Legs are paler, pants are wider, beards are longer. Older tourists trudging along sidewalks, spiritual gurus floating by with all-knowing smiles. This here is no rowdy Canggu, where surfing gets your adrenaline pumping — Ubud is a hotspot of yoga, and it lives at a different pace.
But what do you do in Ubud if not yoga?
Good question. When I first heard of Ubud, I didn’t think I’d like it (the Downward Facing Dog is not exactly my spirit animal). But with its rusty orange temples drowning in green and intricate sculptures wherever you look, Ubud has a rich Balinese flavor. For the non-yogis out there, here’s how you get a good taste of it.
1. See some ancient Hindu temples
Temples are woven into the fabric of Bali, but nowhere do they fit in as well as they do in Ubud. The temples here are ancient, grand, and omnipresent — look around and you’re bound to see some blackened moss-grown stone and a statue of this or that spirit.
The temple architecture is mesmerizing, really, especially if you visit one after dark. Some of the best (and most crowded) are the Pura Taman Saraswati temple, with a lotus pond and traditional dance performances, and the Goa Gajah temple, a.k.a. Elephant Cave. That one is a literal cave, which you enter through the mouth of a mythical creature.
2. Watch a Balinese dance performance at Ubud Palace
You’re washed over with an avalanche of silver sounds. Men and women on stage move like dolls, they’re all angles. Heavily made up or wearing scary masks, they tell the stories of Balinese gods and spirits with their faces, eyes, bodies, and even fingertips.
You may have heard of Legong Dance when researching your Bali itinerary. Specifically of the Barong Dance — one of the many ritual Balinese dances. In the Barong Dance, the good spirit Barong defeats an evil witch Rangda; Jauk Dance is the dance of a playful demon goofing around in the jungle; Puspa Wresti is an offering dance performed by women.
The Balinese learn these dances from early age, and you just have to experience this magical part of their culture. Many temples in Ubud host performances by established dance groups, and you can also see the dance at Ubud Palace:
- Pura Dalem – Saturdays at 7:30 pm, 100K IDR ($7)
- Pura Saraswati – daily at 7:30 pm, 80K IDR ($5.5)
- Ubud Palace – daily at 7:30 pm, 100K IDR ($7)
3. Check out Balinese art at the oldest art museum
Bali has been a center of arts for centuries. First for the Balinese artists, who excelled in wood carving and traditional painting; then also for European artists, drawn here by exotic nature and phenomenal culture. In the 1930s artists living in Bali teamed up with the former Prince of Ubud to preserve Balinese art in a museum.
Puri Lukisan is more than an art museum — you can also do a variety of art and cultural workshops there. Learn one of those Bali dances, for example, paint a traditional mask with an artist, or take a lesson in making floral offerings.
4. Do a sound healing session at the Pyramids of Chi
Spiritual events are a huge part of Ubud’s appeal. But even if you’re generally a skeptic, you should still take the opportunity to get a little more mindful and chill. Sound healing will help you do just that, and the Pyramids of Chi are a good place for a session.
These sessions use sound and vibration in a specially constructed pyramid to help you relax, clear your mind, and rest. After you lay in a dark space, enveloped in the sound of gongs, crystal bowls, and chimes, you’ll feel more calm and peaceful. That peace of mind will cost you, though: the Pyramids of Chi charge 200K IDR ($15) for a session.
5. Hang with monkeys in Sangeh Monkey Forest
Ubud has not one, but two monkey forests — ancient temples with monkey sanctuaries. Ubud Monkey Forest, the one within the town, is bigger and more architecturally interesting. But it’s also more touristy, and the monkeys seem jaded by all the attention. Sangeh Monkey Forest, the one just outside Ubud, is smaller, but more quiet, and the monkeys are keen to hang out with people. Just make sure you keep an eye on your bag: those little thieves will steal your stuff before you know it.
6. Haggle at the Ubud Art Market
Ubud Art Market is not so much about art as it is about souvenirs, crafts, and affordable clothes. It’s the place to go if you’re finally ready for those harem pants, or if you’re looking for cool dishes, fabrics, and decor for your apartment. The locals don’t mind haggling — just make sure you stay friendly, smile, and give them a good reason to give you a good price.
7. Stock up on souvenirs
For something less cookie-cutter than sarongs, skip the market and check out the art shops and boutiques. Streets like Jl. Hanoman are bursting with them: mirrors in intricate frames, colorful batik and patchwork shoulder bags, wooden utensils and cute little cups, statues of Hindu gods… You can roam for hours and still not check them all off your list.
If I were to recommend something specific, I’d say check out the Kunan-Kunan art shop for decor, Lucy’s Batik for real Javanese batik, Portobello for beautiful silk dresses, and Utama Spice for natural Bali-made mosquito repellent and cosmetics.
8. Take in the nature at the Campuhan Ridge Walk
The jungle has crept into every corner of Ubud, so you’re never too far from nature. But there’s one place where you can do a full-fledged hike without even leaving the town. Campuhan Ridge Walk is a path through a lush and hilly terrain, with a river on one side, tiled roofs on the other, and deafening cicadas all around. The Walk can get busy, so see if you can go there early in the morning.
9. Let yourself go at the Supermoon Conscious Party
If you picture a lovechild of a lit pool party and a meditation retreat, it’s going to be the Supermoon Conscious Party. It happens once a month at full moon and is strictly alcohol- and drug-free — the only thing you’re allowed to get high on is a sense of connection with yourself and other beings.
The point of Supermoon Conscious Party is to have a truly joyful, “dance like nobody’s watching” kind of night. And while it’s not always the authentic spiritual experience it aspires to be, it’s a pretty unique way to party in Ubud. You’ll top off the dancing with a sound healing session and head home feeling blissfully tired. And the best part? No hangover!
10. Do an Ubud bar crawl
The Supermoon party is only once a month, so what else is there to do in Ubud at night? Although it’s not exactly a party town, Ubud has pretty cool cocktail bars. No Mas with its chic noir interior feels like it could be in 19th-century Bombay. Sami Warung has a breezy rooftop terrace and an impressive cocktail list for such a casual spot. And don’t be afraid to wander around and find some favorites of your own — Ubud feels totally safe at night.
How to get to Ubud from the airport
As soon as you step out into the arrival zone of the Denpasar airport, you’re besieged by taxi drivers. Taxis are expensive in Bali, and the drivers are pushy — actively competing with Grab, the equivalent of Uber.
You’ll definitely get a better price if you download Grab, but there’s a catch. Many parts of Ubud are off limits to Grab drivers in order to give the local taxis an edge. Finding the Grab pickup spot at the airport can also be tricky, and you’ll get harassed by the taxi drivers as you go.
What worked best for me was a Klook transfer. You book one in advance, show up at the Klook sign just left of the exit, and show the managers your booking certificate. The price is right, and you don’t get in trouble with the Bali taxi mafia. Here are some transfers, including the one I used:
Where to stay in Ubud
Ubud is perhaps the most walkable place in Bali. It actually has sidewalks, so it makes sense to stay in the center and just walk everywhere. We stayed at Sania’s House, smack in the middle of Ubud Art Market:
Sania’s House, Double Room with Fan – from $20
Even though Sania’s House is in a busy location, the hustle somehow stops at the door. It’s a quiet guesthouse with beautiful woodwork, statues, and several houses that descend towards the swimming pool. If they have rooms for your dates and you want to be close to everything in Ubud, look no further.
These hotels are also pretty good for staying central:
But if you’re on a scooter and value nature above everything else, pick a place just outside Ubud. Hotelscombined lets you see prices on Ubud hotels on all booking platforms at a glance so you can get the best deal.
How many days do you need in Ubud?
The first time we came to Ubud, it was for 24 hours — and 24 hours barely scratched the surface. You need 2-3 days to check it out at a relaxed pace, so plan a trip to Ubud for a long weekend. It’s going to be a bit busier over the weekend, but you’ll have a better choice of events to attend and more nightlife.
Ubud and more on my Instagram
The post 10 things to do in Ubud that aren’t yoga appeared first on One Grand Trip: Travel Itineraries on a $1,000 Budget.