No trip to Bali is complete without checking out Ubud and the incredible things to do in and around this cute little town. Whether it is the beautiful landscape, cultural shows or ornate temples, you could spend a week in Ubud and barely scratch the surface.
Whilst it was a lot busier on our recent trip than the first time we visited, Ubud is still a great place to go. Here are nine amazing things to do in Ubud that will make your trip to Bali truly memorable.
Things to do in Ubud
Sunrise at Tegalalang Rice Terrace
There's no better place to be at the start of the day than Tegalalang Rice Terrace. These beautiful rice terraces are stunning in the early morning light. It's a popular spot so if you want to experience it peacefully we would definitely recommend visiting at sunrise. It was one of our favourite experiences in Bali.
Here's our blog that takes you through everything you need to know about visiting Tegalalang.
Brave the Sacred Monkey Forest
The Sacred Monkey Forest isn't for the faint hearted. Here you'll get up close and personal with the local macaques who love nothing more than to prey on distracted tourists! We've seen many a visitor have a macaque on their backpack ready to rifle through, or have something snatched out their hands. Do not come with food or drink unless you are looking to become a monkey magnet!
However, it is a beautiful forest on the edge of Ubud and the monkey antics are a lot of fun to watch. It's the perfect place to go if you are a little tired of the busy streets outside.
Get spiritual at Pura Tirta Empul Temple
Pura Tirta Empul is a beautiful Hindu temple that's a short drive (15km) from Ubud and is a great chance to see a local tradition. The devout bathe in the holy water as part of a ritual cleansing and it is a special sight to see. We enjoying wandering around the site looking at the ornate carvings. As with all Bali temples, you should cover your legs, so it is helpful to have a sarong with you.
Visit a cave waterfall - Tukad Cepung
Waterfalls don't get much more atmospheric than Tukad Cepung Waterfall. This waterfall is a one hour drive from Ubud, set within a cave system which allows in incredible shafts of light. It is the most unique waterfall we have ever seen, and definitely one of the best waterfalls in Bali. The water is too shallow for a proper swim but you can definitely have a waterfall shower!
If you are lucky enough to get the whole place to yourself it feels truly wild! This is one waterfall you don't want to miss. Here are all the logistics for visiting Tukad Cepung waterfall.
Get some steps in at Pura Gunung Kawi Temple
Pura Gunung Kawi combines both temples and rice terraces and the result is spectacular. You enter by walking down over 100 steps and the view that opens up before you is out of this world. You can wander around the rice terraces and shrines on a multitude of different pathways, and often you will find you are only one there. It's one of our favourite temple sites in Bali.
Apparently lots of the tour buses stop here in the morning, we visited in the afternoon and it was very quiet, so probably very early morning or late afternoon is best for a peaceful experience.
Swim in Tibumana Waterfall
Tibumana is one of the closest waterfalls to Ubud and offers a great opportunity for a dip. The water is deep enough and the pool big enough for a proper paddle. Go early morning for the wild and magical feeling of having this special place all to yourself.
It's still fun in the afternoon, but come expecting to share! We were told to avoid getting too close to the actual cascades themselves as the current is powerful, it still leaves loads of room though, and is a great way to cool off on a hot steamy day! Here are all the logistics for visiting Tibumana waterfall.
Get high at The Bali Swing
The Bali Swing has become an instagram phenomenon and the official one is a stone's throw from Ubud. The swing (well, actually swings as there are several of them) offer an incredible photographic opportunity and stunning views across the nearby river and valley.
You can read about how to get to there, the cost and everything you'll need to know in our blog post about the Bali Swing.
Further afield: Discover new shades of green at Jatiluwih Rice Terrace
Jatiluwih is a bit further away, but as it is a Unesco World Heritage site, we thought it should be included! These rice terraces are huge and go on for as far as the eye can see. If you want to see rice terraces but don't want a very early start this is probably the one for you. Even in the middle of the day we found it very quiet. There are several marked walking trails which give you a good feel for the area. We took the easy 1.5km track and it was peaceful and gave a great oversight.
Things to do in Ubud at night
Ubud is not your typical holiday destination at night. Whilst restaurants and massage shops are open, it isn't much of a party town. The good news for night owls is, there is actually lots of interesting things to do in Ubud at night.
Things to do in Ubud at night: Shadow puppet show
The shadow puppets are an important part of Balinese culture and are used to reenact important Hindu stories. The puppets are crafted with incredible detail and the puppeteers are masters of creating characters and voices to engage the audience.
Despite the fact none of it is in English you can still get a grasp of the story and we really enjoyed the whole show. We watched the performance at Oka Kartini on Jalan Raya which lasted for one hour, and is performed several times a week.
Things to do in Ubud at night: Go to a traditional dance show
No trip to Ubud is complete without seeing a Balinese dance at one of the many temples in Ubud. It is probably the best thing to do in Ubud at night. There are several to choose from and touts will no doubt find you before you need to seek them out. The dances reenact Hindu stories and can range from more simple shows, to epics dramas with huge numbers of actors and theatrics.
We saw the Kecak fire dance at the Dalem Ubud temple, where one of the actors appears to go into a trance, walk on hot coals and then kic a fireball around the stage. It was pretty incredible to watch!
Where to stay in Ubud
We've spent a fair bit of time in Ubud and stayed in four different hotels, as well as visiting friends in theirs. We were so glad when on our last few days in Ubud we found our favourite little guesthouse. Eden Guesthouse is a small boutique home stay tucked away in the rice paddies, but just a few minutes from the Ubud Palace. For $40 USD per night in Ubud, it is incredible value.
The rooms are really large and spotlessly clean with gorgeous bathrooms with tubs. We loved the local carvings on the doors and the breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking the rice paddies was the best we had in Bali. Banana and coconut pancakes with palm sugar - definitely the way forwards!
If we had a bigger budget, we would have visited Kamandalu. This place is luxurious and very instagrammable, offering pool views and swings over the jungle. Situated in the Balinese countryside, it is very stylish and picturesque, stays in Ubud don't get much better.
On a budget
On our first visit to Ubud we stumbled upon Gusti Kaler, a beautiful homestay that's a stones throw from the centre of town. The bungalows are a really good size, comfortable and quiet at a very decent price. You are served home made breakfasts every morning (a relief from the buffets you can have) by the lovely owners and we found it be to one of the best budget places we stayed in Asia.
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