Do you remember Julia Roberts walking down the streets of Ubud, cycling through the rice paddies, visiting Ubud Market and seeing a Balinese medicine man in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” in her search for balance and harmony?
The main character and author of the book, Elizabeth Gilbert, spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life (“Eat”), before heading to India for three months in search of her spirituality (“Pray”). She ends her year in Bali and Ubud where she is looking for balance and ends up falling in love (“Love”). The book and the movie have made Ubud one of the major tourist attractions in Asia. There are even tons of “Eat, Pray, Love” tours that take you around to the different locations in the movie!
Yes, there are loads of tour buses with day trippers visiting Ubud every day, filling up the streets, the market, and temples. But Ubud seems able to adapt to it`s growing popularity and the crowds. Only a short stroll away from the main streets of Ubud, you can still find peace and serenity. There`s nothing like a walk through the green and lush rice fields to find your mental balance.
With its good restaurants, cozy cafe’s, excellent hotels for every budget, and streets lined with shops selling handcrafted goods from Bali`s many artisans, there is no wonder that Ubud has become so popular. There are so many things to do in Ubud. Ubud is the cultural “capital” of Bali, and if I were to pick three words to describe Ubud, it would be artful, creative and serene. Despite the tourist crowds, a visit to Ubud and it`s surroundings is still a real must when visiting Bali.
Friendly Locals And Genuine Balinese Culture
We have been to Ubud three times, the first time back in 2005, before the “Eat, Pray, Love” movie (2010). Even though Ubud has become very touristy since then, the locals have remained genuine and friendly. They always greet you with a smile and a hello.
I was afraid that since the tourist crowds have exploded in Ubud that it had lost its charm and genuine Balinese culture, but the opposite has happened. Ubud is probably the place on Bali that has preserved it`s Balinese culture the most, and you can see and get a feel of the real “soul” of Bali here. This is also why the Balinese are so proud of Ubud.
The Top 11 Things To Do in Ubud Bali
Here they are, our ultimate Ubud experience:
1. Ubud Palace And Legong Dance
The Ubud Palace, where the Ubud royal family still lives, is in the heart of the town and was built sometime around 1917. The Palace is beautifully decorated with statues, stone carvings, and ornaments, and most of the compound is open to the public. It is pleasant to stroll around the Palace during the day, but it can be packed with tourists, especially when the tour buses arrive.
Every night there is a Balinese Legong dance in the Palace, which is the best way to see and experience the Palace in our opinion. Legong is a traditional dance, where the dancers wear heavy make-up and colourful costumes, and it`s all a bit theatrical. Pay extra attention to their eyes during the dance, as they convey a lot of emotion through their eyes
- Address: The intersection between Jl Raya Ubud and Jl Suweta
- Legong Dance: 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. every night
- Price Legong Dance: 80 000 idr = 6 us$
2. Art Museums and Galleries
There are a ton of art museums and galleries in and around Ubud, showing both modern and traditional art styles.
The best art museum is Museum Puri Lukisan, or Museum of Fine Arts, which has examples of all schools of Balinese art. The collection is also well labelled in English. The museum has an excellent bookshop and cafe where we ate lunch and the beautiful lush gardens surrounding it are also worth a visit.
Ubud was the place where a movement started to let artists paint other things than religious themes, as this was forbidden before. It is interesting to see this transformation from religious to more modern and daily life themes in the artworks.
- Address Museum of Fine Arts: Jl Raya Ubud
- Opening hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Price: 20 000 idr = 2 us$ per person for adults, children are free
- Webpage: http://museumpurilukisan.com
3. Meet Over 600 Monkeys In The Sacred Monkey Forest
A visit to the sacred Monkey Forest is a must when in Ubud. Our visit to the Monkey Forest ended up being a very memorable experience, although not quite in the way we had expected!
- Opening hours: Daily from 8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Price: 30 000 idr = 3 us$ per person for adults, and 15 000 idr = 1 us$ for children.
- Webpage: http://monkeyforestubud.com
4. Walk Through The Peaceful Rice Fields
There are several lovely walks through the rice paddies and small villages surrounding Ubud. We started out on a very nice walking tour that we read about in Lonely Planet but then made up our route as we went. Take the official (eh..unofficial) Nerd Nomads rice field walking tour! 🙂
Start at Ubud Palace and follow the road Jl Raya Campuan to the Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas and enter the hotel driveway. Here you take the path to the left and follow the walkway that crosses the river to Pura Gunung Lebah. From there it`s easy, just follow the concrete path north, that takes you up a hill with beautiful views over two river valleys and small villages.
Continue north along the Campuan Ridge, through rice paddies and the small village of Bangkiang Sidem. Here you will also walk past a cosy cafe with a lovely spa. We stopped here for lunch, with amazing views over the rice paddies.
On the outskirt of the small village, you take the road that heads west (it is unmarked, but just ask someone you meet). The road winds uphill and downhill all the way back to the centre of Ubud. The whole walk is about 9 km.
5. Treat Yourself To A Spa
Ubud is packed with spas and salons, so there are plenty to choose from if you want to heal, pamper, rejuvenate and focus on your personal needs both physical and mentally. Many of the spas are located in the beautiful, lush hillsides outside of Ubud with splendid views over the rice fields.
6. Improve Your Strength And Flexibility With Yoga
There are plenty of Yoga options in Ubud, and it`s area, offering every new trend within Yoga. A good place to look for Yoga classes is the bulletin board at the shop/cafe, Bali Buda.
One of the most popular Yoga places is the Yoga Barn, beautifully located near a river valley. They have a huge range of Yoga classes every day.
7. Arts & Crafts
Nowhere on Bali will you find more handmade arts and crafts than in Ubud. The streets are packed with shops, boutiques, and galleries selling unique items made in and around Ubud. There are entire villages just outside of Ubud that specialises in wood carving, paintings, and silver, so take a taxi to these areas if you can`t find what you are looking for in Ubud centre.
If you want to go shopping for arts and crafts on Bali, Ubud is the place!
8. Taste And Learn About The World`s Most Expensive Luwak Coffee
Bali has several coffee plantations making the famous and costly Kopi Luwak, and some of these are in the Ubud area. We went to one of them, where we learned how the famous and expensive “poo” coffee Kopi Luwak is produced.
The Kopi Luwak is made from the Asian palm civet droppings. Called a toddy cat, the animal eats coffee beans and digest it. Although Kopi Luwak is a form of processing rather than a variety of coffee, it has been called one of the most expensive coffees in the world with retail prices reaching 700 us$ per kilogram! The Philippines, Indonesia, and East Timor are the only producers of Kopi Luwak coffee.
After seeing the process of the Kopi Luwak making, we got to taste the different coffees and other herbal drinks. Many of them were pretty tasty, even though we don`t like coffee.
We had to pay for a cup of the famous “poo” coffee (Luwak) however, 100 000 idr = 8 us$ for a cup. Neither Espen nor I don`t drink coffee, but my brother and his girlfriend (who is a barista) liked the taste of it.
The coffee plantation tour ended at their shop, where we could buy Kopi Luwak and other drinks and cosmetics made of spices from their plantation like perfumes, body lotion, soaps, massage oil, bath oil.
9. Go Shopping at Ubud Market
The Ubud Market, who’s real name is Pasar Seni, is located just across the road from the Ubud Palace. It is a bustling market that sells everything from clothes, sarongs, souvenirs, and handicrafts. It is not the best market I have been to, but, it`s still a fun place to find some bargains and buy some souvenirs to bring home as gifts.
Remember to ALWAYS bargain on the price before you buy anything. You should at least start at a quarter to half price of what the seller first offers. A good tip is to walk around and explore the market first, so you get an idea of the what they sell and what kind of prices to expect. The market is quite big, and it is also on the upper floor of the market building. Often you will get the best prices the further inside you walk.
Maybe you remember Julia Roberts shopping at this market in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”? The whole market was closed for several days in 2010 as they filmed it.
10. Eat Babi Guling
Suckling pig, or Babi Guling, is one of Bali’s most famous dishes, and the Balinese is very proud of it. It is a pig stuffed with a mix of spices like turmeric, coriander seeds, lemongrass, black pepper and garlic, and traditionally spit-roasted.
Babi Guling is available at a range of warungs (eateries) around Bali, where locals flock for a quick lunch or dinner. Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka 3 in Ubud is the most famous place on Bali to grab a plate of barbecued pig, so, of course, we had to check it out.
They have different pork-related dishes on the menu, and we went for the “Special” that consists of various small dishes made of pig (like fried rice, meat, sausages, skin, vegetables).
It was delicious! It reminded me of the Norwegian Christmas dinner that almost all Norwegians eat on Christmas Eve called “Ribbe”. So we all got a little Christmas feeling from eating it. 🙂
The restaurant is very popular, and loads of buses come here every day. So even though they are supposed to have open until 6 p.m., they usually close earlier because they run out of pigs. So it`s best to come here for lunch, or at least before 3 p.m.
- Address: Jl Tegal Sari No. 2, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (close to Ubud Palace)
- Opening hours: Every day from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. (but they usually close earlier because they run out of pig)
- Price: Meals from 45 000 idr = 6 us$
11. Balinese Rice Terraces
Tegallalang Rice Terraces, just north of Ubud centre (20 minutes by car), is one of the most famous rice terraces in Bali and pictured on many postcards that you will see for sale throughout the island. This means it is also one of the most visited, so don’t expect to be alone there. From the moment you step out of the car, you get an excellent view of the lush and green terraces that cover three hillsides and spread down into the valley below. The terraces were built with the traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system called Subak, which according to history was passed down by a revered holy man named Rsi Markandeya in the eighth century.
You can easily get a good view over the beautiful terraces from the road, or you can go for a walk in between the terraces. There are also several cafes near the ledge where you can have a bite and drink and take in the scenery and admire the splendid views.
Where To Eat In Ubud
Ubud has some of Bali’s finest restaurants. Here you will find food in all different price ranges, and from every corner of the world.
1. Three Monkeys
Our favourite place to eat in Ubud is Three Monkeys. It is like walking into another world when you enter the Three Monkeys restaurant, tucked away from the busy street amid the rice field. The atmosphere is fantastic and the food delicious! They serve both lunch (sandwiches, salads, and gelato) and dinner (a fusion menu of Asian classics, pasta and steaks). There is also a Three Monkeys restaurant in Sanur which is just as nice.
- Address: Monkey Forest Road
- Price: Meals from 80 000 idr = 6 us$
- Webpage and menu: http://threemonkeyscafebali.com
2. Bali Buda
Ah, we LOVE Bali Buda! It is a combination of a shop on the ground floor selling organic fruit and vegetables, home-baked bread and pastries (oh boy do I love their banana bread!). On the upper floor is a cafe/restaurant selling different healthy options, like vegetarian dishes, salads, crepes, tacos, curries, pizzas, and gelatos. It also has an atmospheric lounging area that is candlelit in the evening. There are also a Bali Buda in Sanur, Bukit, and Kerobokan.
- Address: Jl Jembawan 1
- Price: Meals from 30 000 idr = 3 us$
- Webpage and menu: http://www.balibuda.com
3. Juice Ja Cafe
If you want to take care of your body and eat organic and health, Juice Ja Cafe is the place. Here you can get Spirulina and wheat grass in your juice, as well as organic fruits and vegetables in your food. It is a funky and a bit hippie-like cafe with a cool patio where you can sit and relax and watch the street life go by.
- Address: Jl Dewi Sita
- Price: Meals from 20 000 idr = 2 us$
Where To Stay in Ubud
There is no shortage of accommodation options for any budget in Ubud. Here you can find anything from inexpensive homestays to some of the finest boutique hotels in the world.
We stayed at Ubud Inn Resort and Villas
We stayed at Ubud Inn Resort and Villas, which is a real authentic Bali style resort with many small houses with rooms scattered around a big and stunning garden with a pool. It is perfectly located in the main street of Ubud, close to shops, restaurants and Monkey Forest. Although it is located centrally, it is tucked away in a peaceful garden so there is no noise. We really liked it! They also have different kinds of rooms, from cheap rooms with a fan to more luxury style suites.
Click here to check the latest prices
We stayed at Omah d'Taman We also stayed at a homestay called Omah d`Taman. The family has built two houses with three rooms in each that they rent out. It is very private and cozy in a big homey garden with views over the jungle.
In the morning they bring you delicious breakfast on your terrace. It is not as centrally located as Ubud Inn, but you are just a ten-minute walk away from the main streets.
Click here to check the latest prices
The Samaya Bali Hotel
Ubud is also a great place to splurge on fabulous hotels, like the Samaya Bali. It is such a beautiful hotel. I wish we could have stayed there.
Click here to check the latest prices
The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah
If you are looking for paradise and have the budget for it, then this is it! This hotel looks like heaven, with its huge swimming pool and lovely surroundings.
Click here to check the latest prices
Sri Bungalows/ Ubud Bungalow
We wanted to stay at Ubud Bungalow (changed its name to Sri Bungalows), but it was unfortunately fully booked. We did, however, have a look around the compound, and it is very nice with bungalows set in a beautiful garden. Centrally located in the main street of Ubud.
Click here to check the latest prices
Travel Guides to Indonesia
We used Lonely Planet`s Indonesia book on our travels around Indonesia and Bali. It was great! Click on the pictures below to read more about each book on Amazon (affiliate links):
Ubud is a must-visit if you go to Bali! It is Bali`s cultural hub, but also home to excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops. Even though it has become a crowded and busy touristy town, you can still easily escape the hordes and go for a stroll among the peaceful and serene rice paddies to clear your mind.
Ubud has a health-vibe going on, with some of the best spas, meditation and yoga retreats on Bali, as well as excellent restaurants and cafes focusing on healthy and organic food.
Ubud is one of those places where days quickly can become weeks, and weeks can become months. Like Julia Roberts in “Eat, Pray, Love”, this is the place to come to heal and take good care of yourself.
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Have you seen the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”, and what did you think? Can you picture yourself visiting Ubud? Is this a place calling to you? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. If you like this post and find it useful, please share on social media. Thank you! 🙂
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