Once a small artists’ community, Ubud has flourished and is now considered the cultural heartbeat of Bali. The relaxed and bohemian vibe is compelling, while the view of cascading rice terraces, lush forest and ancient temples, is spectacular. Whether you’re browsing galleries and markets, practising yoga, enjoying a massage or savouring some amazing food, a sense of wellbeing is guaranteed.
Although just over an hour’s drive inland from Bali’s southern beaches, the serene and spiritual oasis of Ubud, feels like a million miles away, making it a great destination to combine with a beach holiday. Taking its name from ‘ubad,’ meaning medicine, Ubud delivers the type of experience that can restore your mind, body and soul. It is where Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat Pray Love fame, finally found a sense of peace. We love soaking up the relaxed hippie vibe that infuses Ubud, but if you need any help reaching your inner paradise, there are plenty of yoga schools and well being spas to assist you.
Wandering through the town, you will enjoy the Hindu architecture and temples, haggling for artisan wares at the many galleries and markets and stopping at some of the many excellent restaurants and cafes to enjoy a plate of healthy food and great coffee. With the emphasis on health and well being, both vegetarians and vegans are well catered for, although carnivores won’t want to miss out on the delicious and traditional lunch staple of Balinese suckling pig.
Perched above a green sea of rice fields, the scenery and views around Ubud are wonderful. We’d advise hiring a bike or taking a walk through the countryside, to really appreciate the surrounding natural beauty and beguiling temples. For a jungle or forest walk, we’d suggest taking the paved path of the Campuhan Ridge, full of tall green grasses and spectacular hill views. But if rice fields and terraces are more your thing, just a 20-minute drive north of Ubud takes you to one of Bali’s top tourist attractions, the spellbinding valley of Tegalalang Rice Terraces.
There are lots of activities to enjoy in this area. You could take a cooking or an art class, experience the thrill of white-water rafting on the Ayung River, pay a visit to one of the many museums to see the development of the Balinese art movement, or enjoy a walk around the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, although be warned, the monkeys are seasoned thieves, so guard your sunglasses with your life. In the heart of the village itself, you will find Ubud Palace, where the royal family still live and the Taman Saraswati Temple, a beautiful temple with a pond overflowing with lotus blossom. To experience some wonderful Balinese culture, do catch one of the traditional Kecak dances performed here most evenings.
As with the local restaurants, there is a wide range of accommodation options in Ubud and something to suit most budgets. It is worth bearing in mind that the village itself can be busy with traffic, especially motorbikes and day trippers, yet Ubud remains a beautifully tranquil area.