What to visit in Ubud
Ubud was the first destination we stayed in when we travelled to Bali, and it is, in my opinion, the best reason to visit Bali. Ubud is known as a centre for art, crafts, and dance. If you go out a bit further out of the city centre, you can find some awe-inspiring landscapes, such as the scenic Tegallalang Rice Terrace and various waterfalls.
Here’s just a few of the things you should visit in Ubud:
We took a free shuttle provided by the hotel into the town centre and when we got there, we walked to Saraswati temple and spent a few quiet moments looking at the lotus pond and temple. It provided some much-needed tranquillity after walking along the busy roads to get there! Luckily, a Balinese local had previously told us how to get across the roads - hold your arm out slightly, use your hand in a kind of ‘nudging’ motion and start to edge out into the road. Cars/ motorbikes will slow down (they won’t stop completely) and you can walk across the road.
There’s also a large outdoor market near Saraswati temple, so if you’ve got time and want to buy some souvenirs/ clothes, it’s worth wandering around.
After the Saraswati temple, we walked to the monkey forest. Whilst you can see a few monkeys hanging around the streets, it’s worth buying a ticket to enter the Monkey Forest - you get to see them in their natural environment whilst taking in some fantastic views! It’s worth mentioning that the Monkey Forest is quite large, you will surpass 10,000 steps and be aware that you will encounter steps and uneven ground throughout.
The monkeys might look cute, but they are quite notorious for being pickpockets, so keep your valuables in a closed bag, firmly attached to yourself! You may see a few staff members wandering around, they do carry slingshots and we saw one used as a warning to a monkey who started to get a bit aggressive with a visitor – both the monkey and the visitor were unharmed! However, you should take care to follow the clear signage around the forest – it’s there to keep you and the monkeys safe.
Key points are do not make eye contact, feed, or touch the monkeys. If they touch/jump on you – just stay calm and still and they’ll move on.
No small feat to get to – be prepared to go down a lot of steps (and worse, the trek back up!). We went in October and it was packed with tourists, however it is very pretty and well worth a visit. It was one of the closest waterfalls to our base in Ubud.
Gao Gajah (Aka – The Elephant Cave)
You will need a sarong for this, but don’t buy one from the stalls unless you want one as a souvenir as you can borrow one near the entrance. The inside of the temple itself is quite small, but the surrounding area is worth exploring. Walk around the courtyard for a bit and you’ll find some steps leading down into a ravine.
A beautiful and tranquil landscape, it has lots of winding pathways and secluded little spots - worth navigating the steps for! There’s also a small temple at the top of one of the pathways – a lady there gave us a blessing with rice and water (in exchange for a donation).
Kopi Luwak Coffee and Tea Tasting
This was included in one of the tours that we had booked. Very refreshing after a full day of exploring! We were taken around the area, shown where they keep the civets, then shown to a table where we were brought a selection of different teas and coffee. We were also asked if we wanted to try Kopi luwak – this is a coffee consisting of coffee cherries that has passed through a civets digestive system and then cleaned (if you’re thinking, does that mean it comes out of... yep, exactly that). We decided to give it a go but personally, I preferred the tea!
Tegallalang Rice Terrace
An absolute must do is a visit to the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Apart from being a beautiful view, there is a lot to do here other than meandering around (though I absolutely recommend doing this as well!). For those of you interested in getting pictures for the ‘gram, there are some cute little spots around where you can do just that (though you do need to pay for the privilege) – such as the infamous Bali swing, and a man-made ‘birds nest’ you can sit in. For those of you who are after an adrenaline fix, we also saw a zip line that went across some of the area.
For the culture:
If you are looking to get a taste of the culture in Ubud, attend a performance of the traditional Barong dance. The dance tells the story of the battle between good and evil through beautiful costumes, intricate movements, and exaggerated facial expressions.
Another way to get a sense of the culture, is to just walk/drive around. The main religion is Bali is Balinese Hinduism, and we often came across processions of people making their way to a temple with offerings. There are also small daily offerings in temples, shrines, and even on the ground - they are called Canang Sari and are quite pretty.
If you drive around Ubud, you may start to notice a theme in some villages – some are based around a trade such as silver crafting, painting, glass blowing, or wood carving. We bought a few pieces of art whilst in an art village, they are amazing quality and we managed to haggle them down to a very good price. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t accept the price first given when shopping at the villages/ outdoor markets etc – haggling is expected. We were told to haggle by the local we bought our paintings from!
You can get around Ubud yourself by walking or renting a moped. If you would rather not drive a moped (James nor I can drive, so it wasn’t really an option for us!), consider booking a tour or a private driver (you can get private drivers quite cheaply in Bali –usually arrange for either half a day or a full day). This is also a good option if you want to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.