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For as long as Bali has been a travel destination, Ubud has been one of the island’s most popular cities. As you drive in to Ubud you wonder how such a hot spot can exist amongst the dense jungle that surrounds you. And then, through the giant trees with overhanging branches, a small bustling city emerges.
The center of Ubud is really only a few streets, but they pack as much in as possible. The traffic can be insane and the shops are crammed in right next to each other, but somehow Ubud still manages to be a place of serenity. Unlike the crazy party town of Kuta or the cool surfer vibe of Canggu, Ubud is all about wellness, clean living and getting in touch with yourself.
With its endless amount of vegan restaurants and healing centers, Ubud might feel pretentious to some, but if the hippie life isn’t your jam, there are plenty of other things to do in Ubud, Bali that don’t involve releasing your chakras. We recommend getting a taste of everything, from exploring the gorgeous natural sights, to getting a taste of the local culture, and yes, even dipping your toe in the wellness waters. These are our recommended best things to see in Ubud.
Getting to Ubud
Getting to Ubud is as easy as jumping on a bus, hiring a private car or renting your own scooter. Because Bali is such a small island it’s a convenient place to travel to no matter where you’re staying in Bali. Whether you’re coming in from Kuta, Sanur, Canggu, the Bukit Peninsula or the north, traveling to Ubud is an easy location to get it.
What to Do in Ubud: Nature
Unlike the rugged coast of the Bukit Peninsula, or the sandy shoreline of Canggu, Ubud is a lush green oasis in the middle of Bali. From levels upon levels of stunning rice terraces, to wild life and adventure activities. Here are our top suggestions for things to do in Ubud for the nature lovers.
Visit a Bali Rice Terrace
You can’t go to Bali and not visit a rice terrace! Rice is a huge part of the Indonesian diet (hello Nasi Goreng!) and it’s pretty cool to see where it all comes from. As you travel around Bali you’ll likely see rice fields everywhere, but visiting the big terraces is an awesome experience.
The most popular Ubud rice field is, of course, Tegalalang rice terrace. This beautiful rice field is only 20 minutes from Ubud and it’s a gorgeous sight to see. The entrance fee is only 10,000 rupiah and you can easily spend a couple hours wandering the different paths around the terrace. They also have the iconic Bali swings and nests for photos.
If you’re looking for an equally stunning, but a bit less crowded, the Jatiluwih rice terrace is a great alternative. Although further from Ubud (you have to drive about an hour and a half), Jatiluwih is definitely worth visiting. The path around the rice terrace is easier to navigate than Tegalalang and because it’s less popular, it’s easier to get photos where you’re the only person in the rice field.
Read our complete guide to Tegalalang Rice Terrace for information on how to get there, entrance fee, the best time to visit and more!
Ubud Monkey Forest
As soon as you drive close to Ubud you’ll start to notice monkeys on the side of the road. That’s because you’re driving past the Monkey Forest! The forest itself is really beautiful and you’ll feel completely enveloped by the lush trees around you. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth of monkeys; there are over 600 in the forest!
The monkey’s go about their daily business and are mostly interested in whether you’re going to feed them or not. You can buy bananas at the front desk to feed them, but it’s prohibited to give them any outside food. The monkeys are able to smell food in your bag and may try to take it from you, so we recommend not bringing any food with you. Personally, we don’t like to feed wild animals because it creates a dependence on human interaction, so we recommend just enjoying watching the monkeys as you walk through the forest. There are also rumors of thieving monkeys so be sure to keep your sunglasses and valuables tucked away.
The forest is sacred to the local people and there are temples throughout. However, only three temples are accessible for foreigners – Pura Dalem, Holy Water Temple and Cremation Temple. The Ubud Monkey Forest entrance fee is 50,000 rupiah.
This impressive waterfall is about a half hour drive outside of Ubud and definitely worth a visit. When you arrive you’ll pay 20,000 rupiah entrance fee and then walk down a set of stairs to the waterfall. Tegenungan is one of the most popular waterfalls near Ubud, so chances are there will be a bit of a crowd by the falls. When we went we had to wait our turn to get a shot in front of the waterfall without any other people in it. To the right you’ll find a swing that you can hop on for photos at an extra charge.
Admittedly Tegenungan waterfall isn’t the most secluded spot, but at 25 meters in height it’s pretty impressive. Plus you can wade into the water for a refreshing dip.
Campuhan Ridge Walk
We loved the Campuhan Ridge Walk and highly recommend it if you’re visiting Ubud! The entrance to the Campuhan Ridge Walk is just outside of the Ubud city center. The walk is mostly flat and easy, with stunning views of the rice terraces on either side. There’s very little shade cover, so you’ll want to start really early in the morning and make sure you’ve got plenty of water and a hat. As soon as the sun starts to get hot, you’ll basically be baking during your walk.
The entire nature trek is 9 kilometers, so you can definitely get your steps and really work up a sweat. Be on the look out for the free version of an Ubud swing. Not far into the path there’s a small swing tied to a tree that is a fun, free alternative to the swings around Ubud that you have to pay for.
White Water Rafting
If you need to cool down a little and want some adventure, do some white water rafting in Ubud! The Ayung river is a perfect mix of rapids and relaxation. As you cruise down the river you’ll be able to take in the lush jungle and breathtaking gorges that surround you. This a great activity for anyone who wants to see a different part of the Ubud landscape, while getting your blood pumping!
What to See in Ubud: Culture
Ubud has long been regarded as a cultural center of Bali, way before travelers started doing downward dog on their yoga mats. If you want a real taste of Balinese and Hindu culture during your trip, Ubud is a great place to learn about it.
Pura Taman Saraswati
This is an easy one to visit, considering this temple is located in the heart of Ubud. The temple was built to honor the Hindu goddess Saraswati. The architecture here is simply stunning. One of the temple’s most popular features is the water garden, filled with floating lotuses. If it’s not too busy, this is a lovely spot to come by yourself and enjoy a moment of introspection.
Pura Tirta Empul
This water temple is one of our favorite things to see in Ubud. We stumbled across this place after our first visit to Tegalalang rice terrace and, boy were we excited about cooling off in the water! Not only is the Pura Tirta Empul water temple a great opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the local culture, but you actually get to participate as well!
When you first enter you’ll be given a sarong if you’re not already covering your knees. Then right before you enter the water temple you need to rent a water sarong that you can actually get wet. There are changing rooms to put on a bathing suit under the water sarong.
Once you’re good to go you’ll get in the water and dunk yourself under each fountain to purify yourself. Each fountain represents a different blessing. There are local guides that you can pay to explain the history and process, but we found most locals who were bathing were happy enough to explain the blessings to us. There are a couple of water spouts that you shouldn’t go under, as they’re reserved for post-funeral, so be sure to check with the locals. And make sure to save some time before or after bathing to walk around the nearby temples, they’re stunning!
Goa Gajah, also known as Elephant Cave, is another popular temple to visit near Ubud. When you arrive you’ll walk down a flight of stairs to the cave entrance. To walk into the cave you’ll enter through the mouth of a demon carved into the rock. Inside you’ll find paintings, shrines and small statues. It gets pretty busy at Elephant Cave, but considering its proximity to Ubud it’s still worth a look.
Things to Do in Ubud: Health & Wellness
Unblock those energy lines, loosen up your chakras and awaken the spiritual curiosity within when you spend time exploring Ubud. With a range of holistic healers, classes and workshops to find your inner balance, Ubud is the perfect place to experience something different. Here are a couple of our suggestions for the best activities for the soul in Ubud.
Pyramids of Chi
One of the newer wellness activities in Ubud, the Pyramids of Chi is an experience hard to grasp until you’ve actually been there. Basically, you enter a large pyramid shaped tent and lay down on one of the thin mattresses on the floor. The pyramid is almost entirely pitch black, but they give you a weighted eye mask to ensure total darkness.
For the next hour a sound healer plays a variety of instruments, including gongs, drums and the Didgeridoo. The sound healing is meant to release your chakras and heal your energy. They hold different sessions throughout the day, but the standard “Ancient Sound Healing” session is 300,000 rupiah. Even Jules, who is usually a skeptic with all sorts of new-age healing, found the session enlightening and definitely beneficial. If you end up booking a session we’d love to hear what you thought of the experience.
Yoga Class at The Yoga Barn
Even if you’re not a practicing yogi, it’s worth going to the famous The Yoga Barn for a class. Known as one of the best yoga studios in the world, The Yoga Barn has a variety of classes from beginner to expert. One of the biggest draws to the classes is the opportunity to practice overlooking a beautiful jungle landscape. Classes fill up, so be sure to get there early to get a spot in the front. You can put your name down and then grab a juice at the studio’s cafe.
Don’t think shopping is a form of wellness? You’ve clearly never heard of retail therapy. And the Ubud market is the perfect place to get your retail therapy fix! Made famous by Eat Pray Love, this market is located in the center of Ubud. You’ll find pretty much everything here, from beautiful traditional wood carvings to cheap plastic sunglasses. A lot of the shops carry the same stuff, so be sure to get a sense of the prices before purchasing. Haggling is definitely recommended!
Where to Eat in Ubud
Being the health and wellness capital of Bali, there are some amazing Ubud restaurants on offer. Here is our list of top recommended place to eat in Ubud.
Breakfast in Ubud
Watercress – This cafe is pretty well known in Ubud. It’s definitely on the pricier side of what you can pay for breakfast in Bali, but the food is worth it. They have a variety of healthy choices and delicious coffee!
Habitat Cafe – Specializing in Pan-Asian cuisine, this modern cafe serves up a diverse range fresh and authentic dishes. Conveniently located next to the Monkey Forest, you can have a cup of coffee and share a slice of banana bread with a new furry friend.
Lunch and Dinner in Ubud
The Fair Warung Bale – We’d go so far as to say this is one of the best restaurants in Bali, period. Not only are they serving up an incredible fish curry and Tom Yum soup, but they give 100% of their profits back to helping local people pay for medical procedures and health care. So awesome!
Warung Makan Bu Rus – An excellent local restaurant that serves up traditional food with an incredible amount of flavor. The first time we visited Ubud we ate here on numerous occasions!
Dessert in Ubud
Tukies Coconut Shop – You can’t go to Ubud and not eat at Tukies. There are actually three locations, so it’s hard to miss. These little shops serve up the best coconut ice cream in the world. Their secret? It’s topped with young coconut slices, roasted coconut chips and a sweet coconut brittle. It’s best to go during your first day in Ubud so you can keep going back everyday.