Ubud is one of those places that almost everyones has on their hot list when visiting Bali. Often referred to as the cultural and spiritual centre of Bali, it became internationally famous during the 1930s when Western artists and intellectuals settled here. It continues to grow in popularity and fame, being featured in books and movies like Eat, Pray, Love. Surrounded by natural beauty it is a charming village lined with cafes, restaurants, artisan shops, sacred temples and museums. With so much on offer I have created a list of what I believe are the 10 best things to see and do in Ubud, Bali.
- Visit the emerald green Tegallalang Rice Terraces
The nature around Ubud with its lush rice fields and ridges is breathtakingly beautiful! One of the most stunning terraced rice paddies can be seen at Tegallalang village – around a 30 minute drive from Ubud. It still uses the ancient irrigation system known as ‘Subak’ which was developed in the 9th century. The rice fields are free to visit with the most stunning views from the hilltop right next to the main road.
2. Watch monkeys play at Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is home to three Hindu temples as well as more than 600 cheeky long-tailed Balinese macaques. The grounds have an Indiana Jones feel to it with bridges, jungles, old temples and of course hundreds of monkeys that enjoy the grounds. The sanctuary is located within walking distance of Ubud centre, at the end of Monkey Forest Road which is lined with boutique shops, restaurants and cafes. (Open daily 8 am to 6 pm – entrance fee applies)
3. Admire the pink lotus flowers at Pura Taman Saraswati
This gorgeous temple is set within a water garden that boasts hundreds of water lilies. Built in the 1950s it honours Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, literature and art. It is a peaceful and tranquil place to spend a few quiet moments in the very heart of buzzing Ubud. (Free to visit)
4. Wander around Ubud Palace – Puri Saren Agung
Rebuilt after the earthquake in 1917, the colourful palace, Puri Saren Agung is the official residence of the royal family. Visitors can access the courtyards and enjoy dance performances in the evenings. (Free to visit daily from 9 am to 5 pm).
5. Appreciate Balinese art at Museum Puri Lukisan
The Puri Lukisan Museum show-cast examples of modern traditional Balinese art from the 1930s to the present era which include Balinese paintings as well as wood carvings. The artwork is distributed between four exhibition buildings surrounded by a large garden with a small lotus pond at its centre. (Open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, entrance fee applies)
6. Experience the many different flavours of Bali
Ubud is one of the best places on the island for food. Whether you are looking for organic produce at one of the local markets, authentic Balinese dishes that are offered in the many warnungs (local eateries) or fine dining – Ubud caters to any taste and budget. We very much enjoyed our 5 course lunch at Locavore (pictures above) one of the new foodie hotspots in Ubud that uses locally sourced ingredients in their unique flavour combinations (full review coming soon!).
7. Shop until you drop
Ubud is a centre of artisan communities and the perfect place to look for handicrafts. Exotic textiles, paintings, garments and jewellery can be found in the colourful markets and shops in and around Ubud. It is worth walking through the smaller side streets to discover hidden little gems like the Threads of Life (picture above), a fair trade business and educational studio that sells naturally dyed handmade textiles. Its main focus is to keep this ancient skill alive as well as to alleviate poverty in rural areas by working with more than 1,000 women from all over Indonesia.
8. Enjoy a relaxing Balinese massage
Of course this is not exclusive to Ubud but certainly a must-do while visiting Bali! The options of massage places and spa’s in Ubud are seemingly endless and a wonderful way to recuperate and relax. While I did not have enough time to have a massage in Ubud I enjoyed wonderful massages at our hotels Alila Villas Soori (picture of the Soori’s spa area above) and Alila Villas Uluwatu.
You might also like: Pure relaxation at Alila Villas Soori in Bali
9. Visit the World Heritage Site Goa Gajah
A little bit outside of Ubud is Goa Gajah, also known as Elephant Cave – the name is slightly misleading as the site has nothing to do with elephants. It is believed that an elephant was once part of the carved rock entrance to the cave, hence the name. The relic-filled courtyard, bathing pools and cave are down a steep flight of steps. A little path behind the main relics leads to a beautiful rainforest, rice paddies and a small waterfall. (Open daily from 8 am to 5.30 pm, entrance fee applies)
10. Marvel at the beauty of Tegenungan Waterfall
The gorgeous Tegenungan Waterfall is located South East of Ubud at the sacred river of Petanu. Stunning views can be enjoyed from the cafe opposite of the waterfall and a long flight of steps leads down so you can get closer to the waterfall or the pool underneath where the brave can even enjoy a cooling swim. (entrance fee applies)