Ubud is the cultural and spiritual centre of Bali and a major hot spot for clean living, vegan eating yoga enthusiasts. Not only is Ubud surrounded by lush green rice terraces, monkey filled rainforests and waterfall after waterfall, it’s also known for their trendy vegan eateries, boutique shops and markets, art galleries, healing and yoga retreats plus a few dozen temples. With so many attractions and places to visit in Ubud, you could easily spend a few weeks here and never grow bored. Case in point, after 10 days in Ubud (on two separate trips) I still wished I had longer as there was still so much I wanted to experience.
So this list is the best of the best when it comes to the most Insta-worthy sights and attractions to see in Ubud, all tried and tested by me.
1. Try Your Balancing Skills at Tegalalang Rice Terraces
Perhaps what Ubud is most well known for are their famed rice terraces. While you’re sure to see rice paddies scattered throughout Bali, it’s the Tegalalang Rice Terraces you’ve most likely seen splashed across postcards and Google. If you visit during the middle of the day like I did on my first visit, prepare to carefully balance across the thin terraced paths as rows of people try to pass each other in the opposite direction. There will always be someone who falls into a muddy rice paddy, just try to make sure that person isn’t you. On my second visit I went at sunrise to avoid the heat and the crowds and needless to say this was a much more beautiful and peaceful experience.
2. Laugh at Monkeys at the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest
If you’re a big fan of monkeys then you’ll be in heaven at the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest. The 27 acres of protected forest are home to more than 600 banana-snatching monkeys. As cute as they may look you’ll want to make sure you secure any loose items, as these cheeky monsters are known for stealing anything they can get their sneaky little hands on. This includes sunglasses, jewellery, hats, cameras and even items from your pockets or bags. DO NOT bring any food into the forest, regardless of whether it’s in a bag or not as they’ll smell it and pounce. If you’re feeling courageous you can purchase bananas to feed the monkeys, where they’ll likely climb all over you until they’ve snatched that banana. Remember monkeys have teeth, so if you decide to taunt and tease them with food, well they might decide to bite you instead of the banana. That being said, if you’re not carrying food with you then they’ll be rather unfazed by your presence.
3. Sit Cliffside at Tegenungan Waterfall
Given that Tegenungan is the most well known waterfall in Bali, it’s not surprising that it’s also the most touristy and crowded. For those same reasons it’s also probably my least favourite in Bali, purely because the crowds and souvenir shops take away a little of the magic. That being said, it’s still a must see attraction in Ubud. Just make sure you get there in the early morning or late afternoon, so you won’t be butting elbows trying to get your Insta-worthy photo by the cliffs edge.
4. Sit in a Tyre Under Tibumana Waterfall
After the tourist infested Tegenungan Waterfall, it was such a surprise to find we had this paradise all to ourselves. We were also lucky enough to find three inflatable tyres that seemed to have found themselves a permanent home there. Here’s hoping they stick around and don’t get nicked anytime soon.
5. Climb Kanto Lampo Waterfall
Although this waterfall is technically in the next town over, climbing up these rocks as the water gushed down was by far the best thing I did in Ubud. Kanto Lampo also happened to be yet another waterfall we had all to ourselves. If you’re planning on doing any waterfall exploring while in Bali, I highly recommend bringing some water shoes with a good grip. I certainly would not have been able to climb up and down this waterfall without breaking an ankle had it not been for my water shoes.
6. Indulge in a Day Experience at Fivelements: Flower Bath Anyone?
Fivelements is an award winning eco-luxury wellness retreat that lies on the Ayung River, surrounded by jungle and tucked away on the outskirts of Ubud. The resort is completely vegan and offers a variety of healing and wellness programs to choose from, all inspired by the Balinese way of life. This includes yoga, meditation, healing massages, beauty spa rituals, detox programs and Balinese ceremonies.
While the retreat features nine exclusive riverside suites, guests can also simply visit the property on a day experience. We were treated to their Signature Couples Ritual Hibiscus Prema, consisting of a relaxing full body massage and a red hibiscus flower bath on the banks of the river. Whether you visit just for the day or stay the night, I guarantee you will leave Fivelements feeling physically, mentally and spiritually detoxed and revived.
7. When in Ubud, Eat Vegan
If you’re a newbie to the vegan restaurant scene like myself, there really is no better place for first timers than Sakti Dining Room at Fivelements. While you can order off their à la carte menu, it’s their 3, 5 and 7 course Tasting Menus where you’ll truly experience their innovative take on raw food. Our feast included Asian style tacos, beetroot and red rice risotto and coconut lime cheesecake. I was certainly a skeptic, but I can now officially say eating vegan can actually be delicious.
8. Climb Mt. Batur: Catch the Sunrise from the Top of an Active Volcano
Perhaps the most popular day trip from Ubud would be the sunrise hike up Mt. Batur. Of course if you plan to see the sun rise from the top of an active volcano, this means starting in the middle of the night. Tours start at around 2am, with your driver picking you up and taking you the 1.5 hours to Mt. Batur. From there it’s a quick breakfast and then a 2-hour guided hike up the volcano in the pitch black (torches are of course provided). I recommend bringing something warm because you’ll be hot and sweaty hiking up the volcano, but once you get to the top it’s quite cold and windy until the sun comes out.
9. Temple Hop at Saraswati Temple
Conveniently located in the centre of Ubud town by the market, this place makes for a great photo-op thanks to the beautiful lotus pond and water garden. The temple also plays host to a nightly traditional dance performance.
10. Take a Free Yoga Class
Given that Ubud is a hot spot for clean living, juice-cleansing yoga devotees, it’s not surprising that the majority of hotels in the area offer complimentary yoga classes. While I might not be the biggest fan of yoga, I do love free stuff, therefore I’m quite impartial to a free yoga class. Most places tend to accommodate beginners, so don’t stress if you’re not well acquainted with downward-facing dog.
11. Get Your Morning Cardio in at Campuhan Ridge Walk
This short trek will take you through the hills, valleys and rice fields that are just metres from the main road of Ubud town. The trail starts at the Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas and Spa and is about a 4km round trip, with most people taking a break at Karsa Kafe before turning back. It’s the perfect escape from the congested roads of town, and you might even be lucky enough to see a Balinese family dressed in their Sunday finest posing for a family portrait.
12. Sleep Amongst the Rice Fields
One of the best things about visiting Ubud is being able to open your bedroom curtains and see rice fields from the moment you wake up. Desa Visesa Ubud could not be more perfectly located with suites and villas surrounded by rice fields, gardens and temples. As it’s only a short 10-minute drive from Ubud town, it’s a convenient location for relaxing in a village environment while also being able to go into town to explore the shops, spas and restaurants with the hotels complimentary shuttle bus. The resort is very integrated with a local village experience, with farmers tending to the rice fields and harvesting the rice while we were there. While we did have our own small pool in our villa, I really enjoyed the main swimming pool for its beautiful intricate wall carvings, perfect for that Instagram shot. If you still want to keep fit in-between your daily breakfast buffets there’s also an open air gym located amongst the rice fields. It’s missing my usual A/C but it is scenic at least. Like everywhere in Bali the service is impeccable, but something I hadn’t experienced elsewhere on the island was their check-in ritual that involved a blessing, placing sacred rice on our forehead followed by the ringing of a gong. A very special welcome indeed.
With thanks to Desa Visesa Ubud for welcoming me to their hotel. As always, all opinions expressed remain my own.