Tips to enjoy hiking the stunning rice terraces in Bali…
without falling into the tourist trap,
or without being bothered by the number of tourists sprawling all over the place.
If you have poured over numerous Asia travel sites, then there is no missing the mention of the stunning rice terraces in every single Bali guide you have ever come across. The cascaded emerald-green rice fields are an intricate part of Balinese people and their culture. They are also a dreamy backdrop and accompany you for the most part as you make your way exploring the island.
Rice terraces were the very first images I had seen of Bali when I had first stumbled upon the gorgeousness of the island on the internet several, several years ago. The imagery of the rice paddies were even more glorified (of course, it deserves all the glory and more) in my head after watching Tyra Banks model her way through the rice fields during an episode of America’s Next Top Model. Too bad that back then I had no idea that one day I’d become a blogger and do photoshoots in similar rice fields in Bail or I would have picked up a cue or two from Tyra and her models 😉
DID YOU KNOW?
Balinese people have hand carved the rice terrace fields with the help of some simple tools. They have depended on this method of rice terrace agriculture for almost 2000 years, now maintained by their succeeding generations.
We were quite lucky to be welcomed by dramatic views of the rice fields with Mount Agung in the background just an hour after we landed at the airport (read more here – this was in Sideman which happens to be one of the popular and less crowded regions on the island to explore the rice terraces). After that encounter, we simply couldn’t wait to hike down the rice terraces and be lost among all the lush greenery. Though seeing rice fields is not new to me as I grew up in India making a few trips to rural India at least once a year, but visiting the terraced paddies that span across the slopes and valleys in Bali was something else.
While there are plenty of rice terraces across the island, the one that is THE most popular is the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. It is about 20-25 mins drive from Ubud town and given its proximity to Ubud, it is also one of the most crowded tourist attractions. But do not get the crowd get to you, you often see a lot of people complain about a place being too touristy and overcrowded, but isn’t the one writing those reviews one such tourist too? and so am I, and so are you! Not just the rice terraces, but it’s true for any popular travel destination, so quit complaining, and learn to enjoy the beautiful sites on earth alongside other tourists.
Having said that, follow these tips to make the most of your trip hiking the rice terraces…
HOW TO GET THERE: You could rent a car with a driver and make it part of a day tour, or hire a scooter. There is plenty of parking available and you can spend as much or as little time as you want, exploring the rice fields.
WHEN TO GO: Time of the day you visit makes a huge difference in how you experience the rice terraces. Best time is early in the morning during sunrise or late afternoon. a) it is not crowded. b) the sun rays falling on the green fields during sunrise and sunset are pure magic. c) you beat the heat while hiking the rice terraces, it gets really really hot and humid during the day in Bali and you will literally be dripping sweat. So the earlier in the morning you go, the better it is.
HOW MUCH TIME TO SPEND: It totally depends on you and your preference. But I’d say anywhere between 15 mins (if you are in a rush) to 2 hrs (if you want to make your way all across the rice fields stopping for several photo ops). Start at the sign that says ‘Rice Trekking’ which directs you to the stairs that lead you to a bunch of steps going down/up and then onto the bridges.
WHAT TO WEAR: Given the heat and humidity in Bali, this becomes extremely important, trust me! Choose comfortable and breathable/airy clothes, my personal favorite is to wear something in red (best color) or white (next best) colors. These colors compliment the vibrant greenery beautifully and really make your photos stand out. And wear a good pair of shoes as there are a lot of stairs to climb up and down which can be slippery at times.
WHAT TO CARRY: Water, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, umbrella (optional), some snacks (optional depending on how much time you spend, we were so hungry by the end of the hike). Bring plenty of small notes for donations (see below).
DONATIONS: Locals in the fields will stop you and ask for a donation before they let you walk over to the next patch or cross the bridges. This is beside the entrance fee that you have already paid which can be annoying at times, but come to think of it, it is one way that locals make some extra money, so just be prepared and don’t let this spoil your experience. It is recommended that you give them a minimum of 5k-10k IDR ($1-$2), its about $5-$10 on an average that you would have to shell out depending on how many stalls you pass.
PRO TIPS: If you want to completely avoid the crowds then skip the most popular rice terraces in Tegalalang and go to another private field nearby (or you could go to one in a different region altogether). Yes, this is possible, we did it thanks to our awesome car driver for the day. He took us to a private rice field a few minutes drive from the ‘touristy’ one and we had the rice fields all to ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed it without having to wade through big crowds. But I also wanted to visit the most crowded one just to get a feel for it, which we still did and enjoyed it too, despite the crowd. Just know that since the fields are so huge, you are actually not in each other’s face all the time, so don’t worry too much.
You could also take in the beauty of the rice terraces while swinging in one of the famous Bali swings, or from one of the restaurants/cafes that overlooks the fields.
DO NOT miss the I Heart Bali sign!
DO take pictures wearing/holding the rice fields photo props – bamboo baskets, rice field hats a.k.a. straw hats. Locals in/near the rice fields will give it to you for a small donation.
DO NOT let the local sellers get to you. Either up your bargaining game and buy what you like or politely decline and move on if you don’t wish to buy anything from them. As with any tourist destination, we found that the prices of any item at Tegalalang were at least 2-3 times more than other places (will share my tips on the cheapest place to buy souvenirs etc in an upcoming post).
Again, I can keep raving about Bali and our experience exploring the island all day long, see what I mean here and here. So stay tuned as other Bali travel guide blogposts will be hitting the blog soon.
“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”