Ubud, a small town that is often referred to as the cultural center of Bali, is one of the most popular tourist spots on the island. It is a bohemian dream with vegan cafes, artisan boutique shops, affordable spas, and gorgeous temples. Best of all, it’s affordable and (at least when I visited) unpretentious. You could easily spend 4-5 days exploring and relaxing in town, or stay longer and use Ubud as a jumping-off point for attractions in central and northern Bali.
Getting to Ubud
A one-hour taxi cab ride from the airport will cost you a flat fee of about 450 IDR ($32 USD).
Where to Stay
Accommodation can be expensive in Ubud central (at least compared to other parts of Bali). Of course, there are multiple hostels offering bunks and private rooms, but if you’re looking to splurge, you’ll probably book a resort or Airbnb. If you’re interested in enjoying the nightlife, I suggest staying within walking distance to town. Otherwise, it’s easy to rent a motorbike, hail a cab, or stay in a resort that offers shuttle service. But be aware, many resorts stop their shuttle service in the early evening in hopes you will dine at their in-house restaurant. We stayed at a few cozy AirBNBs a few miles from town and splurged for a few nights at a resort with our own private pool. It was nice, but if I could do it again, I would stay in town, within walking distance to everything.
Top Things to Do in Ubud
Stroll through the Monkey Forest. Located on the edge of town, pay a small entrance fee and walk through the jungle watching the daily lives of the hundreds of monkeys that have made the temples their own personal jungle gym. Don’t bring food and keep your distance from the little critters. They like to grab phones, pull hair, and even bite.
Eat Eat Eat. Some of Bali’s top restaurants are located in Ubud, including some high-end options. Book ahead and treat yourself to a meal at one of our favs – Hujan Locale. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Visit a Coffee Plantation. Try the famous cap-poo-chino made from Luwak coffee beans which are processed in the belly of an opossum-like animal and then pooped out! It’s one of the most expensive coffees in the world, but here it will cost you less than $5 USD for a cup (which is pricey by Bali standards).
See a Kecak Fire Dance. I’m not sure what we were expecting from this show, but in our jet-lagged state, it was very trance-like. The “music” is created by dozens of seated, shirtless men, making “clack clack” noises from their mouths as a few costumed dancers tell a story around a fire. Worth seeing so you can try to make the noises yourself the rest of the trip.
See a Barong Show. Very different from the Kecak Fire Dance, the Barong show has a full band playing traditional music, dancers, and impressive creatures telling a fable about good and evil.
Take a Yoga Class. There are many opportunities to do yoga in Bali, but if you’re in Ubud, you should check out the famous Yoga Barn.
Visit the Water Temple. Like India, Bali has no shortage of temples. We were lucky enough to be visiting Ubud during a full moon. In the Hindu faith, this is a sacred day, so they have ceremonies at most temples. At the water temple, you will be charged a small entrance fee and given a sarong to wrap around yourself. Please do not take photos of worshippers while they are in the water. There are signs posted indicating where you can and cannot take photos. You can, however, participate in the ceremony if you wish. If you choose to do this, you will enter the pools, drink from the fountains, and pour water over your head. We just watched, quietly. If you don’t want to get out of town (or pay the fee) to go to the Water Temple, there is a lovely temple in the center of Ubud called,Saraswati Temple, that’s also worth a visit.
Spa Day. Every day in Bali is spa day as far as I’m concerned. Ubud has some of the more affordable prices we encountered; You can get a full-body one hour massage for 80-90 IDR, which is about $6. Or, splurge and go to one of the resorts offering all-day spa packages. I didn’t do this, but I wish I had!
Rice Terraces. There are dozens of local tour operators offering tours that visit the Tegallalang rice terraces. Choose any one of them (remember to haggle the price), or rent a scooter and drive yourself. Be aware, most of the rice terraces are privately owned and will charge an entrance fee. I visited two terraces and I found them both to be very touristy. Both had constructed selfie-nests, ziplines, and swings, which you could use for an additional charge. If you’re into that kind of thing, it makes a great photo. Otherwise, it only costs a few dollars to walk through the terraces. Go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Go for a Swim. It’s hot in Bali, especially in Ubud. But if your hotel or AirBNB doesn’t have a pool, don’t panic. You can pay a daily fee to swim at Folk Pool & Gardens or Jungle Fish for the day.
Shop Till You Drop. Since Ubud was my first destination in Bali, and I had three weeks more to go, I didn’t do much shopping in this delightful town. But I wish I had! You’ll find some of the best deals in the local market, and some of the most beautiful pieces at the boutique shops.
Hike Mt. Batur. While not in Ubud, there are many tour companies that offer sunrise hiking tours of Mt. Batur with transport from town. Expect to be picked up around 2 am to be able to make it to the top of the mountain for sunrise.