Made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud has quickly become a spiritual haven for tourists around the world. Located one hour north of Denpasar Airport, it is easily accessible as a day trip or a weekend getaway, so I travelled from Seminyak to Ubud for 3 nights of relaxation and exploration! For tourists, Ubud is known for its shopping, yoga and meditation retreats, and myriad of healthy eating restaurants.
For those looking for a more cultural experience, Ubud has beautiful temples, waterfalls, and lush rice paddy fields. Surrounded completely by lush greenery in the Balinese countryside, it is easy to get lost in Ubud’s beauty and spend weeks there taking advantage of the range of activities it has to offer. Here is my list of must-do activities (and photo opportunities) for your time in Ubud. Enjoy!
1. GOA GAJAH – ELEPHANT CAVE
Located only two kilometers south of Ubud, the Goa Gajah Cave is entered through the mouth of the demon and is carved into the side of a massive rock face. The temple dates back to the 11th century when it was used for meditation and religious rituals. We were lucky enough to visit during a Hindu celebration so the entire temple was decorated in yellow and white, and swarming with locals to come pay their respects. It’s quite a small temple, so budget only about an hour to walk around. Don’t forget to cover your shoulders and knees, or buy a new sarong outside of the temple for only 30,000Rp! Cost Of Entry: 10,000Rp
2. TRADITIONAL BALINESE PERFORMANCE
After a full day of sightseeing we were more than excited to relax with some cocktails and watch a traditional Balinese dance performance. Lotus Cafe wonderfully combined the two, making for a great first night in Ubud. The performance highlights multiple types of classic Balinese dance with men and women in bright makeup and colorful costumes. The menu includes both western and Asian cuisine. Make a reservation early and ask for a seat close to the show. If you’re itching to continue your night out in Ubud, take a 10 minute walk over to CP Lounge from Cafe Lotus and enjoy some live music! Note, during the day you can visit the cafe, wander out the back and enjoy the lotus ponds and take some stunning photos in front of the temple. Show Ticket: 80,000Rp
3. TEGENUNGAN WATERFALL
Even though the Tegenungan Waterfall is arguably the most famous (and therefore crowded) in all of Bali, it’s still worth a short dip in the icy cold water on a hot day! You can walk or swim to the back of the fall and come out feeling as though you’ve taken a natural shower. I was lucky enough to be at the waterfall on a perfectly sunny day and spent some time enjoying the beautiful rainbows. There’s also food and shopping available on your walk to the falls, adding to the touristy feel of Tegenungan. Cost Of Entry: 15,000Rp
4. GOA RANG RENG WATERFALL
One of the least advertised waterfalls surrounding Ubud, Goa Rang Reng is a perfect place to head after the crowded waters of Tegenungan. We were lucky enough to be guided there by a sweet Balinese women who proceeded to walk through the entire waterfall by our side. If you look to the top left of the fall you will see a cave often visited by locals. Be careful – almost everyone we saw there slipped on the mossy rocks! Cost Of Entry: 10,000Rp
Give yourself at least one afternoon to wander through the markets and shops – they’re probably the best in all of Bali. From small boutiques (with A/C) to massive open markets (try Pasar Seni), Ubud has everything from expensive jewelry to hand painted murals to rows and rows of sarongs. Be prepared to haggle for anything without a price tag on it, ideally paying ¼ to ⅓ of what they initially offer you. It’s extremely hot and sweaty to shop here, so be prepared with a large bottle of water and a cafe for you to indulge post-shopping (my choice was Atman Kafe). Cost: Varies per item – sarongs should be about 30,000Rp and tank tops 50,000Rp
6. TEGALALANG RICE FIELDS
Arguably the most famous rice terraces in all of Bali, the Tegalalang Rice Fields are worth a quick trip to see. Only about 25 minutes northeast of downtown Ubud, the fields are most easily reached by motorbike by you can take a taxi that will wait there for you. You should budget about an hour to walk around and take photos, and after enjoy lunch at one of the scenic cafes along the main road. If you hike Mount Batur you can also ask your driver to stop at Tegalalang on your way back into town. Cost: Free
7. MOUNT BATUR
The highlight of my time in Ubud was climbing Mount Batur, Bali’s second tallest volcano, for a stunning sunrise view of Mount Abang, Mount Agung, Mount Rinjani, and Lake Batur. Go to bed early and set your alarms for 1:30am to meet with your driver and begin the two hour trip up to Mount Batur. It’s quite cold as you begin the ascent, so wear a light jacket and good hiking shoes. You will stop on the way at a coffee plantation for some much needed caffeine and banana crepe, then make your way to the base of Mount Batur to meet with your guide (who hikes Batur 6 or 7 days a week!).
Each morning about 300 people climb up to watch the sunrise, so don’t expect to be the only person on the trail. I was lucky enough to be in an incredible group of 8 hikers and 3 local guides. We reached the top of Batur right as the sun was rising above the mountains and enjoyed a breakfast of volcano-steam cooked eggs and banana sandwiches as we watched the sun rise in the sky. You can watch the sunrise from one of two points on the top of the mountain, but I’d recommend pushing yourself to get to the highest point for the best views. The stunning views are extremely photo-worthy, so bring a high quality camera for shots like these. The entire hike is about 15 kilometers and takes 4-5 hours (including the stop at the top). Cost: 250,000Rp
8. COFFEE PLANTATION
Kopi Luwak, a coffee famous throughout Indonesia for being the most expensive coffee in the world! Plantations throughout Bali produce these beans and provide a tasting room for visitors. We stopped at the Pineh Colada Bali to sample the beans and learn more about the unique process of cultivation. The coffee is said to be extremely smooth and rich in flavor, with hints of caramel or chocolate for an extra kick. After sampling both the coffee and beans, I cannot say that it is my favorite cup of coffee, but it is definitely worth trying out! If you plan to hike Mount Batur you will likely stop at a coffee plantation. If not they are easily accessible during a day trip through Ubud. Cost – Pack of ground coffee: 100,000Rp
9. CAMPUHAN RIDGE WALK
A quick and easy walk through the Campuhan Ridge Walk is a great way to get your blood pumping during your trip in Ubud. The entire track is about 9 kilometers and takes you through lush greenery and massive rice terraces. At the beginning of your walk I recommend stopping at the Pura Gunung Lebah temple before making your way along the path. The walk is best visited early in the morning or at sunset because of the intense heat, which may be the time where most people are also walking through the track. Take a break at the Karsa Cafe for a tropical smoothie or spa treatment and enjoy the beautiful views from the shady cafe. Cost: Free
I did not have nearly enough time to explore everything that Ubud has to offer. Friends in Ubud have told me that these additional activities are worth the time and money!
THE SACRED MONKEY FOREST SANCTUARY
The Monkey Forest is visited by hundreds of tourists daily in search of a photo with a cheeky monkey. The forest has hundreds of bold monkeys that will sit on your shoulder if you offer them a coveted banana. Be careful – people everyday lose their valuable possessions to these shockingly strong monkeys. The forests costs a mere 20,000Rp per person.
Ubud has a variety of cooking classes offered in the morning and afternoons and is a great way to learn more about famous Indonesian food. I’d recommend doing a class early in your time in Indonesia to help familiarize yourself with food served at the thousands of Warungs throughout the country. Most classes will take you to a local market before teaching you how to cook 5-8 distinctly Balinese dishes. The easiest place to sign up is at one of the many activity booking offices on the streets of Ubud. Classes should cost about 350,000Rp.
Try the Yoga Barn or the Ubud Yoga Centre to practice your Vrikshasana pose after a hot day exploring Ubud. While the classes are quite expensive (about 130,000Rp for a 90 minute session), both yoga studios are famous in Bali and thus worth a try!
Ubud is known for their variety of world famous spa treatments, from facials to massages to reflexology. I’d recommend the bathing rituals at Fivelements Ubud.
Share your own Ubud tips with own readers in the comments below.