Ubud is said to be the cultural capital of Bali. The area is studded with Hindu temples and sacred sites, the surrounding landscapes are sweeping rice paddies, jungle, and hidden waterfalls, and the area itself is known for yoga, healing, and cultural traditions. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Bali, and although it can easily be done in a day, it’s best to plan on spending a couple of days of days here. There are plenty of things to do in Ubud, but I’m going to share the best in this blog post.
How to get to Ubud
Ubud is located about 1.5- 2 hours from Bali’s Denpasar airport or the surrounding areas of Kuta, Seminyak, and Sanur.
Bali has no set public transportation, so travellers need to rely on private car or shuttle. Public shuttles are the least expensive option but also take the longest; most shuttles make many stops along the route and are not direct. You will also need a minimum of two people to book a shuttle.
Private car or taxi is the more expensive option, but much quicker. If you take a taxi, ask them to turn on the meter. Assuming traffic isn’t awful, this will be the best rate. If you take a private car you can expect to pay somewhere between 150k and 250k IDR depending on the driver and where you are coming from. Don’t be afraid to barter.
Where to Stay in Ubud
There are two ways you can enjoy Ubud; by staying directly in the city centre, or by staying 15-20 minutes outside in more natural surroundings. Many resorts are located just outside the city centre, but you can also find some hostels and home-stays here as well. It is much more peaceful and picturesque, however, if you don’t plan on renting and driving a scooter it can be inconvenient for getting around.
There are plenty of hotels, home-stays, and hotels directly in the city centre. The main roads are Monkey Forest Road and Hanoman Road, so try to stay in these areas. Home-stays are a great option in Ubud as you get to experience local family life, but can have your own (or shared dorm) room for no more than you would pay at a hostel or budget-friendly hotel. I stayed at Wayan Family Homestay on Hanoman road and absolutely loved it. It had dorms for backpackers on a budget, and private rooms. Plenty of open garden space, friendly staff, and amazing banana pancakes for breakfast.
Getting Around Ubud
The best way to explore the city centre it, of course, by walking. However, if you choose to explore the nearby surroundings you will need some form of transportation. Motorbikes can be rented just about everywhere for one day or multiple days at a time. It’s probably best to rent through your accommodation as they will likely be the most trustworthy, but feel free to shop around. Ubud is very busy, so unless you have experience riding, this probably isn’t the place to try.
Side note: Some travellers reported not being able to share motorbikes (ie 2 per bike) because the area is incredibly hilly and the bikes struggled to make it up with more than one rider.
If you are uncomfortable renting a motorbike you can always get a driver to take you around. There are travel agents selling day trips all through town, however, we had bad luck with this (waited 2 hours only to be told car broke down and no trip) so preferred to find a taxi driver. Most drivers have a set price for the excursion, so feel free to gather as many people as you can, again there is always wiggle room so shop around and haggle.
For a reliable, friendly driver with good English use “Mr.Wonderful” (real name Putu): firstname.lastname@example.org, I used him three times and was never disappointed. Tell him Hannah from Canada sent you 🙂
The Best Things to do in Ubud
It wouldn’t be a trip to Ubud if you didn’t go to Monkey Forest. Tickets are 40k IDR to enter the forest and temple area that is home to hundreds of macaque monkeys who are more than happy to post for photos, eat bananas, and steal your things. Best to keep hats, sunglasses, and jewellery packed away, and don’t bring in any food. But don’t worry, compared to other monkeys in Bali, these guys are quite friendly. Do be prepared for them to jump on you though! Monkey Forest is located within the town of Ubud and easy to walk to.
Try a Yoga Class
Yoga is everywhere in Ubud, and at any time of day you will spot yogis walking to and from various studios with their mats. Whether you are a beginner or avid practitioner, you will have no problem finding a class to fit your level. The most popular place is the Yoga Barn, which also holds meditation sessions, movie nights, and ecstatic dances. However since it is the most popular, it’s also a little pricier than smaller, lesser known studios in the area.
If your exercise of choice is shopping rather than bending, that’s no problem. From clothing to Balinese batik, local crafts, sarongs, silver, knickknacks and more, the streets of Ubud will not disappoint. If you are willing to haggle, don’t skip the Ubud Market!
Relax at Saraswati Temple
On Jl. Raya Ubud, behind the big Starbucks is Saraswati Temple. Its a beautiful place with a lotus pond perfect for taking photos. It’s best to visit early in the morning before it gets too busy.
Take a Class
Ubud is a great place to take a class on unique Balinese traditions. Whether it be a cooking class, a batik class, a silver making class, or even a Balinese massage class, you are bound to find something of interest to you.
Go to a Fire Show
Fire shows are common around Bali, the most famous being at Uluwatu Temple. However there are smaller, less crowded, fire shows in Ubud as well. They take place about three times a week and cost 75k IDR per person for the one-hour performance. Fire shows take place at a few different temples around the city. We went to one on Hanoman road, but just keep an eye out for the signs.
Walk the Local Rice Paddy
Ubud’s famous Tegalalang Rice Terraces are world famous, but you can skip the crowds and view smaller, but more natural looking Rice Paddies in Ubud. Look for the Rice terrace path sign on Jl. Raya Ubud, just past the Lotus Cafe and the Starbucks. It looks a little sketchy but once you get past the narrow dirt path you will find yourself on a walkway through the local paddies. If you go during the day, prepare to be quite hot. Don’t worry though, there are a couple warungs along the way to sell you fresh juice. If you want to beat the heat, and the other tourists, go early in the morning around 7:30 am. You will probably have them to yourself but bring water, the warungs don’t open til 10am or later. It was one of my favourite things to do in Ubud.
Hit the Spa
As in everywhere in SE Asia, there are plenty of places to get a massage or spa treatment in Bali. A regular visitor told us to try Padma Hastaa Spa on Monkey Forest Road, and it did not disappoint. While I avoided the massage thanks to last my traumatizing experience in Thailand, my friends loved their traditional Balinese massages. I personally recommend the hair cream bath which did wonder’s for my hair which was an ocean-tangled mess after a couple weeks of diving. Girls with long hair- this is definitely one of the best thigns to do in Ubud.
Visit a local Magic Man
Eat Pray Love’s Ketut Liyer passed away earlier in 2016, but there are plenty more magic men in the area. From palm readers, to healers there are plenty to choose from, so do your research ahead of time. You can read about my experience with Agus, a Balinese palm reader here.
Climb a Volcano
Bali has many volcanoes, and two of them are close enough to climb. Mount Batur is the most popular pick as it is the smallest and takes about 1.5-2 hours. If you are up for a bit more of a challenge try the highest peak in Bali, Mount Agung. The most popular hikes are for sunrise, so be prepared to leave at 2am (or earlier!) to get there in time. Sunrise from Mount Batur is one of the top things to do in Ubud.
Visit a Waterfall
Bali is home to many waterfalls, some are well known, and some not. The most visited waterfall near Ubud is Tegenungan Waterfall, however some drivers (including Mr.Wonderful/Putu who’s email I shared earlier) know of quieter, less busy waterfalls perfect for swimming on a hot day.
Get Blessed by Holy Water in Tirta Empul Tampak Siring
Known as the water temple, Tirta Empul Tampak Siring is one of the most popular temples for tourists to visit. However, if you bring your own sarong and swim wear (or a change of clothes) you can join the locals in the healing waters. Check out my experience doing this here.
Visit the nearby Temples
Bali has millions of temples, and many of the most beautiful ones are within driving distance from Ubud. Popular temples include Goa Gajah (the Elephant Cave), Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, and Tanah Lot for sunset.
Visit the famous Rice Fields
While I highly recommend the more natural and less busy local ride paddies, you can’t come to Ubud without at least driving by, if not walking through, the Tegalalang Rice Fields.
Food and Drink
Ubud is a mecca for foodies. There are plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and even raw food options, and of course different foods from a variety of cultures can be found here as well. Here were my favourites:
Putu’s Wild Ginger: Local Indonesian fare off the main tourist track. Its known to regular visitors, so expect it to be busy, but it is worth the wait. Try Putu’s special sauce, it’s not spicy but layered with delicious flavour, and if you still have room, the fried bananas are a must!
Kafe: A favourite hangout spot on Hanoman Road, Kafe is almost always busy. From Italian to Mexican, Indian and Indonesian, there’s something to suit everybody on this menu. Everything is fresh and organic.
Atman Kafe: Similar to Kafe, but a little smaller, Atman Kafe also has a large range on their menu.
Anuman Coffee: A small restaurant located above a shop. It’s quiet here; a relaxing place to drink a coconut and grab a bite to eat while looking out over the busy street.
Kakiang Bakery and Cafe: A must-visit for anyone with a sweet-tooth, this is the place to go to grab a pastry or slice of cake. Wash it down with a cup of coffee or lemon iced tea to give you a boost of energy mid-day.
Gelato Secrets: Ubud is full of gelato shops, but I loved Gelato Secrets on Monkey Forest Road. There was a variety of flavours from the always safe chocolate and vanilla, to indulgent flavours like Oreo, and something a little different like dragonfruit with cinnamon. Gelato secrets supports local farmers and you can tell they use fresh ingredients. My passionfruit cone even had the seeds in it which added a fun crunch to the cool treat.
Be prepared: Ubud is not a party place. But that doesn’t mean you need to be in bed with the lights out by 9pm either. Many restaurants are open till 11pm, making it easy to grab a drink and catch up with friends. If you are looking for something a little more lively go to to the Laughing Buddha Bar which has live music every night.
While I’ll admit that I did not love Bali, I did enjoy my time here. Hopefully my list of things to do in Ubud will give you some inspiration so you enjoy your time as well!