The Ultimate Guide to Ubud, Bali
Welcome to our 3 day tour of Ubud, Bali in Indonesia. We hope you enjoy traveling with us and are inspired to take your own trip. This trip was part of our seven month journey around the world which began in Flores, Guatemala. See a summary of the destinations we traveled to over our seven months here: link.
Rather than going straight from Kuta, Bali (our previous destination) to Ubud (which was less than hour away) we decided to visit several locations prior to our arrival including the famous Uluwatu Temple (See Kuta, Bali for write-up). After finishing these, we arrived late into Ubud and called it a night.
Why Travel to Ubud, Bali ?
Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali, full of lush rice terraces, iconic temples and breathtaking waterfalls. To truly understand Bali and what it stands for, you must visit the centralized city of Ubud.
How Long to Stay in Ubud, Bali?
We’d highly recommending spending three full days here so that you can spend one day temple-hopping by car, another day visiting the Monkey Forest and spending time around town, and a third day to take an organized tour to Mt. Batur and fit in any other places/things you have on your to-do list. You can try and squeeze more activities into this time frame as well if you have the energy/desire.
BALI 101 (UBUD): We’d highly recommend renting a driver for the day. You can expect to pay roughly $40 USD/per for the full day. This was well worth the price as you don't have to worry about renting a car, parking, navigation, and dealing with traffic. You can sit back and enjoy and let your driver offer his suggestions or bring your own itinerary.
We hired a driver for the first full day and our third day. The second day we walked around town. To give a general idea of our timeline here is what we did:
Day 1 – (4/8): Hire driver. Start in Ubud > Pura Gunung Kawi > Tirta Empul Temple > Goa Gajah > Tegenungan Waterfall > Ubud Palace> return to Ubud. This driving route would only take 1 hour and 35 minutes without traffic. We had traffic and spent varying amounts of time at each attraction so this certainly took a full day. You can tailor your trip as you like and spend as much or as little time you want at each location.
Day 2 – (4/9): This was a walking day. We started at the Happy Inn > Ubud Palace > Sacred Monkey Forest > Kecak Dance > Happy Inn. There was only 35 minutes of walking to reach all of the destinations. However, we did a lot of walking/spent a lot of time at the Sacred Monkey Forest. You can also stop along the many restaurants and shops as you walk. But we wanted to get back for the Balinese wedding.
Day 3 – (4/10): We took an organized tour to Mt. Batur and Tegallalang Rice Terrace. We started at 3:00AM and were back before noon. We then hired a private driver to bring us to Tanah Lot, a couple other destinations, and then to the airpot. This was a full day.
Top Things to Do in Ubud, Bali
1) Marvel at Bali’s Temples and Palaces
These grand palaces and temples are cultural and spiritual landmarks of Balinese culture several with meticulously caved ornate details and landscaping. Among the must-visits are Tanah Lot, Pura Gunung Kawi, , stone-carved Goa Gajah, Tirta Empul Temple, and Pura Taman Saraswati.
Tanah Lot (Earth Sea)
Entrance price as of date of this article: $60,000 IDR/per person or ~$4USD
Tanah Lot is probably the most photographed temple in Bali. It was originally built in the 16th century and is perched on an impressive (now partially artificial) rock in the sea. The best time to view the temple is around sunset, however this also brings the biggest crowds. When visiting the temple itself you must cross the sea, therefore it is advised to cross during low tide so you can walk rather than swim. When you reach the entrance of the temple you can be blessed by a priest (for a donation), before being allowed to walk around the structure. They do not let visitors enter the temple.
Just a few minutes walk North of Tanah Lot is Batu Bolong, another temple built on a rock formation this one with a hollow pass carved underneath. You cannot miss these temples when in Bali.
We also saw these unique structures while visiting Tanah Lot.
Pura Gunung Kawi
Entrance price as of date of this article: $50,000 IDR/per person or ~$3USD
Known as “Valley of the Kings”, this 11th-century temple houses some of Bali’s oldest monuments including 10 huge shrines carved into the face of a rock cliff (said to be carved by hand) and is also a funerary complex.
The entire site is remarkable to walk through. You can enjoy the historic monuments that are seamlessly intertwined with the verdant landscape, a beautiful paddy terrace, and the sacred Pakersian River.
Entrance price as of date of this article: $15,000 IDR/per person or ~$1USD
Goa Gajah, also known as the Elephant Cave because of its proximity to the Elephant River, is a stone-carved sanctuary built in the 9th century. One of the prominent features of this site is this demonic face cave.
Besides the demonic face cave, the entire site is beautiful. In one area, there are a couple of pools inside a structure with statues.
There is also a well manicured garden with paved steps.
Tirta Empul Temple
Entrance price as of date of this article: $50,000 IDR/per person or ~$3USD
Tirta Empul, dating back to 926 A.D., is one of the largest and busiest water temples in Indonesia. It is well known for this large bathing pool which contains holy spring water. Many come here to pray and bathe.
Puri Saren Agung (Ubud Palace)
Free to enter (most people will just take a quick peek around)
This historic palace was home to the former King of Ubud in the early 1900’s. It now stands as a hotel and a sight for all those who pass by. The elaborate golden doors and statues give the impression of true royalty and elegance.
2) Visit Tegallalang Rice Terrace
Perhaps the most iconic sight of Bali is this stretch of rice fields, surrounded by scenic palm trees. There are many rice terraces to visit across Bali, each one a splendor in itself. Don’t just visit one.
3) Survive The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Entrance price as of date of this article: $80,000 IDR/per person or ~$5USD
This 14th-century Hindu temple compound in the jungle is home to over 1,000 Macaque monkeys. People flock here from around the view to walk the gorgeous grounds and see the “devil” monkeys (as we call them and we assume many others that have visited). We say “devil” because they are known to bite, scratch, and steal people’s belongings. We came out unscathed, but I had a close call with an old cranky monkey that “saw red”, literally and figuratively.
Bali 101 : Do not carry food, beverages, or quite literally anything around Balinese monkeys. They prey on humans carrying things.
4) Watch the Kecak Dance
Typically, tickets will be about $5/USD
Delve into the vocal and entertaining Balinese Hindu traditional performance known as the Kecak. It is a unique dance filled with the rhythmic chanting of a group of bare-chested male performers.
5) Mount Batur Sunrise Hike (1 hour drive from Ubud)
4.2 Miles Return
Five hours Roundtrip
If you want to make sunrise, you’ll have to start very early in the morning and the hike is moderately challenging but we promise the payoff is well worth the trip.
Mount Batur is the second tallest volcano in Indonesia and is active. If you take the sunrise tour like we did you’ll likely have similar starting times. The tour company provided a light breakfast and tea around 3am in advance of the hike which we began around 4:00AM. The hike, unfortunately, is heavily traveled so you won’t feel alone. But you’ll feel safer following the long line of people with lit flashlights up the mountainside.
When you do reach the top, roughly three hours later, you will be able to enjoy the sunrising over an unobstructed view of another active volcano, Mount Baker, with Lake Batur in the foreground.
Hiring a guide or taking a group tour is required to summit.
Enjoy the Sights Around Town
These sights are out of walking distance so hiring a driver or renting a scooter is recommended.
Tegenungan Waterfall is is certainly not one of Bali’s “secluded” or “must-see” waterfalls, but it is more easily accessible. It is a scenic waterfall in a lush jungle setting. During different seasons (rainy season) the water will be more muddy and brown (they refer to it as brown sugar). Unfortunately, we were there in “brown sugar” season so the water doesn’t look as pretty as in other peoples images.
Where to Stay in Ubud, Bali
A private queen bed room cost <$10/USD per day including breakfast
We happened upon this inn by chance. We arrived in Ubud in the the dead of night without accommodation. We were trying to find a place online while our driver stopped at different inns to see if their way vacancy. We were turned away from a couple of places but eventually found ourselves at the doorstep of the Happy Inn. We were met by Nyoman, the owner and one of the most gracious and hospitable hosts we had during our travels. Nyoman made our stay here excellent, for a 2-star hotel he showed us 5-star service and went over and beyond and made us feel like family.
And to top it off, he surprised us with a homemade breakfast every morning consisting of Indonesian Coconut Pancakes, Dadar Gulung.
Needless to stay, we will definitely be back.
It doesn’t stop there, we were even invited to his family member’s wedding, hosted right on the premises of this intriguing temple/hotel. Nyoman dressed us in his own Balinese traditional clothing.
Balinese weddings differ from a traditional American wedding, nobody dances, however there is music playing. The bride and groom both wear heavy make-up and are dressed in bright colors and gold, which are symbols for happiness and celebration.
Where to Eat in Ubud, Bali
There are many local eateries where you can find good and inexpenisve dining. However, most of the places we did decide to visit were not inexpensive (relative to the cost of everything else).
Balinese Home Cooking
For a taste of delicious traditional Balinese fair in a lovely garden setting you should definitely eat here.
It’s named after my favorite animal, how could we not try it? The Elephant is a vegetarian restaurant that offers sustainable healthy food. Many of the dishes are vegan and gluten free. SCORE! The atmosphere is relaxed yet romantic and they have outdoor seating.
Tanah Lot Restaurants
There are a handful of Indonesian seaside restaurants dotting the coast near Tanah Lot (known as Tabanan Regency), all with magnificent views of the temple Pura Tanah Lot. Choose one and enjoy the view.
Bali 101: Do not eat DURIAN. While some locals claims they enjoy it, we don't believe it!
Other Recommendations of Things to Do
These are all adventures that we unfortunately didn’t have time to do on our own but would have considered if we had more time:
- Hike Mount Agung ( ~ 1.75 hour drive one way): We would absolutely love to hike Bali’s biggest and baddest (and very active) volcano. In fact, it just erupted violently in 2019. So the safety level of hiking the volcano has been changing. Make sure to always check before you go. We hear from some hiking experts it is extremely tough as you climb anywhere from 8-12 hours and you get an elevation gain of over 5,000 feet. In one day, that is a LOT.
- Pura Lempuyang (Gates of Heaven) (~ 2 hour drive one way):The gates at this temple are one of the most iconic and most instagrammable places in Indonesia. I didn’t see much for a cultural experience here, but it does look like an opportunity for a great photo. However, there are several temples located high up on Mount Lempuyang, so if time allows why not check out the view?
- Pura Taman Saraswati (Ubud Water Palace) (1 minute walk from city center): This temple is highly known for its picturesque lotus pond. There is a nice cafe where you can relax and enjoy the waterfront view.
- Campuhan Ridge Walk (5 minute walk from city center): In the mood for a (easy) hike? This 9km (5.5 mile) paved walkway in the midst of a dense jungle gives you extensive views. This walk is mostly views of the jungle and rice terraces. Along the way you can stop at some of the Warungs (cafes or restaurants) for some refreshments or grab a bite to eat. You will want to start early in the morning as temperatures rise and the walk is entirely exposed.
- Bali Swing or Nests (25 minute drive): I’m sure you have heard of or seen the famous Instagrammable Bali swings and nests overlooking the jungle. The most-known swing is the “Official Bali Swing in Ubud” but bare in mind, it is $35 USD to enter (which includes unlimited time at the park and lunch and drinks). Soar heights between 33 feet and 256 feet above ground. For the not so crazy adrenaline junkies, you can enjoy pictures in one of the nests or the stunning valley views, your entrance would be just $10 if you are not planning on swinging. There is something for everyone.
- Waterfalls : There are countless waterfalls all within driving distance from 45-minutes and more. Tibumana is arguably the best waterfall near Ubud (and possibly in all of Bali) and is considered a hidden gem. The nice thing is that it is easily accessible via a 10-minute hike, so rest assured it is suitable for any and all visitors.
Questions For You
- Which temple in Bali is your favorite?
- Have you heard of the Insta-famous Bali swings?
- Which waterfall have you visited and would you recommend it?
- Have you had a run-in with the Balinese long-tailed Macaque monkeys?
- What was your experience with durian?