Ubud isn’t the kind of place where you need a long to-do list. None of the sights or activities are “must-dos”. If all you did during your stay was eat, walk through the rice fields, and perhaps get a massage or take a yoga class, then that’s a successful Ubud visit in my opinion. That said, if you are feeling more active, there are plenty of things to do in Ubud to occupy your time.
1) Stay Out of Town
Ubud doesn’t make the best first impression. We stayed in the centre of town for our first few days and wondered what on earth we were doing there. The centre is congested with traffic, tour groups, and souvenir shops. There are gems to be found, but to make the most of your stay I highly recommend staying outside the centre, ideally somewhere with a rice field view. We moved 3 km out of town and ended up staying for nearly five months.
There’s a huge range of accommodation in Ubud from budget homestays to luxury resorts. We use Booking.com to find hotels—choose “view” as one of the room facilities and you’ll find lots of suggestions out of town such as Bambu Indah, a gorgeous, boutique eco-resort, Desak Putu Putera Cottages, a jungle oasis close to the centre (our favourite place to stay in the centre), and Three Dewi’s, a budget guesthouse with rice field views that’s walkable to the centre.
If you end up falling in love like we did and want to stay for a month or more, read how to rent a house in Ubud (it’s easy!).
2) Campuhan Ridge Walk
The Campuhan Ridge was our favourite walk in Ubud—it’s one of the only places to escape from traffic. There are a few hills, but it’s an easy walk with lovely views of rice fields and down into a valley. There’s not much shade, so it’s best early morning or towards sunset.
This blog post has instructions on getting to the start. The walk from the school car park to Karsa Kafe and back was 3.5 km and took us 45 minutes.
3) Rice Fields Walk
Another pleasant walk is on a path through the rice fields towards Sari Organik farm and restaurant. There are lots of cafes along the way where you can enjoy a drink or meal with a view. You can also start at the far end of Jalan Kajeng and loop around to Sari Organik. The downside is that motorbikes drive on these narrow paths.
4) Discover Ubud’s Tranquil Spots
The centre of Ubud is busy, but you can find beautiful, tranquil spots. Our favourites were the lotus pond at Saraswati temple (behind Starbucks) and Taksu Spa, where the river gorge is an oasis from the chaos. Take the time to wander around and you might be surprised by what you find.
5) Kecak Dance Performace
Ubud is famous for its traditional dance performances. We didn’t have very high expectations but loved the Kecak dance we saw at the temple in Junjungan village. Around 60 sarong-clad men provide the soundtrack of haunting chants, while dancers recreate a story from the Ramayana. It is less busy and commercial than the performances in the centre—all 150 families in the village are involved, and proceeds go towards temple activities.
The Kecak performance takes place every Monday night at 7 pm at the temple in Junjungan village on Jalan Tirta Tawar. Tickets cost 75,000 IDR ($5.50). You could combine it with a meal at Warung Bintangbali. Read more about the performance on Till the Money Runs Out.
6) Rent a Motorbike
Renting an automatic motorbike is the best way to explore the countryside surrounding Ubud. You could walk or cycle, but it’s much cooler on the back of a bike. It’s cheap too—just 50,000 IDR ($3.70) a day, and you don’t need to leave a deposit or show a licence.
The traffic in Ubud can be crazy, so if you are a beginner, practice on the quieter streets outside town, and ask someone to show you the basics.
Once you have wheels, you can head north on Jalan Tirta Tawar, Sri Wedari or Suweta, or east through the tree tunnel to Penestanan village. You can visit many of the places below by motorbike.
7) Practice Yoga
Ubud is yogi heaven! Whether you prefer fast-paced vinyasa or gentle yin, you’ll find a class to suit you. It’s the perfect place to create your own yoga retreat by buying an affordable multi-class pass. Read my Ubud yoga guide to choose the studio that’s right for you.
8) Take an Art or Cooking Class
You can learn plenty of skills in Ubud including painting, jewellery making, and batik. We enjoyed a cooking class with Payuk Bali, which included a market visit, learning how to make offerings, and plenty of hands-on cooking. They were very well-organised, had a special vegetarian menu, and the meal at the end was delicious, especially the tempeh satay with peanut sauce.
9) Dine with a View
You are spoilt for choice for restaurants with views of rice fields and river gorges. Sari Organik has tasty organic cuisine with rice field views, and the walk there is part of the experience. The Elephant serves up delicious vegetarian meals with views of the Campuhan Ridge. Warung Bintangbali has cheap Indonesian dishes with rice field views. For more ideas see our Ubud vegetarian guide.
10) Splurge on a Gourmet Meal
For such a small town Ubud has a surprising number of gourmet restaurants offering fantastic tasting menus. Sure, they are much more expensive than a meal at a warung, but they are great value compared to a similar quality meal in Europe or the US.
Our favourite splurges were at Locavore, Mozaic, and Room4Dessert (we have to go back for the nine dessert tasting menu!)—read more here.
11) Downhill Bike Tour
We don’t cycle often, but the Bali Eco Cycling tour was easy—it was all downhill, and we hardly had to pedal! We started with breakfast overlooking the volcano Mt Batur before cycling through the countryside stopping at a family compound, rice fields, and a 500-year-old banyan tree. It’s a great way to see more of Bali and learn about the culture. The only downside was the touristy coffee plantation (avoid these in Bali—they are glorified gift shops).
12) Brave the Monkey Forest
We were a little worried about braving the famous monkeys, but it turned out to be an enjoyable walk through the forest with temples and banyan trees that felt like an Indiana Jones set. Be careful of the monkeys, though—they are thieves and can be aggressive. We didn’t take a bag, sunglasses, or have anything in our pockets (except cash to get in and my camera around my neck), and they didn’t bother us. Don’t feed them—you will end up with monkeys climbing all over you. This may sound fun, but rabies is prevalent in Bali, and if you get bitten or scratched (a common occurrence), you’ll need a series of injections.
13) Pura Gunung Kawi
This 11th-century temple features shrines carved into the rock at the bottom of a river valley. It’s a 30-minute drive from Ubud and is worth combining with Tirta Empul. Get there early to avoid the crowds and souvenir sellers—at 8 am there were only two other visitors.
14) Tirta Empul Water Temple
The water temple Tirta Empul is close to Gunung Kawi. Balinese Hindus go here to bathe in the holy waters.
15) Tegenungan Waterfall
The waterfall isn’t huge, but the scenery is lovely, and we enjoyed a swim in the pool. Again, get there early.
It’s a 25-minute drive from Ubud and can be combined with the Secret Canyon. We didn’t make it down the canyon as it turned out to be more hardcore than we expected—come prepared to clamber rocks and wade through waist-high water. It’s best to hire one of the local guides to show you the way.
16) Tour Bali for a Day
A popular thing to do is hire a driver for the day (from 500,000 IDR/$37) to take you on a temple tour. We headed north to the temple at Lake Bratan, which we weren’t impressed by. We preferred the much less touristy Pura Luhur Batukau (about 1.5 hours from Ubud).
17) Visit an Art Gallery
Ubud is a very artsy town. You can visit lots of small studios to buy artwork or bigger art museums to learn about the history of art in Ubud. I enjoyed the Balinese art at Neka Art Museum the most, although the architecture at the Antonio Blanco Museum was certainly eccentric.
18) Get a Massage
Getting a massage is a popular activity in Ubud. It’s not our thing, but if we were to indulge, we’d be tempted by this spa by the river. I’ve also heard good things about Sang Spa 2 and Cantika (especially the Cantika Zest branch in Penestanan). Otherwise, you can get no-frills massages all over town for around 100,000 IDR ($7.30).
19) Watch a Film
Denpasar Cineplex is the nearest cinema for the latest releases, but unfortunately, it’s an hour away. The Executive screen is ultra-comfortable with large reclining seats and only costs 75,000 IDR ($5.50) during the week. Paradiso in the centre of Ubud shows older films, and you can enjoy raw and vegan food while you watch.
There are plenty of tacky souvenir shops in Ubud, but there are also high-quality boutiques selling clothes, jewellery, yoga gear, and home furnishings. You’ll find plenty of options on Hanoman, Goutama, and Monkey Forest Roads.
For cheap clothes and souvenirs, head to the central market on Jalan Raya, but be prepared to bargain. For delicious jams made from unusual local fruits, go to Confiture de Bali on Goutama street. Seniman coffee studio is the best place for Balinese coffee beans.
I hope you enjoy some of these suggestions. But remember, if you don’t make it out of your sun lounger overlooking the rice fields, don’t feel guilty. Ubud is best explored at your own pace.
Resources for Planning a Trip to Ubud
- To find accommodation look on Booking.com for hotels and guesthouses and Airbnb for rooms and apartments (get $39 off your first stay here). Or find out how to rent a house in Ubud for longer stays.
- For flights to Denpasar (the nearest airport to Ubud) look on Kiwi.com, which offers a lot of flexibility to help you find the cheap deals (choose a date range to find the cheapest day to fly). Skyscanner is another good site to check
- Budget airlines in Asia charge for checking in luggage. To avoid these fees, pack light and travel with just carry-on luggage. My book, The Carry-On Traveller: The Ultimate Guide to Packing Light, shows you how (available on Amazon US and Amazon UK).
- Lonely Planet Bali is my favourite guidebook (I buy the Kindle version).
- Travelfish is a great online travel guide to Southeast Asia.
- Don’t forget travel insurance—the best we’ve found is True Traveller (UK/EU citizens) and World Nomads (worldwide). Read more about how to buy travel insurance.
- To track your travel expenses use our iOS app Trail Wallet, which will help you stay on budget and know how much you’re spending in both Indonesian rupiah and your home currency.
- See our travel resources page for more resources and gear recommendations to help you plan your trip.
- If you fall in love and want to stay longer, see our living in Ubud guide.
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Are you planning a trip in 2017? See our Gear and Resources page for our favourite tools to help you plan the perfect trip.
What are your favourite things to do in Bali? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
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