The Top 15 Things To Do In Ubud, Bali
The town of Ubud is the cultural heart of the island of Bali. Think traditional crafts, Balinese dance and art, ancient history, temples and shrines, rice terraces, waterfalls, and home to delicious restaurants and cafes. In recent years Bali's also become a hotbed for yoga holidaymakers as well as a haven for spiritual travelers alike who often choose to plant their vacation roots in this uplands part of the island. Ubud is surrounded by mountains, terraced rice paddies, and rainforests and provides both dynamic sceneries as well as offers sacred and ancient vibes. If you're a first timer to Bali, starting your journey in Ubud may be a great way to best get to know why Bali is just so special.
Before you go and to help with your planning, here's 20 Things To Know Before Going to Bali and do plan to look to stay near Monkey Forest Road once you're in Ubud.
Monkey Forest Road is the main artery of downtown Ubud and will help you navigate your way through the town's popular shops, cafes, and attractions. There are literally hundreds of accommodations available for a night's stay in and around the downtown limits and it could be easy to get overwhelmed, so if you have a favorite hotel chain you may want to stick with that. If you prefer to walk most of the time and not always hire a driver you could consider a place like Bisma Eight where you're not in the thick of it, but also only a short walk away. If you don't want mind a longer walk or hiring a taxi from time to time, perhaps a place like The Shala can work for you. There are also many homestays and guest houses, Airbnb properties and little villas you're able to rent around Ubud as well. Online reviews are so much more transparent and readily available now make finding the right spot a little less daunting. For example, if you're considering staying at The Hanging Gardens of Bali.
Here are 15 Top Things To Do In Ubud, Bali
1. Visit during Nyepi
Nyepi is Silent Day or otherwise known as the Balinese New Year celebrated by the Balinese Hindus. This day of silence is dedicated to meditation, fasting, being with family and prayer. It is such a powerful day, compounds turn off the wifi, the airports shut down, and no one is permitted out of their homes and in the streets. In the week leading up to Nyepi villagers conduct many ceremonies and celebrations in preparation for this most spiritual day. Pictured above is Melasti, a ceremony where relics and deities are taken from temples and cleansed for purification in local bodies of water. Also, the night before Nyepi are parades of Ogoh Ogohs that are representations of the evil spirits that live amongst communities and brought out to dance and afterward burned in the cemeteries. It is a one of a kind experience to behold and worth catching if you can. It also tends to fall during the end of the rainy season where there are less tourists and potentially cheaper prices.
2. Tegalalang Rice Terrace
Located just slightly outside of Ubud in Tegalalang is this most iconic rice terrace of Ubud. Why is it a photographer and Instagramer's paradise? Because of 'Subak' the famous cooperative irrigation system. Using the land's hilly terrain, it allows water to flow from terrace to terrace and support the rice paddies growth. Depending on the time of year you visit will depend on the growth of the crops and how wet or full some of the terraces will be. It is a sight to behold and is probably best visited right after sunrise.
3. Pura Taman Saraswati Temple
Just behind Café Lotus, on the main road of Jalan Raya, and surrounded by lotus flowers is this beautiful water temple. You can choose to stop by for a photo op, go inside (admission is free, but you must wear a sarong and have your shoulders covered) or grab dinner at the cafe to watch an evening performance.
4. See traditional Balinese Dance at Puri Saren Royal Palace
Smack dab in the middle of Ubud is the palace with well preserved Balinese architecture. Every evening traditional Balinese dance is performed on their main stage. Listen to the Gamalon up close and personal and watch the beautiful stories unfold in their one of a kind performances.
5. Do Some Yoga
After all the walking around and sight-seeing (if you aren't already there for a yoga retreat) take some time to nurture your body in one of the many yoga classes and studios around Ubud. From the Yoga Barn to Radiantly Alive studios there are many great options. If you are interested in traveling to Ubud via a yoga retreat, read 10 Reasons to Go On A Yoga Retreat In Bali, Solo.
6. Get a traditional Balinese Massage
This might really be a do not miss when visiting Ubud. Not only are the prices outstanding (much cheaper than what we see in the states), but the service is as well. You're able to take the time to relax and luxuriate with beautiful oils, the best pressure and a warm bath full of aromatic flowers. Consider Nur Salon or Cantika Zest as some options. If you stay at The Shala, the massages over at Darshana are nice too.
7. Shop at Ubud Markets
If you visit the markets (across the street from the palace) around 7 AM you will have the opportunity to witness when locals come to market. They sell produce and fish and spices and everything necessary for a day's worth of offerings until they are sold out. After they clear out the regular vendors open with tons of stalls of clothing and gifts and bags and jewelry. Either way, it's a do not miss during your time in Ubud.
8. Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
About a 15-minute drive from downtown Ubud is Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave. This cave is part of a sanctuary complex (a spiritual place for meditation) with both Hindu and Buddhist imagery dating back to the 11th century. This archeology doesn't contain any elephants at all. There are a number of theories of how it got its name - from the stone figure inside the cave depicting Lord Ganesh and the cave's face said to be that of an elephant to the original name of the Petanu River or River Gajah. When you visit the Elephant Cave do make sure to bring a sarong and cover your shoulders. The entrance fee is 15,000 rupiah and if you forget your sarong they will provide you with one.
9. Gunung Kawi Temple
Gunung Kawi temple is an ancient and lesser-known rock temple built along the Pakerisan River which is the same one that flows to Tirta Empul. This archeological temple sits 300 steps down from the main entrance and has shrines built straight into the rock face. Like all temples, a sarong and sash is also required here.
10. Campuhan Ridge Walk
Campuhan is an easy and free trail located along the ridge of lush nature and can be used for running or strolling and time to be out of the hustle bustle of Ubud. It's entrance is just behind the Pura Gunung Lebah (temple) and is 9 KM long.
11. Pura Gunung Lebah for a ceremony
This temple complex, comprised of three courtyards, sits at a lower elevation from Jalan Raya main road, but its entrance is just off of it. You can also see a bit of it from the bridge that sits over the Campuhan River; a peaceful landmark and place for prayer in the city. It is also a colorful temple that has a Gamalon orchestra and beautiful dancers. Speak to your concierge or host at your accommodation to learn more about the best days and times to visit.
12. See a Balian
A Balian is a traditional Balinese healer and a powerful role in the Balinese culture. As a pillar of their communities, locals will seek out a Balian before heading to conventional methods of medicine. Balians don't go to a traditional school, as this gift is not taught but is bestowed upon them through their destiny and they come with all different skillsets; some reading palms, using sound or simply their hands. Agul, who works at Ubud Sari Health Resort, for example, does Chakra healing and Cokorda Rai palpates your hand and feet with his hands and his wooden nail. It is best to get a recommendation from someone who has seen one or a reliable source at your accommodation for a recommendation. *Note - you cannot be menstruating and must wear both a sarong as well as have your shoulders covered when you visit.
13. Tegenungan Waterfall
Tegenungan is not one of the best waterfalls on the island of Bali, but if you're spending most of your time in Ubud or heading to the south and near the beach, this may be your best chance to see a waterfall, as it's the closest and located 25 minutes from Ubud center. There are nearly 170 steps down to the bottom and depending on the water's conditions you may not be able to go in. There is a viewpoint from above and plenty of shops if you want to browse or grab a cold drink from all the stairs.
14. Pura Tirta Empul
This Balinese Hindu water temple, located just outside of Ubud, sits on a holy spring and is a sacred place for a purification ritual. Each of the spigots represents a different focus in your life and individuals pray in front of each of the mini fountains and wash the water over the head and face. Visitors to Bali also have the chance to experience the holy water. You must enter the temple in a sarong and sash with your shoulders covered and a separate water sarong is provided for changing into.
15. A popular activity, but one many aren't comfortable with is the Monkey Forest.
The Ubud Monkey Forest is home to 700 monkeys and 186 species of trees. This land is owned by the village of Padangtega and they believe the forest to be extremely important and more than just a tourist attraction. The monkeys don't ordinarily approach humans unless they are offered food like corn or a banana, but have been known to grab at shopping bags or sniff out food in backpacks. It is important to review the guidelines of conduct when in the forest to avoid potential issues.
Have an amazing time visiting Ubud!
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