Ubud, Bali – a place I initially thought of as an iconic landscape of terraced rice paddies, lush rainforests where Eat Pray Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert biked and found love and a yoga hotspot for fellow yogis – was actually so much more than I had imagined. Ubud, although touristy, has a sense of traditional Balinese customs, religion and dance and is rich with culture. This is a place you do not want to miss if you’re planning a trip to Bali. Here is a guide on what to experience, places to see, where to eat and stay when visiting Ubud!
Hiking Mount Batur is one of those one-in-a-lifetime experiences that I urge every traveler in Bali to experience the magic of Mount Batur. Although the hike itself was a challenge and waking up at 2 o’clock in the morning a struggle, there was nothing more magical than hiking up a steep mountain with nothing but a flashlight to discover a colorful sunrise at the top. Talk about a magnificent way to bring in a new day!
Plus, the monkeys living atop of the active volcano are pretty darn cute. 🙂 A local guide is required to climb the mountain and tours can be booked through your accommodation or at tourist stands around Ubud (which is what I did!) and include hotel transfers, breakfast and a guided hike up the mountain.
With Ubud being a known hotspot amongst yogis and spiritual-minded travelers, it would be crimminal not to explore a yoga class while in Ubud! The most popular yoga studio in Ubud is The Yoga Barn, and not only do they offer a ton of yoga classes daily, but they also offer meditation classes, Tibetan Bowl + Crystal Bowl meditation, dance, as well as free events (yes. I said FREE!) like movie nights, free yoga classes, health + self-love talks, and astrology classes. The Yoga Barn is also a great place to try a yoga class as they accommodate for all skill levels.
While exploring Bali, you will come across a heartbreaking amount of homeless dogs. If you’re a animal-lover like I am and planning to be in Ubud longer than a week, there is no better way to help the animals than volunteering! You can visit the Bali Animal Welfare Association office in central Ubud or check out their website to sign up as a volunteer. Make sure that you are all caught up on your shots and please – if you see a homeless dog in dire need of water or help, pick up a water container and a bottle of water or some tick medicine at the local pet shop, and give your friend some love! The Balinese government is not very fond of dogs and often poisons or shoots them to control rabies from spreading. We need tourists to be aware of their practices and show the Balinese how much dogs are loved and appreciated – vaccinations can do wonders!
If there is one thing Ubud is known for, it would have to be its pristine, emerald and lush rice fields. Whilst you’ll find dazzling rice fields scattered all around the area, Tegalalang does make for a good place to experience the magic. Note: there are scattered wooden huts along the rice fields that the local Balinese charge to explore the fields. It is a scam, and you do not need to pay to walk along the rice fields. Although, if you want to donate a few rupiah in good spirits, you can always do that! But there are 4-6 of them, so keep that in mind if you want to explore the entire area.
In my home country of the USA, massages can be quite costly. Not here in Bali! A typical full body massage is typically around $8 for one hour. With the plenty of affordable massage parlors and nail salons, it would be silly not to indulge in a few after a long day of hiking and yoga.
I’ve explored quite a few monkey forests in my life, but none of them come close to the Ubud Monkey Forest! If you want to get up close and personal with these apes, this is the place to do it! Be warned though- secure all your loose items before coming here. These monkeys like to steal wallets, rings, cameras, and basically anything they can get their tiny hands on. I observed several monkeys steal mosquito repellent, water bottles, and even a chocolate bar – in which they proceeded to unwrap and eat. You can purchase a bag of bananas in the forest, if you’re brave enough, and the monkeys will jump on top of you and grab them out of your hand.
The Balinese are big believers in the sacred holiness of water. So much so that their is even a temple devoted to it! Tirtra Empul Temple in Ubud is popular – and crowded. To properly give a prayer, state your wish, thank your Gods, and rub your hands in the fountain water, splashing water on your head no more than 2 times. I found it was cheaper to hire a local guide to drive me to several temples and the massive Tegenungan waterfall; you’ll get a local’s perspective and learn quite a bit of history and customs for an affordable price!
Known as the “Elephant Cave”, Goa Gajah’s key attraction is the menacing entrance to the cave.
The interior of the cave features a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha and a worship area devoted to the Hindu god Shiva. Goa Gajah dates back to the 11th century and there are a few colorful lilly ponds and a local trail leading to the forest behind the temple.
Hidden from the main street and tucked away behind hotels, trees and bridges is Campuhan Ridge Walk. A stunning trail through fields, lush forests and quaint towns in which I only discovered after asking a local Balinese friend. You won’t find any tourists here – only local Balinese people and fellow photographers looking to capture the gorgeous fading sun as it drifts behind the towering palm trees.
Bali’s “Valley of the Kings” is located in a ravine between rice fields near Tampaksiring and the cliffs flanking the river feature shrines carved into the stone honoring kings and queens from the 11th century. Although I hear the most magnificent temples are in Uluwatu, I found this temple to be the most interesting and mesmerizing. Keep in mind, you’ll need a scarf or shawl to cover your knees out of respect to enter most temples in Bali.
Located on the busy side-street of Ubud, Warung Baih Baih is colorfully lit and offers plenty of authentic Indonesian dishes and aesthetically places them on green leaves and woven straw baskets. There are so many flavorful and pungent dishes that I came back many times to discover new vegetarian dishes.
The beautifully designed Clear Cafe offers an extensive menu of vegan, vegetarian, local Indonesian, and other Asian cuisines. From the minute you step through the circular stone doorway and past the fish-filled pond, it’s a paradise of a cafe. Creatively designed, the spiral staircase, flower-petaled steps, and climbing pole add unique bursts of
Down to Earth café and store is a popular chain in Bali that offers a vast selection of vegetarian/ vegan meals and treats, it is the perfect place to come for your health-food fix. I enjoyed their Mediterranean platter- with falafel and tasty side dishes as well as their freshly squeezed juices. If it’s a gorgeous day in Ubud, be sure to check out upstairs and sit on the top deck above the market!
A local spot, I was recommended Fussy Bird by several locals and expats who regularly eat at this Indonesian outdoor cafe. For an affordable price, you can sit above the rooftop terrace among the lush trees and eat filling Indonesian dishes for super cheap! They also have a ton of vegan raw treats downstairs. I visited here often while staying in Ubud, and it did not disappoint. Be aware – it’s cash only!
The Elephant is a hidden gem, located away from the main tourist street of Ubud. But once you step inside, you’ll be transported to a magical paradise with comfy couches and swings overlooking lush paddy fields, towering palm trees and a fantastic brunch menu. I sat overlooking the rice fields eating their famous avocado toast, corn fritters and sipping their green juice. Every local I met in Bali recommended I visit The Elephant, and I’m so glad I experienced it!
Because I’m such a foodie and I can’t limit my favorite food spots to just a few, I also must recommend Warung Laba Laba (for cheap Indonesian dishes), Soma (for vegan and vegetarian cusines), Kebun Bistro (for the best Italian food….like legit Italian.) and Caramel Patisserie and Cafe for the yummiest desserts (I stopped here almost every other day to devour their amazing sugar-free chocolate mousse…and I am a chocolate mousse connoisseur!)
All of my accommodation was booked via the Airbnb app, and the Bamboo Bird’s Nest was one of the most unique and interesting places I’ve stayed. Situated in the middle of a rice field, far away form the busy streets of Central Ubud, on the fourth level of a towering bamboo nest, I listened to the sounds of circadas, crickets and frogs as I dozed off to sleep every night. If you’re a nature lover and enjoying sleeping in the outdoors, you’ll LOVE the Bamboo Nests. For $10 a night, you’ll have a comfy bed in the bamboo nest, a pool + swing overlooking the fields, an open air lobby (with the most magnificent rainstorms to be experienced here!), luggage transportation, and a friendly cat named Meow. 🙂
For $25 a night, you can have a hotel-like atmosphere with air-conditioned! Clean, spacious rooms with stunning Balinese-inspired decorations and carvings, the Honeymoon Guesthouse definitely felt like a honeymoon! Yoga classes are on-site, as well as a restaurant, transportation and 2 massive pools. I only stayed here 3 nights, but it felt like total luxury after not having air conditioning for 3 weeks. 🙂
You can check out my destination guide to Canggu, another place you must visit if you are planning a trip to Bali!
July 2, 2017
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