Nestled amongst the lush jungles of Bali, Ubud is blend of culture, nature and adventure. With a lively night scene, rice terraces, tropical jungles, yoga retreats, temples and MANY monkeys, Ubud is a must-do when in Bali. The rich culture, natural beauty and spiritual allure has made Ubud a top destination in Bali, so prepare for it to be crowded! My top recommendations would be to visit the incredible rice terraces in Tegalalang, walk along the Campuhan Ridge, visit the monkeys in the Sacred Forest and take part in the yoga and wellness side of Ubud. In this post, we’ll explore the best things to do in Ubud and why it’s the perfect all-round destination in Bali.
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Among the most recognisable images of Bali, is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. If you’ve seen photos of Ubud, you would have likely seen the classic monkey selfies or heard people having to chase after their sunglasses. These are all typical scenes found in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. Located in Padangtegal, just South of Ubud’s main hub, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is home to over 700 long-tailed macaques, beautiful temples and stunning forests.
Given how tame the monkeys are, the Sacred Monkey Forest isn’t a place for relaxation. Both times I’ve gone, it’s been chaotic! With monkeys running around the place, trying to steal stuff off you. I was also unable to walk peacefully near the forest as the monkeys roam around the nearby streets, grabbing things off passer-bys. However, it’s definitely a unique chance to be up close to these beautiful creatures and see some lush greenery.
The Monkey Forest is open from 8:30am – 6pm every day and costs 80,000 IDR. It’s a hard one to recommend, because it’s a stunning place to visit, but there is a fair amount of abuse and scams going on here. Don’t engage with people trying to get you to hold the monkeys or get you to pose with them.
Rice Fields and Rice Terraces
Bali is home to some of the world’s most beautiful rice fields, with many found in Ubud. The most famous rice field in Ubud is the Tegalalang Rice Field. You’ll find Tegalalang in the heart of Ubud, famously recognised for its incredibly picturesque rice terraces that cascade down the hillsides. These iconic rice fields have become a symbol for Ubud and are a must see when staying in Ubud. My favourite thing about visiting these rice fields in particular was learning about the impressive irrigation system that helps sustain these fields and the engineering and labour that’s involved with shaping the landscape. As it’s such a popular spot in Ubud, it does get busy!
If you want to avoid the typical crowds at the Tegalalang Rice Terrace, I suggest you get there early! If you’re looking for a less touristic option, that will still wow you, consider going to the Penestanan Rice Field Walk instead. The 1.5km out and back walk is flat and mostly paved. You’ll be treated to incredible views of rice fields without the crowds.
Unfortunately, many rice fields across Bali have been destroyed to make space to accommodate tourists with new hotels, restaurants and bars. I was shocked at how many rice fields had been destroyed and built over between my first trip to Bali in September 2018 and my most recent in November 2022. Definitely the saddest part of going to Ubud, and Bali in general, was how developed and overcrowded it was.
Ubud Art Market
The Ubud Markets are a great respite from a few days of seeing the main sights the town has to offer. The markets offer a vibrant and busy shopping experience, with everything from hand-carved woodwork, jewellery, textiles, souvenirs, shoes, clothes, bags and more! An array of local products that make for a perfect keepsake or a gift for back home. It can get quite congested and hectic with all the haggling! When I went to Ubud un November 2022, the market had been closed for reconstruction, with a smaller version held temporarily over the road. I bought a few cute dresses and sandals when I visited Ubud in 2019, so I’m hoping the market is back in action for my 2024 trip!
Relax at a Spa
Choose to relax, unwind and rejuvenate at one of the many spas in Ubud. The town is well known for its traditional Balinese healing practices and holistic wellness experiences. The Balinese massage is a very popular treatment, comprising of acupressure and aromatherapy to promote healing.
Another popular spa treatment in Ubud is a Flower Bath. As the name suggests, you relax in a tub filled with fragrant flowers. There are a number of places to choose from, but arguably the most famous Flower Bath is held at the Udaya.
Whether you’re looking for a spa treatment, pamper day or a whole week of relaxation, there is something for everyone and every budget in Ubud.
The Campuhan Ridge Walk
One of my favourite things to do in Ubud, is to hike the Campuhan Ridge Walk. This 2.4mile out-and-back trail is easily accessible by foot from Ubud’s centre and is a fantastic place to get away from the traffic and noise of the town. I’ve done the Campuhan Ridge Walk a number of times, at various points during the day. Although it can get hot during midday, it’s really doable to hike this at any time. If anything, early in the morning was quite busy!
The starting point is by Ibah Luxury Villas & Spas. You’ll find a path that will lead you to the Campuhan Ridge Walk. It’s worth noting that there’s free parking by the entrance if you’re coming by bike or car. There is no entrance fee for the Campuhan Ridge Walk itself either.
The Ubud Swing has become incredibly popular over the years, for adrenaline junkies and Instagram ‘influencers’ alike. Hanging from a palm tree, the Ubud Swing offers some incredible views of the surrounding rice fields and jungles.
I’m terrified of heights, so I sat this one out and was the dutiful bag-holder for the rest of my group. The queues were long, and it’s a very ‘Instagram vs reality’ moment as it appears to be a secluded spot….it’s definitely not. This is something you can have fun at, but you can definitely have an amazing time in Ubud without visiting here. However, if you’re looking to get the iconic shots in Ubud, head over here…first thing in the morning if possible.
There’s an entrance fee, which will depend on the package you choose. Prices start at $10 USD for the basic entry and go up to $35 USD.
As with many tourist attractions in Ubud, your best way to get to the Ubud Swing is by taxi, hired driver or rented scooter. It’s about 20 minutes from the centre of Ubud but not walkable given the road quality. There aren’t many other attractions in the immediate vicinity, so you’ll have to head back towards town if you want to do something like the Tegalalang Rice Terrace or the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary.
Balinese Cooking Classes
If you’ve had enough of the traditional tourist places, consider signing up to a Balinese or Indonesian cooking class. There are a number to choose from and they range from private sessions to large group classes. Not only is this a great way to meet other people, but you’ll get to try authentic balinese cuisines. I chose one that included a market tour too, so we could pick out our ingredients!
We were recommended Casa Luna Bali, however, there will be plenty of options on TripAdvisor and ViaTour for you to choose from.
Yoga and Wellness Retreats
Ubud is famous for its yoga and many retreats. If you’re looking to embark on a spiritual journey, or just escape from the chaos that is Ubud, there are plenty of options available.
The Yoga Barn is a popular place to take yoga and meditation classes, with daily classes, workshops and healing sessions. Radiantly Alive is another favourite in Ubud, known for its diverse range of yoga styles and wellness programs.
There’s also the Bali Spirit Festival, an annual gathering of yogis from around the world. The serene surroundings and rich spiritual heritage of Ubud make for an idyllic destination for rejuvenation and relaxation. You’ll also find it’s a great place to meet people if you’re going to be based in Ubud longer term.
Goa Gajah Cave
Th Goa Gajah Cave, otherwise know as the Elephant Cave, is a stunning archaeological site located just outside of central Ubud, in Bedulu Village. If you have the time, and transportation means, it’s definitely worth checking out! The Elephant Cave is a archaeological site, dating back to the 9th century. You’ll find a series of intricate stone carvings of deities, mythological creatures and faces around the cave. Nearby is a beautiful little waterfall and bathing area. Over the years, the Elephant Cave has been partially destroyed by earthquakes.
Given that it’s a temple area, it imperative that you respect the culture and cover your knees and chest before entering the caves. This applies to both men and women. The entrance fee was 50k and that included a sarong to cover up if you’re caught short. To note, there were quiet a few stairs to climb, so this is best done outside of peak heat.
Ubud Travel Itinerary
What you do in Ubud will depend on your budget, interests and how long you have there. The good thing is most places are a short walk or scooter ride away, meaning you can do most of the key sights in a few days.
Typically asked questions around travelling in Ubud:
How to Get to Ubud
Ubud is location about 40km away from Ngurah Rai International Airport. Public transport is vey limited, so it’s likely you’ll get a taxi or a pre-arranged service to Ubud. There are the blue taxis that will be waiting outside the airport. Otherwise, download Grab and order a taxi from that.
If you’re travelling light – i.e. a small backpack – I’d strongly urge you to book a taxi scooter. Typically your bag can be kept between the drivers’s legs or on your back. This will not only save money but will be considerably quicker than taxi cars. The road quality in Bali isn’t good, and with the limited public transport, it gets very congested. Average journey time in a car should be 1.5 hours…last time took me nearly 3.
Getting public transport from Ngurah Rai International Airport to Ubud requires you to walk a short way to catch the K2B bus to Gor Ngurah Rai. From there, you’ll need to change to catch the K4B bus to Puri Ubud. Average journey time for this is 2-3 hours. This is the only place I’ve been too where I’d strongly suggest a taxi over public transport.
How to Travel Around Ubud
As with the majority of Bali, Ubud doesn’t have great public transport. The easiest way to get around Ubud is via scooter – either renting your own or taking a Grab scooter. Taxis are also common but more expensive and take a lot longer with traffic. For short journeys, book your taxi through Grab. For longer journeys, for example, Ubud to Canggu, I’ve had the best service and price from asking for recommendations in expat Facebook groups. Alternatively, your accommodation and tourist stalls in Ubud have taxis available – these will be much more expensive.
Do You Need a Visa for Ubud?
In short, yes! If you’re entering Bali, you’ll need a visa. I’ve written a post on the Visa on Arrival and new E-VOA. I will be going back to Bali on a 6 month work visa in 2024, so will provide an update on that digital nomad visa process.