The island of Bali, Indonesia, was the first place I ever visited as a solo traveller, way back in 2015! On a flight back from Thailand with friends, I watched Eat, Pray, Love, and, like many before me, became enamoured with Ubud, Bali, the place where Julia Roberts finds love at the end of the film. Watching Roberts cycle through rice fields, stroll around local markets and find peace in this tranquil paradise made me yearn for my own Balinese adventure, and just days after I arrived home, I booked a flight to Bali.
Ubud was my fourth stop in Bali (after Kuta, Seminyak and Uluwatu), and as soon as I arrived, I could see exactly why Ubud is considered the cultural capital of Bali. Not only are there so many things to do in Ubud connected to art, food and spirituality, but the tourist infrastructure in Ubud is great, making it the perfect destination for first-time solo travellers like me.
In Ubud, you will find ancient temples and serene rice paddies just steps away from bustling markets and stores selling handcrafted artisan gifts. Raw vegan cafes sit alongside gourmet restaurants, and whether you want to try your hand at batik or yoga, there is a class for everything in Ubud.
Ubud might be touristy (I will talk about overtourism in Bali later in this article), and so if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience then a trip to Ubud might not be for you. However, I absolutely loved Ubud, and I still believe that it is well worth a place on your Bali itinerary. With that in mind, I decided to put together a list of the best things to do in Ubud, Bali!
16 Incredible Things to do in Ubud!
1. Visit Ubud Monkey Forest
One of the most popular things to do in Ubud is visit Mandala Suci Wenara Wana, or the Ubud Monkey Forest. I don’t think I met a single person in Ubud that didn’t visit Ubud Monkey Forest, and it’s no surprise – who doesn’t love cute little monkeys?!
Ubud Monkey Forest is actually a series of three temples that date from the 14th century that sit in a nature reserve. For a small fee you can meander round and take in the beautiful scenery, all the while surrounded by over 600 wild monkeys, which are said to be spiritual creatures that guard the temples!
The monkeys are extremely tame and not at all bothered by tourists, so it’s definitely worth buying a small bunch of bananas (sold onsite) to feed to your new furry friends, although be aware that the little fiends are not afraid of climbing all over you in order to get to what they want, and you should take care to protect personal belongings such as sunglasses and cameras, as they have been known to steal things!
2. Campuhan Ridge Walk
Campuhan Ridge Walk is located just out of town and is a gentle 2km walk which begins at Gunung Lebah Temple and continues through rolling hills and valleys that seem a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Ubud city centre. For even more exquisite views, come here at sunset.
3. Enjoy sacred vibes at Pura Tirta Empul
For one a thousand years, Hindus have been bathing in the holy waters of Pura Tirta Empul water temple. The sacred springs are said to have been created by the god Indra, and Hindus believe that they have healing properties. There are two purification pools here where you can clean yourself at each of the 30 stations.
4. Visit a coffee plantation
Ubud is home to many coffee plantations which harvest and produce the world’s most expensive coffee, Kopi Luwak, which can go for as much as 100 USD per cup! Kopi Luwak is made from the poo of the Asian palm civet. These cute little animals eat the coffee beans and during digestion they pack them full of extra vitamins and minerals, before excreting them ready for us to drink…lovely.
During my visit to an Ubud coffee plantation, the guide told us that the civets roamed freely around in Ubud’s vast rainforests, with the coffee harvesters hunting for the faeces each morning. However, since tourism in Bali has continued to grow and global demand for Kopi Luwak has increased, it seems as though more and more farms are capturing and caging the civets, and force-feeding them a diet of pure coffee, which leaves them malnourished and miserable.
Because of this, I wouldn’t recommend buying a cup of Kopi Luwak, or buying a packet of the coffee to take home, as you can never be 100% sure that civets are not caged and mistreated (many guides will insist that their plantations are ethical, but this is simply not true).
However, you can still enjoy Ubud’s coffee plantations without trying Kopi Luwak! For a couple of bucks you will get a tour of the plantation, be taught about the process of making Kopi Luwak, and getting a tasting of seven different teas and coffees. I was able to try vanilla coffee, cinnamon coffee, ginseng tea and more, all while enjoying the magnificent views over Bali’s rainforests.
5. Explore Ubud Market
Ubud market is the cheapest place in Bali to stock up on beautiful clothes, jewellery and fabrics, and you can find some stunning handcrafted souvenirs here. Even if you are not looking to buy souvenirs, Ubud market is still a charming place to wander through, so grab a fresh fruit smoothie and enjoy the atmosphere!
6. See some live music
Ubud nightlife is less about hedonistic travellers taking drugs and partying til the sun comes up and more about relaxing to live music with friends. For my 23rd birthday, I went to the Laughing Buddha Bar to see an amazing reggae band play and enjoy some cocktails and tapas. The Laughing Buddha has live music almost every night, and showcases everything from jazz to blues, reggae to world music.
Another place that my friends and I loved in Ubud was CP Lounge, which prides itself on being the only place in Ubud where you can ‘get your dance on until the wee hours of the morning.’ CP Lounge is a beautiful open-air lounge bar with palm trees, vines and flowers alongside elegant low sofas where you can drink cocktails, smoke shisha and watch the nightly live music performances, before the party moves inside to the nightclub.
7. Discover Tegalalang Rice Terraces
Visiting Tegalalang Rice Terraces is another one of the most popular things to do in Ubud, and it’s not difficult to see why. These countless layers of rice fields are absolutely magical, and completely free to walk around and enjoy. Being one of the main things to see in Ubud, the Tegalalang Rice Terraces can get pretty crowded, but if you walk just a little off-the-beaten-track, it is pretty easy to lose everyone. Another option is to visit early in the morning, avoiding the harsh afternoon sun.
8. See a traditional Balinese dance
If you’re not worn out by the monkeys and rice fields, one of the top things to do in Ubud is to go and see a traditional Balinese dance, called a Legong dance. Legong performances are one of the best cultural attractions in Bali, and they tell the story of a maiden who was captured and imprisoned, before eventually being freed.
The shows last for 90 minutes, and I paid around £6 back in 2015. Although I found the plot difficult to follow as I wasn’t aware of the story before attending the performance, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the show and I was blown away by the stunning dancing and incredible costumes. My ears were ringing afterwards due to the (quite frankly unnecessary!) volume of the music, but overall I’d definitely recommend seeing a show while you’re visiting Ubud.
One of the best things to do in Ubud, in my humble opinion, is to EAT, all day every day. Ubud is a true foodie paradise, and whether your jam is unusual street foods, gourmet fusion food or raw vegan yumminess, you will be spoilt for choice in Ubud.
Ubud was the place where I discovered that tofu isn’t actually awful, that tempeh is a wonderful creation that I wish I’d discovered sooner, and that eating healthily is actually very fun (and delicious!). It is partly due to Ubud’s vegan foodie scene that so many digital nomads have chosen to base themselves here – millennials love a good avocado dish.
If you prefer to eat at luxury restaurants, then Ubud has got you covered as well. Locavore is top of the list on every ‘where to eat in Ubud’ article, and is considered by some to be the most famous restaurant in Indonesia! Locavore is a fusion restaurant, creating locally-inspired dishes with a foreign twist, and their 9-course tasting menus are famous all over Bali.
10. Take a class at the Yoga Barn
Ubud is famous for its yoga and wellness retreats, and by far the most popular is the Yoga Barn, which offers a wide range of classes for all abilities, including ‘cleansing programmes’ which last for upwards of three days.
While I was in Ubud, the Yoga Barn offered one free class every day, and there are also classes for things such as astrology, meditation and sound healing.
11. Pura Taman Saraswati
Pura Taman Saraswati is situated in the heart of Ubud and is a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess of wisdom and art, named Dewi Saraswati. As well as stunning carvings of the goddess, you will also find a large pond covered with lotus flowers, where Hindus believe that if you bathe in the waters or drink from the pond, you will receive some power from the goddess.
Pura Taman Saraswati is a haven of tranquility in the centre of Ubud, and there are traditional Balinese dances held here every night.
12. Take an art or cooking class
If taking a yoga class in Ubud doesn’t sound like your thing, there are an abundance of other classes that you can take in order to learn more about Balinese culture. From batik to painting and jewellery-making, to traditional Balinese cooking classes, there are so many options available that you will be spoilt for choice!
13. Hunt for waterfalls
Close to Ubud lie some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Bali, popular with locals and tourists alike (for this reason, it is best to visit in the mornings and on weekdays). Some of the best waterfalls near Ubud include Tegenungan Waterfall (one of the most popular), Tibumana Waterfall and Kanto Lampo Waterfall.
14. Get a massage!
All across Southeast Asia are very cheap massage parlours, offering 60 minute massages for as little as £5! Ubud is known for its fancy spa retreats, but if you are travelling on a budget then there is no reason why you have to miss out on a little bit of pampering! Not a week went by during my time in Southeast Asia where I didn’t get at least one massage!
15. Puri Saren Agung – Ubud’s Royal Palace
Puri Saren Agung, or Ubud Royal Palace, is located in the centre of Ubud, close to the art market. Although sections of the palace are still home to the Royal Family, the gardens are available to walk around and admire, and there are traditional dance performances here in the evenings.
16. Pura gunang Kawi
Pura Gunang Kawi is an 11th century temple located 30 minutes from Ubud (close to the sacred water temple), where you can see shrines carved into the rock at the bottom of a river valley.
As with the waterfalls and other Balinese temples, Pura Gunang Kawi is best visited early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Getting to Ubud
Ubud is around a one hour drive from Denpasar airport. You can use a taxi app such as Uber or Grab, or take a local taxi. Driving motorbikes is very common in Bali but I would only recommend doing this if you are an experienced driver.
Best time to visit Ubud
The best time to visit Ubud (or Bali in general), is from April to October, when it is hot but not too humid and there is little rain. The quieter (and cheaper!) months will be April, May and October, as they are the shoulder season months.
A few words on Bali and overtourism
Just like many other destinations worldwide, Bali has unfortunately suffered from the effects of overtourism, with traffic and air pollution being two of the major problems in Bali. In addition to this, tourists are sometimes incredibly disrespectful, trespassing on private property or protected land in order to take Instagram pictures, littering and wearing revealing clothing at sacred religious sites.
That is not to say that you should not visit Bali and Ubud. Ubud is a wonderful place, and it would be a shame to miss out on experiencing its beauty.
A few tips to keep in mind if you do not want to contribute to the overtourism in Bali are as follows:
Try and stay for a few days in Ubud. Day trippers do not contribute much to the economy and create huge crowds in the afternoons.
There are hotel chains popping up around Ubud. Try and stay at local guesthouses instead.
Do not trespass in order to take the perfect photograph.
Do not dress immodestly when visiting temples.
Try to visit Ubud in shoulder season. This is when it will be less crowded and when the residents need income the most.
I wrote a whole blog post about how to tackle overtourism and visit popular destinations responsibly here if you’re interested in learning more!