Consider yourself more of a traveler and less of a tourist? Want to immerse yourself in the arts, crafts and culture of Bali? Then Ubud is a must-stop on your adventures.
For many, Ubud is considered the cultural home of Bali, and is the literal home of one of the Balinese Royal Families. The town is surrounded by workshops specializing in wood carving, silver smiths, textiles and art. My personal favourite, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is also in Ubud. This town has plenty to see, more to buy and amazing foods to eat. The main streets are full of restaurants and bars serving food from around the globe. There are art studios, antique shops and clothing stores on every street. It is a bustling town of sights and cafes meant to be explored.
From art galleries to running tracks, this post will be your guide to this amazing town.
There is a lot to see on your way from Kuta to Ubud, even though the trip is only about an hour and 20 minutes by car. We would suggest booking a car, and a guide, via Get Your Guide. That way you can make a few stops along the way. Our guides have been invaluable with ideas on where to stop, and giving us background knowledge about the places we were seeing. They also know where to pay, and how much to pay for things. Travelling up from Kuta, we have stopped at the local Barong Dances, at silver smiths and wood carvers . We even stopped at Mount Batur for lunch with a view on our first trip from Kuta to Ubud. Although it is easily possible to do so from Ubud, we also stopped at the rice terraces and coffee plantations on our way to Ubud.
Where to stay in Ubud
We have stayed in the touristy Bisma street during both our stays in Ubud. Bisma street runs straight into the main street of Raya Ubud on end. Along Raya Ubud you will find a lot of Ubud’s main attractions, from the market place, shops and cafes, to museums and galleries to Barong dances and temples. On the other end of Bisma street you will find the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, and needless to say, a lot of monkeys.
Bisma street itself is full of hotels, cottages and different places to stay, eat, shop and have a massage. In between different business ventures, you may find yourself looking out on a rice paddy, or a beautifully carved statue. The street is almost permanently full of people and you can access a lot of Ubud with a walk from Bisma street.
If Bisma street is too touristy for your liking, there are a host of hostels and B & B’s in Ubud. I would recommend being careful about checking the list of amenities when choosing a hostel. There are a great many hostel signs that proudly display ‘hot water’ as an important feature.
Shop ’til you drop
Most of what you will find in other places in Bali are actually made in Ubud. You will find big trends such as macrame wall hangings and carved panels at a fraction of the price in Ubud. Not to mention carved statues and table linens. As crochet items have become more popular in recent years, you will find crochet table runners and all kinds of different household decor items in Ubud.
You can find your tourist t-shirt here, beach towels, and dresses. I have bought cute dresses and pants for between 40 000 and 10 000 Rupiah in different shops. A good prices for a t-shirt is between 20 000 and 40 000 Rupiah. They have a big variety of open back dresses, cute play suites and funky sandals.
In the market there are two rules:
- Look at the prices before you want to buy something, so that you know what you are willing to pay. Then you can negotiate. In essence, a few minutes of research can save you a lot.
- Never, ever, ever buy close to the entrance of a market. The prices are ALWAYS more expensive. Walk through the market, and ask for prices on the same items at other stalls (you will find the same things everywhere) and then negotiate. And negotiate hard. If an opening bid starts at 150 000 Rupiah you can usually get it down to 40 000 without too much hassle.
What I recommend buying
They have beautiful silk dresses in Ubud. The designs are relatively simple, but the fabrics are stunning. Whenever I wear my silk dresses I get complimented on them. Between 200 000 and 300 000 Rupiah is a fare price.
Look for art. There are some wonderful paintings in Ubud by local artists. There are also beautiful wooden statues and wall panels. If you are more of an art snob, such as myself, and you don’t want something like everyone else has, shop around a little and see what the popular subject matter is. Then choose something entirely different. If that isn’t your thing, go for what ever tickles your fancy. Just remember that you will have to frame that canvass when you get back home.
Something for your house. We bought cute wooden soap dishes while we were on honeymoon. We also brought home table runners and beautiful place mats on our first trip. Friends bought home stunning woven nested storage boxes that are both pretty and practical.
Remember the teas and coffee. You will not find Kopie Luwak at a better price than while you are in Bali. If you buy the beans, they will last longer if you want to keep some coffee for later.
Ok, so now you’ve finished shopping
The museum Puri Lakisan is on the main road. Last time our entree fee included a free iced coffee in their beautiful gardens. There is a lot of local art, and you can learn a lot of the history of Bali and how their art changed and evolved over time here. The art is beautiful, and the gardens are stunning. Along the same road you can see and visit different temples, such as the Ubud Water Palace and the Pura Taman Saraswati.
The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Just off Bisma road you can find The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. This has to be one of my favourite stops in Bali. Here you can take a long walk through the forest, and see many, many monkeys. It’s an amazing way to spend the morning, and a lot of fun. You can purchase bananas before hand, or while in the forest, and the monkeys will jump and take them from you.
Just a few general tips, where nothing with beads, bling or anything they can grab. I wore tiny stud earrings, on purpose, and a monkey still went for my head. So keep your cameras and phones close at hand, leave the bling at home and keep your sunglasses and wallets safely stowed in your backpack or handbag.
If you have a water bottle with you, they will try and take it from you. After a monkey bit a hole in the bottle I was carrying I gave it to Mauritz. A monkey literally jumped on him to get to the water, so Mauritz decided to let the fellow have a drink.
If a monkey does jump on you, just stay calm, but remember that you are the dominant one. There are a lot of staff on hand to help out too.
If you want to go for a run or a walk with a view, I would suggest the Capuhan Ridge Walk. It’s a challenging run with splendid views. There are many who walk themselves and their dogs here, and it is a lot of fun.
If you rent a scooter (which costs about 75 000 Rupiah a day) you can easily travel to the outskirts of Ubud and see a whole lot more. From the outskirts of Ubud you can visit the rice paddies, as well as the small towns were the artisans work.
The Elephant Cave
Just outside Ubud, you can find Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave. This historic site was once a place of meditation, and is filled with beautiful carvings and gardens. Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th century, and the artifacts are even older. There is no need to buy a sarong on your way in, one will be provided with the cost of your ticket (which is quite low).
Holy Spring Water Temple
Tirta Empul, in the village of Tampak Siring, attracts locals as well as tourists. The spring waters in the temple are considered holy and are used in Hindu rituals. Hence, the water is a strong design and architectural feature throughout the temple. This makes it something completely different from other temples in Bali. The temple is beautiful and is worth the drive out of Ubud to see it.
Kopu Luwak has become a popular specialty coffee world wide. The coffee is produced by the using coffee beans once they have been digested by luwaks. The civet like animals eat the ripe berries of coffee plants. Once they have digested these berries, the beans are collected, washed thoroughly. Very thoroughly. Then roasted and ground into coffee – a process demonstrated by various coffee plantations. Although there can be no doubt that coffee plantations that produce Kopi Luwak are very popular, the practices have become unethical. For more information on ethical plantations and Kopi Luwak coffee you can CLICK HERE.
When it comes to Kopi Luwak, pay more and go for the “free-range” version, where the luwaks (a type of civet) can roam free and eat the coffee beans as they please. I would encourage responsible tourism, so please don’t support plantations where you can see unhappy caged luwaks. Our tour guide informed us, that according to the law in Bali luwaks are not allowed to be caged for the education of tourists for more than 24 hours at a time. How true this is, or how much the law is implemented I’m not sure of. If you are using a guide, do ask to go to a plantation that is cruelty free and do a little homework before you head out.
The Butterfly Park
Our guide recommended taking the time to see the butterflies while we were in Ubud. We did not have the time to fit in all the activities that we wanted to do. So we decided to leave that one for next time. Apparently, it is beautiful. In a country where orchids literally grow on trees it must be a special experience.
Let me know if you have any favourite spots in Ubud that I didn’t get to see. And if you enjoyed this post on Bali, CLICK HERE for our posts on Kuta or CLICK HERE to see why Bali should be on your travel bucket list.