Some travellers make their journey to Ubud for its reputation as a cultural hub. Others check-in to one of the ultra luxury resorts to downshift from their busy lives, back home. Whatever your hopes for your Ubud holiday, it has a lot to offer and has become a beloved Bali destination for visitors from all walks of life. Home to conscious culinary cafes, beautiful boutiques selling products crafted by local artisans and a relaxed and intimate feel, it has become one of my personal favourite destinations in Indonesia too.
On most recent visit to Indonesia with the country’s Ministry for Tourism, Bali was the last stop on our trip. We also explored Jakarta, Bintan Island, Flores and Komodo National Park. While staying in Kuta, we made our way to Ubud for a good serving of food, culture and adventure; the perfect combination.
Getting to Ubud
- Our Pocket Guide to Bali has all the basic information you need to know when planing a trip to Bali.
- On our recent day trip to Ubud, we travelled between Kuta to Ubud the coolest way possible; via vintage VW convoy with Bali Safari Tours. Tops down and cameras at the ready, we wound our way through the traffic of Kuta and Seminyak and soon found ourselves surrounded by the brilliant green of the rice paddies and narrow turns of the villages. It was one of the best activities I’ve ever done in Bali and I cannot recommend it highly enough whether you are travelling as a couple or with friends or family.
- Ubud is about 1.5 hours drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. It will take a little longer from Seminyak or Kuta and about 2 hours from Jimbaran Bay or Nusa Dua, depending on traffic.
- A taxi to Ubud from Denpasar airport will cost around Rp300,000 one way (about $AUD30).
- Booking a car with a driver is generally a more cost effective option in Bali. You can negotiate with a driver at the airport or if you are staying in Ubud, consider pre-booking a transfer with the hotel at a set price (likely to be a little more expensive but stress-free).
- Expect cars in Ubud to be a little more expensive to hire than those in Kuta or Seminyak. They have a captive market so they charge accordingly.
- If you are hiring a scooter, a push bike or walking, expect to meet a lot of hills. Also, the roads are very narrow, many lack footpaths and are not well lit at night, so be very careful.
What to do in Ubud
There are ample ways to pass the days in Ubud. From seeing the sights to strolling the shopping streets or an afternoon spent at a yoga studio or spa. Here are a few things you might want to add to your list:
- Take in a cultural show while feasting on Ubud’s famous crispy duck at Laka-Leke Restaurant. We went to Laka-Leke for dinner and settled in for the buffet and a performance. We saw the Joged and Children Dance, designed to entertain as well as share a little of the local culture. The little dancers were gorgeous and took their job very seriously. Make sure you book a table and check which performance you will be seeing, the scheduled shows change.
- Tampaksiring Presidential Palace and the is located in the village of Sukawati, Gianyar, Bali, about 45 minutes to an hour’s drive from Ubud town centre. Cleanse yourself in the Tirta Empul spring waters, thought to have healing powers. Be respectful as this is a holy site; wear swimmers covered with a sarong in the water. Don’t forget to pack a towel or your driver may not be too happy with you. Beware the hawkers near the exit and don’t touch anything unless you want to buy it.
- Dating back to the 11th century, Gunung Kawi Temple is one of Bali’s oldest monuments and sits, sheltered in a river valley, surrounded by jungle and rice terraces. The site features ten shrines, honouring a member of the Balinese royal family. Each is cut into the rock face. Wear comfortable, loose clothing and walking shoes. The only way into the temple is on foot and there are hundreds of stairs to climb around the site. The site opens at 7am, so try to get there first thing to beat the heat and the crowds. Entry is Rp 15,000 per person (about $AUD1.50).
- Ubud Palace is located on the corner of Jalan Raya Ubud and Jalan Monkey Forest. Have a wander through the grounds and then continue down either of the two well-known shopping streets to browse boutiques and relax with a famous Balinese coffee in the afternoon.
- Learn how to cook some Balinese favourites with a cooking class. Our friends liked Casa Luna.
- Find more on Ubud and what to see and do here.
How to Stay Active in Ubud
- I have to admit whitewater rafting was something that I had never considered doing in Bali, but it became one of the highlights of my recent trip to the island. The river was pretty low so the rapids were tame and ideal for taking families on the river. The rainy season is the time serious paddlers will want to hit the river. Mega Rafting took us down the river. There were showers, our clothes and lunch waiting as we came off the water. It was lots of fun.
- Ubud is a yoga town. From beginner to instructor level, you will find a yoga class to suit your flow. Mary’s favourite studios are Yoga Barn, Radiantly Alive, Ubud Yoga House and Dragon Fly Village for their herbal steam sauna facilities.
- If you are feeling adventurous a bike tour is a must while you are in Ubud, even for those who may not be at peak fitness. Read more about our experience riding through the villages and rice terraces here.
Where to Eat in Ubud
We have a list of favourite Ubud cafes and restaurants. The foodie scene for raw, vegan, vegetarian and organic meals has really expanded over the past decade and it really has become a hub for the healthy traveller.
- If you head to Yoga Barn you will no doubt be drawn to the gorgeous Garden Kafe after class for a recovery fresh coconut, smoothie or snack.
- Alchemy Bali is somewhere I have spent hours, working my way through the menu, perusing the shop shelves and generally soaking up the good vibes. Run, don’t walk to the vegan and vegetarian salad bar but save room for a treat from the raw chocolate cabinet for dessert.
- Sari Organik offers healthy food and drinks crafted from farm fresh local produce. Sit and enjoy your meals with a view over the iconic Ubud rice terraces.
- Locavore Restaurant delivers artful creations showcasing local ingredients in a warm and cosy eco bistro style setting. For something fancy book in to the restaurant or head to the deli for a delicious, fresh take away option.
- The Seeds of Life is a raw foodie’s heaven in Ubud. Stop in for lunch, take home a signature tonic or tea or book in to one of their courses at the Raw Food Academy.
- Earth Cafe has created a ‘cruelty free oasis’ in Ubud. Their menu has a clear conscience. Carefully curated to cater to vegetarians, vegans, raw-foodies or just people looking to stay healthy on their visit. They have also opened, Paradiso, the world’s first organic, vegan and vegetarian cinema where you can munch on non-GMO popcorn, topped off with Himalayan salt and olive oil while watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
- Clear Cafe wants you to know where you food comes from, bringing ingredients from around the island to deliver a considered menu with heart. Stop in and cool off with a cashew mylk shake, a superfood tonic or some of your international favourite made with a healthy twist.
- Date night? Book a table in the garden at Mozaic. A forage to fork approach means they seek out the best local Balinese ingredients and create their menu accordingly. Expect the menu to change often, but the standard to remain the same; experiential fine dining at its best.
- Warung Ibu Oka is very well known in Bali for its babi guling (traditional suckling pig). Right opposite Ubud Palace, join the line for lunch. We tried this tourist spot once and while we were glad we did, we probably wouldn’t return. If you have a local driver, perhaps ask them where they would recommend you try babi guling off the tourist trail. Many villages have their own and would likely offer a more authentic experience.
- Treat yourself with a high tea or a cocktail overlooking the valley at Kupu Kupu Barong‘s La View Restaurant, the perfect post-treatment pick me up after indulging in a Spa Adventure at the resort’s Mango Tree Spa by L’Occitane.
Check out some of our other favourite healthy eating spots in Seminyak and Canggu here.
Where to Stay in Ubud
There are plenty of accommodation options in Ubud from backpacker guest houses to retreat-style stays and high-end properties that you don’t even need to leave if you don’t feel the need. Ubud is also very easy to access from anywhere on the island, you simply need to book a car and driver for the day. A few of our favourite Bali hotels are:
- Kupu Kupu Barong is a luxury resort nestled in the tropical jungle landscape overlooking the Ayung River Valley just outside of Ubud.
- Mercure Kuta is located right on the beachfront, within walking distance of shops, restaurants and the famous Kuta markets. The hotel is clean, modern and has an incredible infinity pool which provides the perfect spot for sundowners.
- Mercure Harvestland is located within walking distance of the international and domestic terminals. The rooms are large, modern and well-appointed and it really is the perfect oasis for those arriving into Bali late at night or stopping over for a night before heading on to another destination.
- The Samata, Sanur. A beautiful intimate resort with state-of-the-art fitness facilities.
Have a favourite place to add to this guide? Send us the details using our contact form here.
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The Fit Traveller was a guest of the Indonesian Ministry for Tourism for this recent trip to Bali. As always, the opinions, imagery and words are authentically our own.