Ubud is a truly special place. I know it’s a cliche term, but it really is magical. Everyone I know who had been before me raved about it, and several of my friends have done the (30+-hour) trek from the US multiple times, that’s how much they loved it. So I knew it would be pretty great, but what I didn’t know it just how worth the journey it would be. It really is the cultural heart of Bali. In my overview post on the island (here, for reference), I talked about the fact that Bali is primarily Hindu, whereas the rest of the country is primarily Muslim. The Hindu influence is everywhere you look in Bali, both in the intricate temples in the towns and the stunning family compounds that connect villages. Everywhere you look is worthy of a photo.
So what should you do with several days in Ubud? It’s the kind of place you want to relax, so my recommendations will allow you to do just that. But I’ve also included additional activities if you have more time to spend in this wonderous place. Three days is really the minimum though, so here’s what to do with ~72 hours in Ubud!
Day 1: get your bearings (+ Goa Gajah)
Spend your first day getting used to the time change. Some hotels (like our incredible hotel, The Kayon Resort – more here on that), offer complimentary yoga followed by a morning walk through a nearby rice terrace and village. Take advantage of that! Then come back and have a swim in the hotel pool. Many hotels offer complimentary afternoon tea, so enjoy that before getting a massage at the hotel spa. Once you’ve had a chance to settle into Balinese time, ask your hotel to hire a taxi to take you to Goa Gajah, the Elephant Cave. You can add it onto the Ubud town day, but it’s a lot to get done in one day, so I’d recommend doing it here. Have the driver wait while you go into the temple. You’ll want to spend 45 minutes to an hour exploring the complex, and they’re very used to waiting while people walk around, so just make sure to confirm that with your hotel when they call to arrange the transport. While the cave itself is pretty small (so don’t worry if you’re slightly claustrophobic – it’s about 15-20 feet in and then you come right back out), the complex itself is quite expansive. Note there are lots of stairs involved if you want to see the entire complex, and they require everyone, both men and women, wear a wrap to cover your legs before entering the complex. Once you arrive back at your hotel, try the full Balinese dinner while watching a traditional dance show
Day 2: explore Ubud town
There’s so much to see in Ubud town that you could easily divide it over two days. If you only have one, here’s what I’d recommend seeing. Start your morning with the complimentary yoga and breakfast at your hotel, then head into Ubud town. Start at the Warwick Ibah Villas & Spa, which is the beginning of the Campuhan Ridge Walk. The entire walk itself takes you out and back for about 2 hours (though you can cut it as short as you need depending on time), and it’s low-impact with some slight hills so you don’t need hiking boots. I’d recommend at least walking about 30 minutes in to the first village before turning around. I’d also recommend doing this walk earlier in the AM (before 10am) as it gets quite hot here and even strong sunscreen won’t fully protect you from the powerful rays. Once you’ve finished the walk, head back towards town along the main road, Jl Raya Ubud, stopping at the famous Pura Taman Saraswati and walking through the grounds and lotus pond surrounding this famous Hindu temple. Plan to spend 30-45 minutes here. There’s also the famous Lotus Cafe next door or White Orchid across the street if you’ve worked up an appetite by this point. A block past the temple is Pura Desa, which was closed while we were there but worth peeking in through the gate. Another block further will bring you to Puri Saren Agung (Ubud Palace). You’ll need to allocate between 30 minutes to an hour here. And just across the street from the Palace is the famous Ubud Market! The main entry to the market will put you inside the main building, but the surrounding streets behind the building are also filled with vendors as a continuation of the market. This is definitely the place to buy any trinkets for yourself or your family and friends. You can absolutely barter with the vendors here as well. Remember how much money you’re talking about at the end of the day, so be respectful and don’t haggle too much. Coming down from 200k IDR to 150k IDR is fair, but going much further may affect their livelihood. You can always name a price and then start to walk away – they’ll cut the cost once you turn away, and then you can go from there. You could easily spend a couple of hours at the market, so by this time it’ll likely be mid-afternoon and the perfect time to head back to your hotel for an afternoon massage, tea by the pool, or a nap! For dinner, I’d recommend Restaurant Locavore in town. You can either take your hotel’s complimentary shuttle or have them hire a taxi for you. The tasting at Locavore costs roughly $125 USD per person, including the beverage pairing, and you’ll get to experience such unique combinations of fresh, local ingredients. Trust me, it’s worth every penny! They also offer a vegetarian tasting, so you can choose from the meat/seafood tasting, the veggie tasting, or if you’re pescatarian like me, do the seafood options from the main menu and then substitute in vegetarian dishes for the meat ones. They were incredible accommodating! Oh, and note that you get about 5-6 extra dishes (various amuse bouche bites) throughout the meal, so you’ll end up getting about 12-13 plates total. Like I said, well worth the money!
Here are pics from our tasting dinner at Locavore as well!
Day 3: discover surrounding Bali
On your third day in Ubud, I’d recommend hiring a driver to take you around the surrounding parts of the island. If you have more time in Ubud, I’d recommend doing this another day as well so you can see even more. Given the location of roads, even with a full day it’s hard to see more than 3-4 places, so a second day will really let you get to everything (or almost everything!) that you want to see. I’d highly recommend booking your driver though The Bali Driver here, and request Gede Tinaya! I’m sure all their drivers are wonderful, but a friend highly recommended Naya, and we absolutely loved our day with him. We gave him a list of all we wanted to see, and he helped us map out what was doable, adding recommendations of less touristy spots as well, which ended up being absolutely fantastic. When you hire the driver, you have up to 10 hours with them, and the cost is 600,000 IDR (roughly $40 USD). There are so many famous temples, lakes, and waterfalls to see in Bali, and again, you can’t get to everything in just one day, so talk to your driver about the kinds of things you’re looking for and how much time you want to spend driving around, and they’ll help you figure out the best plan for you. We started our day with a 1-1.5 hour drive north to Lake Beratan to see Pura Ulun Danu Beratan, the famous temple on the lake. The complex was actually quite massive, much larger than I expected, and the crowds were significant, even though we got there by 10am. But don’t worry, you’ll still have a clear view of the temple itself as it cannot be accessed by tourists, so you’ll be able to stand along the water’s edge and have the perfect view of this stunning sight! After spending about an hour or so wandering around the lake, we headed towards the waterfall. Originally we mentioned wanting to see the famous waterfall south of Ubud, Teganungan Waterfall. And while I’m sure it would have undoubtedly been beautiful, Naya recommended a different, less touristy waterfall, called Leke Leke Waterfall. While Teganungan has hundreds of tourists visit it daily, Leke Leke is equal in beauty and relatively untrafficked. We saw 8 other people during the entire time we spent hiking to the waterfall, at the waterfall, and hiking back. We spent about an hour an a half here, as well. Oh, and for those of you looking for the perfect “Bali Nest” instagram photo, they offer that at Leke Leke (not next to the waterfall, but at the beginning/end of the hike). After Leke Leke, we stopped at Tegal Sari Kopi Luwak Plantation since we’re both big coffee drinkers, and we figured we couldn’t go to Bali and not try it! They gave us a quick tour (about 10 minutes), then we were invited to try about 12 different teas and coffees (for free!). We opted to try the Kopi Luwak of course as well, which cost 50k IDR (~$3). They then of course suggest you look around their store to purchase any of the teas/coffees you liked. We are both huge coffee fans but ended up loving several of the teas, so we bought a few of those to try (for about $5 a box) as well as the smallest size of the Kopi Luwak to take home (~$18, which was still significantly less expensive than you would pay anywhere outside of Indonesia). Lastly, we knew we wanted to tour the rice terraces, and while Jatiluwih Rice Terraces were too far out of the way, Naya recommended some equally beautiful but less touristy terraces than those of popular Tegallalang. We didn’t want to be out the entire day, but all of that took us about 7 hours including driving time between places
Some of the other places we wanted to get to but just didn’t have time for include the famous Pura Besakih (in East Bali), the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Pura Tirta Empul and Pura Gunung Kawi (if we had wanted to spend another 1-2 hours in the car, we could have seen those before/after the rice terraces), Pura Taman Ayun, and then some of the other sites a bit further away would have been Uluwatu Temple (had we chosen to stay in the south of Bali instead of the Nusa Islands), and Tanah Lot for sunset (on the western coast, north of Kuta). Like I said, so much to see, and never enough time, but I guess now we have even more of a reason to return, right?
What are your favorite things to do or see when in Ubud?