Indonesian Archipelago consists of more than 16.000 islands among which, one of the most famous and the best known among foreigners, is Bali.
Even though the first association about Bali are infinite white sanded beaches, luxury resorts and relaxing bath and massages, Bali has lot of other things to offer: magnificent temples, lush jungles, rice terraces, volcano trails , beautiful waterfalls, amazing cultural heritage and a great cuisine.
Most of these you can find in Ubud – small town located some 30-40 km up north from the popular coastal towns.
No doubt that a beach resort in some of the coastal towns in Bali is a great choice if you want to relax and enjoy the beach, but, if you like being active, exploring and wandering, outdoors, nature, culture, animals… you might consider this amazing Balinese town.
Personally, Ubud is my favorite place in Bali – a place where we did so many amazing things in so little time and couldn`t even decide which one we liked the most.
In this text we will list the best places to visit and best things to do in Ubud and we hope it will help you to plan your Ubud trip or, at least, to inspire you.
1. Swing over the Rice Fields (or just walk) @Tegallalang Rice Terrace
2. Do a coffee and tea tasting tour @ Coffee plantation – Uma Pakel
3. Get lost among the temple shrines @Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
4. Monkey around @ Monkey Forest
5. Do the night trekking @Mt. Batur
6. Cool down @Tegenungan Waterfall
7. Get Purification Bath (or just watch it) @Tirta Empul Temple
8. Cook & Eat @ Cooking class & Food Market
9. Get the rhythm @Traditional dance at Ubud Palace
10. See the Floating Temple @Ulun Danu Beratan
1. Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Graduated terrace steps are commonly used in cultivating rice on a hilly or mountainous terrain and, as a growing method, used all around Asia.
One of those rice terraces is to be seen in Ubud within short driving distance from the Ubud center.
This one is very well maintained, magical in every sense and you should definitely not miss visiting it.
To arrive there, you can book a tour, go on your own by taxi or rent a scooter – any of these options will be relatively cheap and convenient.
Even though the rice terrace is on a hilly terrain with lots of ups and downs, it is still an easy walk as the place is not very big.
On the entrance to the rice terrace there are few bars and restaurants with the most amazing views on the terrace patties and slightly inflated prices but, if you are lazy to walk, you can enjoy the view from some of the bars without entering the rice terrace.
In case (that we absolutely recommend) that you want to enter the rice terrace, you can just walk around as there will be several paths leading to different directions up and down the small hills.
We absolutely loved the walk as the way the rice patties are maintained and shaped is just incredible and we have never seen anything similar before.
Small tip – if you can, avoid going around midday – we didn´t think too much so we made that mistake.
The temperatures are quiet high all the time but the midday sun will literally burn your sculp and your skin as you walk among the rice paddies.
In any case, before you enter to the actual rice terrace, you will see plenty of street sellers selling hats, umbrellas, refreshments so you could, at least, help yourself with these.
And yes, there is one of those internet-famous swings so you can make really cool photos and have some fun swinging over the rice fields.
We wanted to do it but it was just too crowded and we were impatient.
Small tip no.2 – you will have to pay entrance fee to enter the rice terraces. However, as you walk around (inside of the rice terraces), there are several desks positioned on the path crossing when you are crossing from one field to another.
As they are owned by different people, they are stationed on each crossing desk asking for a donation-based fee. You can give some change as a sign of gratitude for letting you pass.
These donations are not mandatory but they are desirable so you should better prepare some change before entering.
Cost → entrance to the Rice Terraces 15.000 IDR ≈ 1 euro
Location →Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Ubud, Bali
Time for Visit → 30 – 40 min
Opening Hours → 8 AM–6 PM
2. Coffee plantation
Nearby the Rice terrace there is another popular attraction, commonly recommended to visit after the Rice-terrace – Uma Pakel – Coffee.
Uma Pakel is a small coffee plantation located within the short distance from the abovementioned Rice Terrace.
Entrance to the Coffee Plantation is free (used to be in 2018 when we visited) as well as a short guided tour through the place and tasting of several different kinds of coffees and teas.
Normally, if you hire a driver to bring you to the Rice terrace, they will, as well, offer to bring you to the coffee plantation and wait for you until you finish the tour that normally won’t take you much more than half an hour.
Upon the entrance, you will be hosted by a polite guide who will show you around the place, explain some basic processes and invite you for a free tea and coffee tasting.
They will bring several mini-cups of different kinds of coffees and teas, explain what is what and also give you a list where you can write down your impressions and vote for your favorite taste.
The place also has a regular bar where you can order drinks other than coffee and tea and some snacks on your own cost of course.
There is also a small souvenir shop where you can buy some of the coffees or teas you like and bring it as a gift or for yourself when you are back home.
This purchase is absolutely not mandatory in any way, nobody is forcing you to buy anything or spend any money buuuut if you were already hosted, shown around, given a tour and some 7 cups of teas and coffees, well, it is kind of expected that you might want to buy at least a small thing in the gift shop and support the local production as well.
Interesting thing about this plantation is that here, as in many others all around Indonesia, they produce famous Luwak Coffee – known also as the most exotic=expensive coffee in the world.
Luwak coffee is not included in the free degustation but if you wish to try it you can order a cup for a little more than an average price of coffee cup anywhere in Europe.
If you would buy luwak coffe elsewhere, sure it would be a quite expensive cup of coffee. In Indonesia, as this is kind of national product, luwak coffee is just slightly more expensive than the regular one.
Luwak coffee is basically made of coffee seeds that traveled their way through the civet’s (animal) digestive system. After this animal eats, digests and poops these seeds, they are collected and this famous coffee is made.
The animal that is fed with something like coffee seeds is called Asian Palm Civet and looks something like a fox.
The process of getting the luwak coffee… well… sounds grous…tastes…well, how do you think animal`s poop can taste?
Why would you even want to try such a thing?
Not judging, because we did try it (without much thinking) and, looking back to that event, we are not so proud.
Now, this coffee may sound interesting and exotic buuuut, with the increment of tourism which also increments the interest for all that is exotic, unusual and different, production of luwak coffee also grows.
It would all be great if we were not speaking about these little animals that are, often enough being maltreated, kept in unhuman conditions and exploited for the production of the large amount of this coffee.
Apparently, these animals are being caught in the wild and sold for this purpose – in many cases it is illegal hunt of the animal and they are “put to work” in an inadequate condition.
We did visit this coffee plantation which, among other things (regular coffee and several types of teas), produce luwak coffee as well and we did try it out of curiosity.
However, after some further investigation on the topic, we realized that might not be a good idea to support.
However, again, the coffee plantation is more than worth of visit, beautifully maintained and seems to work in a legit condition.
Still, even though we did try the luwak coffee, we suggest to anyone to make their research first and then decide if they want to buy luwak coffee or not as it may include animal exploitation.
Apart from the coffee and tea experience, here you can also find another one of the famous swings where you can take some stunning photos.
We didn’t do it here neither (same reason – lot of people) but if you are looking for unusual and stunning places for taking photos, this swing is definitely the best place to be.
Swing is not for free but no so expensive neither.
All in all, Uma Pakel – yes, visit it, it’s interesting and fun. Trying and/or buying luwak coffee – get informed, investigate, think for yourself for a moment and then decide.
We think trying/buying luwak coffee is unnecessary (you or anyone else are not gonna like it anyway) and you don`t want to support possibly bad causes!
Cost → entrance and coffee and tea testing is free, swing costs not more than few euros
Location → Uma Pakel
Time for Visit → 30 – 40 min
Opening Hours → 8AM–7PM
3. Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
Goa Gajah is a complex consisting of a cave (commonly known as Elephant Cave) that is believed to be built as a place for meditation, a bathing temple surrounded with the beautiful park.
The complex has elements of both Buddhism and Hinduism so it is very interesting to see some of the most typical presentations of both beautifully composed together in one magical place.
The entrance to the cave is carved into a giant face with wide open mouth as a doorway where you pass through to enter a small cave.
Apart from the cave, you can see a bathing temple with 7 fountain statues representing 7 holly waters of India.
It is all set in a beautiful green oasis with lots of trees and flowers so you can have a nice relaxing walk enjoying calm environment.
As in other temples all around Bali, you are required to wear a sarong. If you don`t have it, you can borrow one at the entrance.
You can arrive to the place easily by hiring a motorbike or taxi ride since it is not long distance from Ubud center.
Cost → 15.000 INR ≈ 1 euro
Location → Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave)
Time for Visit → 15 – 30 min
Opening Hours → 8 AM–4.30 PM
4. Monkey Forest
This one was incredibly fun for us. Basically, it is a protected piece of forest where monkeys are living their best lives.
It`s a sanctuary and natural habitat of around 1000 Balinese long-tailed Macaca monkeys.
We heard many stories about Monkey Forest some of which quite worrying, but soon enough realized they were just a classical exaggerating.
Stories about aggressive monkeys, attacking and stealing literally everything – phones, earrings, sunglasses…even opening the backpacks and picking passports… oh, what a funny story.
I even remember a girl who we meet somewhere in Ubud who said she was not even considering visiting the Monkey Forest after all those stories heard.
Well, it is really a forest and there are really many monkeys – that’s true!
But the Monkey Forest is not just any forest with monkeys – it`s a protected place where the monkeys are taken care of, fed and treated with all the attention possibly needed.
It`s not a zoo, the monkeys are free and running all around so there is no physical boundary between the visitor and a monkey. There are people employed to feed them and take care of them.
So, the monkeys are not hungry and will not attack you in a desperate search for food!
Obviously, if you walk in with a bag of chips or any other food, they will feel free to just take it from you but they will certainly not steal your sun glasses or your earrings simply out of bad behavior.
That`s more of a myth.
Also, they are absolutely not aggressive. Unless you are aggressive to them.
Ok, would you consider aggressive if a stranger tries to touch you? Well, there we are.
Don`t try to pet the monkeys!
They are not aggressive but they are wild animals and they don`t know you. They might not like your affection.
And don`t eat inside of the park.
Other than that, no problems with the monkeys. They are adorable.
The place is huge so you can spend nice few hours walking around and enjoying beautiful jungle experience as you are having tons of laugh watching all those monkeying around.
One more note, do not feed monkeys (they are having lots of food around) and do not use flash with your camera (it will hurt their little eyes).
Cost → 80.000 INR ≈ 5.32 euros
Location → Monkey Forest
Time for Visit → 2 hours or more
Opening Hours → 8.30 AM–6 PM
5. Mt. Batur trekking
Mount Batur is an active volcano where you can still go trekking.
The most recent eruption was in 2000 but for now the volcano is quiet so many tours are organized and you can reach the top from where you will be rewarded with a spectacular view.
Trekking experience to Mountain Batur is part of the touristic offer of Ubud but also of the whole Bali since the tours are organized from many Balinese towns.
Usually, a sunrise tours are offered.
What that means?
– The tour operator will pick you up by bus or a van from your accommodation around 2 am or so.
– Somewhere along the way you will stop for a quick pancake breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee.
– After an hour or so you will arrive to the trekking starting point.
– There you will be given a hand lantern and introduced the plan of the excursion.
– A local guide will present him/her-self to the group and you will follow him/her all the way through the dark to the top.
– As this is normally a night trekking you should be super careful and attentive to the instruction from the guide.
– The dark is full dark – you will be able to see only a short distance of the path before you, lightened by your own lantern.
– The path is rocky and, in some parts, quite challenging so in case you are prone to panic attacks, in a poor physical condition or suffer any conditions that could require immediate attention, better avoid this tour (or at least get yourself really well informed before getting into it).
– Some parts of the path are easy, some more demanding but the tempo is quite fast as the main goal is to arrive to the exact point before the sun goes up.
– It`s a sunrise tour – you should be watching the sun going up lightening the day and a beautiful Batur Lake before your eyes.
So, hurry up, the group won’t wait for you!
In any case, even if you realize it`s getting too hard for you, there are 2 viewpoints – one that is the higher one and the main goal to achieve but also there is one earlier stop which is a nice viewpoint and, if you feel tired, you can stay at that one and not going all the way to the top.
You will meet with your group once they are on their way down.
We can say that, out of all the activities we did in Ubud, this was one of our favorites.
We both really enjoyed doing the night trekking, knowing that we are basically walking on the active volcano, watching the most spectacular sunrise and a beautiful Batur lake awakening from the dark.
Even though we could not recommend this tour more, and we encourage everyone to consider doing it, here are some good to know things and precautions to be taken into consideration:
- If you are in poor physical or mental condition (meaning that you have limited ability of movement, suffer any kind of physical pain when walking, bending your knees or jumping, have tendency to panic attacks, fear of height, fear of being in wild, isolated places where might be difficult to get an immediate attention or similar), get well informed before deciding if the tour is for you.
- If you decide to do it, be prepared to feel some difficulties and discomfort (some parts of the path are challenging)
- Wear comfortable shoes (if possible trekking shoes, if not, sneakers or any other closed footwear). Flip-flops, sandals, heals, platforms – don`t even think about it (it is physically impossible to do the tour in any of those)
- Wear long pants and some jacket (since it is night trekking on a mountain it will be quite chilly). Once you reach your sunrise point it will be really cold and you will regret not bringing something warmer so, bring something warmer (sweater, a cap, scarf…)
- You will be given some very simple food (boiled egg and slice of bread) but still there will be sold some snacks, coffee, tea, so you will have a chance to recover the energy.
- You can bring your food as well but don’t bring many things because it will just bother you on your way and the weight of your backpack will just slow you down and make you more tired (the trekking lasts several hours so don`t carry anything unnecessary).
- Tipping your guide is more than recommended and, in our opinion, the tip is well deserved.
While you are paying to the agency to bring you there and organize the trip, the agency is hiring local guides (people grown up and living in the village) who are often underpaid.
Since the whole region lives almost exclusively of tourism, exposing themselves to the daily risk of doing tours on the active volcano, is probably the best option they could get.
Give some tips if you are happy with the tour – your as little as few euros means lot to someone.
When we were looking for this tour, we were investigating about it a lot on internet. I remember seeing a lot of comments complaining of people about the difficulty of the route.
Also, I remember some 70 years old people were saying it was not too difficult at all.
All in all, it is all about attitude towards what is difficult and what not.
The route is not a piece of cake, not soooo difficult neither but again, it all depends on you.
If long trekking uphill in the dark, rocky and slippery road doesn’t sound inviting to you, don
t do it, youre not gonna like it!
If you love adventure, challenge (physical and mental) and don’t mind getting sweaty and dirty – go for it, doesn’t matter if you are in your 70-es, 80-es or 90-es.
We have seen both on the way – 20-something fit girls crying that they cannot walk more and also smiling and cheerful grannies going up as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
Important – the tour cannot be organized by yourself. Your only option is going with an organized tour or eventually, getting a private guide and having your own private tour.
That`s about all – Mt. Batur – sunrise trekking tour – do not miss it! Trust me!
Cost → between 40 and 50 euros per person (if you book on internet the price is fixed, if you book in person (anywhere in Ubud) you can negotiate the price. In the price it is normally included: transport from and to the hotel, breakfast and also a lunch box that you will bring with you while trekking, lantern, guide.
Location → Mt. Batur
Time for Visit → some 8-10 hours all together (from the pick up from the hotel until the drop of)
Opening Hours → volcano is always open
6. Tegenungan Waterfall
This waterfall is located some 10km from Ubud center and you can reach it by public transport, renting a motorbike or hiring a car/motorbike to bring you there.
Upon arrival you will have to walk what looks like a million stairs to reach the waterfall from the down part.
Once you are there you will enjoy a spectacular view of the waterfall, you will find some cool spots for photos and you can even enter to the natural pool under the waterfall and refresh yourself (it is quite shallow).
The water is really cold and it`s not that you can really swim, but you can at least get cooled down for a moment.
You can take a nice walk around and explore the surrounding area and enjoy the calm atmosphere.
Normally, it is quite crowded (as any other touristic place) but, anyways, worth of a visit especially if you are into waterfalls.
Around the parking area there are many food and drink stalls where you can buy some snacks and refreshment, public toilet and a restaurant as well.
Cost → 10.000 IDR ≈ 0.62 euros
Location → Tegenungan Waterfall
Time for Visit → from 30 min to couple of hours
Opening Hours → 6.30 AM – 6.30 PM
7. Tirta Empul Temple
Also known as Bali Water Temple it is, maybe, one of the most famous (among the visitors) temples in Bali.
It is located some 15 km from the center of Ubud and easily reachable by car or motorbike.
The temple complex is a national cultural heritage site built in the times of the Balinese kingdom around a holy mountain spring which gives a very special significance to this temple.
Also, the complex is a place where a traditional tale about good versus evil happens.
The most important part of the temple is a holy water spring around which the whole complex is built.
The spring is used for purification baths – both locals and foreigners are welcome to take part.
As a visitor, you will have an opportunity to see the beautifully maintained gardens and enjoy some peaceful walk around the fish pond, visit a bathing pools where you can either watch or take part in purification bath.
You will be given a sarong – one for taking a bath and another one to use while you are walking around.
As for the purification bath – part of us (Ignacio) did it, while another part (Ana) decided she doesn`t need one 🙂
The bath is supposed to be done after a solemn prayer by entering to the water and approaching to the water spouts from the 1st until the 11th spout.
With your hands pressed together you should place yourself under the water spout for a few seconds and then move to another one.
The last two spouts (from 11th to 13th) should be approached only in funerary rituals.
After that, you are purified. Whatever that means to you.
Be prepared for quite long queues of mostly tourists who are doing the bath.
The good thing is, if you are not sure how to do the bath, just copy what others are doing or, even better, consult some of the locals – they will be happy to explain.
Should the purification bath be a touristic thing? We are divided in this.
For some it might look as a good idea to experience and participate in some of the local practices.
For some, it may have a spiritual value.
Some just want to take photos.
And, eventually, some could think it is more respectful to just watch it without engaging yourself.
Whatever you decide you should always keep in mind that you are in a place that is holy and sacred to the locals. You should get informed about the behaving norms of the place and respect them.
Cost → 50.000 IDR ≈ 3 euros
Location → Tirta Empul Temple
Time for Visit → 2-3 hours
Opening Hours → 8 AM – 5 PM (Monday-Friday)
8. Food Market & Cooking Class
We just love taking cooking classes.
We are doing it always and we think it`s a great way to learn about local ingredients, pick up some cooking techniques and recipes and, of course, eat a home-made food.
Cooking class in Ubud was one of the best cooking classes we have ever had.
It looked something like this:
- early morning pick up at the accommodation
picking up other participants (group of some 10 – 15 people)
visit to the food market and groceries shopping with some explanation about what is what
entering to the outside facility equipped with stoves, individual cooking boards and everything else you need for cooking
introduction to your guides/chefs (several persons are guiding the whole class)
cooking part where you will be shown all the parts of the cooking process and preparation of several meals
you will be offered refreshments
after you cook, you will eat it all
drop of to your accommodation
The class is structured in a way that each participant get a personalized attention since several persons are involved in guiding the class.
Everyone has their own place and their own stove – everyone participates in each step of the cooking.
There are options for vegetarians and vegans.
At the end you will be given a printed copy of all the recipes used in the class.
If you are into cooking and eating this is a great way to use your time in Ubud and you will also have an opportunity to connect with other travelers.
Cost → from 320.000 IDR ≈ 20 euros to 1.122.048 IDR ≈ 70 euros (depends on the pack and on your negotiating skills)
Location → there are many, check in the tourist agencies in Ubud, ask in your accommodation or book online (the most expensive option)
Time for Visit → 4-6 hours
Opening Hours → normally classes are done starting from the early morning and last several hours
9. Traditional Balinese Dance at Ubud Palace
If you are into cultural performances, folklore and getting to know the traditional legends and stories, you cannot miss the Traditional Dance spectacle.
This performance is happening in Ubud Palace (Puri Saren Agung) every night and it is called Kecak Dance (also Barong Dance).
The dance tells the traditional story of the struggle between the good and evil.
You will have the opportunity to listen to the traditional melodies, see the incredible costumes and, of course, enjoy the unusual and unique dancing spectacle.
We`ve seen many comments about this activity some of which saying the dance/music is monotonous and boring at some point as it is very repetitive.
As anything else – it´s a matter of personal taste and we are not all the same.
We were absolutely hypnotized by the music, movements and the story behind it and we enjoyed every moment of the show in an ecstatic expectation of what comes next.
Therefore, our warmest recommendation to this show.
If you have your doubts weather it is a thing for you or not – take a look at this short video to see what you can expect and weather or not it might interest you.
As the seats are not numerated, make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the start so you can take good seats – it gets quite crowded so you might not catch a good spot.
Also, since it is happening outside, bring mosquito repellent.
Cost → 100.000 INR ≈ 6,22 euros
Location → Ubud Palace
Time for Visit → 1 hour
Opening Hours → 07:30 PM
10. Ulun Danu Beratan – temple
It is one of the most scenic temples in Bali and you have, probably, seen photos of it somewhere on the Internet.
Known also as Lake Temple or Floating Temple, it is located on the shores of lake Beratan – not really in Ubud.. not even so close.. but we did visit it as a one-day trip from Ubud therefore we are adding it to the list.
This temple is located some 45 km from Ubud and, if you hire a private driver you can be there in about hour and a half.
Even though it`s not so close, it is totally worth of the effort.
As the temple is built literally on the lake itself, it gives it an illusion of floating– and that´s basically how it became famous on Instagram.
Being located a bit up north and pretty high in the mountains, gives a great, refreshing climate.
However, some days can be quiet foggy, so check the weather forecast if you really want to be there on a sunny day.
The complex consists of several Hindu temples dedicated to different deities and done in typical Balinese architecture.
This one, as well as other typical Balinese temples, is characteristic by its beautiful, multi-tiered thatched roofs.
Except for the super cool appearance, these multi-tiered roofs are built this way for a very specific reason.
The number of roofs reflects the status of the deity to whom the temple is dedicated.
It goes between 3 and 11 roofs.
11-roofs temple (like this one) is usually dedicated to the highest gods of the Hindu pantheon, while 7 or 3-roofs-temples are dedicated to others, hierarchically lower positioned Hindu gods.
This temple is a 11-roofs’ one and it`s dedicated to Shiva – one of the principal deities of Hinduism, therefore, it has a high significance and it is one of the major Hindu temples in Bali.
The complex consists of several temples surrounded by a beautifully maintained park with lots of trees and flowers around.
You can enjoy a nice walk around the lake, even taking a paddle boat ride o rent a fishing gear if you want to try yourself in that.
Cost → from 50.000 0 IDR ≈ 3,11 euros
Location → Ulun Danu Beratan Temple
Time for Visit → 1-2 hours
Opening Hours → 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
How to organize and book any of these tours in Ubud?
Booking online before you arrival to Ubud (or Bali or Indonesia in general) will cost you more than if you just do it on the spot once you are in Ubud.
Good thing about any place in Indonesia (and Asian countries in general) is that you don`t really need to book anything in advance.
You can simply visit some of the many tourist agencies in the Ubud center and compare the prices and the packs. The agencies are many and you will easily bump into them by just walking around the center.
You can ask at your accommodation for the recommendation of the tours – normally, there you can get better discounts especially if you take more tours with the same agency.
Most of the agencies will offer all kind of different tours or will at least connect you with some acquintance who is doing the tour you want to take.
In any case, if booking more tours through the same person/agency you can get better prices.
Good thing about these ad-hoc bookings is that you can always negotiate the price and, if you are booking a private tour (a car that will bring you to the place, wait until you are done with sightseeing and bring you back to your accommodation) is that you can customize it as you prefer.
The cons are that you cannot be sure about the quality of the tour since there is no online reviews.
Good idea is maybe to ask for a personal recommendation from the fellow travelers who already did the tours.
Connecting with people you see around and asking for recommendation or joining some of the Facebook groups where personal recommendations are shared.
In our case these worked just fine during our Asian trips and turned out to be a better solution than booking online in advance.
These are just some of interesting (best, in our opinion) things you can do in Ubud. Hope we inspired you and helped you to prepare for your trip Bali trip.
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