Ubud, artistic and cultural center of the island of Bali, is a mandatory stop on your trip through Indonesia. Its enclave, surrounded by extensive rice paddies, makes Ubud an essential point for anyone who goes to the island. Ubud is heart and lung of Bali. This town of the interior also offers many opportunities for those interested in yoga or meditation.
In this article, I will tell you what things you have to do in Ubud Bali if you make a stop on this island during your Southeast Asia trip.
HOW TO GET TO UBUD
To get to Ubud from the airport I recommend you ask for a taxi using the Grab application. If you do not have it, you can download it here. This app works just like Uber and is quite popular in Bali. Also, it is much cheaper than taking an official taxi. It cost us about 149k IDR (approx. 11€) to take us from the airport to Ubud (about a two-hour drive). The money is paid in cash and there is free Wi-Fi at the airport, so it is very easy.
things TO DO IN UBUD
We arrived in Ubud in the afternoon and the first thing we did was to rent bikes (20k IDR – 1.5 € / day). The best way to tour this town is by bike or motorbike.
Since we arrived in Bali, we realized that there was a big difference with the other islands of Indonesia we had been to. While in the rest of the islands the Islam predominates, Bali is the only island in the country with a Hindu majority.
We noticed this as soon as we started exploring Ubud. This town is dirty to the naked eye, but if you look closely, you will see that most of the dirt is due to the offerings that the locals leave on the ground, which usually carries cooked rice and flowers attracting a lot of insects.
Our idea for the first day was to visit the places that we did not want to miss and that were further away from Ubud by bike. The first place we went was Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave. This sacred grotto is designed to ward off evil spirits. The place is located about 5 km from the center of Ubud. I don’t know how long it took us by bicycle but it became long since there are some more or less hard slopes.
The entrance fee is 15k IDR (approx. 1.5€). In order to enter, you must wear a Sarong: a piece of cloth that is knotted around the waist and which is essential in most places of worship in Bali. You don’t have to bring or buy one since in the ticket office there is a box with a lot of them to lend to the visitors.
Once we were dressed in the Sarong we descended to the entrance of the cave, with its characteristic evil monster, whose mouth gives access to the bowels of it.
The interior is tiny, T-shaped. Inside we find the figure of Ganesh (son of Shiva with elephant’s head) and at his feet a lot of offerings of flowers and rice, like the ones we saw in the streets of Ubud.
Directly in front of the cave are two rectangular swimming pools stocked with purifying water by female stone statues.
CAUTION WITH SCAMS
In the surroundings of the pools, you will see some low buildings. These are altars where we saw a monk trying to get money from the tourists passing by. The monk invited them to come up, put flowers in their hair, painted a white spot on their foreheads and soaked their heads with purified water. At that very spiritual moment, the monk raised a rug. Beneath there was a bill and pointed to put some more. If the person refused or gave him a small bill the monk became angry and cursed them. We stayed for a while watching as he repeated the play with each excited visitor approaching.
I advise you not to limit yourself to visiting this area. Following the road, you will arrive to a extended wooded area. In it, the roots of the trees have gained prominence by devouring what man has made.
After leaving Goa Gajah, we set out to pedal to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. The distance from Goa Gajah to here is approximately 4km.
Visiting it is something you have to do if you go to Ubud. It is very close, so you could walk, in case you don’t want to rent a bicycle. This forest is famous for being home to a gigantic colony of monkeys. As they are very accustomed to the tourists, they have no objection at all to approaching, playing, asking for food, stealing or even biting you.
The ticket price is 20k IDR (2€) and although from outside you can see enough monkeys I advise you not to miss its interior.
Throughout the forest, you will find a lot of figures of monsters that give it a magic touch. Sometimes it is not necessary to know the meaning of things so that undeniable feelings can awake in you. The figures of the Monkey Forest are scary, frightening and are in every corner of the forest, covered with moss. The monkeys at their ease, sit on top of them and look at you, staring at their daily new guests.
The jungle has grown at its best, devouring every construction. The aerial roots unfold everywhere, consuming statues, bridges and everything within reach. I advise you to go to the areas further away from the entrance. There you will find more jungle and fewer tourists.
THE MONKEY FOREST MONKEYS
At first, I dared to let a small monkey climb over me. It was very intrigued with my pendant and kept pulling on it. As I said in another post, keep all your things well protected because it is very likely that a curious monkey decides to take anything within its reach; mobiles, pendants, cameras, bags…
The monkey down here robbed a girl an alcohol soap that was hanging from her backpack and drank it, to the astonishment of anyone who saw it and the terror of the girl who was very scared, since the monkey was almost the same size as her.
The worst thing about confidence is that, without realizing it, you end up exposing yourself to risky situations and this is what happened to me. At one point playing with some more or less small monkeys, I ended up with three of them climbing up my body. Suddenly two of them bit me, one hurt me. To take off the monkeys from me, I had to run and finally. With that, I could say my monkey experience had came to and end.
Frightened I asked the guard if I should go to the doctor to get a vaccine or get the wound checked, and he told me that I didn’t have to worry about because every day a visitor is bitten by the monkeys
SUNSET IN THE RICE Paddies
After the incident, we left Monkey Forest and approached to the rice fields that are next to Ubud, to watch the sunset. In the map below I indicate you where to walk to see rice paddies; they are very close to Ubud (no need to bike).
To relax with the views, we sat at Sari Organik as we gazed at the beauty of the rice fields dyed orange accompanied by a coconut.
TRADITIONAL DANCE ACTION
On our way to the rice fields, we passed by Pura Dalem Ubud. In this temple, there are dancing exhibitions and we bought tickets for that same night. It is very typical for visitors going to some local dance show.
There are a lot of traditional dance types and each one is performed on a different day in a different place. To check where to see each type of dance and the price, click here.
KECAK FIRE & TRANCE
The type of dance that we saw is called Kecak Fire & Trance, which takes place on Monday at 19:30 in Pura Dalem Ubud and which is priced at 75k IDR (5€ approx.). It is a kind of musical, without instruments, where all the sound comes from the harmonized voices of a group of more than 100 men. They are dressed in black and white checkered sarong and during the performance, they seem to enter into a state of trance.
The repetitive sounds are accompanied by the interpretation of the story through human characters and monsters in very flashy outfits that dance hypnotically. The fire is the protagonist, mainly in the last part of the staging. If you decide to see this type of exhibition I advise you to come here to read more about the storyline and going to the show with an idea of what is going to be performed. This will make it more enjoyable.
I honestly found it a little boring. If I go back to Bali I will not think of going again, but I guess if I had never gone I would be curious to see how it is. The best thing is to decide for yourselves if it is worthy.
DAWN IN THE BATUR VOLCANO
As soon as we left, we went to the hotel to rest. Very early, at 2 in the morning, they picked us up to go to the Batur volcano. Although the volcano is somewhat away from Ubud, it is a must of things to do in Ubud. Seeing the sunrise from its summit at an altitude of 1,717m is an unforgettable experience. The view of the orange sky illuminating Lake Batur with Mount Agung in the background is beautiful.
There are many agencies that offer a trekking to watch the sunrise from the top of the volcano. After comparing prices, we opted for Pineh Bali Tour. This company certainly offered the cheapest trekking. It cost us 250,000 IDR (approx. 17€) per person. The price range was very large, and after all, they all offered the same (roundtrip transportation from the same hotel where you are staying in Ubud, coffee before the trekking, guide to climb to the top and breakfast on the summit).
The trekking seemed simple despite being a 2-hour climb, but it wasn’t the same for everyone. In our group were a couple of newly married Americans, my cousin, the guide and myself. The woman was having a lot of problems getting up, stopping every five minutes, so my cousin and I, fearing that we would miss the sunrise, went up on our own, along with the other hundreds of guides and visitors who were climbing, losing sight of our group.
After half an hour of reaching the top our guide and the couple appeared, arriving just as the sun was rising. We sat to contemplate the colors of the sky and the guide brought our breakfast: banana and chocolate pancakes, coffee and boiled eggs.
Although on the way up we didn’t get cold I recommend that you wear a sweatshirt (and of course closed shoes) since when stopping up it is possible that you feel a little cold.
As an obsessed of sunrises/sunsets, I will tell you that this was an incredibly beautiful sunrise that you cannot miss for the world.
The climb is not difficult and it is impossible to get lost because there are a lot of people that climb it every day, so I would say, at a glance, that it is not necessary to climb with a guide. However, I think 17€ for the round trip from Ubud (2h each way), the early morning coffee, the flashlight to go up at night, and the full breakfast at the top is a fair price. As I mentioned this is the cheapest price we found, but for the same trekking others were paying more than 40€.
Once the daylight took over the sky, from the height we could contemplate better the immense Lake Batur and the small towns that are situated around it. In the background, Mount Agung completes the whole. The views from the summit are beautiful.
Also in the light of day, we notice that the volcano still keeps activity. Various vents expel steam from the earth’s interior. The guide explained that Mount Batur is a sacred mount and there are many Hindu legends about these fumaroles. In fact, as we approached them we saw numerous floral offerings around these chimneys.
Early in the morning, long-tailed macaques appeared (as if we had not had enough with the previous day). They approached to ask for food to the tourists. Our guide told us that every day that group of monkeys appeared and became the center of attention of the visitors, who for a few moments had fun with their various events, such as food robberies, disputes between members of the clan, jumps and runs.
Once down the guide had us fill out a questionnaire so that we valued his work. According to him, they only let the guides who accumulate a good number of good reviews keep working as guides.
One of the things that surprised me most is that when we reached the summit it was full of local children. Each morning these children go up to sell tourists water and snacks before going to school.
Note: During the writing of this post I went back to check the prices of the trekking with Pineh Bali Tour and these have gone up a lot. Try to negotiate 250,000 IDR per person, which is what we pay in 2016.
It should be 11 am when we got back to Ubud. With no time to rest, we continued walking through the center, to feel that the day and a half we were spending here was squeezed to the maximum. We even had time to enjoy a Balinese massage. This type of service is offered throughout the center of Ubud.
We stayed at one end of Raya Ubud Street, which is the main street, so what we did was visiting the points of interest we had to see, which basically were concentrated on this same street.
PURI SAREN AGUNG
The first place we went to visit was the Puri Saren Agung, the royal palace, also known as Ubud Palace.
The royal palace is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and admission is free. However, it cannot be traversed in its entirety. As the royal family still lives there, the entrance to the public is restricted. The visitable part consists of a patio where traditional dances are held in the evenings. To check what days and what kind of dances are celebrated consult it here.
PURA TAMAN SARASWATI TEMPLE
Another site that you must visit is the Pura Taman Saraswati Temple. This temple honors Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, literature, and art.
The highlight of this temple is its entrance bordered by two tanks full of lotus flowers and water lilies. Admission is free.
GALLERIES AND THE ART MARKET
To finish visiting the center you cannot miss the art galleries of Monkey Forest Street. This street connects the sacred monkey forest to the center of Ubud. I especially recommend the Nacivet art gallery. Here you will find the best pictures of Indonesia and the most original pieces of art of your travel to Bali.
Also, if you like the markets and to haggle, I recommend that you approach the Pasar Seni Ubud Market. This market, better known as Ubud Traditional Art Market, is located at number 35 Raya Ubud.
RICE paddies WEST OF UBUD
To complete your visit I recommend you to contemplate the rice fields to the west of Ubud, bathed by the sun.
There are agencies that offer tours to go see the well-known rice terraces of Tegalalang with one of the most popular posters of Bali. However, if you don’t have much time or do not want to spend the money, the ones in Ubud are also very nice.
In the map below I have indicated what trails you have to travel to get to the rice fields. It is not necessary to leave Ubud, so you can walk there.
I advise you to approach the friendly local people and ask them to explain the process of rice cultivation. We were very lucky and found a very nice couple that told us what they were doing. To thank them for their kindness, we bought two coconuts.
Suddenly the husbands climbed a palm tree to take the coconuts and, as expected, they were very good. To make it even more natural, he made us some straws with dry stalks that he tore off the ground.
A little further west is also the Bali Swing. We had seen many pictures of this vertigo swing over the jungle, but we didn’t discover where it was until the return. We signed up for the next trip and we leave you here the website for you to consult how to get there and other activities to do in Ubud.
WHERE TO STAY IN UBUD
Ubud is visited by both backpackers and couples enjoying their honeymoon. The possibilities of accommodation are very wide and varied.
When I traveled to Ubud with my cousin we stayed at Ojek’s Homestay, in a room for two. The price was very cheap and the hotel very nice. Breakfast was delicious and served on a lovely terrace. In addition, the complex has its own temple.
However, I do not recommend this hotel to you. One of the two nights we stayed there, we got three cockroaches on the bed. But that is not the worst. As I read later on several opinions from other guests the beds are infected by bedbugs. It is true that the price is very cheap but I think it is not worth it.
RECOMMENDED HOTELS IN UBUD
When Dani and I go to Ubud (this time together) we will surely stay at one of the following hotels.
HANGING GARDEN OF BALI
Probably one of the most exclusive hotels in Bali. This resort is half an hour from Ubud so it is recommended to have a rental car or motorbike.
It stands out for its infinity pools that overlook the jungle. In addition, each villa has its own private pool. There is nothing around, just forest and jungle. Here I leave the website for you to consult prices, although they are usually around 300$. If you want to treat yourself to a spa hotel away from everything, this is for you. As you can imagine it is full of newlyweds.
PERITIWI BISMA 1
Let’s say it’s the cheap version of the previous one and rather closer to Ubud. Although it does not have private pools per room, it has an infinity pool in the jungle. Here you have a photo.
Actually, the price is low for what it offers (about 70€ ) so it is often difficult to find a free room. In addition to being quite popular the pool is usually full. Not everything is what the Instagram photos show.
I leave the website in case you want to make a reservation.
Less frequented and between rice fields is this resort that has three different villas. In addition, the price is lower than the previous ones (50 $ approx.). I leave here its website.
Although the pool is not as spectacular as the previous ones, the views from it are amazing. You have a swing to the extensive rice terraces.
WHERE TO EAT AT UBUD
To finish I would like to recommend you some places to eat in Ubud.
If you are tired of Asian food and want something more familiar, then stop by the Three Monkeys Cafe on Monkey Forest Road. The place is beautiful, especially at night, lit with candles on the terrace overlooking a rice field. The food is more “European” and the price too.
If you have not yet hated the Nasi Goreng and love to eat cheap, I recommend the Igalenca Warung. The restaurant is on the same street as Raya Ubud. The peculiar thing about the place is that with each dish a delicious tea is included.
Another place where good local food is served is the Dewa Warung, on Goutama Street. Here you will almost certainly have to share with other diners some of the great tables they have.