Relaxing 5-Day Itinerary to Discover Ubud, Bali
Ubud lies in the center of Bali, literally and figuratively. Its name means medicine in Balinese, and although it offers something for (almost) every type of traveler, those seeking to connect with themselves and nature will enjoy it the most. This five-day guide will help you have a more immersive experience rather than a fast-paced journey. If you are also looking to have time by the sea, I recommend visiting Bali for eight full days to combine Ubud with a beach destination like Nusa Dua or Jimbaran Bay.
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Where to stay
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
$100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
Tanah Gajah, a Resort by Hadiprana
High-end hotel offering villas with private pools surrounded by rice terraces and tropical gardens.
Four Seasons Resort Bali At Sayan
A showcase of the extraordinary setting, stay here for the jungle and river views, superlative service and romantic suites.
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Day 1: Arrive in Bali
Welcome to paradise.
You will arrive at Ngurah Rai International Airport and most likely will have to pay a Visa on arrival and then go through two additional customs checkpoints - allow for 1-2 hours or ask your travel advisor to book a VIP immigration fast-track.
Your drive to Ubud will take another 1.5-2 hours, depending on the traffic.
Your travel advisor can arrange a data SIM card pick up beforehand, plus an airport transfer. Do not pay for an overpriced data SIM card at one of the airport stores, nor have a driver help by taking you to a store (they will overcharge you).
After you’ve checked in at your hotel, I recommend having a relaxing evening. If you’re looking for a simple but nice restaurant with both Balinese and international dishes, definitely try out Clear Cafe.
Day 2: Monkeys & art
For your first morning in Bali, you can enjoy the complimentary breakfast that your advisor added to your reservation. However, if you want to start your Balinese trip being slightly more adventurous, I highly suggest having breakfast at the Luxe Villas Bali, a lovely boutique luxury hotel in the middle of rice paddies with terrific service; though, you will have to arrive by foot or by motorbike.
After breakfast, you can visit Ubud Palace, where some of the royal members still live. Next to it, you will find the Saraswati temple grounds. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, learning, and art. The temple is most known for its lotus ponds outside the main entrance.
Both the palace and the temple are in the center of Ubud, and you’ll need less than 30 minutes to tour them.
Just three minutes away by foot, you’ll find Puri Lukisan Museum, a down-to-earth art museum with stunning Balinese paintings with very nice gardens. Even if you don’t consider yourself an artsy person, definitely visit this museum as you’ll be amazed by the level of detail most of these paintings have. Set aside 45-60 minutes at least.
For lunch, you can walk 15 minutes to Zest Ubud for a plant-based menu full of Indonesian dishes (make sure to take some pictures while you cross the Tjampuhan Old Bridge). The restaurant is popular not only because of the food but also because it overlooks the lush jungles and offer great views.
After lunch is time to head to Monkey Forest through Jl Monkey Forest. This street is one of the most pedestrian-friendly in Ubud and has several boutiques and coffee you can sway by. At the end of it, you’ll find Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
Whether you are into monkeys or not, it’s definitely nice to visit the rainforest with some impressive Bayan trees. If you are interested in monkeys, then this is the place to be. You’ll see dozens of them freely roaming and jumping around. I felt very safe throughout my visit, and the only ‘incidents’ I saw were when other tourists were provoking the monkeys. You’ll also have an opportunity to carry one and have a ‘selfie’ with them - always with the help of the forest’s staff. Make sure to visit it at least two hours before sunset (which, in Bali, it can be a bit early) to enjoy the light.
To close this day, you’ll find Nostimo Greek Grill, less than 15 minutes away. It’s a nice, yet casual, semi-outdoor restaurant with excellent Greek food. Along this road, you’ll also find other great options for international cuisine.
You’ll want to return to your hotel earlier as tomorrow you’ll be hiking marvelous Mount Batur.
Note: if you find this day to be too calm, you can easily add the Agung Rai Museum of Art or the Blanco Renaissance Museum (next to Zest). Or, if art museums don’t fill your cup, your advisor can also arrange for a two-hour Water Rafting session during the morning.
Day 3: Sunrise Hike & Wellness Day
Today is the day.
You’ve probably seen those amazing pictures of people watching the sunset from Mount Batur, a Balinese volcano. Now it’s your turn to experience it yourself on a private hike.
Yes, you’ll start your day early, very early, but I’ll promise it will be worth it. At 2:30 AM you’ll be picked up from your hotel - remember to bring comfortable shoes and a jacket, in case you didn’t bring any, you can rent one for $5. You’ll also be provided with walking poles, which I highly recommend using.
After a brief 1 hour 15 mins drive, you’ll arrive at the starting point where you can enjoy some coffee before you start your hike. On average, people tend to take between 1 hour 30 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes to get to the summit (I took a right under 90 minutes, and I don’t have tons of hiking experience). You’ll be at the summit before 6 AM and while your guide prepares your breakfast, you can enjoy a myriad of colors from the sky. From the deep blue of dawn to the orange and red of the sunrise, the complete experience is one not to miss.
Before descending, your guide will then take you around the crater of Mount Batur and see some of the steam rising from below the earth. Back on the finishing point, you’ll be driven back to Ubud with a stop at a Balinese Coffee plantation where you can have a complimentary coffee and tea tasting session and have the opportunity to try the famous Luwak Coffee.
You’ll return to your hotel before noon, and although some guides suggest to continue on exploring the island, I think you deserve to treat your body and mind.
A favorite of mine, you can enjoy the whole afternoon relaxing at one of the most gorgeous sites in all of Ubud (yes, that’s a sought-after title): The Kedara Water Gardens at COMO Shambhala Estate. At this paradisiacal retreat, you are surrounded by intense greenery and a small waterfall with one of the purest waters in the world (used for blessing ceremonies). Actually, the water belongs to the Balinese people, and there are special paths to a collection point that are still open for Hindu villagers to retrieve water for holy occasions.
You can lay in one of their sun loungers or enjoy the refreshing holy waters.
The COMO Shambhala Estate is known for being a wellness sanctuary and prides itself on their top-notch massage and hydrotherapy treatments. For a whole afternoon of relaxation, you can combine the Kedara Water Gardens with a treatment at their spa.
If you feel like pampering but without necessarily splurging, Karsa Spa is a lovely hideaway not far from Ubud where you can combine a massage therapy finished by a Balinese Spice Bath. Once you have recovered energy after your massage, you can walk back to Ubud through the Campuhan Trail, a 25-minute walk downhill.
Back in town, you can splurge at Room 4 Dessert, an all-dessert restaurant by Chef Goldfarb, featured by The New Yorker and Netflix Chef's Table Pastry. The restaurant has a full-tasting menu of 14 desserts that can be paired with wine. It’s a must for all dessert lovers - reservations are highly recommended, as they dislike it when people just show up without one.
Note: if you don’t want to hike Mt Batur, your advisor can also book a bike tour that takes you from Batur to Ubud crossing rural villages, lakes, and rice fields.
Day 4: Spiritual Bali
Today your advisor has arranged a very human and touching experience. You’ll have the opportunity to join a spiritual healer from the highest caste of Balinese society for a morning walk through his peaceful village to learn about the agricultural lifestyle. You’ll wander through rice fields, spice plantations, and even a tropical forest - without the hordes of people. All throughout this walk, you’ll get a chance to talk about the Hindu religion, the meaning of life, and the Balinese culture - this was one of the highlights of my Bali trip.
Then, you’ll enjoy a simple but delicious, lunch at the spiritual healer’s home, where he will show you his incredible skills at Keliki painting - you should stop and Google this; it’s incredible. After lunch, you will travel to a holy place in Sebatu Village to experience a Balinese purification ritual. You’ll walk down around 200 steps to a natural spring waterfall to receive a blessing from a priest and bathe in the (cold) holy water. Although many tourists go to Tirta Empul Temple for this, I highly recommend going to Sebatu, as it’s less crowded. Also, you’ll have a chance to have a more thorough explanation from the priest and not have to rush the process.
You’ll be back at your hotel at around 4 PM. To continue your immersive experience in Balinese culture, I highly recommend experiencing a Kecak dance. The Tanah Gajah Ubud, a lovely locally owned hotel, offers this show every Friday, accompanied by a delicious Balinese dinner.
Day 5: Natural Bali
For your final full day in Ubud, you’ll get to explore the natural wonders of Ubud onboard a classic VW. Your private guide will take you to the Nungnung Waterfalls, where you can bathe and rest by yourself. Then, you will visit Ulun danu Beratan, a beautiful temple in front of beautiful Lake Beratan. Although it is a very touristy spot, it’s definitely worth visiting it as you’ll witness a postcard snapshot of a Hindu temple, a lake and green mountains in the background. And although I’m not a fan of pursuing instagrammable spots, you’ll have the Handara Gates very close from here - yes, they are the entry point of a Golf Resort, but they make for a lovely Balinese picture.
After having lunch, your guide will take you Jati Luwih, a very rural town that has an incredible panoramic view of the rice field. Although most people visit the Tegalalang rice terraces, you’ll find less crowds and a more extensive scenery - the rice field almost looks like a giant carpet.
You’ve seen waterfalls, jungle, rice fields, lakes, and now you’ll see the ocean. You will finish your dat at Tanah Lot, one of the most popular and famous temples of the island. The temple is located on a large rock in the sea, which makes it a spectacular place to watch the sunset.
You’ll have the option of going back to Ubud on your classic VW. However, if you are planning on moving from Ubud to another location, such as Nusa Dua or Jimbaran Bay, we can switch the classic car for a larger one that can accommodate you and your luggage, so you can finish the tour at the new hotel.
Note: as this tour is highly personalized, we can add and remove sites according to your interest. More waterfalls? No problem.
General Tips & Restaurant Recommendations
ATMs - I've read alarming comments around the internet about ATMs in Bali. I can't talk for the whole island, but you'll be perfectly fine using an ATM at one of the main roads.
Yoga Barn - If you want to have a meditation or yoga class next to a river, this is the place.
Gaya Ceramic - Are you looking for a classy souvenir? Visit this boutique with excellent ceramic home products.
Breakfast at Luxe Villas. Enjoy the sunrise while having a delicious plate of fresh fruit, juices, and omelets, in this cute hidden gem surrounded by rice fields. $$
Lunch at Fair Warung Bale - This place seeks to create job opportunities for the local youth by providing job skills and hospitality training to teenagers and young adults. You can enjoy a tasty local menu with produce directly from local farmers and fishermen. $
Dinner at Uma Cucina (at COMO Uma Ubud) - an Italian-inspired restaurant with a lovely cozy, and romantic vibe at night. $$
Dinner at Locavore - a contemporary eco-fine-dining concept that transforms indigenous Indonesian ingredients into modern European fare. $$$$
Dinner at Kubu Mandapa (at Ritz Carlton)- Set beside the Ayung River, Kubu Mandapa is a restaurant with small bamboo huts, where you can experience an a la carte menu of Mediterranean and European cuisine or a signature six- to eight-course degustation menu. $$$$
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