7 Great Things To Do In Ubud, Bali
I really loved my stay in Ubud. When I was travelling in Indonesia and arrived at Kuta beach in the night I was disappointed. I had a great time in Java, a relaxed beautiful journey. Kuta during the evening was something different, lots of drunken tourists, bars and thieving and scamming locals.
I wondered is this Bali? Luckily all that changed when I went to Ubud. This culturally rich city has some of the best things Bali and Indonesia has to offer. Here I'll cover some of the things you can see and do in this wonderful spot.
1. Bali Monkey Forest and Monkey Temple
The Bali Monkey Forest is very special in lots of ways. This is not just another tourist attraction but a spiritually important place to the local people and a prominent conservation centre. So by visiting you’ll support many facets of the local area. The one big thing to remember though is not to feed the monkeys.
Famous Balinese Monkey Temple(s)
There are three holy temples within the jungle area known as Mandala Wisata Wanara Wana. Today these are inhabited by a group of lively Balinese macaques. The complex has a feel of Indiana Jones to it and especially around the Pura Dalem Agung part where the entrance is decorated with Rangda figures eating children.
And all the while the monkeys are eyeing up new visitors, trying to work out whether they have any food or personal items worth grabbing. There are three entrances to the temple complex with the main one on Monkey Forest Road.
The sanctuary for the monkeys attracts researchers from all over the world and is popular with visitors. To avoid trouble with the monkeys, do read the tips before walking through the forest and temples. This includes not smiling at the monkeys as they view this as a sign of aggression.
Anyone bringing food into the complex tends to get mobbed by the macaques. You’ll also see areas that are sacred and are only accessible to local people worshipping at the temple.
Sacred Monkey Forest Ubud
The forest is considered sacred too and is very atmospheric. This is a fascinating place to visit in Bali as it manages to blend the local traditional aspects of spirituality with conservation and provides a source of income for locals through tourism. Just don’t provoke the macaques.
2. Pura Taman Saraswati Bali
Dewi Saraswati is the goddess of learning and the arts. The temple dedicated to her is in Ubud and the goddess has clearly influenced the city which is rich in art and culture. Just a few steps from Ubud Palace it is also known as the Lotus Palace. Walking into the temple is a bit surreal at first as you have to go between the Starbucks and the Lotus Café. There’s a special wall to distract evil spirits.
But continue down that small passage and you’ll see an exquisite lotus pond with a walkway. The water feeding it comes from the rice fields above Ubud and it gives an air of tranquillity to the place. The walkway leads to the temple itself which is decorated with filigree work in vermillion red and gold, and typical of a Balinese Hindu design. The shrine itself is rarely open.
There are three platforms just below the stairs here and these are used to stage traditional dance shows at night. The Ramayana dance drama is magical in this setting and actually transforms the temple atmosphere at night. It is really atmospheric with traditional musical instruments, lighting and a red carpet on the stage.
With the temple building as a backdrop there can be no better place to watch dance in Ubud. The temple was built by I Gusti Nyoman Lempad (1862-1978), a Balinese architect who has a portfolio of work across Bali. He lived for 116 years and is famed for being able to predict the precise moment of his death. Pura Taman Saraswati is a tranquil escape from Ubud’s traffic and a wonderful place to contemplate the culture and beauty of Bali.
3. Visiting Goa Gajah Bali
When you hear about Goa Gajah it’s not surprising the first thing that comes to mind is a cave of elephants as that’s what the word means. But this famous site is actually one of the most prominent archaeological sites in Bali.
Goa Gajah Ubud Region
Goa Gajah is around an hour from Ubud and six miles from the delightful village of Bedulu and an hour spent here is well worth it.
History and Meditation
Goa Gajah dates from the 11th century and was built for meditation. When you first arrive the hassle from the souvenir shops may detract from this but it is still a lovely place to visit. When you get to the base of the site you’ll see a wantilan meeting house and many stone carvings making it quite atmospheric.
The pool was found in 1954 and has seven Hindu angels acting as water spouts. It is always intriguing when visiting these places to think about what is still buried and is yet to be excavated, revealing its secrets of the past.
Buddhist and Shivaite
When you get to the caves you’ll see many different statues, some with 10th century influences. The walls inside these caves are blackened thanks to locals lighting incense sticks as part of the meditation ceremonies. If you look closely it is still possible to see the indentations where priests once sat. Interestingly the northern side of this place is Buddhist with the southern side being Shivaite.
Goa Gajah was built on a hillside and at the far end there are rice fields and streams. These lead to the river Petanu. At the junction the site was believed to be sacred and is where meditation took place. Even today it is very serene and is somewhere to sit and think awhile.
4. Tegallalang Rice Terrace, Ubud Bali
It is that bright green colour interspersed with curved lines that is the most memorable sight in the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. This is one of Bali’s most famous attractions and an iconic way of life just an hour north of Ubud.
Colorful Tropical Balinese Scenery
At first glance the Tegallalang Rice Terrace looks like a typical tropical scene with palm trees and the defined irrigation channels appearing like steps carved into the hillsides. But looking closer there is more to see here and Tegallalang is a busy place with workers tending crops, and making a living from crafts.
Indonesian Rice Terrace Farmers
Walk along the terraces and you’ll encounter rice workers in the fields and depending on the time of year they may be harvesting, cultivating, or planting the crops. There are people maintaining the irrigation channels, workers carrying crops in baskets, and farmers selling produce from the coconut trees.
This really is more than just a photo stop; it is a way of life and a fascinating insight into rural life in Bali. To visit this part of Bali you really have to take your time and stop to watch people going about their work in the rice fields.
Village of Pakudi Bali
Take time to try the coconut drink being offered by local farmers or buy a hat made from the palm leaves. Nearby the small village of Pakudi is full of traditional wood carvings which make excellent souvenirs. The local community are talented wood carvers and sell the decorative items to supplement their income.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace is stunningly beautiful and very atmospheric with its beautiful structure. But the real beauty of the terraces are within and are captured in encounters with the locals and just taking time to explore the area.
5. Do Yoga In Bali
When it comes to Ubud, Bali, things to do are so plentiful that you might not find an opportunity for downtime. After touring the palaces and shrines and temples, you may just need to take a moment to breathe.
There is no better setting for yoga than Ubud and there are skilled yoga instructions all over the town that can help you learn or perfect your positions.
6. Try the Balinese Cuisine
When in Bali, you have to eat Balinese food. Don’t neglect trying local fare, it’s part of the experience. If you are a little wary of trying new food, work your way up by starting with some more familiar dishes. At a loss of where to start? Ask the locals where they like to eat.
7. Go for a Bike Ride in the Country
Biking is, by far, the best way to get around in Bali. There are even cycling tours! You can rent a single bike for a day and use it to get to some of Ubud’s farer flung sites and back roads. On a bike is the best way to stay in touch with your surroundings, while getting where you need to go a little bit faster.