Jatiluwih Rice Terrace UNESCO World Heritage site

Last updated on September 15th, 2023

The Jatiluwih rice terraces crawl over the hills of central Bali. Part of the Cultural Landscape of Bali UNESCO World Heritage site, these terraces are the end point of a fully integrated system that ensures just the right amount of water reaches the terraces at just the right time. It’s also a system that shaped Bali’s landscape.

photo of rice terraces and mountains in Bali

Wandering through Jatiluwih Rice Terrace

Bali has so many amazing sights that a rice field may seem like an odd must-see itinerary item. But I visited Vietnam too late in the season to see rice in most paddies, so seeing emerald green terraces in Bali was high on my list. And seeing them just as the sun rose would be perfect.

But it’s a slow drive from our hotel down on the peninsula south of Denpasar to the Jatiluwih terraces in central Bali. That means the sun was already well above the horizon by the time we arrived.

photo of rice terraces and mountains in Bali

Our driver directs us to a sign with a map of the designated trails through the terraces and the points us in the direction of a path to reach them. He promises to meet us at the village whenever we are done walking around. He then gets in his car and leaves.

Once the car is gone, the only sound is the wind, the jingle of a few bells in the paddies, and occasional hint of a voice from the village at the end of the terraces.

photo of rice terraces and mountains in Bali

A beautiful man-made landscape

While not as steep as some of Bali’s other rice terraces, Jatiluwih is lovely.

photo of rice terraces and mountains in Bali

But this is a hard-working landscape. It’s been created and managed by generations of farmers who make their living in these fields and continue to shape the landscape as their ancestors have for hundreds, or even a few thousand, years.

photo of scarecrow in rice terraces in Bali

Although there are few other visitors here, we are not alone. Almost, but not quite. An occasional tourist passes by or is visible on other trails. And a couple of farmers check their crop and the various devices designed to keep birds away. Mostly we are accompanied by the sounds and movements of an ingenious mix of plastic ribbons, sails, scarecrows, and bamboo poles with leaves that rustle with the breeze or lines that sway in the wind like slow-motion whips.

I’m not sure how effective it is, but it makes the landscape dance with motion, color, and sound.

Today Jatiluwih’s birds seem to generally accept their banishment, with only a few attempting to settle into the precious crop. And they don’t seem very serious about, lazily fleeing whenever someone approaches and calls out to them. But the rice isn’t ripe yet. There will be other opportunities.

What’s are all those buildings?

The fields are also sprinkled with small buildings.

photo of a shelter in a rice paddy

At first, I think they are houses. But that’s not right.

One is a tourist shelter with information on Jatiluwih and the rest of the Cultural Landscape of Bali UNESCO World Heritage site.

The rest of those we pass are barns or simple shelters. The farmers who work these paddies store equipment and supplies here, including cattle. And they can take a break from their work here without returning to their homes in the village.

Photo of a cow

Many farmers still use livestock for plowing – their cow is their tractor, so keeping cattle right in the fields makes perfect sense.

Jatiluwih’s rice terraces are part of a subak system

Bali grows a tremendous amount of rice given the island’s small size. That’s possible in large part due to a very old system where farmers cooperatively build, maintain, and manage everything needed to grow rice. That includes:

  • Temples and ceremonies to ensure the gods continue to supply water
  • The building, maintenance, and management of irrigation systems and terraces
  • The planting, care, and harvesting of the rice crop

The cooperative group that manages all this is called a subak. Bali has about 1200 of these groups managing rice paddies of various sizes. Jatiluwih and the more famous Tegalalang terraces are both part of larger subaks included in the Cultural Landscape of Bali UNESCO World Heritage site.

Plan your visit to the Jatiluwih terraces

Jatiluwih is located in a very rural area of central Bali. It’s more than an hour from Ubud, so it’s a bit off the usual tourist trail. Most tourists visit the Tegalalang terraces, which are gorgeous, easy to get to from Ubud, and cater to those desiring the perfect selfie for Instagram. Thus, they tend to be quite crowded.

Jatiluwih is much larger than Tegalalang, but it mostly covers rolling hills. It has few of the very steep hillsides found at Tegalalang. But, if you are looking for steep terraces, there are plenty of options that aren’t as developed for tourism. One of our drivers stopped along the way at a spot where I could wander down into the terraced paddies on my own. (The marigold field was an unexpected bonus.) Most farmers don’t mind as long as you stay on the path and don’t disturb the crops or the cattle.

photo of terraced fields in Bali

(I don’t know if this terrace is part of the UNESCO designation, but it was lovely.)

The best time to visit the Jatiluwih rice terraces

You’re probably planning your Bali vacation around the best time to be at the beach, rather than in the rice paddies, but here are few things to consider if you want to see the rice terraces at their best.

Show more about the best time to visit Jatiluwih . . .

Visit while rice is in the field

The best time of year to visit the rice terraces depends a bit on what you want to see. And, while most websites say that the best time to visit is between February and April, that misses a lot.

See, farmers in Bali can grow more than one rice crop a year. And farmers in different areas plant at slightly different times, so that means there’s usually a crop in the paddies most of the year – and there should always be at least a few terraces that are gorgeous whenever you visit. Ask which terraces are at their best when you get to Bali.

But keep in mind that the terraces can look very different depending on when the paddies were planted. Early in the season the young rice grows in pools of water, but as the season progresses, the paddies turn brilliant green and then golden before harvest.

I was there at the very end of October and the paddies at Jatiluwih had just a hint of yellow as the nearly mature rice began to ripen.

photo of green rice in a paddy

But in another terrace in a different area, the paddies were still jade green without a hint of yellow.

The only time the terraces aren’t absolutely beautiful is right after the harvest. Once the rice is harvested, the stubble is burned, the paddies are plowed, and everything is sort of a muddy mess for a while before they are replanted. This most often happens in August and then again about January, but with two or three crops a year planted at different times in throughout the island, you’re unlikely to ever find all of the paddies harvested and awaiting new plants!

Visit while the sun is low and the air is cool

The Jatiluwih terraces are officially open to visitors from about 8-6 every day, although it is easy enough to wander in at any time. Early morning or later in the afternoon are the least busy times to visit and the low light makes the terraces glow. This is also when farmers are most likely to be working in the fields or feeding their cattle. However, clouds often obscure the view of the mountains in the afternoon.

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Getting to Jatiluwih

The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces are only about 25 miles north of Ubud, but it takes almost 1½ hours to drive there. (You don’t drive anywhere very fast in Bali.) The road is good and the site is pretty well signed. We hired a driver for the day to take us here and to a number of places on this part of the island, but it didn’t look that hard to find on your own either.

Keep in mind that driving in Bali is complicated. You can hire a car and driver for a relatively low cost and enjoy the scenery while he figures out how to get to where you are going while navigating foot traffic, parades, festivals, and livestock.

Once you arrive at Jatiluwih’s terraces

There are a number of places where you can enter the terraces, but the main entrance is just past the village. There’s a small entrance fee, as well as a parking fee.

There are several designated walking and biking routes through the paddies. They are well-marked both at the entrance and along the way. Most are pretty short, but there are a couple of longer ones and you can combine them however you would like. Just keep in mind that the entrance is at the highest part of the site, so you’ll have a bit of a climb (mostly gentle, but long if you go to the far end of the site) to get back out.

Besides route marking, the site has a couple of exhibit areas. Restrooms are also available.

There’s no food or water available in the terraces, but the village is right there and has several options.

photo of a scarecrow in a rice paddy with text "Bali's Jatiluwih Rice Terrace UNESCO World Heritage Site"

colorful carved face of a demon or spirtLink to all posts on Bali Indonesia on ExplorationVacation.netlink to posts on Asia at ExplorationVacationlink to posts on island destinations at ExplorationVacation.net

2 thoughts on “Jatiluwih Rice Terrace UNESCO World Heritage site”

  1. How Incredible photos of the Rice Terraces. I love visiting UNESCO sites, and this is so beautiful. I hope I make it out here in Bali someday

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