The country’s spiritual epicentre, Ubud is a town in the northern Balinese mountains approximately an hour from Seminyak and Kuta. With an ingrained artisan mentality, Ubud is a creative and mystical place surrounded by picture-perfect rice fields and rich cultural history.
My favourite place to go when I visit Bali, Ubud has a relaxing and almost sacred aura that attracts spiritual leaders from around the world, people seeking natural and spiritual healing, as well as an abundance of travelling yogis. With the release of the hit film starring Julia Roberts, Eat Pray Love, one could say that Ubud has attracted a lot of inauthentic visitors, however its beauty and sacredness are still intact (you might just have to go outside of the town centre to experience it).
Accommodation in Ubud caters to all budgets, however I would recommend staying in a hotel or villa outside of the town centre as it gets very congested these days and will not offer you the true Ubud experience. Hiring a scooter is as easy as getting a pedicure, so if you’re comfortable enough driving one, this is the best way to get around. However, most accommodation offer a daily shuttle in and out of the town as well. Any accommodation surrounded by rice fields is a good option, but from my experiences, particularly good places include Karma Mayura hotel and Griya Shanti Private Villas.
Temples are common in Ubud and you’ll find yourself coming across them without even realising. Ubud Water Palace is on the main street in town but hidden behind Starbucks and a restaurant called Cafe Lotus. If you can find it, it’s beautiful and definitely produces some insta-worthy pictures. Goa Gajah is another archeological monument that I would recommend visiting where you’ll get a sense and appreciation for ancient Bali.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces offer some of the most spectacular views in Ubud and are about 20 minutes north of the town centre (with no traffic and without stopping at the artisan boutiques and galleries along the way). If you’re brave enough to battle the heat and walk the terraces, go for it, or sit down with a Bintang (Balinese pilsner) and some chicken satay at Lambung Sari Warung which is accessible from the main street.
As mentioned earlier, Ubud has been built around an artisan philosophy, so many locals make a living through selling artwork, sculpture and other creative crafts. On you way back from Tegallalang Rice Terraces, stop at some of the hundreds of boutiques where you’ll find everything from wood carvings to painted canvas and metal cacti sculptures. A spectacular antique store along that road is called Reza Art and its certainly worth checking out. And, if that’s still not enough shopping for you, get yourself lost in Ubud Art Market which is just across the road from the Water Palace.
The food in Ubud is focused around healthy eating and there’s no shortage of juice bars or vegan eateries. There are endless eating options, however the perfect foodie day for me in Ubud would be breakfast at Watercress Cafe, followed by coffee at Seniman Coffee Studio, a salad and juice at Alchemy Bali (a raw vegan cafe), and then either a curry at Melting Wok Warung or grilled king prawns at Fair Warung Bale. Yum!
There are so many opportunities to explore in Ubud, so make sure you reserve a day to put on your walking shoes and simply get lost! Some great walks that I’ve done include the popular Campuhan Ridge Walk where you can award yourself with a massage at Karsa Spa, or climb the Penestanan steps to enjoy a Balinese/Asian treat hidden amongst the rice fields at Yellow Flower Cafe.
No matter what you do in Ubud, give yourself time to relax and soak in the tranquility that this little town emanates. I would recommend staying in Ubud at least 4-5 days to give yourself time to settle in, do the tourist stuff and then have a day or two to do nothing. Don’t plan anything and just enjoy breathing in the fresh air, being surrounded by immense open spaces, and soaking up the aura that oozes from Ubud’s spiritual roots.