10 km north of central Ubud lies one of Bali’s most important natural treasures and UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tegalalang Rice Terrace. No first trip to the Island of Gods is complete without a tour of its lush green heart and a stroll along the rice paddies of Tegalalang.
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I have previously written about our first visit to Tegalalang Rice Terrace many years ago and what not to do there like have a hole in your pocket and lose your scooter key. So this time I thought I would focus more on how and where to get the best photos in Tegalalang.
Normally I wouldn’t do a photography guide like this because I don’t think getting great photos should be the focus when visiting new places. It can take away so much of the experience, especially in a magical place like this. But at the same time, this is one of the most iconic sights you can visit in Bali so I do get the urge to have some incredible photos to show for it. I’m exactly the same. So use this guide to get your photos out of the way early and then wander around and truly take in the beautiful surroundings.
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All the photos in this post are edited with my Island Light Lightroom Presets
Tegalalang Rice Terrace photography guide
When to visit Tegalalang Rice Terrace (and where to stay close by)
The best time of the year to visit Tegalalang is in March/April and September/October. During these months, the rice terraces are at their best and look lush and beautiful. All the photos in this post were shot in April.
If you want to get the best possible photos in one of Bali’s most popular attractions, you guessed it, you have to get there early. Not only to beat the crowds but you want to catch those early morning sun rays peeking through the palm trees and bouncing off the rice fields. It’s the most magical experience. Like most other places, the rice terrace just doesn’t look that great in the harsh midday light. And not to mention how hot and humid it gets down in that valley!
We left our accommodation in Sebali around 6 am and got to Tegalalang about 15 minutes later. The scooter ride was super easy, so much so that I wish it would have lasted longer. It was so nice to drive and take in the scenery without (almost) anyone else on the road. And by the way, booking four nights at the Green House was the best decision we ever made.
We had been to central Ubud many times before so staying in the calm rice fields halfway between Tegalalang and the center of town was such a nice break from the normal Bali craziness. And did I mention there is a swing in the garden overlooking a lush green rice terrace!? It doesn’t get much better really. So instead of queuing up and paying for the touristy swing in Tegalalang, book a stay with Green House and take as many photos on the swing as you’d like at no extra charge.
Even though we went so early, there were already several other photographers there. And even an engagement shoot going on. But don’t let that discourage you, there’s more than enough room for everyone to get their shots. The light shining through the palm trees happens about 45 minutes after sunrise and, of course, only if it is a clear day. So be sure to check the weather forecast the night before you plan to go.
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Where to find the best sunrise photo location
We all know that iconic Instagram shot with the soft morning light shining through the palm trees and a girl in a dress trying to walk gracefully through the muddy and slippery rice field. Yes, just like the one of me above. And believe it or not, that shot is very easily achievable. You just need to get there right after sunrise and know exactly where to go.
Even if you’re not after that perfect shot, it’s worth making your way to this location. Trust me!
There are several paths that lead to the Instafamous sunrise photo location. You can walk down one of the stairs between the restaurants and stalls or you can use the main Tegalalang entrance if the others are closed. We parked our scooter along the side of the road close to By Vegetarian and Vegan Cafe and used an entrance that said Ceking Rice Terrace Area. We then walked down into the valley and crossed over a bridge (if I remember correctly).
The important thing is that you make your way to the terraces that have the white paving blocks going up. It’s the largest terrace with a flat area on top, you can easily see it on Google maps above where the red line starts. Make your way to the very top where there are a small hut and a gate and walk along the right side into the valley. Stop when you get to the big cement steps with a little open house and some benches and umbrellas at the top. Congrats, you have arrived at your destination!
The part of the rice field where you get the best sunrise photos is blocked off by a fence and a makeshift gate. Remember to be respectful and do not open the gate by yourself, this is Wayan’s property. He has set up quite a profitable business where he charges 50k Rp. to walk into his ricefield. Ulrik tried to bargain with him at first but Wayan would not budge. He knew what he could get and stood his ground. Good for you Wayan!
After we paid the 50k his stern expression suddenly turned into a friendly smile and he then guided us into the best spot. What I was really impressed by is that he only let about three groups get access at a time. When we were finished, it was someone else’s turn. So again, it’s important to get there early.
All photos in this post are edited with my Island Light Lightroom Presets
There’s no official entry fee at Tegalalang Rice Terrace. But there are points around the terrace where the locals will set up shop and ask for donations. We paid 25k for the two of us which I think is a fair amount considering some people are actually walking all over their fields and sometimes destroying them. Remember to bring some small bills, more often than not they don’t have enough change to give you back on a 100k. And remember if one of the locals hand you a basket, hat or some kind of prop and ask you to take a picture, they will expect a tip afterward.
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I have read online that Tegalalang opens at 6 am, 7 am and even 8 am. But in my experience, there isn’t an official opening time. As mentioned earlier, we got here around 6.15 and found several open entrances. If the first one you try is closed, just go to the next.
What to bring to Tegalalang Rice Terrace
If you head here for sunrise, make sure to bring enough water. It gets super hot and humid down in the valley, even in the early hours, and none of the stalls and warungs will be open at this time. The best option is to bring or buy a reusable water bottle as many restaurants and cafés in Ubud will give you a free refill when using a non-plastic bottle.
And of course, bring your photography gear. This is what we used:
- My trusty Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
- My favorite f1.8 25mm lens
- 64GB ultra-fast memory card
- Our beloved pet drone: DJI Mavic Air
Remember to pin for later 😉