Ubud is a small town in central Bali that is rightly called its cultural heart. It is far removed from the nightlife of southern Bali and has the ideal temperature for a relaxing holiday! Full of culture and enhanced by magnificent vistas, Ubud offers a respite from the humdrum of our busy lives. After all the excess partying in Bali, the central highlands of Ubud offer some serious body and soul therapy.
Ubud is synonymous with culture and peace. It's home to some of the best spas and restaurants, and also the place where you can get the best of local souvenirs. There's somewhere to stay at every budget, and no matter what the price, you can enjoy lodgings that reflect the local beliefs and style: artful, creative and serene.
A gorgeous one-hour drive from the International Depansar Airport will drop you right at the centre of Ubud. An ancient royal town, Ubud is a beautiful mix of religion and art. Green rice fields, spectacular river gorges, coconut trees on one end and rainforests on another, Ubud is simply stunning. With such a backdrop, is it any surprise that it is Asia's most sought after destination for some much needed rejuvenation?
Ubud is a relatively small town and you can cover most of it on foot or on a hired bicycle. However, if you wish to explore beyond the vicinity, a motorbike or car is better.
You can rent bicycles for about Rp 20,000-30,000 (₹100-150) per day. But keep in mind that Ubud's terrain is hilly and bicycling can turn out to be a sweaty workout. If you don't want to put in that kind of effort, a motorbike can be hired for around Rp 40,000 (₹200) to Rp 80,000 (₹400) per day. Rental places can be found on streets all over town. You can also ask your hotel/resort to arrange for one.
If you wish to rent a car in Ubud, you need to have an international driver's license. The rent is somewhere around Rp 3,50,000-5,00,000 (₹1700-2400). Gas is extra.
The attractions in Ubud are numerous. Even a month will be less to explore them all. But if you are in Ubud for a week, here are some of the must-see sights –
Goa Gajah Elephant Cave is an archeological site famous for its collection of historical sites. The most popular part here is a cave dating back to the ninth century with an ornately carved demon's mouth as its entrance. Inside are some fragmented lingas and yonis, a statue of Ganesha and some Buddhist stupa fragments. Wearing a sarong or a waist sash before entering the temple is compulsory. The same are available in shops at the entrance of the temple.
Opening hours: All days, 8am to 4pm
Cost: Rp 15,000 (₹75) for adults, Rp 7,500 (₹36) for children.
Yeh Pulu is a complex structure with sites similar to Goa Gajah. The carvings go back to the fourteenth or fifteenth century, and are set in a very attractive rice field. It's a 45 minute walk from Goa Gajah to Yeh Pulu and is recommended to be taken with a guide as you will be crossing rice fields enroute. There is a holy well here and the residing priest happily blesses people with the water. The dress code is the same as Goa Gajah. This place is recommended because it is slightly hidden and much less crowded as compared to Goa Gajah.
Opening hours: All days, 7am to 6pm
Cost: Rp 15,000 (₹75)
The Monkey Forest is a sacred forest full of ravenous monkeys. Officially called Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana, it houses three holy temples – Pura Dalem Agung Padangtegal (temple of the dead), Pura Prajapati (temple of the animal) and Pura Beji (temple of bathing). Other than that, monkeys are obviously the most popular attraction of this forest. However, they are known to be greedy and dangerous. So be careful that you are not carrying anything to eat. Sellers outside the forest entrance will try and sell you bananas to feed the monkeys, but please don't buy them. Feeding the monkeys can be risky.
Opening hours: All days, 8am to 6pm
Cost: Rp50,000 (₹240) for adults, Rp40,000 (₹192) for children.
Bali Bird Park is a wide 250 hectare aviary park with more than 250 species of birds. The aviaries are wide and open, and birds fly freely through the park. They have a show, 'The Free Flight Bird Show' that lets visitors observe the antics of birds of prey. There are fixed feeding times, during which the visitors can feed the birds. There is also a special ‘Hatchling Area' which showcases the different stages of many of the birds in the park.
Opening hours: All days, 9.30am - 5.30pm
Cost: US$26 (₹1666) for adults, US$13 (₹835) for children
It was in Ubud that the modern art movement started and where artists retreated to and created art that was not religious but instead a reflection of daily life. Museum Puri Lukisan is the museum that houses all Balinese art, from traditional to modern. It displays fine examples of all schools of Balinese art, from the early 16th century cloth wayang-style paintings (art influenced by shadow puppetry) to postwar modern art.
Opening Hours: All days, 9am to 6pm
Cost: Rp 50,000 (₹240) for adults, children under the age of 15, accompanied by adults get free admission.
Ubud Palace is the abode of the local royal family. The palace and its temple, Puri Saren Agung, share a space in the heart of Ubud. Built after the 1917 earthquake, the place is beautifully designed, and you can wander through most of the compound.
Opening Hours: All days, 9am to 5pm
Cost: Entry is free
Tegallalang Rice Terraces are beautiful rice paddies that use subak (traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system). These terraced rice fields are a spectacular sight. The slopes are covered in 50 shades of green and it stretches as far as the eye can see. It might seem like a tourist trap with many hawkers trying to sell souvenirs and asking for money even to pose for a photograph, but the views are worth it.
Opening hours: There are no fixed hours for visiting the rice fields. However the best time to see and appreciate the beauty is during the day.
Cost: There is no official entrance fee
Ubud is a place where people go to relax, chill and just slow down in life. If you seek some action, however, here are some exciting things to do in this laid-back town –
The most popular and useful thing that you can learn while in Ubud is how to cook a traditional Balinese meal. Local delicacies such as sate lilit, Balinese salad, and nasi kuning are healthy and delicious choices. There are many cooking classes on offer in Ubud. You can sign up for Payuk Bali Home Cooking Class or Paon Bali Cooking Class. The cost of one class is generally around ₹1,700.
The Campuhan Ridge walk is an easy 9km nature trek. It is a great way to enjoy the sights of green Ubud. The Campuhan Valley is lined with dense foliage and the starting point to this ridge walk is easy to identify and reach. A small concrete path from the entrance of the boutique hotel Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas and Spa leads straight to the ridge over the Campuhan River. The bridge leads to the stunning Pura Gunung Lebah temple complex. The entire trek is marked with signboards and very easy to navigate. The best time to enjoy the Campuhan Ridge Walk is early morning and late afternoon, when the temperature is cool and when the skies show their best hues during sunrise and sunset. You don't need a guide to do this and the trek is free, but do remember to wear comfortable shoes and clothing!
Ubud is known as a handicraft village and the reason is simple – the surrounding villages produce some of the best handcrafted goods such as stone-carved souvenirs, silver jewellery, paintings and wood-carved items. The most popular place to shop is the main Ubud Market. It has innumerable shops selling wood carvings, batik shirts, sarongs, and all kinds of other souvenirs aimed specifically at tourists. But to shop at this market your bargaining skills need to be top-notch. Threads of Life is a store located in Jalan Kajeng, Ubud, and is famous for exotic textiles, naturally-dyed cloth and hand-spun and woven dresses.
Kecak is a traditional Balinese music and dance drama that depicts different scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana. In Pura Dalem you will witness one of the best kecak performances in Ubud. The performance takes place under the shade of banyan trees and is followed by a fire dance.
Timings: After sunset, every Monday and Friday.
Cost: Rp 80,000 (₹400)
What is a rejuvenating vacation without a relaxing spa session? Ubud is the hotspot for some of the best spas in Bali. Every luxury resort and hotel has its own spa, but if you prefer to explore the options in the city instead, do check out Bodyworks Healing Centre.
The Bodyworks Healing Centre of Ubud is a sacred space of famed Balinese healer, Ketut Arsana. It's not just a spa session, it's more of an individualised healing session. Some of the popular sessions are reflexology, chakra healing, energy balancing and cupping. They also have regular massages such as deep tissue massage, exfoliation massage, flower bath treatments etc. It is definitely an authentic Balinese spa experience that you must try out.
Yoga is a spiritual, physical and mental exercise that aims to enhance your overall well-being. Meditation is a mental exercise that aims to open the mind for a better understanding of life. If one of your reasons to come to Ubud is some personal healing and relaxing with yoga and meditation, then Ubud Yoga Centre and the Yoga Barn are your best bets. The former is an expat-run centre that offers everything from single attendance classes up to residential yoga instructor training courses. The latter is an Ashtanga/Vinnyasa school located in the midst of rice fields with residential packages, multiple-day classes and simple single-entry classes.
Paradiso is a unique concept cafe in Ubud that serves vegan and vegetarian delicacies at affordable prices. Their menu is extensive and splendid offering some fresh and healthy vegan options without compromising on taste. They also have an in-house state-of-the-art cinema that diners can enjoy. The seats are free and they showcase some of the best movies from all over the world.
Opening hours: Daily, 7am to 10pm
Locavore in Ubud is one of the most popular restaurants in town. The modest place is known for creating haute cuisine from local produce. The small but famous place impresses any first-time visitor and attracts loyal guests time and again.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 12pm to 2.30pm, 6pm to 11pm
Tip: Do call in advance and book a hotel. Walk-ins are not entertained.
Mozaic is one of the leading restaurants of not only Ubud, but the whole of Bali. Their menu will please even the most critical foodies and impress anyone who walks in the door. The many accolades it has won are proof of its services and the food. The prices are high, but the food is worth it.
Opening Hours: All days, 6pm to 11pm
Other than these, check out Bubu Warung for affordable traditional Balinese cuisine. It's open from 8am to 10pm and the cost of a meal is around Rp 25,000 to 30,000 (₹120 to 150).
From homestays, farmstays to boutique hotels and luxury hotels, accommodation is available for every budget!
1. Ruma Sekar's homestay – ₹1,600 per night for double occupancy for a room.
2. Tirta Arum – ₹3,799 per night for double occupancy for a deluxe room.
3. Bucu View Ubud Bali – ₹11,249 per night for double occupancy for a one-bedroom villa.