If you’ve decided to go to Bali, you’ve probably already decided to pencil in a visit to Ubud to check out those STUNNING rice fields.
If you have, GREAT! If you haven’t, well, I’ll let this post convince you. I’m listing out my favourite things to check out in Ubud, plus a few more that I’d wished I’d done.
Ubud is a brilliant emerald set into the treasure that is Bali. Lush fields of paddy swaying in the wind, glinting under the golden rays of the sun.. Gorgeous, gushing waterfalls that toss rainbows in iridescent sparkles.. A dollop of culture thrown straight at you, be it a temple or a dancer performance.. Fresh, organic produce that invites you to indulge in the finest preparations that delight your tastebuds with every single bite.. Smiles from strangers and unending conversation as you meet the friendliest locals, and a multitude of travellers.. Ubud is a dream, and no amount of time you spend here will be enough. I mean, if I were to go back, I’d stay on for 6 months or so and never get sick of it, because when I left, I felt like I had found another home to come back to.
I’m not giving you an itinerary this time. I’m not even going to tell you ‘how many days to spend in Ubud’. That’s up to you. Spend 2, or 10, or 30, or 100. I’m going to tell you what I fell in love with, and hope that you decide to go ahead and fall in love with them too!
- Tegallalang Rice Terraces
So Instagrammed, but rightfully so. These terraces are deemed a UNESCO Heritage Site. You could almost miss them if you don’t know where to look, because they’re right off the main road! The easiest way to get here is to hop on to a scooter and drive north. It’s about half an hour away early in the morning.
I’d advise getting here as early as you can, for two reasons. Firstly, it can get really crowded during the day, it is quite a tourist hotspot. And secondly, sunrise is a beautiful time to see the fields, with the shafts of sunlight filtering in through the tall trees and drenching the emerald terraces in a golden glow.
I’d read that you need to pay a small donation to enter, but I don’t know if it was because I reached at 7AM that I didn’t pay at all.
There are a few tourist traps here, like the all-famous swing. It costs about IDR 150,000 to go on, and I gave it a miss, but it looked like a lot of fun. The famous ‘I Love Bali’ sign is set up at one point, as is a little hammock. It’s a fun idea to simply walk around the terraces and see what it has to offer. And need I mention it makes for some great pictures too?
2. Campuhan Ridge Walk
This is a picturesque hike of sorts in Ubud which leads to an expanse of rice fields. It’s a lovely paved road surrounded by greenery, and trust me when I say it’s pretty wherever you look. You’ll pass a little bamboo swing as well, which, again, makes for a bit of fun and some cool pictures. I walked up till Karsa Kafe, which opens out into an expanse of shimmering rice fields. Grab a fresh coconut and take in those stunning views.
You’d be better off starting early to avoid the sun and bumping into too many tourists, or late evening.
3. Tukad Cepung Waterfall
One of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. It involves a steep downhill hike and then going into a cave, because that’s where you’ll find the water gushing. You also want to go at the right time (try early morning, lol) because that’s when the sun rays create ART. I went around noon, so the light was definitely harsher, but I did manage to catch a shaft of light right before entering the cave, look!
You can do this the same day as Tegallalang if you’re okay going during the day. It’s a little far, but go the extra mile (literally) if you want to check out one of the most stunning falls around.
4. Kanto Lampo Waterfall
This one is a short, wide waterfall, and it looks like diamonds raining down. It’s a tad more popular than Tukad Cepung, so it’s a tad more crowded. There’s an unspoken kind of understand though, if you clamber up into the falls for a picture, everyone will wait 😀
5. Tirta Empul Tampak Siring
The Holy Water Springs Temple. It’s located 15 minutes from Tegallalang. The complex of the temple itself is beautiful, with signature doorways and an open sanctum. It’s a peaceful place to come, pray, and experience the local traditions of Balinese Hindus. It is said if you take a dip in the water, you will be cleansed of your sins. Anyone wanting to give it a shot?
6. Besakih Temple Complex
The largest Hindu temple complex in Bali, and known as the Mother Temple of Bali, it is perched on the slopes of Mount Agung and houses 23 temples. You can see the mountain rising in the backdrop, and it makes for a beautiful view at sunset.
You need to carry an offering and be accompanied by a local guide if you seek entry to the main sanctum of the temple, as per custom. Don’t go in without one, it’s considered offensive. Respect traditions and customs, y’all!
7. Mt. Agung Sunrise Hike
This is considered one of the most strenuous treks in Bali. Do it if you’re in decent shape and are a bit of an adrenaline junkie. You’ll have to start at 2:30 AM and start scrambling up the steep ascent to get to the summit in time for sunrise. It is advisable to take a guide with you.
I didn’t do this, but here are the resources I read up from –
8. Mt. Batur Sunrise Hike
Said to be a little easier than trekking up to Mt. Agung, a 2-hour trek as opposed to 5. You’ll need to get out by 3:30 or so to make it in time for sunrise. Here are a few pieces you could read for a better idea on getting to Batur.
9. Sacred Monkey Forest
Located in the heart of Ubud, the Sacred Monkey Forest is home to, you guessed it, hundreds of monkeys. It is primarily a Hindu temple complex which believes in certain philosophies that you should go there and learn about. There are 3 main temples enclosed within the complex, one for Lord Shiva, a holy spring temple for Goddess Ganga, and one for Prajapati. The monkeys here appear to be used to tourists visiting, so unless you pester them or offer them food, or flaunt your food, they won’t come after you and will behave as naturally as you would in your home. The baby monkeys are especially cute, with their tiny features and the way they cling on to their mums!
10. Ubud Palace
This is situated on the main road in the centre of Ubud. This is a must-visit if you want to experience Balinese cultures and traditions first-hand. Try going in the evening, around 6 or so, because there’s a traditional dance performance that starts at 7. It gets so crowded that you won’t find space ahead if you don’t go early, so it’s probably a good idea to drop by around 6.
11. Eat Organic
Ubud is peppered with cafes and restaurants serving up organic superfoods and smoothies. I was ecstatic, because it meant not having to cheat even a single day, and not even compromising on taste. Habitat Cafe right outside the Sacred Monkey Forest has some AMAZING smoothies on the menu, I wanted them ALL. Kismet Cafe has DELICIOUS food, their organic bowls are to die for. Here’s the link to the guide I checked out before going – http://www.ladyironchef.com/2017/04/bali-ubud-best-cafes/
12. Try a cooking class / dance class
There are SO MANY classes in Ubud teaching you how to prepare Indonesian food, or learn a little bit of the traditional dance form! It’s a great way to start absorbing the culture and bring some of it back with you. I WISH I’d had the time for a cooking class, because I fell in love with Indonesian food so much that I’m missing it right now! I used this post as a reference to find classes, I’m pretty sure it will help you too – http://www.ladyironchef.com/2016/05/bali-cooking-clases/
A couple of things I won’t recommend
1. Tegenungan Waterfall
It’s really not as fancy as everyone makes it out to be. It’s brown, overcrowded, and too commercial. And since it’s been hyped so much, it really disappointed me when I actually saw it.
2. Yoga Barn
So this is my personal opinion. If you want to go to Ubud to get a yoga class in, that’s entirely your choice; it’s just not something I would invest time in. I’m happy to do some yoga by a beach somewhere instead.
Where to Stay
I stayed at a hostel called Griya Sugriwa, which was 10 mins walking to the city centre. The hostel itself was super comfy and clean, the staff really sweet. They have a free breakfast, but I never tried it because I just left way too early in the morning everyday! They also had a superfood cafe next door, and I got a 50% discount on lunch because I was staying with them. So basically, one amazingly delicious and filling superfood bowl cost me IDR 15000, which roughly converts to INR 75, or 1 Euro. Is that amazing, or what?!
Accommodation in Bali is fairly cheap, and you’ll find Airbnb’s, hostels, even hotels at real cheap rates. Ubud, I found, is cheaper than Kuta or Seminyak or Canggu. Just try staying as close to the centre of the city as possible, because that’s where all the shopping, cafes and crowds are!
Ubud can easily be a second home to me, and I’m pretty sure I’m going back there sometime soon. I hope you now have a fair idea of what you’d like to do when you’re there, and if you think there’s an experience I’ve missed out, or should definitely try the next time, drop a comment!