Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
Book your individual trip, stress-free with local travel experts
Inland Ubud and the surrounding area form Bali’s cultural heartland. Home to a huge number of temples, museums and art galleries, Ubud is also one of Asia’s leading yoga centres. Its wealth of craft studios offer some absorbing shopping. Ubud also hosts nightly Balinese dance shows. It’s also a great place to see traditional ceremonies and daily rituals, too. Ubud’s lovely location becomes even prettier beyond the main thoroughfares. 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.
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.
A magnet for any tourist with the slightest curiosity about Balinese arts and traditions, there is plenty of things to do in Ubud, even if only visited as part of a day trip. The local people really do still paint, carve, dance and make music, and hardly a day goes by without some kind of religious festival.
Appropriately, Ubud is a recognized centre of spiritual tourism, a place where visitors can get stuck into yoga and meditation, and visit local healers. The core village has expanded to take in several neighbouring hamlets and there are now dozens of organic cafés, riverside bungalows and craft shops, spas and alternative treatment centres, chic expat homes and boutique hotels overlooking panoramic scenery.
There are several popular rice paddy walks on the outskirts of Ubud, some of which can be combined into one almost circular trek. Each has views that are perfect real-life versions of the Walter Spies-style paintings you see in Ubud's museums and galleries. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Find the best accommodation in Central Ubud.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
Find out more about the best time to visit Indonesia.
Located in central Bali, the best way of getting to Ubud is usually via shuttle bus or bemo (minibus).
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.
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.
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.