With many temples, walks, and museums to experience in Bali, here are some of the best sights to see and things to do in Ubud, as well as what to do on a day trip from Ubud.
I’ve told you my favorite spots to eat in Ubud. I’ve given you great places to go for massages, dance, and spiritual experiences. Now, I want to share with you some of the best sights and things to do in Ubud Bali.
Best Things to Do In Ubud
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
One of the most well known sights in Ubud is the Monkey Forest. I had mixed feelings about visiting. I had heard about people being bitten by the monkeys, as well as robbed. Yup, those cute little guys have been known to take sunglasses, bags, and even phones.
There’s also the whole animal captivity thing, but in the Ubud Monkey Forest, these animals have no cages, hence biting and looting. What do you expect when you come into an animal’s home in the wild?
You are warned at the entrance not to make eye contact with the monkeys. Seriously. It’s seen as an act of aggression. I don’t tend to worry about these things so I figured I’d respect them, they’d respect me, and everything would work out.
So I didn’t stare at any of them and we all got along just fine. I got to see feeding time as you’ll see in the video above, and watching the mothers and babies together was a real treat. If you go, just remember, you’re in their home, so act accordingly.
Puri Saren Agung, aka, Ubud Royal Palace
The Ubud Royal Palace is right off the main road of Jl Rayan Ubud. It’s free to walk in and wander around the open portions of the outdoor grounds.
Built in the 1800s, the Royal Family still lives in sections of the palace. You can catch traditional dance performances on the grounds, complete with local gamelan musical performers.
Pura Taman Saraswati
You can find this small temple not far from the Ubud Royal Palace and behind two side-by-side lotus ponds. When I say lotus ponds, I mean, wall-to-wall lotus blossoms floating on the water. It’s quite a sight to see.
The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of art and learning, Saraswati.
On certain evenings, you can watch traditional Balinese dance here. Grab a bite at Café Lotus for a great view of the performance and temple while eating dinner or having a drink.
Campuhan Ridge Walk
If you’re staying in Ubud, you don’t need a car to experience the Campuhan Ridge Walk. The entrance is located just off Jl. Raya Ubud, where you see the Warwick Ibah Villas.
It’s a steady climb up but then you’re treated to beautiful panoramic views of Ubud. The ridge is just under a mile long so you may see some hearty runners getting a workout in.
Or simply take the walk, and then reward yourself with a massage or refreshing juice at Karsa Café and Spa (read more about my experience at Karsa here).
Another fun thing to do in Ubud, is to take in some of their art. Ubud is also home to several smaller, but still lovely museums like Agung Rai Museum of Art aka ARMA, Museum Rudana, Neka Art Museum, Blanco Renaissance Museum, and Puri Lukisan Museum. You can visit to see local art, sculptures, and wood carvings.
Ubud has several nice cooking schools where you can learn how to prepare some of the dishes you experience in local restaurants. Some of the schools also offer trips to the market in the morning to buy fresh produce and then you go back and learn how to cook a traditional meal.
Of course another must to do experience to have while visiting Ubud is to eat the fabulous food.
Catch my entire post about what you’ll be eating and where, and how to avoid the infamous Bali Belly.
Massage, Dance, Spa
And just like eating the local food, you also need to get a massage, try ecstatic dancing, and maybe even visit a craniosacral healer while visiting Ubud. Read more on all of the above on my Ubud spa post.
What to See On a Day Trip Outside Ubud
Ubud has a lot to do in town, but there are also beautiful temples and experiences to be had outside of town. Hire a driver for the day, which shouldn’t cost more than $40-50 for 8 hours.
Here are some of the highlights to see on a day trip from Ubud.
Tegalalang Rice Terraces
The Tegalalang Rice Terraces are a must-see when doing a day trip outside of Ubud. It’s a good first stop as well, since it’s nice to arrive before the crowds do, and before the heat becomes unbearable.
It’s a nice idea to carry small bills with you when visiting the Tegalalang Rice Terraces as there are requested donations along the way. Individuals care for section of the terraces as they are in fact, working rice fields. Some individuals sell snacks and drinks and others just straight up ask for money and may get a little huffy if you don’t give them anything. Donations are at your own discretion.
The morning light is beautiful to walk around the expansive open area. Wear sturdy shoes as the stone steps can be slippery or non-existent in parts.
Bring water and prepare to snap a lot of photos.
We had such a treat after visiting the rice terraces to witness a real community harvest going on off the side of the road. Our driver pulled over and we got to watch how rice goes from the field to plate.
It was a mostly female group clearing the field in record time, and some had no shoes on! They used a small sickle to cut the plant and then they gave the stalks some hearty whacks where the grain then fell off into the collection bin. No machines used here.
Watch the video above to see it all in action. You can see that the grains are double and triple sifted to remove any extra debris. It’s dried under the sun for several days.
It seemed like really hard work. I was sweating just standing there watching them. For this group, the rice they harvested was just used for their personal use. I was told that the harvesting is a fun, social activity for them to do together. I can imagine bonding over creating and preparing such a staple for all their meals.
Pura Gunung Kawi
Our next stop on our day trip from Ubud was Pura Gunung Kawi. This was a smaller 11th-century temple, down many, many stairs – 250, in fact. I climbed thousands of stairs while visiting Ubud. There are a lot of temples and structures built into mountains and down by streams, so you will do some serious stair stepping during your Ubud visit. Come prepared.
The Gunung Kawi Temple used the rocks around to carve 10 shrines, called cadis. Each candi is thought to be a memorial to a Balinese royal. It’s not like a burial ground as they doesn’t contain actual remains, but rather, the candi are seen like a tribute. They are spread out on two sides of a river, near more rice paddies, so be sure to explore all of the areas.
There’s also plenty of shopping you can do to break up some of the climb back up the 250 stairs. Enjoy the view at a few of the overlooks on your way up.
Pura Tirta Empul
Pura Tirta Empul was a welcome stop after having climbed many stairs in the growing day’s heat. Both locals and tourists use this Hindu Water Temple today. Locals gather holy water to bring back home and use for their own blessings.
I was interested in participating in the rituals of the Water Temple to soak in my own blessings. You must wear a sarong and tie like when visiting most of the temples in and around Ubud. Most places give them to you with admission or allow you to rent them for a small fee as was the case at the Water Temple.
There are several temples, pools, and areas to explore at Tirta Empul, but one of the most interesting to me, was being able to actually go into the inner courtyard of the temple to experience the holy springs.
The water came up to just below my waist and was fairly cool, but also refreshing. There are 30 waterspouts that are lined up across two sacred purification pools, each one honoring a different god. You start at the left end and repeat rituals at each spicket as you work your way down. There are a few spouts that you’re not supposed to use because they’re only meant for purifying the dead.
Many people left offerings and then began their ritual. I was instructed to bow in front of the waterspout and then cup my hands and bring the water to my mouth three times. Locals would drink it, but tourists may not be able to tolerate it, so I just kissed it. Then I dunked my head three times under the spout before moving on to the next one and repeating the whole process.
I felt very serene, yet invigorated after going through the whole process. I highly recommend it, as well as spending time touring the rest of Tirta Empul where we caught some other locals worshipping at another small temple.
My visit to Goa Gajah was one of the highlights of my day trip outside of Ubud. Goa Gajah means Elephant Cave, and you can see the elephant in the elaborate stone carvings. I found the Elephant Cave beautiful but the real treat came when exploring the grounds.
Rice paddies, a trickling waterfall, and the remains of a Buddhist temple are scattered in back. Estimated dates for Goa Gajah reach as far back as the 11th Century, which makes the area even more remarkable.
We received a blessing from an older Balinese woman in a secluded area at the back of Goa Gajah. She lit some incense while saying prayers towards an altar. Then she anointed us with rice on our foreheads and neck, and ended by putting a beautifully fragrant flower in our hair. I may not have understood what she said, but I felt her strong presence and blessings.
Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate
Another stop we did on our day trip from Ubud was a visit to a cacao and coffee plantation to taste some local drinks.
I’m not much of a coffee drinker but they also served many different kinds of tea. I loved all of the different combinations of flavors.
Then there’s the infamous poop coffee. Yes, I said poop coffee. There’s a small native Asian animal called the luwak, or palm civet. This little creature eats coffee cherries and digests the fruit, while “passing” the berry undigested. Natural fermentation of the berry occurs in the gut before being released, giving it a special taste. The berry is then made into coffee, after a very thorough cleaning of course.
I actually found it very smooth and enjoyable, but I did not bring any back. I did grab some of the lovely lemongrass tea – so refreshing!
The last stop on our day trip from Ubud was at a rather interesting waterfall. I had read about all of the amazing waterfalls in Bali and wanted to go see one. Well, the closest one is a waterfall, slash, nightclub combined.
From the parking lot, you walk through this multi-tiered restaurant called D’Tukad with bars, pools, and thumping music. Then, of course, you descend dozens and dozens of stairs to get to the back and to the waterfall.
The waterfall is beautiful and people are swimming underneath, and above, others are drinking and lounging in bean bag chairs. If you’re looking for a Las Vegas-style swim and drink scene, then this is the place for you.
And if not, grab a picture by the waterfall and then head back to Ubud for a relaxing dinner after your day trip.
Snorkeling and Diving
If you love the water, Bali has many beaches to explore. We decided to do a separate day trip from Ubud to the Blue Lagoon. It “should” only take an hour but given the two lane roads, it ended up taking us close to 3 hours. We got behind a funeral procession and there was nothing that could be done but sit back and enjoy the countryside views.
Luckily arriving in Padang Bai Fishing Village relaxed us immediately. We went out on a traditional open-air boat and snorkeled in two areas - Tanjung Jepun and Blue Lagoon. I can’t say it was the best snorkeling of my life, but we did see some pretty coral and colorful fish in some spots. It was also super refreshing to be in the water on a hot day.