Ubud is Bali’s arts and culture capital, which means you can enjoy fascinating dance performances, peruse eye-catching art galleries, markets and shops and visit exotic temples and palaces. It seems like almost every day there is some sort of ceremony going on where you can see local people practicing their religion and keeping up tradition through the haunting music of the gamelan orchestra, vibrant ceremonial dress, and elaborate offerings of fruit and flowers to the gods.
Besides the colourful culture, Ubud is also all about taking it easy and enjoying long walks through the rice paddies, stretching out those muscles at a yoga class, indulging in rejuvenating spa sessions, relaxing in gorgeous Ubud villas set amid stunning scenery, and wining and dining at some of the island’s best restaurants. It may not have the thumping nightlife and in-your-face energy of the south, but Ubud offers plenty for those who are willing to slow down a bit and smell the incense.
Ubud centres around the Royal Palace, which is still inhabited by the royal family today. Although you can’t exactly check out the princes’ or princesses’ bedrooms or bathrooms, you can walk around certain areas of the compound to check out the ornately carved stone gates, lovely gardens and traditional buildings. Just steps away from the palace is the Ubud Market, where you can haggle with the vendors over souvenirs, sarongs, and spicy sambals from dawn until late afternoon. Then of course there is the famous Sacred Monkey Forest sanctuary, with its stone temples draped in lush tropical greenery and the ubiquitous monkey families who call this patch of jungle home. Just be sure not to carry food or valuables where the monkeys can see them, as these cheeky creatures will do whatever it takes to make your belongings their own.
Things to Do
Start your day at one of Ubud’s cozy cafes sipping on an artisan coffee and sampling tasty pastries and baked goods. Spend the rest of the morning shopping at the boutiques that line the main roads for silver jewellery, light and breezy clothing and traditional handicrafts, before jumping on your bicycle and setting off for a tour through the rice fields. If you’re not too tired from your ride, join an afternoon yoga class in an open-air studio overlooking the rice paddies and coconut trees and then tuck into some healthy organic cuisine, authentic Balinese food or pizza, sushi, or Indian curry at one of Ubud’s multitude of restaurants. When the sun sets, make your way to the centre of town for a thrilling traditional Balinese dance performance and end the evening with cocktails, bar snacks and live music at a convivial Ubud bar.
Ubud attracts all types, but health-conscious crunchy granola types abound, as do yogis and yoginis, artists, musicians and those seeking some serious down time away from the hustle and bustle of big city life. Ubud also has a thriving expat population, made up of mainly artistic types who eke out a living making jewellery, painting, writing or doing graphic design. You will also find plenty of couples and families on holiday, as well as a few young up and comers who prefer the laid-back lifestyle of Ubud to the frenetic energy of the south of Bali.