Bali, the Land of the Gods, is the prefect island getaway for when the temperatures start to plummet and you’re in need of some sunshine and good vibes. Although the Indonesian island, along with many others in the archipelago, is famously known for hosting some of the best surfing waves in the world, it also boasts several other beautiful towns with their own attractive charm. Ubud is one of these towns.
Ubud is located in the uplands of Bali, which is surrounded by rainforests and rice paddies aplenty. There are many amazing things to do in Ubud, with the best time of year to visit between June and September. The weather is the most stable, with little rain and cool evenings preceded by warm days.
In this guide, let me take you on an island adventure, transporting you from your stressful desk job or the painful daily traffic routines to the art and cultural capital of Bali. Prepare to be relaxed and inspired as you navigate through and learn about this magical place. Think temples, rainforests, ancient Hindu shrines, and ancient holy places. Your next adventure awaits!
(Don’t forget to also check out our guide on where to stay in Ubud!)
Pura Taman Saraswati Temple, as it is formally known, is located in the centre of Ubud and derived its name from the Hindu Goddess Saraswati – the Goddess of Knowledge. Upon arriving at the Saraswati temple, you will be greeted by the beautiful lotus pond – a symbol of strength, resilience, and rebirth.
Access to the temple is completely free, although the only requirement is that you wear the appropriate attire. That is, clothing covering the knees, shoulders, midriff, and ankles. Upon entering the temple, an immense feeling of peace transcends upon you and the worries of modern life dissolves away.
If you’re lucky enough to visit the Saraswati Temple in the evening, you’ll be treated to a display of traditional dance performances. This was an absolute highlight for the kids especially! There are also several conveniently located cafés close by to service those hangry needs and keep you hydrated.
The Traditional Art Market, known locally as Pasar Seni Ubud, is an Ubud market that is the perfect place to find a beautiful hand-woven silk scarf to keep you warm in the cool Ubud evenings. Alternatively, get yourself a handmade bag to carry your favourite book, towel, and water bottle when you return to the Balinese coastline.
Walking through the rows of stalls within the Ubud market is a full sensory stimulation as you browse the high-quality goods on offer. Be prepared to haggle for goods as you negotiate the price as it’s very much a part of the experience. You will feel like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love as you negotiate with the local vendors and secure your favourite goods to take away as memorabilia.
Spa treatments in Ubud
After a busy day of exploring the various sights in Ubud, treating yourself to a spa day is essential. You can really relax as the magical hands of the masseuse perform a traditional Balinese massage whilst nestled between terrace rice paddies and forests.
Some of the best options for spa treatments in Ubud include the Javanese Lulur, a warm flower bath, a hot stone massage, or the Usadha. The Ubud Traditional Spa, considered the best spa in Ubud, is suitable for the whole family and is a mere four kilometres from the town. A highlight here is the Rice Farmer Massage – a deep pressure massage to relieve muscular pain using the lower arms and elbows, with the use of a mix of coconut oil and organic sea salt. Heavenly!
Other notable spas include the Karsa Spa where you can treat yourself to the warm flower bath, the spa at Maya Ubud Resort for a River Side Special, or Jaens Spa for a hot stone therapy session.
Yoga retreats in Ubud
When it comes to a yoga retreat, Ubud is the place to be! Relax, rejuvenate, revive. It would seem that the island of Bali was especially created by the Gods for yoga. Ubud in particular, offers many options for the perfect yoga retreat.
Kano Sari Ubud Villas offers something rather unique – an eight-day sacred geometry retreat. During your time at Kano Sari, you will have daily yoga and meditation classes, sessions with a local healer, and cleanse your body with nutritious daily vegan meals.
FireFly Retreat Bali is geared towards all skill levels and offers a variety of yoga styles – Vinyasa, Hatha, Nidra, and Yin. Not only will you have daily yoga classes, but also cooking and tea making classes, a traditional Balinese massage, and of course a nutritious vegetarian diet for the duration of the retreat.
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
The Ubud Monkey Forest Sanctuary, located in the village of Padangtegal, is home to more than a thousand Balinese long-tailed Macaque and one of the most popular things to do in Ubud. Through the conservation efforts of the sanctuary as well as constant research around the monkeys and their environment, they are able to thrive in this natural habitat.
Aside from watching the primates as they swing from the vines and snack on fruit, the sanctuary also houses several temples and statues. You really get an eerie, mysterious vibe as you walk through the pathways of forest, vines, banyan tree roots, and moss-covered relics. But be careful when doing so – the cheeky monkeys never miss an opportunity to snatch a necklace or even a phone!
The Elephant Cave, or Goa Gajah as it is known locally, derives its name from the nearby Elephant River. Entering the cave can be somewhat nerve-racking as the Demonic-like mouth greets you and for a split-second you disappear into the abyss. The cave follows a narrow tunnel until it comes to an abrupt end at a fork – both directions contain small religious relics.
This cave is an active worship site so be respectful when visiting the area – no photos, dress appropriately, and don’t get in the way. Elephant cave is open daily, and a small fee is payable upon arrival.
Sample local cuisine
One of the best things about traveling to new places is to sample the local cuisine and flavours. Ubud is no different. Most of the things to do in Ubud so far are centred around sights and tourist attractions. However, with a range of local dishes and eateries, from restaurants to street food vendors, there is an amazing food culture in the town. There’s even a treat of a restaurant called Room 4 Dessert, serving a full paired tasting menu of savoury snacks, plated desserts, and petit fours.
Some of the local dishes to try including Babi Guling, a dish comprised of juicy suckling pig with the various trimmings; Bebek Betutu, a slightly spicy slow-cooked duck dish; Nasi Ayam Kedewatan, a fragrant and spicy Balinese chicken rice dish. There are many other but try looking for these as your starting point. A couple of places I love to eat are the Dirt Duck Cafe (this place is so cute!) and the White Orchid restaurant (which is right across from Saraswati temple).
Not to be forgotten is Balinese coffee. There are many different flavour profiles to suit your taste and you can even sample the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak. This one is interesting – it’s made by having the coffee beans pass through the digestive system of a Luwak, which is a local mongoose-type animal. (Yes, that’s a polite way of saying the Luwak eats the beans, poops them out, and then you take those beans to make coffee!)
Cycle around Ubud
One of the best things to do in Ubud to explore the town is to hire a bicycle and cruise around. The beauty about this is that for the non-cycling type, E-bikes are available – a saving-grace! For those who enjoy a bit of exercise, a conventional bicycle is available, of course.
Navigate your way around the town, stopping off to sample some of the local cuisine (see below), visiting one of the many coffee plantations for a cuppa, and of course, the perfect photo ops at the beautiful rice paddies. On the way back, you will have mustered up a decent appetite so it’s the perfect time for a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before returning your equipment.
Terrace river pool swing
End your trip to Ubud with a high-flying swing overlooking the forest and rice paddies at the Bali Terrace River Pool Swing. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Ubud and there are a variety of swings to choose from, with no shortage of Instagrammable moments.
From this list of some of the most popular things to do in Ubud, you can see that there is no shortage of choice. From eating your way through the town, to exploring on bicycles, to a relaxing yoga retreat or day at the spa. Ubud is really a must-see on a trip to the Land of the Gods.
With many special moments awaiting you, it should be on your list of places to see, either with friends or the whole family. So, get planning your next winter tropical island getaway. Ubud is one of the many insanely beautiful locations in Bali, along with many others in the Indonesian archipelago. Book that ticket and go – your adventure awaits!
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