While Bali is widely known for its famous surf breaks and beautiful beaches, there is just as much to see, do, and view if you make the trek inland.
Known as its cultural center, Ubud offers the quintessential Bali experience: breathtaking jungle views, waterfall treks, evergreen rice fields, and some of the best food and entertainment Bali has to offer.
It could take weeks to explore the town in its entirety, but what if you only have a few days or hours? Where do you begin? When I visited Ubud for a few days on the Beautiful Bali tour with Intrepid, my tour mates and I had this exact question. We had so much to do and so little time, but we were able to find some true gems.
Visit rice terraces
Some of the most breathtaking views of Bali are of the rice terraces, and arguably the most famous ones are located about a 30-minute scooter or taxi ride from Ubud. The rice terraces of Tegellalang look like a painting, with several acres of green and yellow terraces carved into the hillside.
Have lunch at one of the local restaurants with a view, trek through the carved paths, or just observe the rice farmers harvesting the fields. They are very friendly! We encountered one older man on our trip there who was thrilled to model for us.
Be entranced by a Kecak fire dance
Picture this: 50 men sit cross-legged in a circle, wearing traditional Balinese sarongs and chanting an incomprehensible tune that never seems to end. Their voices make the space buzz with energy. In the middle of the circle is a fire, and two women dressed in traditional Balinese songket dance gracefully around it. A few minutes later, a man emerges onto the stage dressed as a horse; he lights some coconut husks on fire and kicks them around the floor, the embers dance wildly into the air.
These scenes among others are what my Intrepid group and I experienced when we attended a traditional Kecak fire dance, which occur many times a week in Ubud. We arrived early to get seats in front, and being so close to the performers made the experience that much more intense!
Walk along Campuhan Ridge… and farther
Campuhan Ridge is one of the most popular tourist trails in Ubud; a brick-laid path on a hill between two rivers with a beautiful view of the jungle below. The group and I found many places to sharpen our photography skills and take in the sweeping views. It is not a looped trail, however, and many people turn back when they see the sign that indicates the end of the ridge.
But if you have the energy, I’d recommend continuing your walk down the singular road that leads out of the ridge. Many local artists have studios on this road, and you can browse their artwork or even take a painting class. There are many local restaurants on this road as well, some with rooftop patios; make a pit stop like we did for a fresh young coconut and take in the rice paddies below.
Get your zen on at Yoga Barn
Downward dog, anyone? Yoga is the exercise of choice in Ubud, and if you want to get a true yogi experience, head to Yoga Barn for one or two of their classes. From invigorating power yoga, soothing hatha yoga, singing bowl meditations, and shamanic healing classes, if you’re looking to stretch, sweat, relax, or heal you can certainly find it here.
If you’re in Ubud on a Friday night, I’d recommend signing up for their ecstatic dance class, where you can sway and move however you’d like (there’s no judgment here) to trance music spun by a DJ.
Trek to all the waterfalls
One waterfall, two waterfalls, three waterfalls, four… the area of Ubud is filled to the brim with waterfalls to explore. Munduk, Tegenungan, and Tibumana waterfalls are all from a half hour to an hour and a half scooter or taxi ride from Ubud. My travel mates and I took a 20-minute hike through the jungle to explore Munduk waterfall. Even though we weren’t able to swim, the mist from the waterfall cooled us down and we had a great time.
Tip: waterfalls are not usually swimmable in low season, as the water isn’t clean enough. But the views are worth it!
Eat some babi guling at Gianyar night market
If you want to truly be with the locals, you need to make a trip to Gianyar night market. Located about a 30-minute scooter or taxi from Ubud, this is the place to be for young Indonesians on a Friday or Saturday night, and you will see very few other tourists here.
Walk around and take in the people and sights, sample deep fried bananas, and attempt to nab a bargain or two! If you’re hungry, the dish to try here is babi guling, or suckling pig (it’s roasted for several hours in a delicious spicy broth). There are many stalls that sell it near the entrance to the market. Go to the one that is the busiest; if the locals are eating it then you can be sure it’s the best.
Go vegan for a day
If you are a vegan or want to try it out for a day, Ubud is the place to do it. Almost every restaurant in the town caters to the vegan lifestyle, meaning countless restaurant options and dishes to try. We tried and loved Atman Café; the mushroom and coconut soup served with vegan parmesan is especially delicious.
I’d also recommend heading to Moksa, a plant-based restaurant that grows the majority of their food right on the premises. It’s a little on the pricier side, but worth it – every dish is gorgeously plated and tastes just as good. Try the jackfruit tacos and black rice pudding… or pretty much anything else on the menu.
Bonus must-do if you visit with Intrepid: visit Bumi Sehat
Learn about the ways in which organizations are giving back to the community at the Bumi Sehat Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides access to quality healthcare to families in Bali. Most notably it houses a fully functioning birthing clinic to provide a safe and secure place for Indonesian women to give birth.
On my tour with Intrepid, the group and I were able to take a tour around the premises to see the pristine facilities and also meet a new mother who had just given birth the day before! It was a heartwarming experience to see the ways in which Bumi Sehat has truly made a difference to the people of Bali.
Ready to be delighted by beautiful Bali? Check out Intrepid’s range of trips there.