Ten things to do for a taste of the real Ubud

Ubud is a cultural gem in central Bali. It’s renowned as the artistic heart of the island, but is also home to natural wonders and ancient sites. From the sprawling rice terraces and rainforests to the Hindu temples and yoga retreats, there’s something very special about this buzzing little town.

If you’re strapped for time in Ubud, here’s ten things to see and do in Ubud to make it feel like you’ve seen it all.

1. Tegallalang Rice Terrace

The first thing you’ll see when you Google ‘Ubud’ is the incredible Tegallalang Rice Terrace. The photogenic rice paddies are located about half an hour’s drive north from the town. There are countless guided tours available to explore the Rice Terrace, which are a great option if you want to schedule in a few places in a day, or want to learn about the history and have someone show you all the best photo-ops. To avoid the big crowds and the heat of the day, jump on a bike or hire a driver to get you there first thing in the morning (aim for sunrise for the most spectacular view). There’s no entry fee, but donations to the landowners are encouraged.

2. The Sacred Monkey forest

Home to over 700 monkeys, the Monkey Forest in Ubud is truly an unforgettable experience. There is an entrance fee of IDR 50,000 per adult ($5 AUD). You can buy bananas inside the forest to feed the monkeys yourself, or you can watch the handlers feed the monkeys at various times throughout the day. You can view and take photos of the temples, but visitors are not permitted to enter as they are used for prayer. Be sure to hold on to your belongings nice and tight and put away hats, water bottles and sunnies – the monkeys are very curious. My partner had his sunglasses taken right off his face!

3. Yoga Barn

A sprawling buzzing hub in downtown Ubud, the Yoga Barn is a large retreat centre with classes and sessions every day. From Tibetan sound healing to power yoga, there’s something for everyone of every level of experience (or inexperience). The enormous centre has cafés, spas and accommodation. They also host a variety of events and workshops so be sure to check the schedule before you head down.

4. Folk Pool and Gardens

Bali is notorious for its luxury and hospitality, and Folk Pool and Gardens embodies just that as Ubud’s first twilight pool cinema. The unique and beautiful restaurant is situated in the middle of town. Rent a cabana for the day, stay for a drink in the swim-up pool bar or dine in a tepee before the evening movie. They also host fun events throughout the year like karaoke nights and banquets.

5. Ubud art market

A bustling square opposite the Royal Ubud Palace, you may recognise the Ubud Art Market from the movie Eat Pray Love! It has some of the best artisanal retailers in town and most of the handicrafts and souvenirs are made locally. You’re likely to find unique items at art markets that aren’t usually available from other stallholders, so it’s a great place to grab some gifts. Get in early to avoid the large crowds (the markets usually operate from 6am to 6pm) and sharpen those bargaining skills.  

6. The Blanco Renaissance Museum

You don’t have to be a connoisseur of the arts to appreciate this breathtaking museum. Housing the artwork of one of the most celebrated artists to live in Bali, Don Antonio Blanco, his personal studio, the large grounds, statues, birds, temple and gardens are equally as stunning. The Blanco family even offer guided tours through the museum.

7. Walking tracks through rice fields and local villages

The large rice terraces definitely attract the most visitors, but Ubud has countless rice fields and traditional villages that provide a gorgeous backdrop for a scenic walk. The Sari Organic walk from town (towards the Sari Organic café) is an easy flat walk, and the views from the café are amazing. The walk is lined with shops and restaurants, or you can continue past the café for more of a hike. For something away from the main drag, take a bike to the village of Penestanan (about 4km out of town) and explore through the rural rice fields. For a relaxing walk, get out of town and visit Penglipuran Village. Enjoy a stroll through the exceptional Balinese village (voted one of the worlds’ cleanest) or organise a guided tour. If you’re unsure, ask a local about the best walks in and around town suited to what you’re looking for. 

8. Campuhan ridge walk

This gorgeous walk is best taken at dusk for some very instagrammable sunset pictures (although go a little earlier if you don’t like the crowds). The ridge walk is unlike many of the other popular tracks in Ubud as it takes you over the valley - instead of through the rice fields - showing off some impressive views. The walk itself is not overly difficult, however there are some steep parts and rocky surfaces so wear comfortable shoes. Begin at the entrance to Ibah Luxury Villas and follow the signs. The best part? There’s a café with fresh cold coconuts at the other end.

9.  Royal Ubud Palace

The palace and its temple are open to the public – well, the exteriors are as the local royal family still live there. View the beautiful gardens and the incredible architecture, or visit in the evening to see one of the dance performances (there’s usually a door charge for performances, but entrance to the grounds is free). Guides also tend to wander around and will happily answer any questions about the history of the palace.

10. Coffee plantations and a big swing

If you’re on a tour or have a driver during your time in Bali, there’s a good chance they’ll take you to one of the many coffee tastings and “big swing adventures” on your way in or out of Ubud. While the products in the gift shops and swing rides can be pricey, entry is free so it’s worth checking out. See the Luwak, learn about how they make their famous coffee, and enjoy free samples of tea and coffee that they make on site.

The quickest way to get your hands on a fresh cold coconut is with cash. Organise your Rupiah before heading off to Bali.1