For first-timers visiting the Island of Gods, it’s might seem difficult getting out of the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak vortex of shopping and restaurants, however a trip to Bali is not complete without seeing the beautiful village of Ubud.
Millions of people saw Julia Roberts cycling past rice fields in Eat Pray Love but this is just one of the things you can do in and around Ubud. In this blog post we’ll recommend some of our favorite activities, many of which are very affordable and also family friendly.
1. Walk through the Monkey Forest
Possibly Ubud’s biggest attraction, the Sacred Monkey Forest is a popular stop on tours to Bali. Located towards the southern end of Jl. Monkey Forest, the sanctuary is home to several hundred long-tailed macaque monkeys, as well as three temples.
The lush surroundings provide a cool escape from the main road, however care should be taken when feeding the monkeys, particularly if you are visiting the forest with small children as the monkeys can be a little cheeky and over-enthusiastic.
2. Eat babi guling at Ibu Oka
Suckling pig or babi guling is a popular Balinese dish often served at important ceremonies. Luckily though you don’t have to wait to get invited to a wedding to enjoy the smoky flavor of slow-roasted pork.
Head to Warung Ibu Oka on Jl. Suweta (opposite the Royal Palace) for some of the best babi guling on the island.
3. Pick up a bargain at Ubud Market
So you’ve come to the end of your Bali trip and haven’t had time to buy presents for friends and family back home. Fear not, the Ubud Market has everything from paintings to souvenirs, sarongs and incense.
Open from 9am, it’s best to visit first thing in the morning before the midday heat. Remember that bargaining for a better price is almost always expected. Keep it lighthearted and fun, and remember that a dollar or two probably means much more to the local vendor than to you.
4. Get the perfect Bali photo at Tegallalang
Yes, the terraced rice fields used in glossy adverts for Bali tourism really do exist. About 15 minutes drive out of central Ubud you’ll find the village of Tegallalang and it’s here where you can see the world-famous rice terraces.
There are several small warungs and cafes where you can sit and have a coffee or fresh fruit juice while taking in the incredible view but it can get a little crowded when the tour buses arrive.
5. Watch a Balinese dance performance
Ubud is known as Bali’s cultural center so it’s no surprise that you can watch traditional dance performances almost every night. Held in large open-air pavilions, performances last about 1.5 hours and provide entertainment for both tourists and locals alike.
Balinese dance styles include Kecak, Legong and Barong, while wayang kulit is a thoroughly entertaining puppet show. Dances are carried out to the sounds of a gamelan orchestra and watching the musicians play can be just as fascinating as the dancers themselves.
To see what shows are being performed where, head to the Fabulous Ubud Tourist Information Center opposite the Royal Palace to get the latest schedule.
6. Take a walk to Pomegranate Cafe
Ubud is home to dozens of coffee shops, organic cafes, health bars and quirky restaurants. One of our favorites is Cafe Pomegranate which is set amongst the rice fields north of the Royal Palace.
It’s a little tricky to find, but just head past the palace towards Campuhan for roughly 10 minutes you will come to an aquaduct over the road. Turn right before the aquaduct at the sign for Abangan Bungalows and then follow the signs for Sari Organic. The narrow pathway leads through lush countryside where farmers can be seen working in the rice fields.
Cafe Pomegranate is hard to miss, just look for the big white circus tent! Owned by two Japanese brothers, the menu includes Indonesian as well as Japanese dishes and the beers are always cold.
7. See picturesque Pura Taman Saraswati
You don’t have to venture very far in Ubud to see a beautiful temple. In fact, a trip to Starbucks can easily include visiting the lovely Pura Taman Saraswati temple.
Dedicated to Saraswati, the Goddess of literature and art, the temple overlooks lotus-filled ponds where children come after school to try and catch a fish or two.
8. Visit the ARMA Museum
The Agung Rai Museum of Art is set within four hectares of landscaped gardens and fountains of the gorgeous ARMA Resort. The collection includes the works not only of Balinese artists, but also of Indonesian painters from other islands around the archipelago.
The museum also offers theater and dance performances, music, and painting classes, a bookshop, library and cultural workshops.
9. Enjoy a healthy meal at Bali Buda
Bali Buda is an inspirational, alternative café where kids are welcome and the focus is on delicious healthy and nutritious food. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a slice of raw chocolate cake!
Located in a bright purple double-storey building opposite the Post Office on Jl. Jembawan, Bali Buda is a favorite hangout for health-conscious locals, expats and visiting tourists.
There’s also a small health food shop on the street level where they sell a wide range of local & imported organic foods, as well as natural household, skincare and alternative products.
10. Watch a Hindu ceremony
Spend a week in Ubud and you’re bound to see some sort of a ceremony or procession happening in the streets or at a temple nearby.
A good time to visit is around Nyepi, one of the island’s most important days. During the days leading up to Nyepi, a ceremony known as Melasti is held. There’s also the fun ogoh-ogoh parade that takes the night before Nyepi. Even in death life is celebrated in Bali and a cremation ceremony can be a very insightful thing to watch.