Goa Gajah is located in the village of Bedulu on the edge of a cliff, about 2km southeast of Ubud on the road to Bedulu, Bali.
Despite the roads that lead to Goa Gajah being crazy chaotic the temple area is quite beautiful surrounded by shady green trees. The place is an archaeological site of significant historical value that makes it a special place to visit. The complex dates back to the 11th century, built as a spiritual place for meditation.
The Goa Gajah has a relic-filled courtyard, rock-wall carvings, a central meditational cave, bathing pools, and fountains. Goa Gajah is carved into a rock face and you enter through the cavernous mouth of a demon.
Don’t expect to see any elephants around. The name ‘Elephant Cave’ probably comes from the Petenu River, which was once called Elephant River.
How to get there: the best way is to rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the traffic between Ubud and Bedulo is quite heavy but is a short distance.
Entrance Fee:Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter.
Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple, and can be borrowed from the temple’s entrance for free.
The Pejeng village is located in the Petanu River valley in the island of Bali, 5 km outside the buzzing town of Ubud. Is rural area with extensive, and ancient, irrigated rice cultivation.
The village is surrounded by beautiful rice fields and has 44 temples and a museum called Arca. The temples didn’t really impress me as much as others on the island. Although it was nice to explore this untouristed traditional farming village and take part in the daily Balinese life.
One of the most famous things they have in Pejeng is the Moon of Pejeng a bronze kettledrum believed to be the largest bronze-age antiquity in the world. The bronze kettledrum is in the Pura Penataran Sasih (to the right off the main road from Bedulu).
This town has a lively morning market and a night market and plenty of Warungs to taste vegan Balinese and Indonesian food.
Pejeng is also a Wildlife Sanctuary and a great place for birdwatchers.
How to get there: you can easily bike from Ubud to Pejeng, or rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day).
Entrance Fee:temples and museum have admission by donation
Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temples.
Tirta Empul is a temple complex and a holy mountain spring, located in the village of Manukaya in central Bali. It’s perfect to visit as a day out from Ubud. The village is a 30-minute drive from Ubud (approximately 15 Km~9 miles).
The temple was founded around a naturally occurring spring (Tirta Empul meaning Holy Spring) and is over a thousand years old. This temple is dedicated to Vishnu, who is the Hindu god of water.
Tirta Empul was discovered in AD 962 and believed to have magical powers, the holy springs here bubble up into a large, crystal-clear pool. The spring feeds various purification baths, pools and fish ponds, which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River.
Hindu worshippers stand in the pools waiting to dip their heads under the water spouts in a purification ritual known as ‘melukat’. The water in the pools is believed to have magical powers and local Balinese come here to purify themselves.
Visitors are welcome to take part in this self-cleaning process. Just bring a towel and a change of clothes if you want to take part in the purification ceremony.
Behind the purification pools, is the ‘inner courtyard’ the place where people go to pray.
How to get there: the best way is the rent a scooter (~Rp.60,000 $4 day) the journey is very pleasant and beautiful through lush green rice fields and coconut trees.
Entrance Fee:Rp15,000/ adult ($1) and Rp.2,000 ($0.13) to park your scooter
Dress Code: Sarong is required to enter the temple as parts of the site are considered holy. Sarongs are available at the temple’s entrance to be and can be rented for a small donation.
There are lockers and a changing area available, and women should wear a shirt, preferably one that covers the shoulders.
As I said in a previous post, you shouldn’t visit Bali thinking about the beaches, if you want great beaches, look at other Indonesian islands or even other countries in southern Asia. Said that what a better place to be than a city that doesn’t have a coastline, and is really well located to visit the best places around the island of Bali.
I’ve found that Ubud offers the best location, great and affordable accommodation and abundant vegan food options. Out of all the cities in Bali, Ubud is the best, not because is the most authentic one (far from that) but because it has good quality affordable touristic infrastructures in a perfect location to do days out to other places in the island. Within relatively short driving distances you have temples, museums, mountains, waterfalls, rice terraces, and many other natural sights.
The downside of Ubud is that feels a bit like the city is entirely set up to tourists, unfortunately, most places in Bali that offers good/affordable accommodation nowadays are like that. Although I still found that Ubud offered a good middle ground between touristic and local.
Ubud is located in the Gianyar region of Bali and is surrounded by lush rice paddies, and is one of the cultural centers of Bali. Ubud is extremely popular among tourists and a hub of yoga, spas and, vegan food.
Ubud like the rest of the island of Bali is a multi-religious place, but the predominant religion is Hinduism, called Agama Hindu Dharma, a blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. Their religion is a world apart from the Hindu religion in India. Ubud, like the rest of Bali, is home to countless temples, and their everyday life is inextricably intertwined with colorful and fascinating religious practices.
Bahasa is the language spoken and the currency used is the Rupiah ($1=Rp.14.800)
I have spent 10 days exploring the island of Bali, always based in Ubud, I had a motorbike to go to different places every day. Please be aware that I don’t advise in any way that you rent a motorbike there if you don’t have experience, Bali, its not the place to learn how to ride one. I never ever seen so many people with motorbike injuries during my travels like I saw in Bali. Road conditions are rough and traffic a nightmare, on top of that there are no rules…
Out of the 10 days only two were actually spent in Ubud, what I think is more than enough if you are not planning to do anything special like a yoga retreat or a course. So here are the top things to do in Ubud
At the end of the post check also what to avoid 🙂
What to do in Ubud
Campuhan Ridge Walk (8.5km, ~3h/4h)
This place is a serene and beautiful green path for an easy hike early morning, the path starts at the Campuhan Bridge and has an amazing view of the jungle, rice paddy fields, small villages, communities, temples, and passes over the lush river valley of Sungai Wos.
This is worth waking up early for, you can go any time during the day but it does get hot and crowded, at least the first part of the path.
The Puri Saren Agungis – Ubud Royal Palace
It’s far for being a spectacular place but is the hub of all of Ubud’s cultural events. The entrance is free.
Saraswati Temple (Water Palace)
Its one of the most beautiful temple in central Ubud with a great little walkway in between lotus ponds leading up to the temple. The Saraswati Temple is a Hindu temple built in the 19th century to adore the Goddess Saraswati (The Goddess of Knowledge).
It’s a road packed with organic everything, from restaurants, bars, cafes, ice-cream shops, etc. and has lots of local warungs serving cheap and delicious food. Here you will find restaurants for all tastes, budgets and, diets.
A road with messages written into the street paving. It’s really nice to stroll up here and read the message of peace, love and ‘vegan propaganda’.
The market is a great place to stroll around. If you go very early in the morning (what I recommend) you can visit the produce market in the far south-east corner, and this is as authentic as it gets (7h-10h). Later on, you only have souvenir stalls, with clothes, homewares, jewelry, and other miscellaneous bits and pieces. Prices are always fully negotiable.
Watch a movie at Paradiso Ubud
Paradiso Ubud is the world’s first organic vegan cinema and definitely worth a try! There are daily movie screenings and the food is delicious.
Balinese food is delicious, and anywhere you go in Ubud there will be delicious vegan options on the menu.
Ubud is blessed with an abundance of great eateries, although menus are a little pricey compared to the rest of Indonesia if you don’t scuffle around backstreets. Local warungs or Padang rumah makan (eating house) are great options.
There is a tonne of little spas lining the roads in the center of Ubud with very reasonable prices. Why not treat yourself with a full body Balinese massage? You can find prices as lower as RP70.000 to 100.00 ($4.70 – $6.80) for one hour massage.
This is true for any place you visit, stroll around without a plan or a schedule, and lose yourself through narrow streets.. Because Bali is a predominantly Hindu island, there is always something to see, experience and smell.. for example, each morning you will find hundreds of little boxes called Canang Sari filled with flowers, offerings and burning incense.
Unfortunately, there is also a downside here, Ubud has Jammed traffic from vehicles and pedestrians, severely uneven, damaged and broken sidewalks, broken drainage holes with jagged metal bars, sidewalk vendors, shop displays and sometimes even motorbikes. So you are guessing correctly, walking can be a challenge that requires energy and art.
Motorbike around the Ubud countryside
Bali is a small island, so renting a motorbike gives you the freedom and access to explore the Balinese countryside. On your way to places is easy to stumble upon local festivals, cremation ceremonies, pass by beautiful structures of intricately-carved stone, people flying kites in the fields, beautiful rice paddies, waterfalls, mountains, markets, temples…
⛔️ what to Avoid in Ubud
Sacred Monkey Forest
This is considered a must-do for many, for me is a must not. You do not need to pay to go to a jungle and to see macaques in Southeast Asia, literally you can do it everywhere, for free and without the crowds.
Plus these monkeys are not as cute as they look in the pictures they can be scary aggressive. If you are still planning a visit don’t take anything with you that you aren’t prepared to lose, monkeys can open bags with ease and are professional thieves. They are well trained at efficiently robbing tourists.
I know I’m just telling you to avoid one of the most popular Ubud attractions, but trust me on this one.
Well maybe I’m a bit suspect on this one because to be fair I don’t shop, I’m already carrying my small bag around with me, and the last thing I need is extra weight 🙂 plus Ubud is extremely expensive (for Indonesian standards) you will find the same things much much cheaper somewhere else.
If you are into shopping go to the market but be prepared to haggle. Even if you don’t want to do any shopping I still think that you should give the market a visit but early in the morning, because by afternoon it gets seriously crowded.
Don’t buy spices or coffee on the market, most of it is fake.
Sungai Ayung Valley (6.5km ~4h)
This was sposed to be a great trekking through the lush, tropical river valley but sadly has become an extortion scheme.
When you arrive at the Sayan Terrace hotel, you take the path downhill, there you will find some locals that are blocking the passage with a gate and you can only pass through if you pay RP.150.000 ($10) per person. We refused to pay and they didn’t allow us to pass. So we headed up the hill and we did a different trekking around the same area but instead of the 6.5km took us 15km 🙂
Be aware that the locals carry large sickles or machetes (that they are not using as farming tools) but for the threatening effect.
how to get to Ubud
If you arrive by air, the best option is unfortunately to take a taxi. As you know is always hard to negotiate taxi fares so it’s probably best to have that arrangement done in advance. Most places in Ubud will offer that service, negotiate with them and skip the hassle at the airport in Denpasar.
In August 2018 the taxi fares from Denpasar to Ubud were around RP. 250.000 to RP. 350.000 ($17-$23)
Just get ready for a very slow ride from Denpasar to Ubud, the traffic is just unbelievable. Ubud is about the same distance and time from the nearest port, where boats go to Gili Islands and Lombok.
Where to Stay
My suggestion is to stay close to the center, in a place that includes breakfast, offers transfer and that rents motorbike, this will prevent that you get in one of those motorbikes scams. Ubud has plenty of options with a great relation between quality and price. Make some research and look at the reviews.
I stayed in a great central place, and still in a quiet street. The family was really nice and welcoming, the room was clean and comfortable, and the price excellent, $8 per night with breakfast (I’m happy to pass the name of the place if you want).
To visit temples, you must be dressed appropriately which includes wearing a sarong, that is basically a long piece of cloth that you wear wrapped around the body and tucked at the waist. Just bring one from home so you don’t need to buy or rent one.
Small temples are all around the city and each temple is unique in its own way.
Don’t buy water bottles, Bali has a project for water refills. Download the app and find the closest location. Ubud has several places offering this service for free or for a small fee (https://www.refillmybottle.com).
Indonesia is an affordable place to travel but especially in Bali, you need to be extra careful to not spend more than you budgeted. Prices offered to tourists are always inflated and haggling is the only option to bring it within reason.
Bali without a doubt is a major touristy place, as well as Ubud. Nevertheless, has amazing places to be discovered.
Ubud for me really is the best place to use as a base for all kinds of exploring around the island. Taxis and private drivers are expensive and don’t allow you to be as flexible as you want, and public transports don’t exist. So the best option by far is to go for a scooter!
The beauty of taking your scooter is that no planning is needed. It’s easy to find a scooter from 40,000 – 70,000 Rp ($2.64 – 4.62USD).
Riding a scooter on the roads of Bali is dangerous, so make sure you have experience and insurance (check the fine print as some insurance companies won’t cover motorbike crashes).
Ubud’s location allows for easy access to the surrounding Balinese countryside where you can enjoy the impressive scenery.
Have a look at the list below for some inspiration, on some easy Day Trips from Ubud on a Scooter:
From Ubud you can reach lots of different places there is no shortage of day trips opportunities from Ubud. But keep in mind that the police in Bali is corrupt, and even if you follow all the rules you may have to pay a fine. Expect to be stopped and pulled over by the police especially around Ubud.
Always use a helmet even if the locals don’t, try to avoid the main roads and choose the smaller ones, have the registration of the rental motorbike, your passport with you, driving license and international license.
Theoretically, if you have all the documents, a helmet and you haven’t broken any road rules, you should not be subject to any fine.
If you get pulled over, and you can’t find a way out of it better have a second wallet with a small amount of money with you. The fines aren’t fixed, so the officer generally sees how much money you’re carrying and decides how much he will be charging you.
Have you been to any of the places I’ve mentioned? Do you have any other recommendations? leave your thoughts on the comments section, and thanks for reading 🙂