12 Jan 10 Must See Places in Ubud, Indonesia
A seriously lush rain forest with the buzzing sound of cicadas and squeeking (yes, SQUEEKING) geckos – in Bali, Ubud is the place to be.
Located in the steep ravines and beautiful rice paddies in the central foothills of the Gianyar regency, this district is a piece of heaven away from the hustle and bustle areas like Seminyak and Kuta. Home to one of Bali’s royal families, this part of the island has long been known as Bali’s cultural capital. It won’t take you long to find colorful art galleries, museums, and temples sprinkled throughout – and you can even visit the royal palace in the center of the village!
During our stay in Ubud, we found some pretty amazing places that you cannot miss during your trip to this little slice of paradise.
1. Campuhan Ridge Walk (FREE)
This beautiful, paved, trail is within walking distance from the city centre in Ubud (though we highly recommend renting a scoot and cruisin’ there). It’s an easy hike, the incline is minimal and the views are breathtaking.
It took us a few failed attempts to find the entrance, but eventually we found our way there. I’d recommend downloading a map of Ubud, Bali from Google Maps while you have WiFi so that you can use it during your stay here. Assuming you have access to your map, the easiest way to find your way to the entrance is to go to ‘Warwick Ibah’. This is a luxury hotel with the entrance only a hop, skip and a jump away from their main entrance. If you need better instructions, I’d head over to this website where they provide an illustrated map and more detailed instructions.
The best time to do this walk is early in the morning for the amazing sunrise. If you can’t get yourself out of bed in the morning, go in the evening when the heat has passed as there is very little to no shade on the trail. Bring your water bottle no matter what time of the day it is. It’s almost surprising how quickly you get thirsty here. If you decide to go at dusk, make sure the slather on that bug repellent or you will be eaten alive. Overall, the trail isn’t very busy, though about .5 km in there is a tree swing that you can enjoy – the wait here is minimal but it’s probably where you will run into the most people. Swing out over the hill and get yourself some killer Instagram shots.
Walk another .5km and you will run into a great little cafe called Karsa Kafe. It’s a good spot to sit and enjoy the view, grab yourself a young coconut and a quick bite to eat. If you feel like trekking further, you’ll reach the village of Kedewatan. Here, you can find some cultural art and paintings for a bit less than you will find them at the central market.
2. Sacred Monkey Forest (≈$3.50+)
First off, before you even think about visiting this place – take off your jewelry and dress light. I never sweat more in Bali than I did in the monkey forest. The greenery is dense, the air is thick with humidity and the adorable monkeys will turn scary fast if they start coming after your shiny accessories. It’s beautiful but it definitely isn’t the most glamours place to be. Again, stay hydrated and don’t forget to grab your water bottle (but don’t bring plastic!). We used our 40oz CamelBak Chute Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Water Bottle during our entire stay in Bali and it was perfect for every occasion.
QUICK TIP: don’t even bother packing your makeup or hair products when you visit Bali.
This forest is home to about 700 monkeys and 186 species of trees in it’s 30+ acres. The prices to get in is 50,000 IDR, which currently translates to $3.50. Upon entry, you will have the option to buy a bunch of bananas to feed the monkeys during your walk. This will put you out another 50,000 IDR but it is definitely worth the small fee. However, it’s not for the easily frightened. The monkeys can and will find the bananas your holding and will do whatever means necessary to get them into their own hands. This means crawling up your pant leg, jumping onto your shoulder from the trees above, or grabbing your clothing as you walk by. It’s amazing – but only if that isn’t going to scary you. If you aren’t sure you’ll be comfortable with it, just don’t buy the bananas right away (you can always make your way back to the stand later) and observe the other people that did buy them. Either way, you are going to see monkeys – lots of them.
During your walk through the forest you will also come across three temples and an awesome dragon bridge. Based on the Pura Purana (a historical holy book made from palm tree leaves that documents the temples), temples in this area are built around the mid 14th century when the kingdoms in Bali were ruled by the beginning of Gelgel Dynasty.
The main temple is Pura Dalem Agung, located in the southwest area. In this temple, people worship to God (Hyang Widhi) in personification as Shiva, the third god in the Hindu triumvirate, ”The Recycler” or “The Transformer” who is responsible destruction of the universe so that it may be recreated and harmony restored. To the northwest is Pura Beji where people worship in personification as the goddess Gangga. This temple is a place of purification before ceremony (piodalan). Pura Beji is often used for ”melukat” as spiritual and physical cleansing.
Finally, the third temple is Pura Prajapati, located in the northeast and here they worship in personification as Prajapati, the lord of creatures. Adjacent to the temple is the cemetery. It awaits for the day of the mass cremation which is held every 3-5 years. These ceremonies are considered a public event and the mood is light. It’s actually unusual to see sadness at these ceremonies because the Balinese believe the deceased make their way to the next life, and so that the soul isn’t sad, it becomes a joyous event – celebration of new life!
3. Tegalalang Rice Paddies (≈$0.40+)
The Tegalalang rice terrace is a famous (and super touristy) spot located roughly 20 minutes outside the heart of Ubud – if you’re driving a scooter. They are amazing maintained, I’m assuming this is because they are such a great tourist attraction. They are easily explored and photographed, so get ready for some good Instagram likes. Layers of greenery pile on top of each other like a delicious green cake. “Everybody loves cake, cake has layers.”
It costs you nothing to view the expansive terrace, but if you want to trek it, you’ll be required to pay a donation fee of at least 5,000 IDR per person during several spots of your exploration. You’ll find your first donation stop after following trekking signs that lead you to heading down steps to the bottom of the terraces. There, you’ll be greeted by a local and asked for a donation. Pay what you want as long as it meets the minimum – but remember that an extra 5,000 IDR (roughly $0.40) makes a world more of difference to them than it does to us. So, in my opinion, be generous here. These are views you cannot just see anywhere! You can go as high up or stay as low as you’d like on the terraces. The higher you climb, the more donation stations you will run into.
QUICK TIP: Don’t skip this place just because you don’t feel like trudging around in the humid air. You can easily set yourself up at a cafe from above the terrace and enjoy the view without all the sweating. Along the road are also small shops selling the usual sarongs and artsy souvenirs.
During your trek, you’ll find a handful of little cafes run by savvy locals that know you’re probably going to get thirsty (and maybe even hungry!). So, you’ll be able to find refreshing cold drinks and snacks. We grabbed a drink at the first little stall we saw, about halfway down the steps to get to bottom of the terrace. Their watermelon juice was AMAZING and surprisingly cold even though there was no ice in it. It was definitely refreshing to sip on and kept some the other cafes from hollering at us to buy food and drinks while we walked around.
4. Goa Gajah (≈$1.00)
Goa Gajah (The Elephant Cave) is located just off the road headed out of Ubud. The temple is pretty easy to spot as it has an obvious sign and there is a large parking lot. To get to the entrance of the grounds, you’ll need to pass a couple rows of shops and stalls. Feel free to browse here and buy yourself something but the shopkeepers here are a bit pushy for my taste.
QUICK TIP: Don’t let the shopkeepers hassle you to buy a sarong. You will need one to enter the grounds, but the price to rent one is included in your entrance fee and they will be given to you at the entrance to the temple. If you’re wearing long pants, you won’t need one at all.
The temple is open from 8:00am-4:00pm every day of the week. We went on a weekday and it was not busy at all, though I imagine it’s busier on the weekends. It costs 15,000 IDR for an adult and 7,500 IDR for a child. Once you’ve paid your entrance fee and put on your sarong you will walk down the hill towards the temple grounds, where you are greeted by several amazing visuals, including Goa Gajah.
Though the origins of the cave are uncertain, examining its style tells us that the sanctuary is likely dated from the 11th century Bali Kingdom. The grounds contain both Hindu and Buddhist temples and influence. The cave contains symbols of Shiva and the image of Ganesha, both Hindu deities. Near the river there are carved images of Stupas and Chattra, imagery of Buddhism. At the face of the cave you’ll find carvings of various menacing creatures and demons. The primary figure was once thought to be an elephant, hence the name, Elephant Cave. When we went, the cave was filled with incense and smoke, making for a really awesome and traditional feeling experience.
Head past the cave and you quickly find yourself overlooking more of the grounds and have views of beautiful ponds and rivers. Follow the path downward into the valley and you’ll find some local homes and vendors near the waterfall. This place is not large, but you could easily spend a couple hours here soaking up it’s beauty and tranquility.
5. Kanto Lampo Waterfalls (FREE)
Skip the hype and crowds of Tegenungan Waterfall and catch some bluer, cleaner waters at Kanto Lampo Waterfalls. We were reccomended by a local we met on the Campuhan Ridge Walk to visit this place instead as the crowds are lighter and, again, the waters bluer.
There are plenty of bus trips that will take you here, but we found that it was easy to find on out scooter and the drive is so much fun and we stopped to take photos in some villages we drove through on the way. We forgot our swimsuits but figured our attire was fine and would dry most of the way in the breeze on the way back to our AirBnb.
QUICK TIP: Bring your bathing suit.
If you happen to want a tour guide for this place, you can pay for one at the top of the steps that take you down to the falls. We paid, thinking it was a small fee for keeping the area clean and maintained, only to realize we had paid for a guide. It was well worth the 10,000 IDR per person ($1.50 total) for the images and videos he took of us at the falls.
6. Threads of Life (SHOPPING)
“Threads of Life is a fair trade business that works with culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets we commission are made with local materials and natural dyes to an exquisite standard usually only seen in museums. The Threads of Life Gallery in Ubud is an educational and retail space representing our values of cultural continuity, sustainable livelihoods, and environmental stewardship. Textiles and artifacts throughout are curated to museum standards with interpretative texts and images. Our gallery staff will guide you through our retail exhibits, teaching you about the textile arts, their cultural roots, and the importance of the gallery’s work to rural livelihoods across Indonesia. They will answer all your questions about natural dyes, motifs, and techniques, and tell you about the women who made the textiles and baskets. Behind the scenes is a staff of thirty who work directly with the weavers in the field across the archipelago, and maintain the chain of custody that allows each piece to be labeled with unique information about its makers and the importance of the piece to their culture.” read more.
7. Sukawati Art Market (SHOPPING)
You’ll find a lot of the same things here as you will in the central Ubud Market, but you’ll avoid the crowds and pushy vendors and save yourself a few bucks. It will take you about 20 minutes to get here from the Ubud centre if you take your scooter.
We spent a good couple of hours here wandering up and down the streets filled with all different kinds of kitschy souvenirs and some really beautiful, handy crafts. We ended up buying ourselves another carry on bag for the flight home while we were here so we could bring back all the things we had collected during our trip.
This market was established in the 1980s and is Bali’s longest standing art market. Across the Sukawati Traditional Market, there is a two level building where you can find distinctive Balinese art – paintings, curios, sculpted wooden figures, curios, and handmade bags. Near the back of the market, you’ll find items that the locals come for – bath and body products such as aromatherapy oils, scented candles, and incense. You can also find some amazing bed linens and textiles.
During a weekday, you’ll likely be one of maybe a few tourists in the area. We didn’t see one other tourist while we were there, which made the experience much more fun than the central market in Ubud. You’ll get a lot of people asking you where you are from and where you are staying if you don’t come through on a bus tour.
QUICK TIP: Skip the bus tours all together. You can see everything they see without paying for a tour and even more if you decide to rent yourself a scooter.
8. Pura Taman Saraswati (FREE)
Almost smack in the middle of Ubud centre is a little restaraunt called Cafe Lotus, and behind it, Pura Taman Saraswati. This temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Dewi Daraswait, goddess of knowledge and art. Historically, she may have been a goddess of the river but has transformed to represent a more metaphorical sense of creative flow. She is celebrated on Saraswati Day, every 210 days according to the Balinese calendar. During this day, offerings are made to sacred texts and books are blessed so they continue to spread knowledge. Inside the grounds, you will find gorgeous carvings all over the building as well as gushing fountains that come from the front of the temple and fill a large pond. The pond is covered in lotus blossoms and it is customary to bathe or drink the waters in order to harness some of the power of this goddess.
You can enter the temple at anytime of the day behind its amphitheatre and surround yourself in it’s calming atmosphere and beautiful architectural views. Be prepared to dress accordingly. Cover your shoulders, and wear your sarong and a sash. There are plenty of them for sale in the shops surrounding or in the Ubud centre Art Market only a hop, skip, and a jump down the road.
There are dance performances and musical ceremonies held here in the evenings when the temple is beautifully lit against the night sky. You will see plenty of people handing out flyers and selling tickets to these performances, and you probably don’t want to miss it!
9. Walk Jl. Kejang (FREE)
This little road comes right off of the main Jl. Raya Ubud road and is seriously breathtaking. The trail is mostly flat, but there are a few areas with an incline, so we suggest wearing good shoes. (You can ride this path on your scooter if you prefer!)
About halfway up you will be able to see beautiful rice terraces that stretch to the jungle border. Along the way, there are a ton of little shops to stop in, including the well known Threads of Life and Botany Interactive. Hanging from various spots on the path, you will see fun and festive coconuts that have fallen from the trees with faces carved and painted onto them. Some are signed with love notes and signatures from other tourist that have walked the trail.
QUICK TIP: Bring a sharpie so you can leave your mark.
This is a great place to walk while you are hungry, as two of our favorite Ubud restaurants are accessible from it. Sweet Orange Warung has some of the best fresh juices you will ever try, and TONS of fun coconut heads. You’re going to be greeted by the sweetest orange tabby cat while you’re there. Show him some love and he will hang out with you while you sip your juice and look out over the expansive terrace. If you’re looking for a great latte and eggs benedict, Luxe is the place to be and it only a bit farther down the road. IF you need more ideas on places to eat during your visit, you can view our post on the 10 Best Places to Eat in Ubud.
10. Ikat-Batik (SHOPPING)
This is probably the best place to buy affordable (but exquisite) fabrics in Indonesia. It’s little hidden away but it is worth the hunt on Jl. Monkey Forest.
Ikat-Batik has a wide range of fabrics that can be used as bed/couch throws, pillows, table runners, etc. A portion of what you spend is donated to charity and support local Balinese Artisans and Indonesian craftsmen. The shop is dedicated to locally produced quality products made from sustainable resources.
This makes for an awesome place to buy gifts to bring back home for your friends and loved ones. They have super affordable mugs, head scarves, head bands, etc alongside their ‘home decor’ textiles. This is a multi-building and multi-story business so wander around and take your time looking at everything they have to offer. Inside of the main building, you can see an awesome gallery on the staircase headed to the second floor with images of locals making and dyeing the products.