Ubud is often described as the cultural heart of Bali. It’s common to see a Balinese ceremony during your time in Ubud, which is a special experience to have. Ubud village itself can be quite busy but surrounding Ubud you will find beautiful green seas of rice fields.
This is one place you should definitely stay when on your Bali holiday. For at least a few days. There’s something about it. It forces you to slow down, look at things differently. Ubud village may be quite touristy but that’s exactly why I think a day trip doesn’t do it justice. It’s in the evening or early morning when you get to really see Ubud. And if you stay in the beautiful surrounds of Ubud you will have all the peace you need.
Like most destinations in Southeast Asia, Ubud has two seasons – wet and dry. The wet season is typically from November till March while the dry season is from around April till October. Temperatures vary little throughout the year so going in the dry season is best. July and August generally experience the best weather though they’re also peak months in Bali. For that reason, April-June and September-November would be best.
As a first-time visitor to Ubud, one of the first things you might notice is the architecture. It’s hard not to as ornate and eye-catching as Balinese architecture is!
Of all the architectural eye candy in Ubud, two of the most important structures are Pura Taman Saraswati (pictured below) and Puri Saren Agung. The former is a water temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess of wisdom and art called Dewi Saraswati, while the latter is the palace of the royal family. They’re both free to visit and located within minutes of the Ubud Art Market. From what I’ve read, cultural dance performances are held at both venues in the evenings as well.
Saraswati Temple and Ubud Royal Palace may be the most noteworthy but there are plenty of interesting buildings in Ubud. I suggest taking a walk without having any real plan. Balinese architecture is fascinating and fun to photograph. The ornately decorated split gates are called candi bentar and are a common sight in Bali.
Tirta Empul is a natural hot spring that is considered one of the holiest temples in Bali. Locals believe the water has magical power. Inside the temple, you can rent a sarong and go into the water for a blessing or you can walk around the courtyard and see the source of the water that is still bubbling.
Strongly recommend visiting this temple together with the Tegallalang Rice Terrace since it’s also located to the north of Ubud. It takes about 15 mins more from the rice terrace by motorbike.
Tegallalang Rice Terrace is one of the most famous rice fields in Bali. This place is quickly becoming a famous tourist spot thanks to Instagram. It’s about 30 minutes ride on the motorbike up north. There are plenty of rice terraces in Ubud but the ones here are special because the rice fields are located on a cliff which makes for an amazing photo location.
Rise and shine very early to visit the magical valley of rice terraces: Tegalalang. The countless layers of rice fields are the absolute best way to start your day in Ubud.
Due to its popularity its best to visit the terraces before 10 AM to avoid the crowds. Visiting Tegalalang is one of the things you must do in Bali.
Goa Gajah (aka the Elephant Cave) is an ancient temple built in the 9th century. There are lots of carvings on the stone on the entrance to the cave.
The actual cave itself is tiny! In front of the cave is a large bathing pool featuring five statues depicting Hindu angels holding vases that act as waterspouts. There are also beautiful gardens to explore. Entrance fee: 15,000 IDR.
The Gunung Kawi Temple complex comprises a collection of ancient shrines carved into the face of a rock cliff in central Bali. The main site overlooks the sacred Pakerisan River, which also flows by the Tirta Empul Temple a kilometre up north. Across the river from the ancient reliefs is a temple courtyard featuring old Hindu shrines in a more contemporary architectural style.
Bali’s Pejeng region is famous for its rich collection of archaeological sites, and Gunung Kawi Temple is a popular stopover on itineraries through the central uplands of the Gianyar regency. The 300 steps further down to the river flanks lush paddy terraces and a gorgeously green valley – they transport you back in time and away from modernity.
This is a beautiful paved walk along the Campuhan Ridge. This walk definitely showcases the natural side to Ubud. Many trees and hills, the Campuhan Ridge Walk has the scenery of a jungle or forest rather than that of rice terraces and fields.
There are rice fields further along the walk near Karsa Kafe but there are other rice terraces and fields that require less walking to get to and are closer to Ubud centre like the Kajeng rice fields walk. There are also more impressive and popular rice terraces such as Tegalalang or Jatiluwih Rice Terraces (although Tegalalang has changed so much and become much more touristy, not quite the experience it once was).