Ubud is a gorgeous little town an hour and a half north of the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia.
If you’ve read Eat Pray Love, you’ll recognize this town from the book, and even if you haven’t it’s still a very popular destination. While not close to a beach and not exactly the party place to go, it became my absolute favorite place in Bali.
We spent a day walking around on our own in the center of Ubud. There’s a lot of culture and art and yoga going on, as well as lots of little cafes, markets, and coffee shops. It’s much slower paced than party areas like Kuta, but it’s perfect for relaxing and enjoying more nature scenes.
A friend we met in Seminyak gave us the name a local driver to help take us to all the other sites in Ubud – I highly recommend doing this! All the destinations in Ubud are a bit of a drive away from each other, and having a driver for the day will help you get around more efficiently and also give you some insight from a local Indonesian perspective. We paid her 550k for the whole day (which was about the average price we found for renting a driver).
Our driver’s name was Yung. She’s originally from Jakarta, but she and her sister both live and work in Bali now as drivers and tour guides. “Don’t worry,” she said when she picked us up from our hostel, “I can drive this route with my eyes closed!”
Here are the magical places you have to see in Ubud!
CAMPUHAN RIDGE WALK
A free trail you can walk on located just 10 minutes from the center of Ubud – it’s easy to find on Google maps. If you’re looking for some great Instagram shots come here 😉 You’ll also pass scenic rice paddies and little cafes and spas.
PURA TAMAN SARASWATI TEMPLE
This gem of a temple is right in the center of Ubud behind the Starbucks.
TELLALAGANG RICE TERRACES
These rice terraces are north of the town and free to walk through, but they also accept donations.
You pay 15k to go down to this waterfall, and when the water is calmer and the weather is good you can get in and swim around a bit. Unfortunately for us it was the rainy season in Bali so we couldn’t get in, but it was still exciting to visit.
KANTO LAMPO WATERFALL
This waterfall costs 10k to visit. When we reached this waterfall it started raining, but two Indonesian guys told us it would pass quickly then they would help us climb the waterfall and take photos. Why not?
COFFEE PLANTATION AND SWINGS
Indonesia is famous for it’s coffee, so it’s fun to visit a plantation and see the process of how they grow it. This plantation was north of Ubud right near the rice terrace. You’ll get to do more than sample coffee and tea here – they have gorgeous photo spots, little nests you can sit in, and swings you can ride (for 150k).
Once you get out of your car, someone from the plantation will come to guide you through the coffee process. Our guide was Sun, a really charismatic and funny guy. He offered to hold my bag and take photos of me.
His friends walked by and saw him with my purse and shouted, “He is a lady boy!”
“No no no I’m not!” Sun said.
“Yes, you have ten boyfriends!” one said back.
“Are you one of his boyfriends?” I asked his friend and they all laughed.
I later agreed to become his girlfriend but told him he could keep his ten other boyfriends.
This elephant cave is actually a special holy temple. Yung told us there’s one main god the people worship, and then there are three high minister gods they come to worship here.
SACRED MONKEY FOREST
This was the top thing I wanted to do in Ubud! You pay 50k to go into the Monkey Sanctuary where these wild free roaming monkeys will just jump and climb on you. You can pay 20k to get some bananas and entice them towards you. You just have to be careful not to make direct eye contact or hide food from them – they will find it.
FIND A PLACE TO TRY TRADITIONAL BALINESE FOOD
Yung was amazing – she was so friendly and let us ask her a million questions about Indonesia and local Balinese culture. We asked her to take us to local place for lunch so we could try a traditional Bali meal. She said we must try babi guling, a special kind of suckling pig dish with rice.
Yung kept us laughing with stories of people she’s met and travelers she’s driven around.
“Lots of Australians come here because we are so close to them! But sometimes they ask me to drive them and they are drunk,” she said. “They start singing drunk in the car and it’s not even good singing!”
Everywhere you walk in Bali you’ll pass little offerings – on the street, in front of restaurants, next to temples. While Islam is the major religion practiced in Indonesia, on Bali most people are Hindu. Everyday they need to make offerings.
Yung told us they should put an offering in front of most big things you own – your car, your house, your TV, your refrigerator. Most houses will have around 20 offerings, and that’s for just a small place. It costs around 2000 Rp for a single offering plate, and if you buy at least 20 everyday the cost adds up quickly.
“I’m actually not Hindu,” Yung told us. “My mom is Chinese and we moved here when we were young. We’re actually a Christian family, which is not very common here.”
MEETING BALINESE PEOPLE
I loved exploring Ubud and learning more about local Balinese culture here. While I didn’t do any yoga or meet with an ancient wise man like Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat Pray Love, I still had an amazing time and was blown away by the kindness of the people we met.
When I was walking on the Camphuan Ridge Trail I saw a swing hanging from a tree. I stopped, immediately wanting to sit on it. The problem was it was so high. There was no way for me to hop up by myself.
A group of Indonesian girls walked by, a little shy and giggling. They saw I wanted to sit up there and spoke to each other quickly. “I help you?” one said in English.
They were these little teenagers but they took the time to hoist a crazy foreigner girl up the swing and take my photo! They were so sweet, and one of them tried after me.
Ubud was definitely the highlight of my time in Bali and I would love to go back and see more. You can check out my video about Ubud and other places in Bali here: