Most tourists to Bali flock to the beaches of Kuta and Seminyak but this beautiful island has a lot more to offer than sun and sea. For a dose of culture, lush green rice field views and perhaps a yoga class or two, head inland to the small village of Ubud.
Ubud is best enjoyed at a leisurely pace but if you find yourself with only a couple of nights to spare here or can only visit as a day trip, the ideas below will help you make the most of your time.
There’s no point in sleeping in when you’re in Bali. By 7am most of the locals will have been up for an hour or two and you’ll probably have been stirred from your sleep by an overzealous rooster anyway.
Make the most of the cooler hours before the sun gets any higher in the sky and head to the market for some sight seeing and souvenir shopping. Ubud market, like all markets in Bali, is in full swing during the morning hours and you’ll be able to watch the locals shopping for food and colourful flowers for offerings.
Once you’ve explored the local side of the market, head up to the tourist market for the usual sarongs, cotton sundresses and beaded jewellery. You’ll get a better price bargaining early in the morning – the first sale of the day is considered to give good luck to the stallholder so they’ll be more inclined to lower their prices for you.
Most hotels and homestays provide their own breakfast but if you’ve just arrived or you feel like a change of scenery, there are lots of great options in Ubud.
Try Tutmak for great coffee and the best cinnamon rolls in town. This restaurant, popular with expats, is also great for people watching. Find it on the corner of Ubud football field
Head to Ubud’s most famous tourist attraction – the sacred Monkey Forest before the coach tours arrive. You can buy bunches of bananas to feed the monkeys outside but you’ll likely be mobbed before you even get through the gates. Also keep an eye on your sunglasses, camera and any other loose items – the monkeys like shiny things!
Don’t miss the Pura Dalem – Temple of Death inside the forest. You’ll need to wear a sarong and sash to enter the temple grounds.
Time for a spot of shopping! Ubud is home to many lovely boutiques and you can while away a happy couple of hours browsing the clothing, jewellery and home wares.
Shops not to miss include Blue Stone Botanicals on Jalan Dewi Sita for locally produced essential oils and beauty products; Studio Perak on Jalan Hanoman for silver jewellery and Ganesha bookshop on Jalan Raya for an unrivalled collection of beautiful and hard to find books about Bali and Indonesia.
You’re probably starving by now so it’s time to start thinking about lunch. Ubudians like their food organic and their juice green so why not head to the original health food café in Ubud – Bali Buddha.
You can find Bali Buddha on Jalan Jembawan, just behind Ganesha bookshop and opposite the post office. As well as healthy juices, sandwiches made with freshly baked bread and organic salads, Bali Buddha also have a small bakery and shop stocking local and imported healthy snacks and treats
Time for a bit of pampering. Ubud has more than its fair share of spas which offer luxurious treatments including Balinese massage, herbal facials and mandi lulur – a massage and exfoliating scrub followed by a fragrant flower bath.
For a unique experience, try the spa at Hotel Tjampuhan, which includes a complex of hot and cold stone pools carved into the stone in the style of a mythical grotto.
The temperature will be started to cool around now so it’s a great time to head into the rice fields for a walk. There are several lovely walks in Ubud but as you’re probably in need of some refreshment, head out towards the Sari Organik restaurant, in the middle of the rice fields 20 minutes walk out of Ubud.
Stop for a juice or a salad made with organic vegetables grown in the garden next to the restaurant before a leisurely walk back into town.
Time for a quick dinner before checking out a dance performance, most of which start at 7pm. There are many options in Ubud for dinner covering a range of cuisines from Cuban to Japanese.
If you prefer more local fare, try the Balinese speciality dish Bebek Betutu – smoked duck, which is offered in most of the restaurants serving Indonesian food. Be aware that some restaurants require this to be ordered 24 hours in advance.
Ubud prides itself on its cultural heritage and there are dance performances on every night in several different locations. You won’t have a problem finding them as locals sell tickets in the street every evening.
Ubud Palace is one of the most popular locations for dance performances but there are many other options. If you only have time to see one dance performance during your time in Bali, make it the kecak and fire trance dance for an unforgettable experience.
Ubud isn’t known for its nightlife but there are plenty of places offering live music, cocktails and the opportunity to mingle with expats and locals as well as other tourists.
Try the Jazz Café for live jazz and blues performances, CP Lounge on Monkey Forest road for happy hours and local bands or XL Shisha Lounge for hookah pipes and laid back vibes.
About Rachel Adnyana
Rachel Adnyana has written 40 posts in this blog.
Rachel traded her office job and conventional life in northeast England for the palm trees and rice fields of Bali. She spends her days raising her two young children, trying to learn Indonesian and being the resident village 'tourist'.