21 Awesome Things to do in Ubud
With unspoiled beauty and breathtaking countryside landscapes, Ubud stands as one of Bali's most captivating destinations. This haven of tradition and natural wonders unveils a far more exhilarating and diverse culinary scene than one might anticipate. Here, we present a curated list of alternative and mainstream activities to help you experience Ubud. This extraordinary destination will immerse you in the warm hearts of the Balinese locals.
Where to stay in Ubud?
During our unforgettable stay in Ubud, we had the privilege of being guests at The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, and every moment of our stay left us enchanted.
Tanah Gajah Resort
Nestled within the lush working rice paddies of the exclusive Tanah Gajah estate, Tanah Gajah Resort is a hidden sanctuary of opulent private residences. This five-star boutique resort seamlessly blends traditional Balinese architecture, local artistry, and modern design, creating a sumptuous oasis that boasts 20 individual villas scattered across its expansive grounds.
At Tanah Gajah Resort, you'll discover a range of dining experiences. The Club Lounge and The Restaurant offer a unique setting for cocktails, afternoon tea, and dinner, all while overlooking the serene paddy fields. For those looking to unwind with a drink, the Bird Lounge provides a cozy atmosphere, and the in-villa dining options are extensive. Additionally, the estate offers romantic private dining venues amidst its picturesque surroundings.
The resort is equipped with a 35-meter swimming pool, tennis court, yoga studio, state-of-the-art gym, and a tranquil spa that boasts breathtaking views of the lush fields. If you're in search of a serene, exclusive, and extraordinary experience in Ubud, Tanah Gajah undoubtedly stands out as the premier choice.
Best 21 Things to do in Ubud
1. Indulge in Roasted Babi Guling
During your Bali sojourn, you'll quickly discover that the iconic dish to savour is the spit-roasted suckling pig, known as "babi guling." Numerous warungs (local-style restaurants) beckon you to partake in this culinary delight as you meander along the streets near the Ubud Royal Palace. Babi guling not only tantalizes the taste buds but also boasts deep-rooted connections to Hindu ceremonies. These suckling pigs are ritually spit-roasted for hours over coconut shells and fire, infusing a woody and smoky aroma. The exact blend of spices used remains a well-guarded secret. The pig's skin is meticulously basted with coconut and spiced oil, with one of the most delectable presentations on a banana-leaf plate. You can relish roasted pork meat with crispy skin, pig-blood sausage, or even the adventurous option of deep-fried intestines at these warungs. Be forewarned, as this mouthwatering fare draws locals and tourists alike, so arriving early is the key to securing the choicest cuts.
2. The Ultimate Culinary Experience in Ubud
If you yearn to merge the tranquillity of nature with a sophisticated dining experience, look no further than Bridges Bali. It's an eatery that epitomizes the convergence of worlds, offering a fusion of Asian and Western delicacies. The restaurant derives its name from its picturesque location, nestled at the ends of two suspension bridges known as Campuhan bridges, spanning the Ubud River. This is a must-visit for wine lovers, as it's the only specialized wine bar in Ubud, boasting an extensive selection of over 180 wine labels and 20 grape varieties from more than 10 countries. Here, you can savour delectable dining and enjoy a bistro terrace, coffee, tea, and craft cocktails by the riverside lounge. Each dish is prepared with love and care, ensuring the flavours shine through. Whether you opt for lunch, dinner, or a unique Royal Fine Dining experience, prepare yourself for an unconventional culinary journey that connects you with the world and leaves an indelible mark.
3. Dining Amidst Verdant Rice Fields
Bali's picturesque rice fields are an iconic symbol of the island's beauty. Nestled amidst this stunning landscape, you can relish classic Indonesian-style cuisine, with a particular highlight being the popular Gurami Timbung. While the restaurant sports the lengthy moniker "Warung Ikan Bakar dan Bebek Resto Sawah Indah," it's more commonly known as Sawah Indah. Situated on the eastern side of Ubud, there's a chance you might encounter a wedding ceremony here, as it's a favoured venue. However, let's hope luck is on your side. With approximately 30 tables, the restaurant occasionally fills up. If unsure, opt for a dish priced around a hundred rupiahs per person, allowing you to savour specialities without restraint (dish + rice + beverage). The combination of delectable food, a tranquil atmosphere, and breathtaking views guarantees a memorable evening. The friendly Balinese staff, many of whom speak English, will assist you in navigating the menu with pictures. The restaurant specializes in duck, fish, and dishes cooked in banana leaves and bamboo.
4. "The Happy Happening" Bar
In a land where alcohol consumption is somewhat limited, bars and nightlife might not be readily apparent, but the Laughing Buddha Bar stands out as a vibrant hotspot. Here, you can groove to the tunes of regular live bands, spanning a range of music genres, including jazz, blues-rock, freestyle acoustic, fusion, and world music. If you're a dancing enthusiast, check for scheduled salsa nights during your visit. Whenever hunger strikes, this welcoming establishment caters to your needs with breakfast, lunch, or dinner options. You'll quickly fall in love with the cosy ambience that invites you to sit, dine, and unwind. Renowned for hosting exceptional jazz bands, the bar features live performances nearly every evening from 21:00 to 23:00. The menu spans Southeast Asian delights to Tex-Mex treats, including dishes like pad thai, spicy chorizo quesadillas, and wonton noodle soups. The bar's speciality, the 'Buddhalicious' line of signature cocktails, promises a fun-filled night out!
5. Sports, Games, and Delectable Fare in One Spot
The Melting Pot Game Room is your go-to destination if you're craving adrenaline, adventure, and fun. While it's located in Bali, it effortlessly embraces Western-style entertainment. For those seeking a challenge, this venue offers an array of games, from pool tables to ping-pong tables. You can even organize your own Bali premier league table football tournament. Electronic dart enthusiasts will find plenty to keep them entertained as well. Yet, The Melting Pot isn't just about games; they also serve delectable food, including pizzas and Tex-Mex dishes. The international crowd here ensures that you can enjoy a beer with people from around the globe. The bar's wall is adorned with flags from every nation, allowing you to leave your mark on your country's flag.
Additionally, there's an annual event, Ubud's Great Texas Chili Cook-Offs, offering a chance to relish the best Texas-style spicy chilli. On regular evenings, expect classic American rock tunes and big-screen sports broadcasts. It's a gamer's paradise!
6. Relax in a Vibrant Bedouin Party Tent
Envision a Bedouin tent adorned with shisha and oriental Middle Eastern decor. That's what awaits you at the XL Shisha Lounge. The shisha pipes hail from Dubai, and the tobacco comes from the Emirates, lending the atmosphere an unmistakable Middle Eastern vibe. Here, you can sample the most exotic water pipes available in the city, with options for one to four hoses, allowing you to mix your flavours. As you enjoy shisha with friends, take in the Middle Eastern ambience, complete with ornate decorations and silk-draped ceilings, evoking the charm of a Bedouin tent. Should hunger strike, you'll enjoy exploring the eclectic menu, a fusion of Dutch cuisine, American steaks and burgers, and Indonesian-inspired tapas. Every evening boasts live music, enhancing the cosy and enjoyable atmosphere. Due to its music and ambience, XL Shisha Lounge is a haven, especially for reggae enthusiasts. So, relax, take it easy, and savour the moment – everything will be alright.
7. World-famous Tegallalang Rice Terraces
The Tegallalang Rice Terraces is one of Bali's most famous and picturesque attractions. While the views are particularly enchanting during sunrise and sunset, the terraces never fail to impress at any time of day. These terraces are part of the traditional subak irrigation system, introduced to Indonesia by the revered Rsi Markandeya in the eighth century. The entire region, encompassing the villages of Pejeng, Campuhan, and Ubud, is renowned for its breathtaking rice terraces, making it a highlight of any Bali trip. Don't miss the opportunity to admire Tegallang before venturing across the valley to the slopes. The road is not heavily trafficked, allowing you to enjoy the vistas leisurely, make pit stops for photos, and interact with fellow travellers. Art enthusiasts and creators also find inspiration in this locale, with numerous places to pause for coffee or peruse nearby art kiosks. You might even capture a memorable shot of a local grandpa, a hardworking farmer, or a generous landowner offering you a refreshing green coconut drink. If you're searching for souvenirs, consider picking woven hats crafted from coconut leaves.
8. Exploring the Sacred Beauty of Elephant Cave
Goa Gajah, also known as the Elephant Cave, is an archaeological site of immense historical significance. The cave, located just six kilometres from downtown Ubud, is easily accessible. A visit to this site typically takes an hour, allowing you to descend into the courtyard filled with relics, marvel at the rock wall carvings, meditate within the central cave, and explore the bathing pools and fountains. Dating back to the 11th century, this site served as a spiritual sanctuary for meditation practices. In 1954, an excavated pool revealed five statues of Hindu angels out of a supposed seven. The outer rock face is adorned with motifs depicting the forest and animals, with a giant face that was once believed to resemble an elephant. Notably, different religions converge here, with Buddhism predominantly on the northern side of the complex and Shivaism more prominent south of the river. You'll be treated to breathtaking views, overlooking rice fields and the converging streams that eventually flow into the Petanu River. Goa Gajah's location in the campuhan, meaning 'river junction,' is considered sacred.
9. A Close Encounter with Turtles!
Turtles are remarkable creatures harbouring numerous mysteries, but they are also facing many threats. Hence, conservation efforts are crucial, with local education playing a pivotal role. Despite the ongoing challenges posed by illegal turtle trading, the Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC) stands as the last hope for preserving turtles in Bali. The Serangan community is actively combating illegal trade and seeking alternative livelihoods. The centre is dedicated to education, tourism, conservation, and research, showcasing the beauty of nature and promoting sustainability to both locals and tourists. This diligent work offers endangered turtles a chance at survival on Serangan Island. TCEC holds international recognition, but more importantly, it enjoys strong support from the local community. The key to turtle conservation in Bali is ending the turtle trade. Notably, turtle products are consumed in Bali mainly due to religious practices, and efforts are being made to shift these rituals towards non-lethal alternatives.
10. Immerse Yourself in the Sacred Waters of a Breathtaking Waterfall
After exploring temples and indulging in delectable restaurant fare, it's time to take a break and immerse yourself in Bali's stunning natural beauty. Tegenungan Waterfall is unique among Bali's waterfalls, as it's not hidden away in the highlands or mountains; it's easily accessible by car and a short hike. As you descend along the river, you'll approach the majestic waterfall, which is situated along the sacred Petanu River. Close to Tegenungan Village and the southern part of Kemenuh Village, this location offers the waterfall's beauty and a surrounding area teeming with lush, verdant vegetation. The waterfall's robust flow makes it an ideal spot for a refreshing swim in the pristine waters, but do respect the local customs, as these waters are considered holy. Nearby, you'll find a temple and bathing area, making it a popular destination for locals and tourists seeking respite from the urban hustle and communion with nature. Whether you're a city dweller or a tourist, Tegenungan Waterfall promises a perfect escape.
11. Heron and Bird-Watching Paradise
For biologists, birdwatchers, and nature enthusiasts, the Bird Village of Petulu offers an unforgettable experience in Bali and plenty to offer for everyone else. The unique feature of this avian haven is that the birds, known as Kokokan (herons), congregate here in the evening, around 5:30 p.m., sparing you the need for an early morning wake-up call. These herons, which flock from all corners of Bali, create a spectacular assembly in this small village, perching on the trees in groups of over a hundred, thoroughly testing the endurance of every branch. For the villagers, these birds are seen as supernatural guardians. Special rituals are conducted every six months to express gratitude and respect for their presence in Petulu. Visiting during the breeding season is crucial, as they migrate at other times. The herons are believed to be the reincarnations of the thousands of Balinese who lost their lives during the anti-communist massacres in Indonesia in 1965 and 1966. These birds carry the spirits of these ancestors, returning annually to bring good luck and happiness.
12. Peace, Harmony, Education, and Conservation
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, also known as Monkey Forest Ubud, is a unique place where conservation intersects with philosophy. Rooted in Hinduism, the concept here is Tri Hita Karana, which translates to "Three ways to achieve spiritual and physical well-being" in English. The core idea of this philosophy is to maintain harmony among humans, between humans and their environment, and between humans and The Supreme God. Balancing these elements ensures an ideal relationship with oneself and others in life. This philosophy is not confined to temples but extends to nature as well. Special rituals related to animals, with charming names like Tumpek Kandang and Tumpek Uduh, are observed here. The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary serves as an international tourist destination that offers peace and harmony to its visitors while also playing a critical role in the local community, enriching its spiritual and economic life. Respecting the local people and avoiding accessing sacred and restricted areas is essential.
13. Unveiling Hidden History Within the Palace
The Ubud Palace, officially known as Puri Saren Agung, is the most significant structure in Ubud and one of the most prominent in Bali. The palace serves as a focal landmark in the city and offers insights into Bali's present, past, and future. Built-in the 19th century, during the rule of the late Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel, the palace is an unmissable gem in the Ubud area. It provides an opportunity to delve into Balinese architecture and the unique gardening settings that grace its grounds. These gardens bear witness to full rituals and mesmerizing evening dance performances, a must-see for enthusiasts of Balinese arts. Ubud, historically, traces its origins back to the 8th century, as evidenced by an ancient palm leaf preserving old scripts. This historical artefact is proof of Rsi Markaneya, a holy man from India who founded Hinduism traditions after his spiritual journey across Java and the island of Bali.
14. Thrilling White Water Rafting in Ubud
Are you searching for adventure, an adrenaline rush, breathtaking scenery, and an unforgettable experience? Look no further than white water rafting. The Ayung River, with its class II and III rapids, offers an exhilarating journey suitable for beginners and families. Covering approximately 10 kilometres, this thrilling rafting experience lasts about two hours and is guided by seasoned professionals. Just follow their instructions, and you'll find it easy, enjoyable and, most importantly, safe. Bali doesn't just offer a river adventure and is adorned with beautiful nature, hidden waterfalls, and natural pools where you can take refreshing dips. So, forget everything else and let the river's current carry you away.
15. A Holistic Retreat for Body and Soul
If you're looking for a retreat destination, to rejuvenating your body and soul, you are in the right place. The Yoga Barn is a sacred haven, functioning as a full-service yoga studio and holistic healing retreat centre. Its architectural influence hails from indigenous design, creating a serene ambience. The healing centre offers diverse treatments catering to your body, mind, and soul. Beyond nourishing your body, you'll find mental and spiritual growth opportunities. Daily classes and workshops encompass a variety of yoga styles, including Classical Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Power, Pranayama, and Restorative yoga. Additional modalities involve Meditation, Sound Medicine, Kirtan, and Ecstatic Dance. The Yoga Barn also houses a well-established Holistic Healing centre featuring Ayurvedic Rejuvenation, Cleansing and detox retreats, Sound Medicine, Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Chiropractic care, Naturopathy, and more. The "Yogic Buffet" ensures that individuals of all backgrounds can experience yoga, whether beginners, seasoned practitioners, or somewhere in between. The Yoga Barn offers something for everyone, making it a sanctuary for total rejuvenation.
16. Bargain for Souvenirs and Gifts at the Craft Market from "Eat Pray Love"
For a glimpse into local traditions, crafts, and cuisine, visit the Ubud Art Market, known locally as Pasar Seni Ubud. Stroll through the market and relive Julia Roberts' iconic scene from the movie "Eat Pray Love" as you peruse its stalls. You can start on either side of the market – the western side boasts the primary art market, while the eastern side offers everyday necessities and groceries. This is the place to be if you're looking to score some bargains on souvenirs and gifts. The market is beloved among Balinese locals and is situated in the heart of the village, making it a bustling shopping destination. You'll find high-quality, locally made products from nearby towns like Pengosekan, Tegallalang, Payangan, and Peliatan. Craft objects abound, perfect for souvenirs and gifts, including silk scarves, accessories, casual shirts, traditional kites, bags, and figurines. Exploring the market stalls will allow you to appreciate the creativity and craftsmanship of the Balinese people.
17. A Spiritual Journey to Ganesha Bookshop
Ganesha Bookshop is more than just a place to buy books; it's a small family-owned business that plays a significant role in cultural exploration in Bali. Founded by artists, the shop began as a collection of books to foster knowledge exchange among readers, collectors, and researchers. What started as a modest collection transformed into a second-hand book outlet, and today, it stands not only as a bookshop but also as a cultural, literary, and historical hub. Here, you can find books on virtually any topic related to Bali. It's also an excellent spot to hunt for souvenirs like cookbooks and art albums. For tourists, they offer a wide array of exotic gifts and cards. The primary bookshop is in downtown Ubud, close to the Ubud Police Office, with a second location in the seaside area of Sanur. What's particularly exciting is that they have an extensive collection of books in both Indonesian and English, including a range of rare and valuable books in their antique collection.
18. Romantic Sunsets with a Volcanic Backdrop
Picture a breathtaking, colourful sunset backdrop against the majestic silhouette of a volcano –a Bali experience that tops the bucket list. To avoid the crowds seeking that perfect shot, opt for an alternative route to Mount Batur (1917m), Bali's most visited volcano. The conventional tourist path takes you to Kintamani village for stunning views, but there's an even more spectacular vantage point. Head to the secluded village of Pinggan to view the fire-breathing giant that's nothing short of awe-inspiring. Immerse yourself in the grandeur of this active volcano in serene contemplation. If you're a photography enthusiast, the most photogenic moments occur during sunrise and sunset, with the night views equally mesmerizing. With its twinkling lights, the village of Pinggan below adds to the enchantment. From Ubud, it's just an hour's drive (45 km), making this a must-visit destination.
19. Demons on Fire: Kecak & Legong Dance Performance
Indonesia's rich cultural tapestry is woven with spirits, rituals, and traditions, making it even more enticing for visitors. Bali is home to two of the most essential dances: Kecak and Legong. Kecak enthrals with its immense chorus of bare-chested male singers, creating a truly memorable experience. With nearly a century of tradition, Kecak was made for the movie "Island of the Demons," a name aptly fitting this spiritually charged dance. Combining elements from the epic Ramayana and the Sanghyang trance dance, the performance is a spiritual journey.
In contrast, Legong is a physically demanding dance, typically performed by young girls. It's a meticulously choreographed masterpiece, leaving no room for improvisation. Watching the performance offers a captivating visual and spiritual experience, replenishing your cultural spirits for some time.
20. Traditional Indonesian Puppet Show
If you're a fan of Kermit and puppet shows, don't miss the traditional shadow puppet show in Bali, Wayang Kulit. It resembles the age-old Christian traditions dating back to the first century AD, enriched by Hindu influences drawn from the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. The shows encompass love, adventure, and comedy, offering a delightful spectacle. As you watch the enchanting shadows, take note of the intricate puppet designs and beautiful artwork. Bali's puppetry has evolved over many years, influenced by diverse histories and legends, making it an integral part of Balinese culture. The performances occur primarily at night but occasionally during daylight hours. Staying in Ubud puts you in the perfect place to catch a shadow puppet show, as Ubud is regarded as the cultural and artistic heart of the island.
21. Artistry Inspired by Nature, Culture, and People in Bali
To truly understand a people, one must explore their customs and art. The Neka Art Museum boasts an impressive collection of works from renowned Balinese artists and expatriates, all deeply inspired by the local culture. The entire museum's design takes cues from indigenous architecture, providing a comprehensive immersion into the Balinese way of life. The museum showcases permanent and temporary exhibitions, with the art pieces arranged chronologically, offering visitors a journey through time. The collection is ever-expanding, with over three hundred pieces currently on display. The artwork draws inspiration from the beauty of Bali, its people, culture, and nature, resulting in a captivating fusion. The museum serves as an invaluable resource for those seeking to learn more about Bali, catering to visitors and researchers alike. Education is a fundamental mission that benefits both the local and global communities, elevating the fame of Bali. Hopefully, Balinese art and culture will ignite your inspiration!
Ubud, with its unparalleled beauty, rich culinary offerings, and cultural treasures, promises an unforgettable journey. Enjoy your adventure in Ubud, and may this guide provide you with a local's perspective to enhance your experience.