Cultural Guide to Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Arts & Culture
When you first arrive in Ubud, it will not take you long to remember why you decided to visit Bali in the first place; its natural beauty, deep cultural heritage and gracious and hospitable hosts are just a few of the many reasons why your trip to Bali will be memorable. Skip the gigantic swings (yes, you heard me - skip the swings). Instead, discover real Balinese heritage and culture through food, art and day trips to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Be sure to connect to the Balinese people who will make your visit truly extraordinary.
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Where to stay in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Hillside resort set along the banks of the Ayung River with luxe rooms and villas and an infinity pool.
60 minute massage for two at Spa Alila.
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Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Upscale sanctuary on Ubud’s Ayung River where spa time and relaxation top the to-do list.
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Daily Full Breakfast for two guests per bedroom in the restaurant
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TheWakanda Ubud—A Pramana Experience
Tropical oasis with a garden, restaurant and outdoor swimming pool in Ubud.
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Things to do in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Jatiluwih Rice Terrace - This is an absolute must. Wander as long as you'd like around the vast rice terraces where farmers have preserved traditional methods of farming using intricate networks of tiered irrigation systems.
Taman Ayun Temple - This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of six royal Balinese temples.
Tanah Lot Temple - Did you catch that recent Julia Roberts + George Clooney movie "Ticket to Paradise"? Feast your eyes upon a 16th-century temple perched on a rock formation featured in the film. This is a perfect place to watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean.
Monkey Forest - A must-do in Ubud, Monkey Forest is home to over 1000 Balinese Long Tailed Macaques. Fair warning: hide your sunglasses, because the monkeys will steal them from you!
Take a Balinese cooking class - What better way to understand a culture than by being in a kitchen and learning how to make a traditional meal? Many local guides host Balinese cooking classes and will teach you the ins and outs of nasi campur or lawar.
Sunrise trek to Mt Batur - The payoff for an early alarm clock is a spectacular sunrise view on the summit of Mt. Batur, one of Bali's most active volcanoes.
Spend a day (or more) with a Balinese family - I met a solo female traveler from Mexico City who spent multiple days with the same family - she went to temple with them, wore their traditional clothing, ate with them and was inducted as an honorary "cousin". This would be the most authentic Balinese experience you could possibly have!
Get a massage - Balinese massage is available everywhere in Ubud and is quite affordable. Get the massage. You deserve it!
Take a yoga class - If you're interested in more of an eat/pray/love experience in Bali, the Yoga Barn is for you. Take a single class or commit to a three-day cleansing program.
Visit Leke-Leke - A somewhat short but also somewhat slippery hike down into the Balinese rainforest rewards you with an incredible photo op and perhaps a quick dip into the pool under Leke Leke Waterfall.
Shop in Ubud - I am typically not one to do really any shopping when I travel, but Ubud is an arts and handcrafts mecca and demands some of your time.
Day Trips from Ubud
You could spend weeks doing day trips from Ubud. Many activities around Ubud, such as visiting the Jatiluwih Rice Terrace and Leke-Leke waterfall will require a half-day. For a full-day trip, combine activities in the region or head south to Uluwatu, where you can catch a traditional Kecak fire dance and enjoy a stunning Balinese sunset.
Places to eat & drink in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Babi Guling and Samsam - About 4 km south of town, the babi guling (whole roasted pig) is killer here. Go for lunch or an early dinner - they usually close at 5pm.
Tukies Coconut Shop - Get the coconut ice cream and beat the heat on hot Bali afternoons.
In Da Compound - Tucked away in a quite and charming interior garden, In Da Compound is an uber-affordable place for a home-cooked Indonesian meal.
Ubud Coffee Roastery - I consider myself a bit of an espresso snob but Ubud Coffee Roastery delivers on their locally-produced coffee and espresso. It also has a large outdoor area with fans that is great for remote working, if needed.
Union - Buy one get one free cocktail abound at Union. The chicken bao buns are phenomenal.
Belle Wine Bar & Grazing Boards - Looking for a break from Indonesian food and Bintang? Belle has just that - wine and charcuterie boards. Approachable to splurge-worthy wines available.
Sinssihwaro Korean BBQ - An intimate DIY Korean BBQ restaurant where you self-prepare protein and veg over a traditional tabletop grill.
Urban Jungle Tattoo + Cafe - Smoothie bowls AND tattoos? Absolutely.
Omma Dayclub Bali - Spend your day at an infinity pool overlooking Tegenungan Waterfall. Cocktails come at a premium relative to the rest of Ubud, but the pool and view are worth the price.
Need to Know
Although the rest of Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, Bali is predominantly Hindu. If you can visit on a holiday, such as Galungan, you are in for a real treat. Shoppes and restaurants are generally still open but celebrations abound.
You can rent a scooter for just a few dollars a day. Download the Grab app for ridesharing. It's totally safe and very easy to use.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Bali.