Located in the highlands of Bali, Indonesia, the quaint town of Ubud is a perfect vacation destination for culture and nature lovers alike. It is home to traditional Balinese arts and crafts, evident in artists’ workshops and galleries scattered throughout the local villages. Often referred to as "Bali’s Cultural Hub," Ubud is pretty relaxed compared to other known destinations on the island. Adding to the charm of the town are the rice paddies, as well as the rainforest surrounding the whole district. Many Hindu shrines and temples are also present in the area, creating a really interesting sight that makes Ubud truly iconic.
To help you plan your trip, here’s a rundown of some of the most beautiful places in Ubud you can visit:
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1. Ubud Monkey Forest
Ubud Monkey Forest, also known as the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, is more than just a tourist attraction. It is a spiritual community and a research institution, aiming to conserve the forested area according to Hindu principles. Ubud Monkey Forest also has a philosophical goal, which is to cultivate a sense of peace and harmony to every person who visits. More than 600 macaques live in the sanctuary. Aside from bananas, they are fed with sweet potato, corn, coconut, and cucumber. Guests are allowed to feed them, but the management still encourages people to take precautionary measures. Also, feeding the monkeys with biscuits and bread is prohibited, because this can affect the health of the primates. Three Hindu temples are also located inside Ubud Monkey Forest, as well an enclosure dedicated to a small number of Timor Rusa deers.
2. Agung Rai Museum of Art
Opened to the public in 1996, the Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) was established with the mission of preserving traditional culture and arts. It has a permanent exhibit of paintings that feature Balinese and other Indonesian masterpieces, as well as works on loan from the personal collection of the owner, Mr. Agung Rai. One of the main highlights of the museum is the Kamasan painting made on the bark of a tree. Artworks by famous Balinese art masters like Anak Agung Gede Sobrat, I Gusti Made Deblog, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad, and Ida Bagus Made are also displayed here. ARMA, however, is not exclusive to the visual arts. Theatre performances, as well as dance and music classes, are held in its building during certain times of the year. Located next to the museum are the ARMA resort and ARMA restaurants.
3. Blanco Renaissance Museum
Another noteworthy museum in Ubud is the Blanco Renaissance Museum, built by the late Don Antonio Blanco, a successful Philippine-born painter who married a Balinese woman. The museum is located on a hilltop, offering great views of the Campuhan Valley. Since it was opened to the public in 1998, the gallery and its collections have captured the interest of art enthusiasts from all over the world. Included in Don Antonio’s collections are personal paintings, collages, illustrated poetry, and lithographic artworks. To further appreciate his masterpieces, you can take a guided tour of the museum. If you’re lucky, you might even get to meet some of Don Antonio’s family members during your visit.
4. Goa Gajah
Goa Gajah, also known as the Elephant Cave, is an archaeological site dating back to the 11th century. Located in Bedulu Village, it features a courtyard, a meditation cave, wall carvings, and bathing pools. Most of the structures in this site have Hindu influences, while some contain elements of Buddhism. The main cave contains three stone idols wrapped in cloths. Incense is burned inside, and this is the reason why the cave’s walls have noticeable black lines on them. Like any other Balinese temple, women are not allowed to enter the premises during their menstrual period. Also, a sarong and a waist sash should be worn at all times when inside the spiritual centre.
5. Tegallalang Rice Terraces
Ubud is famous for its refreshing landscapes, particularly its lush rice paddies. There’s the Tegallalang Rice Terraces for instance, which use the traditional Balinese irrigation system. Locals believe that this method of irrigation has been used since the 8th century, as introduced by a man named Rsi Markandeya. Tegallalang is a popular photo stop for tourists, but the art kiosks and cafes near the ledge are also worth a visit. Nearby is Pakudui Village, home to some of the best craftsmen in town. It is also where you will find excellently made wood art. Other noteworthy rice terraces are in the villages of Pejeng and Campuhan.
6. Ubud Royal Palace
Ubud Royal Palace, one of the main historical landmarks in town, was built during the 1800s. The palace is known for its well-preserved Balinese architecture and beautiful gardens, as well as for being a venue for traditional dance performances. Cultural shows are held in the palace during the night, where the ornate traditional gate and statues serve as the backdrop. Tickets for the shows can be bought right inside the venue. If you can’t stay until the night, you are free to wander around the Ubud Royal Palace’s front section. Viewing and taking photos are absolutely free. There are even local guides to assist visitors. In case you’re interested in literature, the opening ceremonies of the annual Ubud Writers and Readers Festival are held here every October.
7. Setia Darma House of Masks
Over 1,000 masks and 4,000 puppets are kept at the Setia Darma Masks and Puppet House, an educational and cultural museum that is ideal for children. These items are from all around Indonesia, as well as other parts of the globe, like Europe, Africa, and Latin America. The museum was established by an artist-curator named Agustinus Prayitno in the heart of Sukawati, a district of Balinese mask-makers. Other things you can look forward to during a visit to the Setia Darma House of Masks are wooden Balinese pavilions, a Javanese traditional house, and tropical gardens. This is a fun opportunity to learn about the local history through masks and puppets. Good news: admission is free!
8. Muncak Sari Temple
Located at Sangketan Village, Muncak Sari Temple is where the locals, especially the farmers, pray for life and wealth. It is believed that there’s no exact written source that tells the history of this temple, only a story that has been passed orally from one generation to another. Locals say that the temple’s name is derived from the term "muncak," which means “peak” and “source of life.” The temple complex currently spans 5 hectares (12.4 acres), extending to the slopes of Batukaru Mountain. Dozens of shrines can be found inside, as well as water springs.
9. Kumara Sakti
A quiet and relaxing retreat awaits guests at Kumara Sakti, a boutique resort nestled in the hills of Ubud. Known for its yoga programs, the resort features various other facilities, such as swimming pools, pavilions with great views of nature, lush gardens, and a spa offering Ayurvedic massages. You can join either an individual or a group retreat in Kumara Sakti. This includes sessions of yoga and meditation, as well as special spa treatments. More than just a vacation out of your comfort zone, Kumara aims to give guests a soulful experience. The minimum age for guests is 14 years old.
10. Seniman Coffee Studio
How about enjoying early mornings or cosy afternoons with a cup of Balinese coffee? There are lots of cafes in Ubud you can try! One of them is Seniman Coffee Studio, an Indonesian speciality cafe. Their coffee beans come from all over the country, including Sulawesi, Java, Sumatra, and Bali. They even have a shop selling coffee-making equipment, as well as an on-site micro-roastery. Meanwhile, for organic Balinese coffee, the place to go is Freak Cafe. Their menu, aside from freshly roasted coffee, includes vegan meals and croissants. Another good cafe choice is Anomali Coffee, a stylish coffee shop serving creamy cappuccinos.
11. Campuhan Ridge Walk
Spanning a total of 9 kilometres (5.6 miles), the Campuhan Ridge Walk is a nature trail offering an escape from the already commercialized Jalan Raya Ubud. Its starting point is located near the Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas, with a sign that says "Going to the Hill". The trail is free for public use and relatively easy, even for beginners. Aside from the cool and fresh air, you can also enjoy picture-perfect views of the Campuhan Valley as you trek. Along the trail, you will also encounter cultural gems like the Pura Gunung Lebah, a temple complex featuring intricately carved walls. The best time to visit Campuhan Ridge Walk is either in the early morning or in the late afternoon.
12. Ubud Art Market
The best Balinese souvenirs are sold at the Ubud Art Market, also known to locals as Pasar Seni Ubud. From silk cloth and handmade baskets to scarves and shirts, you will surely find a memento in this market to remind you of your awesome Ubud vacation. Even if you’re not keen on bringing home such items, a visit to the art market is still encouraged. Browsing from one shop to another is a wonderful experience in itself. Other local art markets worth seeing are the Sukawati Art Market, which is famous for its paintings and wooden sculptures, and the Guwang Art Market, a less-popular yet equally interesting counterpart. For those who are visiting Tegalalang, make sure to stop by the local arts and handicrafts centre. The products sold in this market are made by cottage industries, which means the profits go directly to the households that devote their time and passion to making the items.
13. Tegenungan Waterfall
Tegenungan Waterfall, also called the Hidden Waterfall, is a natural attraction worth a day trip from Ubud. Although not located in the mountains, it is surrounded by tall trees and lush greens, while its water is icy cold and clear. The waterfall is approximately 15 metres (49.2 feet) high, tall enough for some people to do a cliff jump. Swimming is allowed, but it might not be suitable for kids due to the strong current. For safety purposes, visitors are advised to bring their own safety swimming gear. Tegenungan Waterfall is also a popular photography subject because of the breathtaking natural views. The best time to take photos in the area is during the late afternoon or early evening.
14. Balinese cooking school
Sometimes, the best souvenirs are not concrete items but new skills. If you like Balinese cuisine, why not take up a cooking class and learn how to prepare the local food? You can enroll in one of the programs of Casa Luna Cooking School, where workshops range from medicinal food to gourmet food. Another option is the Lobong Culinary Experience, a cooking class held inside a family compound. They offer classes focusing on traditional cuisine, while the setting is quite intimate since they only accept 12 students per day. Market visits and an introduction to local herbs and spices are usually included in the packages. Other classes worth looking into are those offered at Bumbu Bali Cooking School and Payuk Bali Cooking School.
15. Bamboo Chocolate Factory
Bamboo Chocolate Factory, a chocolate mill made entirely of bamboo, is owned by Big Tree Farms. It is recognised as the largest commercial bamboo structure in the world, which you can see for yourself if you join the factory group tours conducted on weekdays. Guests are allowed to take a peek into the processes of making cacao products and even take a sample of their cold chocolate drinks. Other world-class Indonesian products made by Big Tree Farms include cacao powder, cacao butter, and cacao nibs.
Ultimate destination for arts and culture
Ubud, no doubt, is a haven for arts and culture enthusiasts. Add the lush surroundings and cool weather into the mix and you now have the perfect vacation setting. If you’re thinking of an "Eat Pray Love" type of adventure, you won’t be disappointed. Book your flights to Bali now to soak up the colours and let yourself get lost in the rhythm of nature; this is what Ubud is all about.