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).
- Jalan Goutama
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.
- Jl. Kajeng
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’.
- Ubud Market
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.
- Wander around
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.
- ATMs can be found easily throughout Ubud.
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha