Head to Bali’s cultural heart -- set among lush rice paddies and jungle -- for cooking classes and homestays, spas and shopping, dance performances and the Sacred Monkey Forest.

It is impossible these days to think about Ubud -- Bali's cultural heart -- without also considering the enormous success of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love. While you will find no shortage of local travel companies promoting Eat, Pray, Love “experiences”, there is more to Ubud than spirituality, rice paddies and fortune telling medicine men.

Unless you have the luxury of endless time, you might find that a trip to Bali can only include a few days in Ubud. For that purpose, here is a four–day itinerary for this breathtaking location.

Getting there and settling in
If you are travelling directly from the airport, make sure you use an official metered cab. A one-way trip to Ubud will cost around 100,000 rupiah and will drop you straight to your hotel or guest house. Nick’s Pension is a popular choice for accommodation, with reasonable rates. If you are after more seclusion and some killer views, try Villa Indah. It is a little pricier than a homestay, but with significantly more privacy and a small staff on hand 24 hours a day.

Day one: Getting a feel for the place
The most touristy part of Ubud can be found on Monkey Forest Road, where touts and hawkers line the streets offering transport or entry into their stores. While it can get a little overwhelming, the best thing to do is relax – most people are just trying to make a living, and they will leave you alone if you politely refuse their offers. Remember that the first sale of the day is considered lucky, so salespeople will be more willing to give you the best price.

Head to the Sacred Monkey Forest at the end of Monkey Forest Road. A lush jungle sanctuary, the forest is full of cheeky macaques all vying for your attention (and food). Be warned that they will come after any treats you have on you, so check your bag and pockets for any food before you enter. Similarly, the macaques are invariably protective of -- and competitive with -- their young. If they perceive you are giving them too much attention (or food, again), other macaques  may snarl or hiss at you, sometimes even attacking. Be careful.

You should try eating at a streetside warung where the food comes on plastic plates and there is only one kind of beer – cold. But if you would rather ease into your culinary adventures, Ubud has no shortage of delicious restaurants serving both traditional and Western food. Australian Janet de Neefe has built a small empire of restaurants in Ubud since her arrival in 1974, and any one of them is well worth a visit. Try Indus or Casa Luna, both located on Jalan Raya, and enjoy exemplary service, the freshest of ingredients and delicious Balinese cuisine.

Day two: Culture meets bliss
In addition to her restaurant ventures, Janet de Neefe has been offering cooking classes in Ubud since 1987. With a different class offered each day, visitors can choose anything from a beginner’s class to a market tour to the very special Sunday evening smoked duck twilight class. A cooking class with de Kneefe is a must-do on your stay in Bali and will take you through until the early afternoon.

You might also like to visit one of Ubud’s many spas to unwind. Although you will have no trouble finding one along the shopping strips of the town centre, for a little bit extra you can double your experience. Tucked away in the folds of the jungle, clients at Bali Botanica can finish full body massages and scrubs by luxuriating in a rose petal bath that overlooks a mass of greenery. Bookings are essential but your hotel can arrange this for you.

If you are after somewhere stunning for dinner, you cannot go past Murni’s Warung. Ubud’s first real restaurant, Murni opened the warung in 1974 and has been operating it ever since. With four stunning levels overlooking an intimate river setting, the food is sensational and the service extremely charming. Alternatively, try local legend Naughty Nuri’s. It is a must-do in Ubud, famed for its pork ribs and brutal martinis.

Day three: Adventure
Although Ubud has a reputation as a place of relaxation, there are actually a number of activities on offer for thrill seekers. Bali Adventure Tours operates various options for those wanting to really earn their massage. From white water rafting along the Ayung to downhill mountain cycling and river kayaking, there is plenty available here to get your heart racing. Those after a little less exhilaration can head to the elephant sanctuary 16km north of Ubud at Desu Taro.

An adventure tour will take around half a day, but you will probably want to relax a little afterwards. Have a nap and another massage, followed by cocktails at Bar Luna. The latest feather in the cap for de Neefe, Bar Luna has only recently opened and is already attracting praise for its embrace of writers, performance and music in the small open setting. With cocktails a steal at two-for-one between 7:30 and 8 pm, Bar Luna is also a great place for satisfying food options before heading out to a traditional Balinese dance performance. Ticket vendors sell along Jalan Raya all day, and there are a number of dances available. Ask around for advice on the best ones to see.

Day four: Winding up and saying goodbye
This is the time to do all the last-minute shopping you thought you would get done during your four days here. There are some wonderful shops along Monkey Forest Road where you can purchase batik sarongs, brooches and mementos of your stay. Check out some of the stores selling paper goods and handmade jewellery, the profits of which go to support small villages in the region.

The final stop you need to make is for lunch at Sari Organik. Located off the main road in Ubud in the middle of a rice paddy, it is about a 20-minute walk through parts of Ubud you might not have yet seen. Instantly rural and picturesque, Sari Organik is an experimental organic farm that practises fair trade and the promotion of local produce. Owned by a local Balinese woman, it is a truly unique experience and is the perfect way to end your time in Ubud. Relax on a pile of cushions while drinking organic beer and eating the freshest of produce, and reflect on the magical four days you have just enjoyed.

The article 'Four days in Ubud: Beyond Eat, Pray, Love' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.