Ubud Travel Guide, Bali

Bali is more than just a bustling tourist attraction. It’s a blend of rich culture, old traditions, soulful sunsets, beautiful rice paddies and amicable locals; Bali is a mood!

I was fortunate enough to spend twenty days in this tropical paradise. We covered the towns of Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Uluwatu and Ubud. Although, there is something uniquely appealing about each town, a kind of distinctness that can’t be found anywhere else, Ubud drew me in with utmost familiarity. It felt like home, just being there felt so right as if all my chakras had aligned and all my stars were screaming out with joy; the buzz around it finally made sense. Being the centre of brewing Balinese culture, its spiritual vibe and contrastingly soothing peace stole my heart and left a lasting impact on me.

About Ubud
Largely glorified in the movie Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Ubud as a travel destination has been on every tourist’s list, especially if you are into yoga, fitness, spirituality. It’s where the Balinese culture and values come to the forefront, where life slows down a bit at a comfortable pace and where mindfulness steps ahead of wild energy. Ubud is where you truly live the Bali life. It’s where you bloom your realizations and your spiritual self without really having to delve into that realm. It’s just the air in the town that is so pure and above all it nurtures green rice fields all around.

Ubud is less about what you can see and more about what you can experience. Traditional processions lining the streets, yoga barns, meditation workshops, bustling markets, vegan cafes, friendly locals, temples at ever corner, the fragrance of incense sticks all around just add to the soothing environment; Ubud is a true retreat, it is indeed the real Bali!

Where to stay in Ubud:
Home to some exotic properties Ubud has something for every preference and every budget; from quaint appeasing bnb’s,  cottages and budget friendly stays to mid range boutique properties and luxurious five star hotels.

Locationwise, pick anything that is close to Ubud centre, around the traditional market, monkey forest, lotus temple or the main market but not right in it because it can get really chaotic and that will just kill your vibe. The centre of Ubud is very noisy, crowded and has constant traffic so you’ll hear a lot of horns and cop whistles, just steer clear from that. I would strongly suggest staying at a property that is close to these landmarks especially if you plan to walk and explore Ubud. If you plan to rent a bike then you can try out the properties that are a little away from the centre where you find gorgeous rice paddies and stunning panoramas. It totally depends on what your agenda is!

Where I stayed:
Manish and I spent our first six nights in Wapa di Ume, a beautiful boutique property located about five minutes away from the centre of the town but not too far away. This was just perfectly placed in terms of location, a 10 walk to the main square and peaceful enough to enjoy the serenity. The stay was brimmed with a grand and luxe feel while also displaying the Balinese culture well. They had different types of rooms catering to every requirement. The options ranged from extravagant pool villas to basic rooms with beautiful views of the rice paddies. The place was spacious with its own rice fields. Moreover, the breakfast served every morning overlooking the rice fields simply added to the experience. The staff of the hotel and the service was impeccable too. They also had an amazing pool right in the middle of the greens. It was a 5 minute bike ride from the centre and I would definitely recommend this place. When booking a room request for the ones overlooking the rice paddies.

On the last two nights we moved to the villas next door- Atta Masari. The property is not so luxurious but their villas are extremely huge, fancy, well maintained and super economical. Honestly if you’re on a budget then this is something I would recommend. The room design, quality and amenities were just perfect. There are tons of other luxurious properties like Maya Ubud, COMO shambhala, Kamadalu, Hanging Gardens, Viceroy, Ritz Carlton etc which you could consider too.

 

My room at Wapa Di Ume

 

My daily breakfast view at Wapa Di Ume

Our Villa at Atta Masari


What to expect:

Ubud is a far cry from Bali’s other touristy towns like Seminyak, Kuta, Nusa Dua and Uluwatu. If you plan to party or chill on the beach, love luxury shopping and don’t like peaceful spots then Ubud is not your scene. Here you can expect to see true Balinese culture that reflects through temples, the streets and the locals’ smiles. A slow paced life welcomes you along with a wide spread of beautiful boutiques, vegan cafes, yoga barns, little monkeys frolicking around the streets and you will totally sense the spiritual vibe.

The crowd:
In Ubud, you’ll find a great mix of friendly locals, non stop photo clicking tourists, a lot of Europeans and Asians who’ve come there to enjoy the serenity, grow spiritually and living the hippie life and the rest of them are tourists like me who just love to roam around on bikes like the locals, who like to sit back, relax and enjoy the beauty of Ubud.

Explore/ Things to do
Unlike Seminyak, Ubud is where tourists head for peace, rejuvenation and to find themselves. Here are a few things that you definitely must do while you’re in Ubud:

1) Visit the temples and other sites:
Ubud is the Land of Gods where the air is filled with the scent of incense sticks and every area is marked by a temple against a scenic backdrop. Needless to say, a trip to all these temples is a must. Visit the Pura Tirta Empul, the beautiful Saraswati Lotus Temple in the city centre, Ubud Palace, Tirta Gangga Royal Water Garden, Besakih Temple and Goa Gajah. If time permits then you can also take a trip to the North of Bali to visit Ulu Danu Beratan and while you’re there also visit the famous gate of Handara Golf Club & Resort.

 

Pura Tirta Empul

Left: Ubud Palace; Right: Saraswati Lotus Temple


2. The famous Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Known for the exquisitely beautiful rice paddies, the Tegallalang Rice Terrace also involves the traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system called Subak. It’s one of the most famous tourists spot which is just a visual treat to the eyes. A trip here will leave you refreshed and happy. I suggest heading early in the morning so that you can walk along the entire rice paddy when there aren’t many tourists, it’s also the best time to take pictures. Wear comfortable walking shoes and definitely trek along the rice fields, explore every corner and make sure you don’t slip and fall in the mud. Once you’re done walking all along then head back to the main road where there are tons of cafes overlooking the rice paddies. Relax with a cup of coffee or coconut water and enjoy the view. As you step outside on the main road you will find many stalls selling clothing, artefacts, dreamcatchers and some amazing local items.

Note: The walk along the rice terrace is free for tourists but along the way you might find locals who request for donation for maintaining the place. Please be nice to them and donate the necessary amount.


3. Campuhan Ridge Walk
This nine kilometre mountain valley hiking trail is an easy, refreshing trek amidst green surroundings and pleasant weather keeping you company. I would recommend heading here for sunrise of sunset and definitely wear walking shoes. We packed a little sandwich before heading for the long walk. Once you reach a beautiful spot, just sit down and savour your treat.

 


4. Explore Ubud Centre
Although it’s bustling with crowd and immense traffic, the centre of Ubud is more like a Balinese Hindu culture hub that is definitely worth a few strolls. The streets are packed with local boutiques, restaurants, souvenir stores, cane bags, hustling tourists and so many temples.


5. Shop at the Ubud Traditional Market
You just can’t leave Ubud without strolling around this huge traditional market. I would suggest entering from the gate near the Ubud Centre. These traditional markets sell hand-crafted goods, cutlery, home décor, artefacts, silk-scarves, cane bags, hats, hippie clothes, local items, beautiful jewellery and much more. Once you enter the market you will see it for yourself. Make sure to bargain with a smile and explore every by lane. Don’t leave without purchasing the local cane bags, wrap dresses and some artefacts or cutlery for home.

 

 


6. Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest is a natural forest sanctuary which is home to not just 750 monkeys but also a variety of trees that dance to the fresh air. The monkeys are adorable but can get really nasty so avoid removing your phone, camera or any food. Avoid eye contact, just watch them play and you’ll love it.


7. Ubud Swing
When visiting the Tegallalang Rice Terrace make sure to check out the famous Ubud Swing. It’s not for the faint hearted and not totally safe but its definitely worth a shot. They make you sit on a wooden plank which is tied to two trees on both sides and once you’re all tied up they push the plank so you swing high up in the air right over the green fields. There are many companies that operate from there, they all have a different view so pick the one that has the maximum crowd and looks the safest.

 

8. Try out the Vegan Cafes
As pure and revitalizing as the vibe of Ubud is, it naturally also harbours endless vegan cafes that serve delectable dishes. Eating at one of these is absolutely necessary. (Find the detailed list below)

9. Visit the Yoga Barn
A full service yoga studio and holistic retreat centre, the Yoga Barn is a venue of healing, mental peace, relaxation and positive energy. A trip to Ubud is definitely incomplete without a visit and a cleansing experience there. I tried the Tibetan Sound Meditation and absolutely loved it. Just book yourself for any class here and you won’t regret it. They also have this local café that whips up some Saatvik dishes.

10. Try the Luwak coffee
One of the most finest essences of coffee and one of the most expensive ones too, visiting the controversial Luwak coffee farm could be on your list and well, if you’re a coffee lover then it’s just perfect. We took a tour at SW Agro, sampled 12 different types of coffees and teas and totally enjoyed the experience..

 


11. Tegenungan Waterfall
Set in a lush jungle this is a great spot for all nature lovers. Hike all the way down to the waterfall, sometimes you are allowed to swim in it too. After the hike go back up and sip on a large coconut water. It’s the best one I’ve ever had! You can also visit the Kanto Lampo and Tibumana Waterfalls

 


12. Meet a Balinese Healer: Just like the movie Eat Pray Love
Since you are already in the cultural centre of Bali, a place that is also known for its pure healing powers, meeting a Balinese healer here is almost essential.. We went to a local 90 year old healer called Cokorda Rai and our experience was simply magical. Well to be honest, if you believe in it you will love it, if you don’t you might think of it as an act.

 

Clicked this right after meeting Cokorda Rai, outside his house


13. Hike the volcano
North east of Ubud are the two volcanoes, Mount Agung and Mount Batur which are extremely famous for sunrise hikes. It takes around 2 to 4 hours to hike up to the summit of Mount Agung while Mount Batur is a 1-2 hour uphill climb. I would recommend going with a guide. It’s also advisable to pack food, water, jacket and double check the weather conditions before climbing. It’s best to start hiking midnight so when you’re up at the summit you can watch the most beautiful sunrise.

14. Explore the ancient Bali- Pura Gunung Kawi
This archeological area has houses carved out of rocks and beautiful rice paddies. Stroll around and then head for lunch to Lazy Cats Cafe.

15. Take an art or cooking class
Ubud can teach you so many skills like batik, pottery, jewellery making, painting, yoga. Alternatively opt for a fun Balinese cooking class at www.ketutsbalicookingclass.com

 

Getting around Ubud
As refreshing of a treat that Ubud can be it is also a crazy traffic zone. Since it accommodates tourists all year round the congested traffic is inevitable. I would not recommend renting a car because not only is it expensive but also time consuming because of the traffic. I would suggest hopping on a bike and riding around the centre with utmost ease. As an alternate option, most hotels provide a shuttle to the centre of the town, after which you can explore the area on foot which serves as a feasible option too. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend renting bikes and steering clear from cars. Bike rentals would be lesser than 6 $ a day (please bargain) and they don’t even ask for your driving license.

 

 

 

Restaurant Recommendations

The best thing about Ubud apart from their spiritual vibe is the food they offer. From world class restaurants to local vegan cafes, there’s something for every traveller. You can expect the most unique eateries, cocktail bars, saatvik cafes in the most simple yet beautiful surroundings. Here is a round up of my favourite spots in Ubud:

–  Clear Café (A beautiful set up, you can actually spend hours chilling and working. Do try their falafel, fragon bowl and banana cake)
– Sage (The best Khichdi burger and coconut cake)
– Seeds of Life ( Try their soup and noodle bowl)
– Anomali coffee and Senimans coffee (best coffee in town)
– Bridges Bali (Fine dining, super romantic and delicious food)
– Hujan Locale (fancy Indonesian food, definitely worth trying)
– Atman Café (Best yogi hangout spot)
– Bali Buda (Amazing gluten free pizzas and burgers)
– Cafe Pomegranate (see pic below)
– Sari Organik (Set in a rice paddy, visit for lunch)
– Tukis Icecream (Try the coconut ice cream)
– Melting Wok (coconut curry with rice noodles)
– Down to Earth Café
– Locavore (fine dining)

There are also some cafes that I did not try but were on my list-
Naughty Nuri (pork ribs), Taco Casa ( Mexican), Moksa (Vegan), Watercress, Spice, Cascades at Viceroy (Fancy), Mozaic, Alchemy, Vespa (Ayurveda), Gratitude café, Soma (salads), The Elephant.

Please avoid Bebik Bengil (it’s a hype). You can also visit the Folk pool and gardens for a relaxed evening. They have a pool, restaurant and they also host fun movie nights. Make sure to avoid the restaurants in crowded touristy spots.

Coconut cake and Khichdi Burger at Sage

Hujan Locale

Left: Yoga Barn; Right: Bridges

Left: Seeds of Life; Right: Healthy coconut chocolate treats from Seeds of Life

Left: Tukis Icecream; Right: Gluten free pizza at Bali Buddha

The view from Cafe Pomegranate

 

Flower Baths and Spas
Ubud is home to some of the most beautiful and luxurious spa experiences and you just cannot leave without trying out their famous flower baths. These are some of the places that I would recommend:

– Maya Ubud (Try their flower bath)
– Five Elements (Try their flower bath)
– Kaveri Spa at Udaya Resort & Spa
– Sedona Spa
– Taksu Spa (A healing heaven)
– Tjampuhan Spa
– Kush Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Center at The Yoga Barn
– Blue Spa Ubud
– Amandari Spa

Note:
Avoid the spa at Wapa di Ume, Clear Spa (the one above clear café) and the tiny places on the main street.


Budget
Overall Bali is quite cheap as compared to India, Europe, Asia or the Middle East.
Here is an estimate of the amount you could possible spend:

– Hotels: Depending on your budget, there are too many amazing options available.
– Bike Rentals:  3 to 5 $ a day
– Petrol: 1 bottle is IRD 8000/9000 (0.60$ approx)
– Meals: The cost of meals vary depending on the restaurant you dine in.
Each item for lunch or dinner in cafes like Sage, Seeds of life, Bali Buddha, Clear Café costs anything between 50,000 IDR to  80,000 IDR (3 $ to 6$ approx)
Coffee/ Tea/ Milkshake/Juices cost 25,000 IDR to 30,000 IDR (1.79$ to 2.87$)
Fine dining restaurants like Hujan Locale or Bridges Bali price their dishes between 70,000 IDR to (5$ to 10 $)
– Monkey Forest entry is 80,000IDR per person (5.6$)
– Sightseeing is mostly free but sometimes temples or rice paddies ask for a small donation so please cooperate.

 

Where to shop in Ubud
Shopping in Ubud is a unique experience. There are so many amazing places to shop from:

– The main centre of Bali has tons of local boutiques where you’ll find great outfits and gifts for friends and family. (Walk along the monkey forest street all the way to the Lotus Temple)
– The Ubud centre comprises of a lot of lanes, I suggest walking around each one of those to experience the local shopping.
– There are some really funky boutiques opposite Clear Café and along that road.
– Opposite the restaurant Locavore there are many cool stores.
– Make sure to pick up the long wrap dresses and cool capes.
– My favourite spot to shop in Ubud was definitely the Ubud Traditional Market. The streets and by lanes are full of little boutiques, stalls and counters selling local handicrafts, cutlery, home décor, paintings, antique jewellery, cane bags, beach outfits, wrap a round dresses and much more. You will definitely land up spending atleast two hours here. Just make sure to bargain with a smile and pick tons of gifts for family and friends. Don’t leave without buying cups and saucers, tea sets, cane and bamboo bags, flowy dresses, silver rings and incense stick holders.

 

What to pack
Ubud is all about tradition and culture. There is authenticity in every smile and street. Since it is the tropical weather all year round expect it to be warm and humid. Apart from being comfortable it is also important to respect Ubud’s cultural authenticity. I would recommend packing long flowy dresses, colourful capes, printed gowns, vibrant loose outfits, boho drape dresses, off shoulder tops, cool blouses, long kurtas for the day. You can also pack a few comfy pyjamas, pants and tracks for meditation and yoga, shorts for bike rides and hikes, knee length dresses for daily sightseeing.

Overall you need to dress like the vibe, laid back, relaxed and comfortable. You will find people dressed in bohemian, hippie, and funky outfits. In Ubud all you need is a pair of sneakers and flip flops. Please skip the heels, loud party dresses, too much makeup and flashy accessories (Gucci and LV belts). People in Ubud are simple and spiritual. It’s best if you fit in that vibe. Avoid carrying flashy branded bags, instead stick to local cane and straw bags. In case you’re travelling in the peak summer or monsoon season then make sure to pack a mosquito repellent and also a raincoat for the unexpected showers.

Note:
-When going to the temple please ensure that you are dressed in covered clothes. If not then you can borrow a sarong and cover yourself up. This applies for men too.

 

 

What I Loved
– Ubud’s spiritual vibe is something else. There’s some sense of serenity that will just want to make you stay.
– The lovely ever smiling friendly locals just make the entire experience so heart warming.
– One of the reasons that would make me want to go back to Ubud is the healthy food options available there. Each cafe is so unique and the quality of food is so amazing.
– Bali is so cheap. It’s one place where I could spend over a month eating good food and living a good life without drilling a hole in my pocket.
– The natural beauty is always inviting. I loved waking up to the view of the rice paddies, the chirping of the birds and the fragrance of incense sticks.

Don’t leave without
– Trying the Tibetan sound meditation at Yoga Barn
– Shopping at the Ubud traditional market
– Eating at Clear Café
– Experiencing a flower bath
– Gallivanting through Tegallalang rice paddies
– Visiting the Lotus temple
– Trying the Ubud Swing

Day Trips from Ubud
If you have some extra time in hand then you can hire a driver and visit these places around Ubud:

-Seminyak:  (I would recommend staying here) Spend atleast 2 to 3 nights in this resort town.
Check out the detailed guide to Seminyak here – Click
– Uluwatu : See the temple, cliff bars for sunset and the beaches (The Edge, Omnia Bali, El Kabron are some great cliff bars)
– Jimbaran: Rock Bar and the Fishing Village (Can be combined with Uluwatu)
– Canguu 20 mins by taxi from Seminyak
– Head to Munduk or Singaraja in the North of Bali. You can visit coffee plantations, go whale watching near Lovina, visit the hot springs and the mountain villages.
– Wanagiri Hill is one of the most popular Instagram spots. Head there during sunrise or sunset for the best possible view.
– Tukad Cepung Waterfall
– Lempuyang Temple
– Tanah Lot

 

Suggested Itinerary
I would recommend spending a minimum of 14 days in Bali, there just so much to see and experience. Here are a few suggested itineraries:

7 days Itinerary for Bali
Day 1: Land in Denpasar and head to Seminyak
Day 2- 3: Explore Seminyak
Day 4: Take a day trip to the South of Bali. Explore the Uluwatu cliffs, beaches and temple. Spend the evening at Rock Bar at Ayana for sunset and eat dinner at Jimbaran Fishing Village. Head back to Seminyak
Day 5-7: Spend 2 nights in Ubud
Day 8: Drive back to Denpasar Airport or explore Gili Islands

9 days Itinerary for Bali
Day 1: Land in Denpasar and head to Seminyak
Day 2- 4: Explore Seminyak
Day 5: Take a day trip to the South of Bali. Explore the Uluwatu cliffs, beaches and temple. Spend the evening at Rock Bar at Ayana for sunset and eat dinner at Jimbaran Fishing Village. Head back to Seminyak
Day 6-8: Spend 3 nights in Ubud
Day 9: Drive back to Denpasar Airport or explore Gili Islands

12 days Itinerary for Bali
Day 1: Land in Denpasar and head to Seminyak
Day 2-4: Explore Seminyak
Day 5: Head to the South, stay in Uluwatu and enjoy the cliff top bars, temples and cliffs.
Day 6: Explore the beautiful beaches of Uluwatu
Day 7: Drive to Jimbaran and see the Rock Bar at Ayana and the Jimbaran Fishing Village
Day 8-11: Spend the next 4 nights in Ubud and take a day trip to the North of Bali. .
Day 12: Denpasar Airport or explore Gili Islands

14 days Itinerary for Indonesia
Day 1: Land in Denpasar and head to Seminyak
Day 2-4: Explore Seminyak
Day 5: Head to the South, stay in Uluwatu and enjoy the cliff top bars, temples and cliffs.
Day 6: Explore the beautiful beaches of Uluwatu
Day 7: Drive to Jimbaran and see the Rock Bar at Ayana and the Jimbaran Fishing Village
Day 8-10: Spend the next 3 nights in Ubud and take a day trip to the North of Bali.
Day 11-13: Take a boat to Gili Trawangan and spend the next few nights there

18 days Itinerary for Indonesia
Day 1: Land in Denpasar and head to Seminyak
Day 2-3: Explore Seminyak
Day 4: Head to the South, stay in Uluwatu and enjoy the cliff top bars, temples and cliffs.
Day 5: Drive to Jimbaran and see the Rock Bar at Ayana and the Jimbaran Fishing Village. Spend the night in Jimbaran or Uluwatu.
Day 6-8: Spend the next 3 nights in Ubud
Day 9-10: Spend two nights in the North of Bali (Munduk and Singaraja)
Day 11-13: Take a boat to Gili Trawangan and spend the next few nights there
Day 14- 16: Take a flight to Flores and tour the Pink Beach and Komodo Island
Day 17- 18: Head to Nusa Penida
Day 19: Back to Denpasar airport

 

Best time to visit:
Bali has the same kind of weather all year round, tropical and warm. June to September is definitely the best time to visit since it is less touristy. We went in June and the place wasn’t overcrowded, the weather was so good. Perfectly warm in the day, good enough to swim and chill on the beach and very pleasant once the sun set. November to January is extremely busy so expect sky rocketing prices.

Closest Airport:
The Ngurah Rai International Airport is located in Southern Bali, 13 kms south of Denpasar. It’s about 1 hour 15 mins (38kms approx) away from Ubud. You can either opt for an airport taxi or a hotel pick up.

Getting to Ubud
Ubud is a 1 hour drive from the airport but during peak hours it could take a little longer because of the traffic.

Fly:
We flew Jet Airways from Mumbai to Singapore (5.3 hours approx) and Garuda Airlines from Singapore to Bali (2.4 hours approx.). I was super impressed with Garuda – comfortable seats, easy check in, good food and a great entertainment system.

Currency:
Indonesian Rupiah is the main currency (IDR). Very few places accept US dollars there, I would recommend you to carry local currency only. Debit and Credit cards are accepted in most restaurants and cafes.
Check www.xe.com for the current exchange rate

Visa:
If you hold an Indian passport then the visa is on arrival and is free for the first 30 days.

 

Never have I ever been to a destination that has had such a calming impact on me. Ubud truly possesses the charm to change a person altogether. I went excited to traverse the roads of a new town and left the place with a different energy inside me; all that was picked off the peculiarity of the culture and traditions there and the pure vibrations in the air.

If there’s one thing I would love to take back with me then it’s the pace of life. Everyone here just seems to go with the flow, everything moves in slow motion almost like a dreamy movie, nobody wants to be a part of the competitive struggle and everybody has the time to stop and smile. Ubud truly is more than just a tourist spot, it is tranquillity in every sense that I would very much like to experience again.

 

 

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