the bustling art town of Ubud and rode for 2 exhausting hours in a non-airconditioned van in sticky hot temperatures. I was on my way to Shankari’s Bali Retreat in Suraberata, a place so off the beaten track, not even my local driver knew quite where we were headed. Exhausted as I was, I arrived at the retreat and felt immediately at peace. The sprawling compound sat in the middle of a tropical jungle, a short walk to a rushing river that opens into the sea over a wide black sand beach. This place held a sort of spiritual magic and presence; it felt sacred and I was anxious to get settled and regroup after my travel across the island.

The Balinese are always smiling and a helpful staff member with a familiar broad grin showed me to my Ganesha Yin Yang bungalow. The room was decadent compared to the backpacker accommodations in Ubud and still affordable on my budget, although only for a couple of nights at the $30 off-season special rate.

My bed was draped in white mosquito netting and I had a private patio overlooking the jungle below. I unloaded my heavy pack onto the wood floor and went to sit out there, letting the ringing in my head soften with the jungle’s heavy sense of peace and quiet stillness. It was the first peace I’d had since my journey began.

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I headed down to the beach and held up my loose pant-legs as the water rushed across my shins and my heels sunk into the heavy black sand. An ancient part of me wondered at the audacity of wearing white pants to a black sand beach on a rainy day, but the new part, the free part, laughed and her heart pounded with happiness and liberation. I’d never seen the river meet the sea before, though I’ve seen it many times since. It felt so indicative of my life at the time, like a metaphor. It felt as if the current were trying to take me to a bigger and broader set of experience and I was in awe that I’d never seen the expanse of opportunity laid out before me this way.

Here in this quiet retreat, off the beaten tourist path, Bali was beginning to heal me. It was working to shape this new version of myself and I was letting the rapid current soften the hard stones around my soul and erode the walls built up to protect my heart. I felt the place working on me like a masseuse and I knew, standing there in the river, looking out at the Balian Sea, that I would never be the same and that was exactly why I came; to be changed.