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WHAT TO DO IN UBUD – EXPLORING BALI

After spending one month in Ubud, I’m sharing my recount of the best things to do in this beautiful balinese destination. Although the center of town can be very hectic, you can walk for 10 minutes and find yourself in the most serene scenarios… and that’s why Ubud should be on your Indonesia bucket-list. 

HIKING IN UBUD

If you enjoy walking/hiking, you’ll love Ubud. There’s several beautiful routes that you can take where you’ll see beautiful nature, animals (lots of ducks and chickens), rice fields, waterfalls… I frequented 3 different trails that I can recommend you:

  • Campuhan Ridge Walk
  • Sweet Orange Walk Trail
  • Sari Organik Walk

These are fairly easy hikes but do require proper footwear and sun protection. UV rays are particularly high in this part of the world so sunscreen should never be skipped. Wear a hat and sunglasses. I brought hiking shoes with me but any sport shoe should be fine, just don’t wear sandals as the trail can be uneven, rocky and muddy. We saw people struggling and even slipping because they wear literally wearing flip-flops.
After every walk you’ll find little restaurants or coffee shops where you can hang, enjoy the rice terrace views, hydrate, and rest before heading back down.

CHASING WATERFALLS IN UBUD

Ubud is home to several incredible waterfalls, each offering a unique and immersive natural experience. One of the most renowned is Tegenungan Waterfall, a scenic cascade surrounded by lush greenery and accessible for a refreshing dip.
Tukad Cepung Waterfall is another gem, tucked inside a cave and illuminated by radiant sunlight streaming through the top, creating a magical atmosphere. If you’re willing to explore a bit further, Nungnung Waterfall stands tall amidst dense forests, rewarding you with a spectacular view after a trek. These waterfalls not only showcase Bali’s natural beauty but also provide a serene escape into the heart of the island’s tropical landscapes.

photo of girl st waterfall in ubud bali
check out Ubud Traditional Art Market

From funky jewelry to handmade textiles and lovely paintings, this little market has it all. Plus, you get to chat with tocals and soak in the Balinese vibes. It’s not just shopping; it’s a whole experience. So, if you’re up for some artsy fun and want to snag unique souvenirs, the Ubud market is where it’s at!

VISIT UBUD’S MONKEY FOREST

Whenever doing animal tourism you want to make sure you’re not supporting animal abuse. In the past I unfortunately fell into a tourist trap in Mexico at a terrible monkey “sanctuary” (Akumal Monkey Sanctuary) and learnt from that experience. Fortunately though this time around I was happy I could finally see thousands of monkeys in a place where they’re well care for and not abused. Ubud’s Monkey Forest is actually as good as a monkey sanctuary can get. The monkeys can come and go as they please and sometimes you will even see them on the streets! They’re not caged and are free to be near tourist or simply go and chill anywhere they want. It is up to them and that’s how it should be.
The place is also surprisingly affordable, it costs around $5 per person… in Mexico for that scammy “sanctuary” I paid over $80 to see a few caged moneys and goats, and the people working there were very scary and intimidating… it was a terrible experience. But here in Ubud, you can have an awesome experience visiting the little crazy chimps.
Oh and yes, they sometimes do offer “monkey selfies” which I witnessed and didn’t have a problem with to be honest. The monkeys didn’t feel forced to be there. They’re not chained, they’d do the “trick” because they want some treats, then go on about their day. They don’t even have the need to do that because they have food everywhere! So I don’t see it as exploitation.

DO NOT VISIT UBUD’S ELEPHANT SANCTUARY 🚫

Contrary the the monkey sanctuary this place does seem to exploit their animals… I was devastated when I did my research before buying a ticket because there were red flags everywhere. You only need to see the reviews on TripAdvisor to understand.
It seems to be a money driven “sanctuary” and they force the animals to perform and do things to make tourists happy. All and all, the elephants seem to have a miserable life and are constantly punished and as I said, I learnt from my Mexico experience so I didn’t go…I cannot support that.
It’s up to you what you do but try not to be part of the problem. I’m sure you will find a different place somewhere in the world that is a legitimate sanctuary where you can interact with beautiful elephants without abusing them.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces, UBUD

This is Ubud’s ultimate “Instagram spot”. It is a very beautiful place with stunning rice terraces. There’s a restaurant, and several floors of really cool infinite pools. Although the place is aesthetically beautiful, they’ve worked on it to make it “Instagram Central”, so know that it is the most touristic place you’ll find in Ubud. People go there to get social media “content”. You’ll see people lining up on the rental dresses to get pictures and videos taken on the dozens of photo spots such as swings, “nests”, sculptures, etc.

VISIT UBUD PALACE

Also known as Puri Saren Agung, is a cultural and historical gem tucked away in the vibrant center of Ubud.
You can explore the palace grounds, admire the beautiful Balinese architecture, and, if timing is right, witness traditional dance performances held in the courtyard.

Getting Around Ubud

As I said before, Ubud can be chaotic. The main way of transportation is motorcycle. We gave it a go but to be honest, it’s not the best place for an inexperienced biker to do so. Mainly because there’s bikes and cars coming at you at all times, the roads are not in great condition and there’s water canals in pretty much every street. After a minor “crash” we decided to forget about it and rely on GoJet cars (the equivalent of Uber). It is frown upon by local taxi drivers (just like Uber is frown upon in many cities around the world) but as a tourist it was the most convenient option. If you’re renting a moped, do it at your own discretion, get a proper helmet, don’t wear flip-flops while driving and make sure your insurance would cover any accident you might have 😬

VISIT PURA SARASWATI

Pura Saraswati is another temple with beautiful architecture, surrounded by a stunning, expansive lotus pond. As you can imagine, this makes it a very popular spot for tourists to take photos, so it can be quite crowded, depending on the time of day.

HIKE MOUNT BATUR

Mount Batur is an active volcano that offers not just a challenging trek but also rewards hikers with breathtaking panoramic views at the summit. The sunrise from Mount Batur is legendary, casting a warm golden glow over the surrounding landscapes, including the serene Lake Batur. The trek itself is invigorating, taking you through lush landscapes and volcanic terrain. It’s a chance to witness the island’s natural beauty in its raw form. Whether you’re a sunrise enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking an adrenaline-pumping experience, hiking Mount Batur promises an unforgettable journey in the heart of Bali.

Don’t merely check off landmarks but savor the nuanced flavors, immerse yourself in the local rhythms, and seek out the hidden gems that escape the travel brochures. Whether it’s the most popular waterfalls or stumbling upon a tucked-away café (like Cafe Pomegranate), let Ubud unfold before you. As you plan your own adventure, remember to leave room for spontaneity and the unexpected—sometimes, it’s those unplanned moments that become the most cherished memories. 

I hope you find this comprehensive travel guide helpful. Here’s to wanderlust, discovery, and the endless possibilities awaiting you in Ubud, Bali. Happy travels!


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