A visit to Ubud, which is referred to as the cultural heart of island, is a must while in Bali. The town itself is known to be a mecca for traditional Balinese arts, traditions, and crafts. The surrounding landscape is covered in stunning scenery and temples, and there are enough restaurants to make any foodie feel like they have died and gone to food heaven.
There are tons of things to do in and around Ubud to keep you busy for days, and we’re sharing our favorites to help you get the best out of your visit. So, from yoga to hiking a volcano and cat cafes to mask museums, here is our list of the best things to do in Bali.
Temples and Culture
A 10th century temple that is fed by a natural spring. The bathing pools here are believed to have healing powers and visitors can take part in the traditional purification ritual alongside the locals (there is a proper order and process, but the friendly locals will guide you).
It’s a stunning temple and plays an important role in Balinese mythology as it is believed to be the setting for a great battle between Dharma (good) and Adharma (evil).
Tip: Go early on a weekday to beat the majority of the crowds.
A unique temple and impressive archaeological site, Gunung Kawi is a collection of carved stone shrines cut into the face of a rock cliff. Legend says that these shrines are in memory of an ancient defied Balinese King and his family.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu
A stunning water temple with several pools and gardens. It’s one of the least visited temples in all of Bali, but because of this is a relaxing and serene place to visit.
Pura Taman Saraswati
Unlike the other temples on this list, Pura Taman Saraswati is actually IN Ubud town, so you can walk to it. The architecture is gorgeous and the lotus ponds add a little something special to this place. It’s a great escape if you are looking for a little bit of peace and quiet.
Also known as the Elephant Temple, Goa Gajah is one of top visited temples near Ubud. An intricately carved cave, jungle paths, and bathing pool are all part of the complex. This temple dates back to the 11th century and is open from 8am-4pm daily.
Barong and Kris
Barong and Kris is a mythological Balinese dance drama. It’s a classic tale of good vs evil that dates back to the 12th century. The dance is about an hour long and pamphlets are handed out ahead of time so that viewers can follow the story (there is no narration).
Kecak Fire Dance
Another theatrical performance is the Kecak Fire Dance. This story is an epic from the Ramayana though the highlight of the Kecak Fire Dance is the music and sound created mainly from a circle of local men chanting in different tones and volumes throughout the performance.
Balinese Magic Men
If you have read or watched Eat, Pray, Love then you may be familiar with Balinese Magic man. Ketut Liyer was the magic man from the book, but he has since passed away. However, there are several other magic men in the vicinity of Ubud who are willing to give you a reading (for a fee of course). Just do your research ahead of time as you will likely have to book an appointment in advance.
Museums and Galleries
As the cultural and artistic center of Bali, it makes sense that Ubud would have a couple of museums and galleries dedicated to the arts. There are two main museums to visit: the Blanco Renaissance Museum and the Museum Puri Lukisan, along with several other smaller galleries.
Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets
Set to preserve the cultural heritgage, this museum holds about 1000 masks and 4000 puppets from Indonesia and beyond. Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets isn’t located in Ubud, but rather about 17km outside of the city centre. However, the collection here is quite impressive and worth the trip.
Once the home to the royal family, today the Ubud Palace is a focal point and important landmark in Ubud. The front area is open during the day to visitors who are interested in seeing and photographing the palace.
Ubud Art Market
Ubud’s streets are lined with many boutiques and shops, but it wouldn’t be a proper Balinese town without a market as well. The Ubud Art Market, located opposite the palace, is definitely worth checking out if you are looking for souvenirs, though the quality may not always be as good as you will find in the shops. Don’t forget to barter!
Take a Batik Jewelry Class
Batik is a popular art form that can be seen all across Bali in items such as painting and even clothing (especially Balinese sarongs). If you are creative or just interested in learning the technique, you can take a Batik class in Ubud.
If you love arts and crafts, consider also taking a jewelry class. There are a couple different options that will allow you to create something unique.
Natural Attractions & Wildlife
The Cranes of Petulu
Every evening around 6pm thousands of white cranes fly into Petulu, a tiny village just outside of Bali. The cranes then spend the night there before leaving early the next morning. According to the locals, the cranes started doing this in 1965 after a communist massacre. Folklore says that the cranes are the souls of those who were killed.
Ubud’s monkey forest is something travellers come away either loving or hating, but it kind of is a must. This area is full, and I do mean full, of curious and cheeky monkeys. The lucky visitors will get plenty of cute photos and maybe have a monkey sit nicely on their shoulder. The unlucky visitors will have their belongings taken by sneaky monkey fingers. Try not to bring anything you don’t need, or keep it zipped shut in your backpack. Oh, and don’t bring any food! If you want to feed them, you can purchase some bananas just inside the main entrance.
Sunrise at a Mount Batur
Mount Batur is an active volcano about an hour’s drive from Ubud. It’s a popular hiking destination with the most popular hike being the sunrise trek. This involves a ridiculously early wake up call, but as you sit at the peak and watch the sun rise over the jungle, you will realize that it was definitely worth it.
Campuhan Ridge Walk
With the start of this trail just outside Ubud city centre, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is a favourite for traveller in Ubud. Past the lush jungle and rice paddies, this scenic route is a gorgeous way to see the natural side of Ubud. Word of caution; it’s very open which means it can get really hot really quickly. Your best bet is go to early morning, or late afternoon and make sure to bring water. Allow about 2 hours for this trail.
Chase a Few Waterfalls
Bali is paradise for waterfall chasers, and Ubud has its fair share of gorgeous waterfalls in the nearby vicinity. There are five main waterfalls around Ubud, all of which are worth checking out. They are: Tegenungan Waterfall, Waterfall Kanto Lampo, Dusun Kuning Waterfall, Timbumana Waterfall, and Nungnung Waterfall.
Tegallalang Rice Fields
Tegallalang Rice Fields are Bali’s most famous rice fields. This scenic area is a favourite for tourists and can draw pretty big crowds all looking to take photos or walk through the paddies themselves. The area has been quite built up thanks to its popularity, with plenty of nearby shops, vendors, and restaurants.
White Water Rafting
Ubud’s Ayung River is perfect for white water rafting. Not only do you get the thrill of the sport, but riding down this river also provides a great opportunity to see some stunning scenery and wildlife.
Food and Drink
Take a Cooking Class
Cooking classes are possible across Bali, but since Ubud is such a foodie destination it just makes sense to take one here. Most classes are only half a day and many offer vegetarian options. There are plenty of cooking classes in Ubud, but we recommend checking out the Balinese Farm Cooking School, Payuk Bali Cooking Class, or Casa Luna Cooking School.
Have Dinner (or Drinks) With a View
Bali has some pretty spectacular sunsets, and while Ubud may not be oceanside, that doesn’t mean you can’t get some pretty incredible views at sundown. One of the best spots to enjoy sunset in Ubud is at Indus Restaurant. These elegant Balinese restaurant offers delicious food and drinks with views overlooking the Tjampuhan ridge and Moung Agung in the distance.
Cool down with Gelato
Gelato may be Italian, but this delicious treat has made its way to Ubud as well and is the perfect treat for a hot day. Gaya Gelato, which is handmade using local ingredients, is a favourite. Trust us when we say you’ll want to keep coming back to try the difference flavors. Don’t worry though, we won’t judge!
Make some Animal Friends at the Cat Café
Cat cafes have popped up everywhere over the past couple of years, including in Ubud. Have a drink and make friends with some local felines at the Cat Café in Ubud. If the cats aren’t too friendly at first, you can buy some cat treats to help coax them over to you.
Dinner and a Movie
Paradiso is a cool café located in Ubud that serves up yummy raw food dishes in a theatre. They can fit about 150 people in hall, which means it’s easy to get a seat. It’s a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening in Ubud. Check their facebook page to find the schedule.
Chocolate with the Bears
Pod Chocolate Factory and Café is good enough to warrant a visit for the treats alone, but this chocolate factory has the added perk of also being a rescue centre for honey bears. You can tour the facilities, take a chocolate class, or just pop in for a bear hug.
Relaxation and Wellness
Everywhere you go in Ubud you will see people in yoga gear with a yoga mat tucked under their arm or strapped to their back. Ubud is a haven for yogis and wannabe yogis. Whether you are interested in just taking a class or two, or want to do a yoga retreat, Ubud has plenty of options. For classes and drop in sessions try the Yoga Barn. If you are looking to do a yoga retreat, try Naya Ubud.
Spa and Massage
Ubud has no shortage of spa and massage parlors. From luxury spas at five star resorts to smaller spots where you can walk in off the street, it’s easy to relax in Ubud. And, if you choose to go with the more local-style massages and spa services, it’s pretty darn cheap too. Scuba divers should keep an eye out for special Balinese hair treatments that will help make your hair silky smooth after your time in the sun and sea.
Hanging Gardens of Bali Infinity Pool
The Hanging Gardens of Bali is probably the best known resort in all of Bali. While the price tag to stay here is considered to be unaffordable to most people, there are some visitor packages which will allow you to be a guest for a few hours and enjoy its stunning infinity pool. You can also pair this with a meal at the hotel’s restaurants and/or a spa visit.
Escape the City Life
Ubud city centre is a lot of fun, but part of the charm in coming to this part of Bali is that there are plenty of opportunities to escape the city feel and just enjoy the nature. Rent a private villa overlooking a rice paddy for a couple of days to just relax and enjoy the magic of Bali.
With so much to see and do, Ubud really does have something for everyone.