In the heart of Bali you’ll find the lush jungles and forests surrounding peaceful city of Ubud. Known as much for its yoga retreats and delicious eating scene as it is for its spas, temples and art markets, Ubud is must-visit when in Bali.
Whether you decide to make a day trip or plan to stay in the midst of the city itself, here’s everything you need to know about this enticing and magical paradise.
This 2020 Ultimate Guide to Ubud includes:
- How to get there
- What to do
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- How to get around
While Ubud itself doesn’t have an airport you can fly into directly, the closest airport is the Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar. With Bali being a popular tourist destination, it’ll be easy enough to find a flight to Bali – whether direct or with layovers.
The airport is approximately 40km from Ubud, and around a 1 to 1.5 hour drive away. I recommend booking a transfer service in advance so you don’t have to stress out and figure out your logistics when you’re all tired out from your flight. If not, there are also taxis that you can take from the airport, but they’re almost always pricier. (Pro tip: Head straight for the ‘departures’ drop off and grab a taxi off someone flying out! The Blue Bird brand is a reliable taxi company that always uses the meter.)
If you’re coming from the nearby areas of Seminyak, Canggu or Kuta, the same transportation options are possible, with the added option of renting a motorbike and making the trip yourself. Make sure to wear your helmet at all times though!
Now this one was a hard one for me to write because there are just so many options! To make it easier for you, I made a list of tours you can join with itineraries you can follow yourself including some of the more popular and highly recommended sites you should visit:
1. Ubud in One Day: If you’re pressed for time and want to see it all in one day, then this is the tour you should go on. You’ll visit the Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest, the UNESCO-listed Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Tegenungan Waterfall, Ubud Art Market, Tirta Empul temple and Ubud Palace.
2. Ubud Highlights and Tanah Lot: Visiting the famous seaside Tanah Lot Temple at sunset is a must for your Bali bucket list. Don’t miss shopping in the temple market, which is actually an interesting experience! This itinerary also includes the Ubud Monkey Forest, Kanto Lampo Waterfall, Bali Swing in Kumulilir and a stop to watch the traditional Barong and Keris Balinese dance.
3. Goa Gajah, Ubud Market and Bali Bird Park: This is a tour with not-as-popular but just-as-alluring tourist attractions. If you’re looking to skip the crowded places, consider going to the Elephant Cave Temple (Goa Gajah), Bali Bird Park, Ubud Art Market, the art village of Batuan and two local temples.
4. Eat Pray Love Bali Itinerary: If you’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book or seen the eponymous movie, then you’ll love this tour inspired by her memoir. Visit the Holy Water and Spring Water temples and participate in a holy bathing ritual. Plus, meet a Balinese healer and traipse through the verdant Tegalalang Rice Terraces.
5. Kintamani Itinerary: While not technically located in Ubud, the western area along the edge of Mount Batur volcano is worth exploring. Visit the Celuk Art Village, Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Kintamani Geopark Site, the Tirta Empul Temple, the Elephant Cave Temple (Goa Gajah) and see a local Barong and Keris dance.
I’ve already tackled this rather lengthy discussion in another blog – Where to Stay in Bali: The Best Bali Accommodations By Area. So don’t forget to scroll all the way down until you find the Ubud section. You’ll find luxury accommodation options ($$$), moderate accommodation options ($$) and budget accommodation options ($) all listed there. Whether it’s a resort, hotel, villa, spa, bungalow or inn that you want, it’s got you covered!
It wouldn’t be an Ubud guide without some top notch restaurants and food, right? And while the options are also limitless (I could write another blog just for food!), I’m making a short list of some of my faves:
For the splurge-y foodie…
1. Locavore: One of Asia’s top 50 restaurants for the past two years, Locavore gives their locally-sourced, environmentally-friendly ingredients the respect they deserve with a high quality menu that foodies come back for.
2. Aperitif: This fine dining European restaurant has a fantastic vibe that will transport you to the 1920s, ala The Great Gatsby. Their degustation menu is influenced by a fusion of spice island and modern European flavors.
3. Room 4 Dessert: Made famous by the Netflix hit show Chef’s Table, this dessert-only restaurant is one dedicated to all sweet tooths. With an evolving seasonal menu, their artistic creations (it’s art!) will send you straight to dessert heaven.
4. BLANCO Par Mandif: Another fine dining restaurant in Ubud, this place nabbed the #1 spot on Trip Advisor’s list of the best fine dining restaurants in Indonesia. Nestled within the Blanco Renaissance Museum complex, this place is proud to serve local cuisine in a completely new and modern way.
5. Mozaic: The marriage of local ingredients with French cooking techniques is this restaurant’s best-selling point. The Mozaic dining experience will take you on a new discovery of Bali through their 6 or 8 course menu.
For the everyday foodie…
1. Clear Cafe: A favorite among yogis and heath gurus, this vegan and vegetarian friendly cafe dishes out colorful and healthy treats that are not just delish, but good for you too! Meat eaters, I dare you to eat here and not like it!
2. La Pacha Mama: Live music, great cocktails, and Mexican food make up the great combination that is La Pacha Mama. Try their famous smoked margarita and grab a taco or two (or three!) and maybe even dig in to their ceviche…
3. Sage Bali: Jackfruit meat tacos, smoothie bowls, gluten free pancakes and more! Ubud is home to a whole horde of vegan restaurants, and this one is one of the top ones out there.
4. Hippie Fish: A Mediterranean and seafood restaurant and bar, Hippie Fish’s cozy and laid-back atmosphere makes for the perfect soul food space. Give their Italian Paella or pan-fried snapper a chance, or go for their sumptuous degustation menu. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
5. Alchemy: The island’s first raw, organic and vegan cafe also comes with clean and totally Instagrammable interiors. Not to mention their fine collection of healthy cakes, desserts and chocolates!
One of the more popular (and cheaper!) ways to get around Ubud is to rent a motorbike and navigate through the streets yourself. This’ll cost you around US$7 per day (plus gas when you refill). If you do choose this option, make sure you have a valid driver’s license (of course!) and wear your helmet at all times. It’ll also be handy if you get a SIM card and use navigation apps to help you get to your destinations.
If you don’t want to scooter around, you can flag down taxis near popular tourist spots, or hire a private driver who can take you around (and even to other areas like Uluwatu) for the whole day. Feel free to design your own tour based on the suggested itineraries above!
You can also try ride sharing apps such as Grab and GoJek (if you have a local SIM card), but know that there are some places in Bali where ride sharing is prohibited. So make sure to check the area first!
So there you have it folks, Ubud in a nutshell! Got any more questions about Ubud and Bali? Leave it in the comments below!
Featured image: @oneoceanaway_