If Ulawatu is the heart of Bali then Ubud is its soul.
Practicing yoga in the middle of the rice terraces, bathing in a sacred Hindu water temple, having your palm read by Ketut who will tell you that your lips taste like honey – These are just a few experiences, unique to Ubud.
Set among the rice paddies and steep ravines, it is no wonder that this beautiful town attracts over 3 million tourists per year. Ubud is located North of the beaches of Kuta and roughly an hour and half from the airport by car.
Three days are more than enough to explore Ubud. You might even find some time to do river rafting, experiencing the Agung river.
Our favourite, most unique experience was learning about and making the daily offerings. This is very unique to the Balinese culture and why not submerge yourself. You will really get to experience the day to day life in Bali as the Balinese go about their daily “rituals” among the hustle and bustle of this cultural tourism destination. It is certainly something we value very much.
Ubud is busy , but do not let that put you off . A ten minute walk from the centre of town can bring you up to the Campuhan Ridge Walk. A beautiful trek in the other direction and you will find yourself among the tranquil rice paddies.
In this blog post we will guide you through manoeuvring downtown, what to do that is unique and a couple of favourite places to eat. We only stayed in one Hotel, so we cannot recommend a variety of accommodation options. However, we can recommend the best, most central area with gorgeous jungle views.
How to get around – Ubud
Just like the rest of Bali, scooters/mopeds are the main means of transport. If you are confident in riding these, you’ll have no trouble getting around. Alternative options are taxis or private drivers. We highly recommend hiring a private driver for the day. This was our most convenient means of transportation in Ubud and we could visit all the main attractions by simply telling our driver where we wanted to go. It is extremely affordable to hire a private driver. We paid €35 for the entire day and can recommend Viator for many tours in Ubud.
Our accommodation was very central and the middle of the town was easily accessible by foot.
Note: most sites are not walking distance and there is no public transportation other than taxis.
Unique things to do – Ubud
1.The Campuhan Ridge Walk:
Perfectly located from the town centre, the ridge walk is a serene escape from Ubud’s city life. With lush palm trees and rice fields, the path leads you up a hill and down the same hill. It is not a loop, so you can walk as far as you please and turn around at anytime. We recommend walking to the top, admire the scenery and get a coffee. You will find a couple of small coffee shops among the warungs. The location is not very well-known and completely free. You will definitely find this walk peaceful and quiet.
2. The Tegalalang Rice Terrace
An UNESCO heritage site. If there is anything you must do in Ubud, it is visiting the the Tegalalang Rice fields. This is Bali’s most famous site and an early morning visit is recommended. It gets very busy later in the day with tourists seeking a quintessential Balinese experience. With endless rice terraces, zigzag pathways, a swing or nest will capture the most unique photos. Be careful not to loose your balance or wander off the pathways like Pauric, who got stuck in the mud and spent 20 minutes cleaning his shoes. It can be slippery in parts and being mindful and respectful to the land goes without saying.
The terraces are tucked behind a few cafes and restaurants. It is free to visit and depending on where you enter, a donation of no more than €0.50 is requested. This is to your own discretion.
3. Tirta Empul Temple
Also known as the sacred water temple in Ubud or Pura Tirta Empul, this was the most unique experience we had in Bali. If you are intrigued by culture and rituals, the Pura Tirta Empul is a place you can literally submerge into the Balinese culture and travel a little deeper.
Tourists among Pilgrims and worshipers are welcome. On arrival, a sarong is provided to visit the temple itself. There are a couple of rules to abide by, such as: tying long hair and respecting the grounds. To enter the water, a different sarong is provided.
The ritual starts with an offering followed by a prayer, meditation or simply a silent moment to connect with your inner purpose. There are 13 fountains, each symbolising a different meaning. At each fountain, we preformed the same ritual of rinsing our hands, face, head and body. In that order – each part, done 3 times.
This experience ads true meaning to the reason why you are here, in this moment, in this time and location.
4. Visit multiple Waterfalls
Tukad Cepung Waterfall. Tibumama Waterfall. Tegenungan Waterfall.
These are our top 3. The waterfalls in Bali are big and powerful. It is not the most unique thing to do in Bali and if you are there just to get a photo, it will be worth it. You probably won’t spent a lot of time at these spots and we would recommend getting a snap and moving on to the next destination.
These areas require an entrance fee of no more than €0.50.
5. Luwak Coffee Plantation
Have you ever had a sh*t coffee? Wait we’ll explain…
This is a super experience and completely free. Your guide will lead you through a section of the plantation, explaining the production process of Luwak Coffee, known as the most expensive coffee in the world.
Luwak coffee comes from the droppings (consumed, digested and fermented coffee cherries) of a Civet. You will have the opportunity to pound, sift and roast the coffee beans. This is then followed by a coffee tasting experience which is completely free. If you want to taste Luwak coffee, you need to pay for it. The plantation not only produces coffee but also spices and cacao. We bought a bag of organic cacao and it is absolutely delicious.
This area also has the most unique swings and birds nests to take photos in. It is a new addition to Ubud and very modern. We recommend this area for the quirky IG photo opportunity – more so than the rice terraces. Visit the rice terraces for the rice terraces and not the swings. Do the swings here.
6. River raft on the Ayung river
The river passes through a dense forest, narrow canyons, tall walled gorges and waterfalls to refresh your soul. This is a fun experience in Ubud. The Ayung river is rated a II-III class river for rafting which means that the rapids are moderate and non-life-threatening. The experience is unique for the historical rock carvings of ancient figures with pressed lips, monkeys, fish, crocodiles and Chinese style dragons. The story of Ramayana is a beautiful poem from 400AD. One you will thoroughly enjoy.
7. Visit multiple Temples
The 3 must see temples in Ubud, are:
- Goa Gaja (Elephant Cave) – an archaeological site and former meditation area for Buddhists and Shivaists.
- Pura Taman Saraswati – accessible in the centre of Ubud from the Jalan Kajeng street side, you can enjoy the regular Balinese dance performances and blooming lotus plans in the ponds.
- Gurung Kawi Sebatu – known as a beautiful water temple with purification pools.
8. Ubud Art Market
This is located in the centre, opposite the Royal Ubud Palace. Visit the market to find luxurious silk, handmade woven bags, lightweight dressed and shirts and other handicrafts or souvenirs.
9. Visit the Black Sand Beach
This is the one thing we regret not doing. A beach is beach is beach. But a black beach!!! A photographers dream and unique to Bali.
10. Yoga at the Yoga House
The Yoga House is a boutique yoga studio off the beaten track and a stone’s throw away from the centre of Ubud. The studio is located in the middle of rice paddies, in the open air and there is no other yoga destination as unique as this.
Compliment the experience with an hour long Yin Yoga class, perfect for beginners, novices and experienced yogis. See their timetable here.
We have never had a more relaxing class than this and we are not avid yoga practitioners. Walking through this area, you will also find alternative restaurant, serving vegan and vegetarian dishes, ‘nice’ cream and nutritious smoothies.
Where to find very good food
- Gianyar Night Market: for the best Balinese market and street food experience.
- Sweet Orange Warung: The best Nasi Goreng and everything else (adaptable for vegans). The location is off the beaten track, among beautiful rice terraces. We cannot recommend this place enough.
- Alckemy Cafe: a local legend and the best vegan cheese cake
- Swept Away: perfect for fine dining in Samaya Ubud.
- Bebek Bengil: or ‘dirty duck’, famous for duck dishes and situated among beautiful rice paddies. Pauric loves duck and he was in his element.
- Sari Organic Restaurant: situated in Gianyar, this area is absolutely fabulous! You will not find a more tranquil spot than among the lush rice paddies, svouring delicious organic food. This is a MUST VISIT!!
Where to book your accommodation
For modern simplicity and Balinese harmony, discover an array of contemporary comforts in Gianyar, Ubud. This is a very central area in Ubud and you can find top hotels overlooking the jungle to cosy bed and breakfasts. Airbnb is extremely reliable for affordable comforts.
You will love this area and will find it perfectly balanced between serene, tropical hideaways amongst a busy Balinese life.
You cannot go wrong.