The Best Things to do in Ubud, Bali

The 15 Best Things to do in Ubud, Bali

Ubud is the place to go when you want to truly immerse yourself in Balinese art, culture, and beauty. Located inland, far away from the party-loving beach resorts of Kuta and Seminyak, Ubud invites you to get back to nature and enjoy life at a much slower pace.

What makes Ubud stand out from other Balinese cities is its unique vibe. Here you’ll find people from all over the world, from locals who have lived here for generations to digital nomads temporarily calling this place home to international visitors on fleeting trips. 

With handicraft markets, mysterious caves, monkey-filled forests, and stunning temples, you’ll never be stuck for what to do in Ubud. Whether you want to chill out and join in with a yoga class before cycling through picturesque rice paddies or explore the city’s mesmerizing art galleries before learning to create traditional Balinese art for yourself, Ubud is a place bursting with incredible experiences.

Because there’s such a great choice of things to see and do, it can feel overwhelming to know where to begin. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of the absolute best things to do in Ubud, Bali. Add these fun activities and attractions to your Ubud bucket list, and you’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time exploring Bali’s cultural hub!

Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things to do in Ubud, Bali

15 Fun and Unique Things to Do In Ubud, Bali

1. Celebrate good over evil at Galungan & Kuningan

Best Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Galungan & Kuningan

Galungan and Kuningan are two of the most fascinating festivals that take place in Ubud each year. Galungan celebrates the triumph of good over evil and marks the period in which the spirits of deceased relatives pay a visit to Earth. Kuningan is held on the last day of the festival and marks the time when the spirits leave Earth.

Locals say special prayers and decorate their homes with offerings to welcome the spirits. Along almost every road in the city, you’ll see huge numbers of brightly-colored bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end.

Many locals dress in traditional Balinese clothing, and families will gather around temples to connect with their families. Expect to see street vendors selling special festival food, as well as theatrical street performances and lively dances.

The dates of Galungan and Kuningan change each year. They can be held during any month, so check online first before you book your flights.

2. Peruse art at the oldest art museum in Bali

Must do Things in Ubud, Bali: Museum Puri Lukisan
Images courtesy of Museum Puri Lukisan

Visiting an art gallery is one of the must-do things in Ubud. The city is home to a number of spectacular galleries, and the Museum Puri Lukisan is definitely one of the best. Founded in 1956, it’s the oldest art museum in Bali.

The gallery is made up of six different buildings where you’ll find a huge number of modern paintings and wood carvings. Underneath each piece, you’ll find a card with information in English, telling you about its history and meaning.

As well as the permanent exhibitions – which include more than 62 sculpture sets – the gallery also has a section dedicated to temporary displays showcasing local artists’ work and a gallery that goes into detail about the museum’s history.

What makes the Museum Puri Lukisan stand out from other galleries is that it has a large collection of non-religious artwork. Most other galleries focus on religion-heavy pieces, but this one breaks the trend. 

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3. Follow the Campuhan Ridge Walk

Must do things in Ubud, Bali: Campuhan Ridge Walk

For some of the best sights in Ubud, follow the Campuhan Ridge Walk. Located on the outskirts of the city, this trail takes you past landscapes so beautiful that you’ll end up using all your phone’s memory by taking pictures!

The one-way walk is pretty short. It covers just 0.75 miles and takes around 25 minutes to complete. Frustratingly, there’s no loop track, so you’ll have to come back the same way you went. But it’s still totally worth it!

Along the way, you’ll spy green rolling hills, tall swaying trees, lush deep valleys, and tropical jungle scenery.

The best time to do this walk is early in the morning before the heat sets in. It can be a popular trek during the peak season, so go as soon as you wake up if you want to have the trail to yourself.

If you’re not a morning person, sunset can also be a great time to follow the walk. Just make sure you’re back before dark because there are no lights along the path.

Book a Campuhan Ridge to Ubud Monkey Forest Walking Tour

4. Check out the carvings at Pura Taman Saraswati

Ubud, Bali Things to do: Pura Taman Saraswati

Pura Taman Saraswati is one of the top Ubud attractions. This stunning temple dedicated to the goddess of learning, literature, and art is best known for its huge lotus pond, but we find its complex carvings to be even more captivating.

The main building is covered in delicate carvings of the goddess, as are the fountains which flow into the immense lotus pond. This place is so stunning that many locals have their wedding photos taken here.

Despite its location just off a busy road, Pura Taman Saraswati is surprisingly peaceful. It’s a great place to take a break from the busy streets of Ubud and find some inner harmony.

We recommend you visit the temple twice – once during the day and once at night. During the day is the best time to admire all the carvings. But at night, the temple is lit up, giving it an imposing, magical feel. Dance performances are also held regularly in the evenings, and they’re definitely worth checking out.

Book an Ubud Discovery Tour

5. Discover nasi goreng

Unique Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Nasi goreng

Ordering a plate of nasi goreng is one of the best things to do in Ubud. It’s a popular type of Indonesian fried rice with a tiny bit of meat, onion, and vegetables. It’s cooked with kecap manis (a thick, sweet soy sauce) that turns the rice dark brown and gives it a wonderful caramel-like taste. It’s also topped with a sunny-side-up egg for added texture.

Nasi goreng is so popular that you can find it available practically everywhere, from five-star restaurants in deluxe hotels to tiny street carts run by the same family for generations. The best nasi goreng we had in Ubud was from Warung Mendez.

This simple, rustic restaurant serves up huge portions of tasty nasi goreng. For added texture, order the nasi goreng magelangan, which comes with fried noodles as well as rice. If you’re in the mood for something else, there are plenty of other traditional Indonesian and Balinese dishes to try, as well as loads of different iced teas.

6. Explore the Goa Gajah

Fun Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Goa Gajah

Also known as the Elephant Cave, Goa Gajah is one of the top Ubud sightseeing spots. Located on the outskirts of the city in Bedulu, the cave was created sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries and was originally used as a sanctuary for spiritual meditation. It was discovered in 1923 by Dutch archaeologists and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

The dramatic cave is covered in remarkable Buddhist and Hindu imagery. The first thing you see are menacing stone faces at the cave’s entrance. These are designed to ward off evil spirits. 

Despite what it looks like on the outside, the inside of the cave is relatively small. Don’t be surprised if you see wispy white trails of smoke inside. These thin clouds are from incense, which is almost always burning. 

There are seven statues of women holding water pitchers inside the cave, although one was partially destroyed in an earthquake. The statues depict the seven holy rivers of India. You can also see a small shrine used for meditation, several cave paintings, and a bathing pool with fountains.

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7. Hang out with the monkeys at Monkey Forest 

Ubud, Bali Things to do: Monkey Forest

Visiting the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is one of the coolest things to do in Ubud. This dense, tropical forest has been transformed into a nature conservation area and is home to three temples that date back to the 14th century.

As you’d expect from the name, the forest is absolutely teeming with monkeys. More than 700 gray long-tailed macaques call the sanctuary their home and love to wreak havoc on visitors. They’ve got an amazing sense of smell and regularly steal stuff, so keep your food, sunglasses, wallet, and phone hidden!

The monkeys are said to be the spiritual animals that guard the temples. You’ll see primates of all sizes, from chunky alpha males all the way down to tiny babies, depending on the time of year you visit. It’s great to watch them interacting with humans and playing in their own groups.

Even if you’re not really into animals, the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary is still a great place to wander around. The thick tree canopy provides some much-needed refreshing shade during the particularly hot months.

Book a Monkey Forest Tour

8. Indulge your senses at the Gianyar Night Market

Cool Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Gianyar Night Market

If you enjoy trying new food, visiting the Gianyar Night Market is one of the most fun things to do in Ubud. Situated on the outskirts of the city, this market is a foodie’s dream, with a range of stalls laden with all kinds of sweet and savory dishes.

During the day, the marketplace is just a regular street. But at around 5 pm, it transforms into a sensational place with delicious smells, tempting sights, and exciting sounds. 

Some of the best things to try here include babi guling (roasted suckling pig), bakso (meatball soup), and satay ayam (chicken skewers with a peanut sauce). If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ve got to try the pisang goreng (fried bananas), sweet rice cakes, and martabak manis (a sweet stuffed pancake). 

It’s not only delicious food you’ll find here. The Gianyar Night Market is also a great place to pick up fresh produce to make your own delicacies, as well as toys, jewelry, and Balinese ritual items.

The market takes place every evening. Visit on a weekend if you want a busy, vibrant atmosphere. Or check it out during the week if you prefer a quieter, more chilled-out vibe.

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9. Take a walk through the Tegalalang Rice Terraces

Ubud, Bali Bucket List: Tegalalang Rice Terraces

One of the most unique things to do in Ubud is to take a stroll through the area’s enchanting rice terraces. There are many different walks to choose from, but our favorite is the trail that takes you through the Tegalalang Rice Terraces.

The special stepped shape of the rice terraces was created as a result of the clever irrigation system, which was invented way back in the 8th century. When you visit, you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous photo opportunities and landscapes almost too beautiful to believe. 

The terraces feature a looped walking trail that’s around 1.5 miles long. It can take 1-2 hours to complete, depending on how often you take a break, and it’s suitable for people of all ages and abilities.

As you wander, you’ll discover some of the iconic Balinese swings. You can even hire long, colorful dresses to capture the perfect Instagram shot!

If you’re hungry after your walk, definitely stop off at one of the cafes and restaurants that overlook the rice terraces for more amazing views. 

Book an Ubud Rice Terraces, Temples & Volcano All-Inclusive Tour

10. Devour babi guling

Best Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Babi guling

Gorging on a plate of babi guling is one of the best Ubud activities if you’ve got a major appetite. One of Bali’s most famous delicacies, babi guling is suckling pig that is roasted whole and hand-turned on an open fire. It was once only served during important ceremonies and celebrations, but you’ll find it available in almost every restaurant today.

Many people suggest ordering babi guling from Ibu Oka. This restaurant was made famous by Anthony Bourdain and has been incredibly popular ever since. While the food is okay, the prices are a bit high, and it doesn’t have a great atmosphere.

Instead, we recommend checking out Mr. Wayan for babi guling. This restaurant has an incredible outdoor dining room with views that stretch on for miles over the Balinese landscape. 

Here you can try babi guling like you won’t find it anywhere else. There’s a babi guling burger made with pork, special spices, coleslaw, crispy skin, and coriander. The babi guling pizza is also amazing, topped with pork, crispy skin, Balinese lemon basil, fried shallots, and coriander! 

11. See a traditional dance performance

Best Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Traditional dance performance

A typical Balinese dance performance is easily one of the best things to see in Ubud. The extravagant costumes, enchanting music, and captivating choreography come together to create a phenomenal show you’ll never forget!

The two most prominent types of Balinese dance are Legong and Barong. Legong is the most common and dates back to the 19th century when it was performed as royal entertainment.

Barong is a masked performance that depicts the constant battle between good and evil. Dancers dress up as a lion-like creature and battle Ranga, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders.

There are loads of amazing places to see these typical performances in Ubud. Ubud Palace is one of our favorites. You get a booklet which explains each part of the show. It’s easy to get lost in what’s going on. We suggest skimming through it before the performance begins so you’ve got a rough idea of what’s happening.

Shows start at 7 pm or 7.30 pm. Because they’re so popular, we recommend getting there at 6 pm at the latest. This way, you know you’ll definitely get in and there’s a good chance of you getting a front-row seat.

12. Be wowed by the Ubud Art Market

Must do things in Ubud, Bali: Ubud Art Market

If you’re looking for somewhere to pick up one-of-a-kind souvenirs or gifts, one of the top things to do in Ubud is to visit the Ubud Art Market. This bustling open-air space is full to the brim with stalls selling all kinds of handmade clothes, accessories, and statues that make perfect gifts or mementos.

From delicate silk scarves and light cotton shirts perfect for the Ubud heat to hand-woven bags and intricate pieces of jewelry, the Ubud Art Market is a fascinating place to explore. Complex wood carvings, typical Balinese paintings, and elegantly woven baskets can also be found here.

Most of the handcrafted goodies you’ll discover here are made by locals in the neighboring villages of Peliatan, Panyangan, and Pengosekan. You’ll also spot some common souvenir items, but the handmade products are the best part!

The Ubud Art Market is also known as Pasar Seni Ubud. It’s opposite the Ubud Royal Palace (Puri Saren Agung).

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13. Join in with a class at the Yoga Barn

Unique Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Yoga Barn
Images courtesy of Yoga Barn, photographed by Arley Mardo

When you need to relax and unwind, one of the best things to do in Ubud is head to the Yoga Barn and take part in one of the yoga classes. Loads of classes take place every day between 7 am and 9 pm, giving you plenty of opportunities, however busy your schedule is.

The Yoga Barn is made up of five separate open-plan studios which allow you to take in your gorgeous surroundings as you stretch and work out. There are classes for all types, from complete novices who have no idea what a downward-facing dog is to expert yogis who have taught classes themselves.

If you just want to give it a try, you can sign up for a single class. If you have a great time, you can go all out on one of the multi-class passes or even a retreat that lasts for a whole week and includes accommodation.

14. Check out the Setia Darma House of Masks & Puppets

Some incredible costumes, masks, and puppets are used to put on Ubud’s dazzling performances, and this stunning gallery is home to thousands of them!

At the Setia Darma House of Masks and Puppets, you can check out around 1,300 masks and more than 5,000 puppets from all across Indonesia, as well as China, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. The gallery is spread throughout four traditional Javanese antique houses, each of which has its own theme.

The first house is filled with traditional and modern shadow puppets. There’s even one designed in the image of Barack Obama! The second house is where you’ll find leather shadow puppets made from cured cowhide. They’re the ones used in most celebrations and ceremonies.

The final two houses are dedicated to traditional and sacred masks, modern masks created by local craftspeople, and Balinese puppets and masks. There’s a bunch of information in each house, telling you about the history of the items and their significance. It’s a fascinating place to spend a couple of hours and entry is completely free.

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15. Celebrate Chinese New Year

Best Things to do in Ubud, Bali: Chinese New Year

Chinese culture has deep roots in Bali’s history. And if you’re planning to visit around February, one of the best things to do in Ubud is to celebrate Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year). The most spectacular of all Ubud’s events, Chinese New Year is commemorated with extravagant decorations, remarkable performances, and excellent food.

All the Chinese and Buddhist temples are adorned with flowers, plants, and handmade decorations. They look spectacular!

If you hear a lot of music and voices in the streets, there’s a good chance it’s a Barongsai performance. Follow the sounds, and you’ll get to see one of the captivating Chinese lion and dragon parades. 

Many of the city’s restaurants put on extravagant feasts to celebrate Chinese New Year. As you’d expect, places fill up fast, so make a reservation as soon as you find somewhere you like.

The Westin Resort & Spa Ubud usually collaborates with a local fine dining restaurant and serves incredible food during a lavish gala dinner. But practically every restaurant and hotel will be advertising something special, so be on the lookout!

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Ubud, Bali. What’s your favorite thing to do in Ubud? 

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