There are many ways to describe Ubud: artistic, vibrant, bustling. It’s truly the heart of Bali – a thriving center of Balinese culture and tradition.
Any trip to the Indonesian island is incomplete without a visit to Ubud. With so much to see, it’s best to spend 2-3 or more days visiting all of the main attractions, sampling the local cuisine, and experiencing the vibrant community.
Much of Ubud can be explored on foot, and sometimes heading out without a plan is the best way to discover the city.
What to Do in Ubud
Ubud is a dense but easily navigable, and there’s no shortage of activity on every corner. Below are the top things to do in Ubud proper, plus the best activities in the surrounding area. For even more tips for planning your Bali trip, check out our Travel Guide: Bali, Indonesia.
Ubud Art Market
The first stop to make is the Ubud Market, a traditional street market full of local vendors selling crafts, souvenirs, clothing, art, and more. It encompasses multiple blocks of stone streets within Ubud’s center, and is frequented by travelers and locals alike.
Bargaining in Bali is totally appropriate, and you’ll get the best prices on goods by haggling a bit. Many of the booths sell the same types of art and souvenirs, so take some time to look around. There’s plenty of handmade and unique treasures to discover. While the market has become a bit touristy, it still maintains it’s authenticity and holds a special place in the city.
Puri Ubud is a temple and traditional housing compound located in the heart of the city. Built in 1917, the local royal family still resides there, and it continues to have great cultural significance to the community. It’s free to enter and explore the intricately adorned buildings and beautiful shady courtyard. During the evenings, dramatic dance performances are often held.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is a nature park and temple complex just outside of the city and home to – you guessed it – hundreds of Bali’s native monkeys. It’s a popular tourist attraction, but also a spiritual center for the local community and conservation research program. One word to the wise: many travelers enjoy interacting with wildlife so intimately, but monkeys can be mean – and they’re awfully good at stealing food and accessories like sunglasses, hats, and bags, so beware!
The Yoga Barn
Bali is known for its yoga and spa culture, and no where is that more apparent than in Ubud. The Yoga Barn is a staple in the yoga community, offering daily classes and workshops in its full service studio and detox retreats, acupuncture and more in its Holistic Healing Center. Take a morning class and spend the rest of the afternoon feeling rejuvenated, peaceful, and energized.
Where to Eat in Ubud
Ubud also has some of the best food options on the island, with everything from traditional Indonesian cuisine and Balinese warungs (which refers to a traditional or family-owned restaurant or establishment that sells Indonesian groceries or goods) to coffee houses and western pizza places. For a sampling of great eateries in Ubud, try:
- Kafe Batan Waru: we stumbled into this restaurant while wandering the streets of Ubud, and had one of the most delicious and memorable meals of our trip. Featuring excellent Indonesian and Balinese fare and a comfortable, stylish, open-air dining area, it’s a great mid-range option for lunch or dinner.
- Ibu Oka: made famous by a visit from Anthony Bourdain, American chef and host of the tv show No Reservations, Ibu Oka is best known for it’s Babi Guling – Balinese suckling pig. An absolute must on any food tour of Bali, Babi Guling is stuffed with Balinese spices and veggies and then slow roasted over a fire and glazed with coconut water until caramelized to perfection.
- Bamboo Bar & Restaurant: this is a great place for cocktails and live music at night. It’s located below the Hostel Ubud, one of the city’s most popular hostels, and has a great ambience and chill atmosphere for a late afternoon Bintang (Bali’s local Pilsner) or an evening out.
Read more about Bali’s cuisine: A Culinary Travelogue: What to Eat in Bali
Culture and Attractions Around Ubud
Many key historical sites lie just outside of the city, so you’ll need to take a taxi or hire a driver, but are definitely worth a visit once you’ve explored the downtown Ubud area. Some of these sites include:
Also known as the “elephant caves,” Goa Gajah is a 9th century temple complex located outside of Ubud. It’s main highlight is a rudimentary cave with an intricately carved demon mouth at its opening. Two carved statues guard the entrance, wrapped in black and white checked fabric, which represents good and evil in Hinduism. You can enter the spiritual and ancient cave, which is still used by locals as a place of prayer. The complex also includes a beautiful bathing temple with a koi pond, wooden temples, rock carvings, and a beautiful pond surrounded by banyan trees.
Entering Goa Gajah costs 15,000 IDR, and you must wear a sarong to get in, but they are free to borrow. Due to Goa Gajah’s location in the uplands, it gets very hot midday and there are some stairs to walk up and down to explore the temple, so be prepared.
Tegallalang Rice Paddies
Another must-see attraction (though popular tourist spot), Ubud’s famous rice terraces are a truly stunning sight. Most tour operators will take you to the Tegallalang town center, where the view of the undulating terraces is postcard-perfect and perhaps the most iconic view associated with Bali. It’s a worthy visit, but also walk the path near the Puri Lukisan museum, which takes you into the terraces for a more intimate view.
Kopi Luwak Coffee Plantation
Kopi Luwak, sometimes irreverently referred to as “cat poop coffee,” is actually the most expensive coffee in the world, and is harvested and roasted right in Bali. The coffee derives it’s uniqueness by being eaten, partially digested, and excreted by the tropical civet cat before being hand harvested and roasted. There is an abundance of local kopi luwak plantations right outside of Ubud, and many offer short tours explaining the unique beans and demonstrating the roasting process. Tastings are often included in the tours, which are usually free. You’ll also be able to try interesting blends of local teas including rice, mangosteen, and saffron, as well as other coffee blends like coconut and mocha. Many plantations end their tours at their gift shops, which sometimes also offer cheap spices, essential oils, and rice wine to take home.
Also located around the city of Ubud are many local organic farms that not only offer fresh produce and goods, but tours focused on traditional Balinese farming methods and cooking classes using fresh organic fare. One such farm is Sari Organik, which also hosts a cafe overlooking great views of their organic rice fields with a delicious and healthy vegetarian menu.
What are your favorite things to do in Ubud, Bali? Tell us your experiences in the comments!