How to Ubud

Ubud in Bali is a very special place. A woman I met in a line-up once told me that the world’s chakras align in Bali. While I don’t know about that, I do know that Ubud is a wonderful place to visit. There’s tonnes to do. In some ways, Ubud reminds me of my Vancouver home – a warmer, more Balinese version, at least. If you’re keen to visit (which you should be, it’s fabulous!) here is my detailed guide on How to Ubud.

CITY CENTRE

1. Do some yoga

Somehow in the last twenty or so years Ubud became one of the world’s yoga capitals. Walking around downtown you are never too far from a yoga studio or somewhere that sells yoga-inspired clothing, or even yoga-friendly (re: healthy) food. Click here for a list of places to do yoga in Ubud.

In Ubud you can do yoga in some gorgeous settings, like in the middle of a rice field. Yogis have flocked here from around the world to teach and learn as it’s a perfect setting to focus on your practice.

If you just want to dip your toes in, a very fun activity is to join Yoga Barn’s FREE weekly acroyoga class. It’s presented as a time to explore acroyoga and to meet people, so it’s a fun, casual vibe.

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Yoga Barn, 5:30 PM on Sundays. FREE!

2. Go to ecstatic dance

Yoga Barn is the biggest, perhaps most commercialized yoga studio in Ubud. As such, however, it’s also a centre for the community. They hold lots of events including Monday night movies for 30,000 rupiah/$3 CAD/$2.25 USD. However, one of their most popular events is Ecstatic Dance on Sundays. It’s like church in Ubud. You have to arrive early to score your ticket. Basically, ecstatic dance is 2 hours of dancing like nobody is watching with a bunch of nonjudgmental people from all over who are doing exactly the same thing. Wear comfortable clothes – you will get sweaty! It sounds weird, but it is an exhilarating and incomparable dance experience! You’ve got to try it at least once!

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Yoga Barn, 11 AM on Sundays. 130,000 rupiah/$12.86 CAD/$9.75 USD

3. Eat amazing food

The food in Ubud is good. No bones about it. On every corner there is another incredible-looking restaurant. Generally, the food caters to the yogi crowd (they eat such nice food so this is not a problem for me!), and has a tendency towards the elegant.

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A brief list of my favourites includes:

  • Blackbeach. Costs between 40,000-90,000 per entree. Serves pizza and pasta. In my opinion, this was some of the best Italian pizza I’ve had outside of Italy. We came back every week! 
  • Warung Bai Bai. Very cheap Balinese restaurant serving excellent food at a great price.
  • Warung Dewa. Also a very cheap Balinese restaurant serving excellent, basic food at a great price.
  • Sage. Costs between 60,000-90,000 per entree. Serves vegetarian food. Everything was delicious! It’s a bit out of the town centre, however. 
  • Earth Café. Costs between 40,000-90,000 for a meal. Located in the Paradiso Movie Theatre, but you don’t need to watch a movie to eat here. Delicious vegetarian food. 
  • Sandat. Costs 40,000 and less for food and a drink. Very cheap, very good, guaranteed, but extremely slow service (it’s a one woman kitchen!). We came back multiple times as it was very close to our hostel in Ubud.
  • Coffee & Co. Not cheap, but their frappuccinos were amazing. We went here thrice.
  • Seniman Coffee. Also not cheap, but excellent artisanal coffee.
  • Casa Luna. 50,000-90,000 for an entree – not cheap. But very good food and an excellent iced cappuccino. They also host open mike nights and other events.

4. Visit the Agung Rai Museum of Art

The art scene in Ubud is wonderful. Artists from around the world flock here. While waiting to do an aikido class we met an artist who specializes in pyrotechnic performances who lives part-time in Bali and part-time in Sweden, for example. As a result, Bali has some very beautiful museums.
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The Agung Rai Museum of Art is a gorgeous art gallery set in some gorgeous gardens. It primarily features Balinese art, from old to new. The collection is excellent and varied, and well-worth visiting. They also periodically have gallery showings. If you are interested in the excellent work of Walter Spies, this is the place to come and see it.

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80,000 entrance fee, includes a free drink of tea or coffee. Open daily 9 AM-6 PM. 

5. Visit the Museum Puri Lukisan

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Located on Jalan Ubud Palace not far from the Ubud Palace is another art museum. Like the others, it offers a free drink on entry. It touts itself as being the oldest art museum in Ubud, and with four separate buildings it is certainly extensive. With several sections for several different time frames, one is able to see see the progression of Balinese art over time. We were very impressed with the building and the art, and the museum also offers many cultural and artistic experiences.

Open from 9 AM to 6 PM daily. Costs 85,000 rupiah. 

6. Visit Ubud’s Water Temple

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This temple is easily locatable by the Starbucks right next to it. It’s the only Starbucks in Ubud. The temple is very beautiful, with lily pads in its front. However, you cannot enter if it isn’t a temple holiday. While this makes perfect sense, it does mean that this beautiful temple is a quick visit.

Free. Next to the Starbucks. Always there.

7. Visit the Blanco Museum

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The Blanco Museum features the work of Don Antonia Blanco, one of Bali’s wealthiest and most eccentric artists. Set in a gorgeous renaissance-style mansion, you can explore this Italian immigrant’s life work. Expect an interesting selection. Blanco primarily painted nudes of women who seem to fade away at the limbs. Off to one side room you can also explore his more experimental work. These include collages that discuss occasionally shocking things like the desire to shove things like scarabs and glass bottles up women, especially when they irritate the artist.

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It’s a sometimes strange (or alternatively artistically satisfying, depending on your perspective) experience. Much smaller than the Agung Rai Museum of Art, the bang for your buck lies less in quantity and more in memorability.

85,000 rupiah, includes a lovely tea. Open daily from 9 AM – 5 PM.

8. Get a massage from Bodyworks

Massages in Bali are abundant. Every street corner advertises massages. Bodyworks, however, is different. My travel companion (Ranah) has back issues so we have taken to asking about the training of massage therapists ever since a particularly bad massage made her back issues worse. When we asked a massage therapist on Jalan Hanouman they recommended that we visit Bodyworks.

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Bodyworks is run by a man who is spoken of in their pamphlets as though he is a legendary guru capable of doing just about anything. He also offers yoga classes that are apparently good, but NOT at the Bodyworks studio (rather they are at Ohm Ahm Hotel). While I don’t know about the rest of it, I do know that his staff are exceptionally well-trained. These women go through months of training to be able to do their massage therapy excellently. There is a variety of therapy options available. If you want a private and fancy session with the master you must book it a month in advance. Because Bodyworks is legitimately excellent, though, it isn’t as cheap as the other places. It’s worth it though. After your liquifying massage is over they bring you downstairs for ginger tea and the most incredible papaya ever (They pair it with tamarind sauce and lime. Papaya should always be eaten like this, I now believe).

Open daily from 8 AM to 8 PM. Usually take drop-ins. Massages start from 140,000+tax.

9. Have a jam session at Soma Cafe

The Soma Cafe is lovely on its own. In particular, their cacao mixed berry shake was incredible. However, Soma comes alive on the weekends when a group of musicians sit on the couches and play music for hours and hours on end. The best part of all is that anyone is welcome to join in and sing. This was a dream-like creative experience for me, and well worth the rupiah you spend on your drink at the cafe. Everyone when I went was very friendly. However, this all depends on who shows up, so it’s not guaranteed.

Usually weekend evenings. Free to jam, slightly expensive (30,000+) to eat/drink.

10. Watch a performance of Balinese dance

Balinese dance is incredible, and Ubud is the best place in Bali to see it (other than in Uluwatu). There are multiple dance venues around the island for multiple styles of Balinese dance around the city. We went to the Ubud Palace, which has a reliably good performance of kecak dance.

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The particular dance style we were lucky enough to see is one that involves an incredible amount of control on the part of the dancers. Their eyes are widened so that the dancers look like dolls. The lower half of their body barely moves, but their fingers and hands are incredible expressive, moving in ways I had never before known that fingers and hands could move.

** Unfortunately the only part of the palace open to tourists is that part where you watch the performance, so if you’re planning to see the show it’s not worth going out of your way to see it during the day.

Ubud Palace. 100,000 rupiah. 7:30 PM daily, arrive 30 minutes early.

11. Take a cooking class

There are dozens of cooking classes offered around Ubud. We happened to chance upon one of the fanciest cooking classes available, called Canting Bali. They pick you up from your hotel and drive you to a gorgeous village with large rice paddies. You learn to cook your dishes at the centre of the rice paddies.

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Now, Canting is something of a luxury cooking class. By this I mean you learn, but it’s all in a whirlwind and they make sure you don’t really work too hard. For some people this is lovely, but I love cooking so I wanted to feel a bit more in control (Personally I preferred my cooking class at the Gili Cooking School on Gili Trawangan). Nevertheless, the setting was incredible, and the feast they prepared for you after you finished cooking with everyone’s combined dishes was just amazing. Take a cooking class in Bali. Just do it. Food becomes so much more real once you know what you’re eating.

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Canting Bali. Priced on their website at 350,000 pp, but we paid 275,000 pp. Pick-up from your hotel and lunch are included. Multiple times are available.

12. Learn to do something cool (make silver jewellery, blow glass, Balinese dance, and more!)

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Artists abound in Ubud, and like everyone else they need to make a buck. As a result there are plenty of amazing art classes that you can take while you are in Ubud. They’re a little pricey, so I can’t personally vouch for any of these. However, some options to try include:

    • Learn Balinese Dance: On Jalan Hanouman about a block down from Bodyworks there is an experienced Balinese dancer who teaches classes for 100,000 rupiah per hour. She seemed very flexible with booking classes. However, if you want to pay more and book ahead there is also this website. The Museum Puri Lukisan also offers classes at 125,000 rupiah per hour, while the ARMA offers classes for $25 USD for 2 hours.
    • Learn Balinese painting: Signs for this are all over Ubud. Just about everyone wants to teach you how to paint in the intricate Balinese style. Some top online recommendations include Five Art Studio, and Puri Lukisan Museum and the ARMA Museum’s courses.
    • Learn to blow glass: Horizon Glassworks is Ubud’s premier glass-blowing school. People spend months here learning the art. Contact them on Facebook or their website to ask for prices (warning: they are not cheap).
    • Learn to make silver jewellery: As with painting, there are a number of studios offering silver jewellery making classes. Click here for a list. Expect to pay about 400,000 rupiah/$40 CAD/$30 USD or so.
    • Learn to make Balinese Hindu Offerings: Offered by the Museum Puri Lukisan at 300,000 rupiah for a 3 hour class.
    • Learn to speak Bahasa Indonesia: It’s always good to try and pick up some of the local language, so while you’re in Indonesia, you may as well learn some Indonesian! Cinta Bahasa has a location in Ubud, so they’re worth trying out!
    • And this is just the short list! Some of the other awesome sounding classes you can take in Bali include ones on: Balinese history, Balinese architecture, playing the rindik (Balinese gamelan), Hindu astrology and numerology, Balinese history, modernity in Bali, egg painting, lontar leaf painting (VERY PRETTY!), paper making, photography, making Batik, Balinese basketry, woodcarving, making shadow puppets, mask painting, flute playing, and so much more! These classes are easily taken at the Agung Rai Museum of Art and the Puri Lukisan Museum of Art.

13. Go to the Monkey Forest

The Monkey Forest is easily Ubud’s most famous attraction. Trucks of backpackers bus in for the day and just go to the Monkey Forest. Since we were travelling with a biologist we were not able to view this attraction with innocent eyes. So, it’s worth knowing that there are three parts to this attraction. DSC_1838

First, there is the giant natural park area dotted with beautiful Balinese temples from the 14th Century, built during the Pejeng Dynasty in Bali. The natural area is stunning, and the temples are gorgeous and worth going to in their own right.

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Second is a surprise art gallery in a large central building housing some unique and interesting modern Balinese art. Not the main event, but definitely an added bonus.

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Third is, of course, the monkeys. These are Balinese long-tailed macaques. They are cute and unusually fat for monkeys. Scientists even come here from abroad to study the macaques here since there is a huge population. However, we were disturbed to notice that tourists are encouraged by the staff to feed the monkeys and let them jump on their heads and shoulders, often tempted with bananas.

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Monkeys are wild, and familiarizing them with humans makes them more aggressive and likely to attack people (which is very evident, as they are very comfortable grabbing your water bottle and food from your hand or purse). Also, because they don’t have to forage for food, you’re making the monkeys lazy and plump, which of course doesn’t contribute to their health. There are also more unaccounted for changes to their behaviour which are unlikely to benefit the monkeys. Plus, if you’re bitten by a monkey there are a whole whack of scary diseases you could contract. Click here for some more information on how to interact with monkeys.

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While there are suggestions at the forest for how to best behave with the monkeys, the encouragement of monkey-feeding by the staff was a bit disturbing. Either way, despite its fame the Monkey Forest gave us some misgivings.

Open daily from 8:30 AM to 6 PM. Last tickets sold at 5:30 PM. Costs 40,000 rupiah.

14. Attend a Balinese religious ceremony

Bali has an incredibly rich religious culture, and temple ceremonies are so frequent that some hotel employers have expressed concern on how to ensure that their businesses aren’t constantly being abandoned by praying employees (FYI: the common method to avoid total shutdown is the trading of temple days, similar to saying “I’ll celebrate Christmas this year, and next year I’ll cover your shift and you can celebrate Christmas”).

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If you’re lucky enough to make some Balinese friends, you may be invited to attend a Balinese temple ceremony. Balinese people are often open to your attendance of their temple events… so long as you are respectful. Some ways to be respectful include wearing the proper clothes, and attending only if invited. So, if you see a temple ceremony happening on a street-side temple, this is not the time for you to barge inside in your shorts and tank top! You must wear the proper Balinese temple clothes and behave humbly!

15. Go to the “World’s First Vegan Movie Theatre”

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Located just off of Jalan Hanouman, Paradiso touts itself as the World’s First Vegan Movie Theatre. Until I actually went I found myself wondering why one would even need one’s movie theatre to be vegan. However, upon going to Paradiso Movie Theatre, the reason became obvious: it’s because vegan food is delicious, and the movie theatre is beautiful.

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Situated upstairs of the Earth Café, the Paradiso Movie Theatre has an old-world kind of feel with soft couches accented by silky pillows slanted to best view the projected screen. Your 50,000 rupiah entrance fee is consumable, meaning you can use the cost of your ticket to pay for your food. The food is, of course, generally more expensive than your ticket so  you have to be a little wily to avoid paying extra, but the food is worth it. I had the Jerusalem Falafel and there was tahina and french fries and it was just amazing. I would go back just for the food.

The movie selection can be a little funky, but it’s worth going to just for an awesome dinner and a movie. Note that the movie selection changes every day, so if you don’t like what’s showing on one day you can just check out the program and go on a day when you do like the movie. You can even get wine or beer!

The Paradiso Movie Theatre also hosts a variety of other spiritually-orientated events, including lectures and ecstatic dance. Check the schedule for more details.

Check out Paradiso Movie Theatre’s Program. Right off of Jalan Hanouman, near Jalan Ubud Palace. Costs 50,000 rupiah for a movie, consumable (you can use this to buy food/drinks). 

CITY OUTSKIRTS

(5-10 minute drive/long walk away from the centre of town)

16. Visit Goa Gaja

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Otherwise known as the “Elephant Cave,” Goa Gaja’s eponymous cave is actually rather small. Just a cavern through a splendidly carved stone door, there are small places of worship on either side of the T-shaped cavern.

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In addition to the cave, there is a relatively extensive temple property including a bathing area and beautiful grounds to walk through.

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The temple dates back to the 11th Century, and while some say the site was used for meditation, others are not quite as certain about the site’s specific purposes or central idol.

Open 8 AM to 4 PM daily. Located in Bedulu Village, about 3 km from Ubud centre. Costs 10,000 rupiah including a free sarong rental. 

17. Visit rice fields in Tegalalang

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Tegalalang (a mouthful, I know) is Ubud’s most series of rice terraces. Once there you are established by the trappings of a well-established tourist trade: dozens upon dozens of shops selling trinkets and restaurants overcharging for regular food. The rice terraces themselves are quite lovely, and if you desire a walk you can wander through the rice terraces for as long as you like. Some people find this walk to be a bit of a strenuous hike since there’s a lot of ups and downs. Also, if you want to eat at the centre of the rice fields, there’s a restaurant there, too.

Open 7 AM – 5 PM dailyCosts 10,000 rupiah to enter. Signs point to Tegalalang.

18. Go on the Campuhan Ridge Walk

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Delightfully walkable from the city centre, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is a great way to get out of the hustle and bustle for half an hour or so and check out a lovely view. It was much shorter than we expected, starting out next to the Ubud Clinic and walking past the school up to the walk, but it was beautiful. At the end there’s a picturesque cafe that overlooks some rice fields with average prices for the tourist trail.

Open all day, every day. Free. It’s a bit tricky to walk to, but here are some directions.

19. See thousands of cranes at Petulu

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Every single night thousands of cranes roost in Petulu. At dusk, you can see them descend by the thousands upon every treelike surface, and at dawn you can see them ascend together in flight. It’s a startling sight, and it has been happening every day since the 1950’s. There are two places to watch the birds, but the locals will guide you to the farther, “better” one down the street.

Costs 20,000 rupiah to enter. Come at dusk and dawn. In Petulu Village.

JUST OUTSIDE THE CITY

(Popular & cool activities located not too far from Ubud)

20. Learn all about chocolate at Big Tree Chocolate Factory

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There are a number of places where you can learn about chocolate production in Bali. Pod chocolate is the most famous, but the elephant rides offered at their facility deterred us from visiting. Big Tree Chocolate Factory is all about the eco-tourism, however. Their facility is one of the world’s largest bamboo structures and has won an architectural award. Almost everything is completely local, they use high quality tools and ingredients, and they are so transparent that you can literally watch the workers through glass windows.

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During our tour we got to taste and learn about every part of the chocolate making process, and we even got to try the delicious cacao fruit (it takes a bit like mangosteen!). They then take you through a tour of the factory, although you are not allowed to take photos during some parts of the tour. They even let you sample all of their products and they give you an amazing glass of raw cacao chocolate milk, though I believe they don’t even use milk. In fact, they have discontinued their milk chocolates, though they have a wide variety of chocolate and cacao products on sale.

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This was such a big thumbs up for me. If you love chocolate, this place is incredible.

A tour costs 60,000 for drop-in and 40,000 if reserved in advance. Monday to Friday at 2 PM only. 

21. Hike Mount Batur

It was rainy season when we were in Bali so we didn’t end up doing the sunrise hike at Mount Batur, but people who go when it’s sunny rave about the beautiful views at sunrise. Plenty of companies sell tours up the mountain, and it’s necessary to hire a guide — otherwise they’ll turn you away at the mountain’s entrance, and it’s most likely that you’ll get lost. Most tours also include trips to coffee fields and lots of breakfast, but make sure you ask what’s included!

Usually costs about 250,000 including pick-up from your hostel in Ubud. Sunrise hikes usually pick up at 2 AM. 

22. Visit Mengwi’s Temple: Pura Taman Ayun

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About an hour from Ubud is the temple of Taman Ayun. Laden with symbolism, this gorgeous temple is situated in the ancient kingdom of Mengwi. It makes for a nice walk, and it’s a great place to visit. Nearby there’s also a bustling market and a small palace still used by the descendants of the Mengwi royalty, though it’s off-limits to tourists. The pictures speak for itself, and this is just one of the gorgeous temples in Bali.

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Costs 20,000 rupiah. Open 9 AM to 4 PM. Located at Jalan Ayodya in the Mengwi District of Bail.

23. Check out some waterfalls

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Bali is known for its beautiful waterfalls. However, we only visited one and the one that we did visit almost killed my travel companion when she tried to save her flip-flop in the rain. That one was called Tegenungan, and it was quite gorgeous, though not quite as impressive as the 60 foot waterfall we saw in the Philippines at the Negros Northern Natural Park. However, since the waterfalls of Bali are truly spectacular (and extensive!) I’ll refer you to a few blogs that have looked far more deeply into the subject than I have.

Is there anything you think I should add? Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? Write in the comments below!

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