Inland Ubud and the surrounding area form Bali’s cultural heartland. Ubud is home to a huge number of temples, museums and art galleries. Next to that, it's one of Asia’s leading yoga centres. Its wealth of craft studios offer some absorbing shopping. Ubud also hosts nightly Balinese dance shows and it's a great place to see traditional ceremonies and daily rituals, too. Ubud’s lovely location becomes even prettier beyond the main centre. Set amid lush, terraced rice paddies, there’s plenty of scope for hikes and bicycle rides. For a sense of traditional Bali, visit the arty Penestanan or the Bronze Age relics of Pejeng.
Discover the Cultural Heart of Bali
As well as the bounteous natural beauty, Ubud is where some of Bali's cultural greats gathered. Head to Neka Art Museum to see some of the best Balinese paintings on the island. And if that gets you in the mood for having a go yourself, there are plenty of classes on offer in Ubud. Try your hand at batik painting, silversmithing, or Balinese cookery.
Ubud is also a fab place to tickle the senses. The echoing melodies of the gamelan (Indonesian percussion) accompany traditional dance performances each night, but Mother Nature is just as evocative. Get wooed by the elusive Bali starlings at Bali Bird Park, a beautifully-landscaped aviary.
Else descend the 315 steps to reach the impressive eleventh-century Gunung Kawi. These beguiling rock-cut “tombs” are in the valley of the sacred Pakrisan River.
Things to do in Ubud
Ubud is a great place for those who are interested in Balinese arts and traditions. There are lots of things to do, even if you visit for just a day. People still make art, dance, and play music there. Every day there is usually some kind of religious festival going on too.
Ubud is also known as a spiritual tourist destination where visitors can practice yoga and meditation or visit healers. The village has grown over time to include many nearby places like organic cafés, bungalows by the river, craft shops, spas and treatment centers, chic homes for expats, and hotels with beautiful views.
#1 Walk through the rice paddies of Ubud
Around Ubud, there are a few interesting paths to walk through the rice paddies. These paths look like the traditional paintings of Walter Spies. The track sometimes gets hard to follow, but it is gorgeous with views of Gunung Agung (if the clouds are not in the way). You can see farmers wearing conical hats working in the sparkling rice fields with the mountain in the background.
Cutting across the rice fields, the track becomes totally indistinct at times. But these narrow paths that run along the top of the dykes look out across to the amazing Gunung Agung (cloud cover permitting) as conical-hatted farmers work in the glittering rice paddies With the mountain in the background.
#2 Visit the Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
Uncover the mysteries of the Goa Gajah, an ancient archaeological site located just outside Ubud. Step into a realm of spirituality as you venture into the cave adorned with mystical carvings and bathing pools. Explore the lush grounds and discover the intricate stone sculptures that tell tales of Bali's rich cultural heritage.
#3 Explore the Tegenungan Waterfall:
Located just a short drive from Ubud, the Tegenungan Waterfall is a stunning natural attraction with a powerful cascade of water surrounded by lush greenery. Visitors can take a refreshing swim in the waterfall's pool or relax and enjoy the peaceful ambience.
#4 Take a cultural class like batik painting
With so many creative types in residence, Ubud is a great place to learn something new: there are tourist-oriented courses in everything from batik to yoga. In addition to the more formal venues, it’s always worth asking for advice from the more traditional homestays, whose managers are often dancers, musicians or painters.
ARMA Cultural Workshops offer 2-3-hour museum-endorsed classes in ancient Balinese culture. Think Balinese painting, woodcarving, batik, gamelan, dance and theatre, silver, basket-weaving, traditional architecture, Hinduism, and astrology. Other arresting courses to try include batik, woodcarving, classical painting, and basketry.
#5 Admire Balinese paintings at Neka Art Museum
Containing the island’s most comprehensive collection of paintings from across Bali’s various artistic styles, Neka Art Museum is a series of pavilions on the main Campuhan/Sanggingan road. English-language labels are posted beside the paintings, with Balinese, expatriate and visiting artists all represented.
The best artworks to see include Rajapala Steals Sulasih’s Clothes and The Pandawa Brothers in Disguise. Both were painted by Ida Bagus Rai. Found in the Balinese Painting Hall, they are fine examples of Kamasan-style works that mix classical elements with more modern sensuality. The bold, Dutch expressionist, Arie Smit, has many striking paintings in the second pavilion, including A Tropical Garden By the Sea. The third pavilion, meanwhile, has an archive of black-and-white photographs from Bali in the 1930s and 1940s, taken by the American Robert Koke.
#6 Discover the Ubud Traditional Market
Engage in a vibrant sensory experience at the Ubud Traditional Market. Stroll through the bustling market stalls, where local vendors offer a colourful array of handicrafts, textiles, artwork, and traditional Balinese souvenirs. Bargain with the friendly shopkeepers and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of this cultural hub.
#7 Immerse in Balinese Culture at the Ubud Palace
The Ubud Palace, also known as Puri Saren Agung, is a cultural hub where visitors can experience Balinese traditional dance performances, art exhibitions, and royal events. The palace's intricate carvings and beautiful architecture offer a glimpse into the island's rich history and culture.
#8 Take in a traditional dance performance in Ubud
As an important centre of Balinese dance and gamelan, watching a traditional dance performance is one the best things to do in Ubud. As these evocative shows, gods and demons flirt and fight by torchlight to the sounds of the gamelan. There are as many as nine different dance shows each night in the area with the tourist office arranging free transport to any venues outside of Ubud.
The best dances to catch include the Kecak (Monkey Dance) and the Barong (Lion Dance). These are the most accessible and visually interesting. The Legong, which enacts several traditional stories, is more refined and understated. Another show worth seeking out in Ubud is the unique all-female Kecak Srikandi.
#9 Massage or meditate to calm your mind, body and spirit
As Bali’s centre for holistic practices and alternative therapies, so one of the best things to do in spiritual-minded Ubud is to have a massage. There are plenty of traditional spa and beauty treatments available at locations across the town, including day spas and full-on health resorts. As well as the usual massages, facials, hair treatments, manicures and pedicures, look out for treatments using jamu, pastes made from the likes of turmeric, ginger, galangal and garlic, which are all said to have healing properties.
Ubud is one of Asia’s foremost yoga communities, too. It has many resident and visiting devotees, plus more than a dozen schools in the area. There are scores of instructors offering everything from hatha and vinyasa flow yoga sessions to pilates, capoeira, dance and meditation, too.
#10 Indulge in Balinese Cuisine
No trip to Ubud is complete without indulging in the tantalizing flavours of Balinese cuisine. Enjoy a tantalizing blend of aromatic spice and fresh ingredients, creating a delightful culinary journey for the taste buds. While here, you'll want to try authentic dishes such as Babi Guling (suckling pig), Bebek Betutu (smoked duck), and Nasi Campur (mixed rice) at local warungs (eateries).
Best areas to stay in Ubud
Ubud has an incredible choice of accommodation. Most family homestays are in traditional compounds and have real Balinese charm. Artistic, mid-range hotels often have pools, while upscale options are luxurious, many with rice paddy or river views.
The 1km-long Jl Monkey Forest is the most central and commercial part of town, while the smaller roads, such as Jl Karna, Jl Maruti, Jl Gootama, Jl Kajeng and Jl Bisma, are more peaceful.
Peliatan, 1.6km southeast of the Ubud market, harbours a couple of excellent places to stay. Nyuhkuning, Padang Tegal and Pengosekan are peaceful southern settlements. Sambahan is just north of central Ubud.
West of central Ubud, the hotels in Sanggingan are reached via busy Jl Raya Ubud; some offer free transfers. This is where the Ayung Valley is. If you’re staying in Keliki or Payangan you’ll probably need transport.
Sayan (find accommodation), Penestanan (find accommodation) and Singakerta, west and south of central Ubud, are dotted with ultra-luxe resorts and villas. It has some good mid-range accommodation options, too.
Best places to stay in Ubud
KajaNe Mua, Central Ubud Popular resort with villa compounds offering one to four rooms, all with private pools.
Wapa di Ume, Sambahan The attention to detail is flawless at this beautiful natural chic hotel where each room has a rice paddy view. There’s a fine pool, spa, restaurant with stunning vistas, and free yoga classes.
Best restaurants and bars
The best restaurants in Ubud are healthy. If you like your food vegan, organic and raw, Ubud will be heaven: it’s probably Asia’s healthy eating epicentre. Or if barbecued meats and pizza are more to your taste, you’ll eat well here too. Factor in Japanese, Chinese, Italian, French, a slew of delis, and of course, Indonesian and Balinese restaurants and there’s an amazing selection. Many restaurants outside central Ubud offer free pick-ups if you call up advance.
With that in mind it’s no surprise that the bars in Ubud are no hotbed of hedonistic nightlife. Most tourists go to an early-evening Balinese dance performance before catching last orders at a restaurant at around 9pm. The bar scene is pretty sedate, so choose a live music night at one of the town’s restaurants or bars to be sure of a decent crowd.
- Café Wayan No Ubud visit is complete without at least one stop at the iconic Café Wayan which has served scrumptious food for over 30 years. There's a mouth-watering Balinese buffet on Sunday evenings.
- Ibu Oka Another Ubud icon, this open-sided warung attracts queues of diners for it’s always flavoursome babi guling (suckling pig). There are a couple of other branches around town too. Get there early.
- No Mas Bar Stylish bar with a social vibe, vintagey decor, rotating live bands and DJs and killer cocktails (try a Pickleback – whisky and home-made juice).
How to get around
Ubud is a popular city in Bali and there are enough options to get around. If you are concentrating on the city only, you can see most things on foot. If you feel comfortable enough, renting a motorbike is a great way to explore Ubud and around.
Getting around by bemo
Public bemos are good for short hops: to the Neka Art Museum; for Pengosekan or Peliatan (any bemo heading for Batubulan); and to Petulu (use the orange bemos to Pujung).
Getting around by taxi
There are no metered taxis in Ubud (the local transport touts prevent them from operating), so you have to bargain with the transport touts who hang around every corner. Most outlying hotels provide free transport to and from central Ubud.
Getting around by car or motorbike
Most transport touts and tour agencies in central Ubud offer car and motorbike rentals. One reputable outfit includes Bali Ari Tours & Driver. If driving northwards (i.e. uphill) to Kintamani or to the north coast, it’s worth getting something more powerful than the cheapest Jimny.
Getting around by bike
Bicycles are an excellent way to get around if you avoid the busier roads; they can be rented from numerous outlets along Jl Raya Ubud and Jl Monkey Forest.
Getting around on foot
The most enjoyable way of seeing Ubud and its immediate environs is on foot via the tracks through the rice paddies and the narrow streets.
How many days do you need in Ubud?
Depending on how much you plan to relax – and it's worth taking time out to have a massage or spa treatment here – you're likely to want to spend three or four days in Ubud.
You need at least a day to take in Museum Puri Lukisan, Neka Art Museum, Ubud Art Market and Ubud Palace. Start day two with a walk through the rice paddies, before visiting Bali Bird Park and enjoying a spa treatment. Take in a dance show in the evening. Day three should include the Gunung Kawi tombs and the Blanco Renaissance Museum, the former home of the flamboyant Catalan artist Antonio Blanco. If you've got an extra day, both the Ubud Monkey Forest and Petulu’s white heron sanctuary are worth adding to your itinerary.
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Best time to visit Ubud
Ubud offers warm, year-round temperatures that average 26°C in town and the surrounding hills. But visitors should also expect rain here throughout the year. Bali is subject to an annual monsoon season (October to March) that brings intense downpours, high winds, and humidity. We don't advise mountain climbing during the monsoon season.
Bali's peak tourist season is from April to August with hotel rack rates at their highest in June and July. In Ubud, the Christmas–New Year period is very busy so book months in advance where possible. Idul Fitry (Eid al-Fitri, usually May–June) is typically popular as well. Pack for tropical downpours whenever you visit Ubud.
How to get here
Located in central Bali, the best way of getting to Ubud is usually via shuttle bus or bemo (minibus).
Getting from the airport to Ubud
Bali’s only airport, Ngurah Rai International Airport (referred to as Denpasar), is 35km south of Ubud. The easiest way to get from Ngurah Rai Airport is by shuttle bus or taxi.
Getting to Ubud by shuttle bus
Bali’s ubiquitous shuttle bus operator, Perama, serves all major tourist destinations on the island. Tickets are available from Perama’s Ubud office, inconveniently located in Padang Tegal at the far southern end of Jl Hanoman, 2.5km from the central market. You can buy tickets from the tourist office and some travel agencies too. Other shuttle bus companies may offer more convenient services: the tourist office keeps an up-to-date list of operators and sells tickets.
Getting to Ubud by bemo
A limited number of bemo services run to/from Ubud, normally departing every 30min or so from about 6am until around 2pm, then at least hourly until about 5pm. They all leave from the central market on Jl Raya Ubud.
Plan your trip to Bali with the Rough Guide to Bali and Lombok.