Ubud is where life ‘just happens’!
Ubud is Bali’s secret haven, the lifestyle is the perfect pace to slow down, chill out and get your mojo back! It’s the perfect holiday spot promising a wide range of activities for everyone! Refresh, rejuvenate and revitalise in Ubud!
Located in the mountains, just an hour’s drive north of the hubbub of southern Bali this beautiful traditional Balinese village has an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Surrounded by stunning scenery with vast rice paddies, white water rapids and dense rainforest. It will take your breath away!
Far removed from the beach party scene in Kuta, Ubud is considered Bali’s cultural heart. It is famous as an arts and crafts hub, and much of the town and nearby villages consists of artists’ workshops and galleries.
The Balinese are a friendly people so strike up a conversation and be ready to learn about the Balinese culture from a local.
What to see and do in Ubud
There’s much you can see and do in Ubud on your first visit.
There’s plenty to see and do in Ubud so try to allocate at least a week to be sure to give yourself time to explore absolutely everything.
It’s a picturesque little town and a number of highlights are within easy distance of the town centre.
The Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest is one of these ‘must see’ destinations. Walking distance from central Ubud, this sanctuary is one of the most fascinating experiences of all.
Other day trip options will give you an impressive visual journey winding past rich green rice terraces and ancient temples and palaces to spectacular beaches and waterfalls. If you’re into adventure, perhaps a cycling tour through the hills or a white-water rafting experience will give you an adrenalin rush if that’s what you’re looking for.
Consider joining a tour or find a local guide to take you to nearby shrines and temples like Goa Gajah, Gunung Kawi, Pura Kehen and Tirta Empul.
As spectacular as these places are, the cultural and spiritual significance may be lost without a knowledgeable local guide.
While most of the museums and galleries are along the main thoroughfare, there are several other attractions to see – such as the Bali Safari & Marine Park, the Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets, and the Tegenungan Waterfall.
Shopping in Ubud
Known for traditional arts and crafts, Ubud is home to hundreds of shops selling antiques, woodcarvings, crafts, textiles, paintings and exquisite jewellery pieces.
- Craft markets and art galleries displaying beautiful art pieces and artists painting in their studios as you walk by.
- Tailors with looms at the front of their shops weaving traditional fabrics are a great opportunity to order custom made clothes in beautiful spun silk or other textiles.
- Silversmiths craftsmen designed beautiful handmade silver jewellery.
- Antique Indonesian artifacts and wooden carvings.
The main shopping area is along Jalan Monkey Forest which heads uphill to Ubud’s main town centre near the Puri Saren Royal Palace and Ubud’s famous art market.
The street is lined with shops, boutiques and outlets as well as many guesthouses and hotels, restaurants, cafes and small day spas.
The Ubud Art Markets are a great place to search for traditional Balinese art, craftworks and trinkets, and usually of a higher quality than found in other art markets around Bali.
Tip: Start at about half the asking price and negotiate upwards until a compromise is reached.
Prices will vary, depending on your bargaining skills! Haggling is expected and indeed encouraged as part of the fun of shopping, but do so politely and with a smile.
Food, food and more delicious food
Ubud is home to some of the most delicious food in Bali. The main street, Jalan Hanoman has a wide selection of quality restaurants and cafe’s selling Indonesian, Western and Indonesian-influenced western food.
Be adventurous, whilst there are many beautiful restaurants in the main town centre, exploring wider afield gave us some unique experiences that were just a short taxi ride away and so very good!
Our ‘must try’ recommendations:
- Three Monkeys Restaurant – unique and contemporary Balinese overlooking a working rice paddy
- Bridges Bali Restaurant – carved into the riverbank overlooking dense rainforest
- Mozaic – French-inspired Balinese and Indonesian cuisine
We decided to dine at Mozaic during our last visit to Ubud and settled on their ‘surprise’ degustation menu. Ushered into the luxurious ‘old world’ styled salon, refreshments were offered while we waited to meet our chefs. After a brief consultation about our food preferences, the chefs vanished into the kitchen to prepare an 8 course feast.
Served in a beautiful garden setting and paired with wines from around the world, this was easily the very best degustation we’ve experienced world-wide and well worth the experience.
The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud is not just a tourist attraction.
The villagers regard the Monkey Forest as an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation centre for the village.
Around 700 monkeys live in the 12.5 hectare Ubud forest. The forest is lush, green and tropical with an abundance of natural trees, ferns and shrubs.
There are literally hundreds of these little grey long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) roaming freely amongst the tourists. They are cute and very family oriented but can get very protective especially when their offspring are nearby.
Despite the park attendants with ‘monkey food for sale’ carts, instructions are clear .. do not to feed the monkeys, don’t touch the monkeys, don’t look them in the eye, don’t move quickly and don’t scream if or when they jump on you.
They are constantly on the prowl for food and have been known to steal handbags, sunglasses, hats and anything else you might carry with you so if you have something that looks like (or smells like) you might be carrying food, be careful.
Monkeys are known to be curious and very cheeky and we were warned not to leave our sunglasses on and to make sure our bags and cameras were tucked securely away.
Good advice as the monkeys dart around quickly and often will jump onto your shoulder before you are aware of them.
Fast moving, unpredictable, alert and very curious
Mischievous young were swinging from low hanging tree branches and jumping onto their parents as part of their game. Protective of their young, mums and dads lazed about seemingly oblivious to their young clambering all over them.
It was a magical sight to see monkey families hanging out and playing together.
It was interesting to watch the hierarchy and ranking of importance in their tribe. When there is a potential threat, the ‘leader’ of the pack puffs himself up and hisses and snarls to demonstrate his superiority. It’s wise to move away when one of them starts demonstrating this behaviour as it’s likely he will jump on your shoulders or launch an attack in an attempt to demonstrate his status.
It’s a fascinating walk through the forest watching the monkeys in their natural habitat and I totally recommend adding the Sacred Monkey Forest for your ‘must do’ list.
Temples, Palaces and Shrines
Ubud is a treasure trove of cultural landmarks, ranging from ancient temples and majestic age-old royal palaces, to wonderful panoramas of green hillsides and rice terraces.
One of the most interesting things to do is to visit the Royal Palace which is the official residence of the royal family of Ubud.
Puri Saren Agung (Royal Palace), built in the early 1800’s the palace has intricate Balinese architecture and is in a charming garden setting. It is best known among lovers of Balinese arts as one of the main sites to view dramatic evening dance performances.
The main living area for the royal family was behind closed doors. The traditional style palace seemed unpretentious and humble. There were no visible guards at the palace gates allowing the public to wander throughout the outer courtyard and garden.
It’s comforting in these times of world crisis, they appear to have no concerns about their personal safety or their position in the community, whereas in Europe and England the royals are well guarded and locked away.
The Ubud palace was built during the lordship of the late Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel (1800-1823), and is well-kept by his successive heirs.
Hindu temples and shrines are scattered throughout the region and provide an opportunity to visit the ancient holy sites including the intricately carved Goa Gajah “Elephant Cave” and Gunung Kawi, with its rock-cut shrines.
Wellness retreats, massages, yoga, meditation and spas
Ubud has a range of personal spas, wellness centres and offer healing packages providing variety for visitors and an opportunity to explore traditional therapies.
Massages in Bali are inexpensive and available almost everywhere. Most hotels and resorts have a suite available where you will find day spas and treatment centres. Yoga retreats and meditation centres often overlook beautiful lush rice terraces which the perfect surrounds to pamper yourself.
Spa lovers should also check out the natural hot springs found across Bali often located deep in the tropical jungle, featuring a range of public pools with warm water gushing from a series of stone mythical dragon-like creatures.
Some locals and tourists claim that the hot springs have healing powers and although there is little evidence to support the spring’s magical powers, there is good evidence supporting their capacity to relax and restore weary bodies.
Where we stayed
We chose to stay at the Alaya Hotel, a boutique hotel with all the luxurious touches you could possibly imagine.
Beautiful balinese style rooms with enormous stone bathtubs, premier service standards, excellent breakfasts included in the tariff and very attentive staff.
The Alaya Hotel had a full range of treatments, therapies and luxurious massages available for guests. The ultimate luxury for tired and overworked visitors in need of some pampering.
Ubud is a magical place to refresh, rejuvenate and revitalise.
Have you been to Ubud yet? or perhaps Bali? Why not share your favourite experience with us below.