It’s true that Ubud has got busy. You can blame it on Elizabeth Gilbert I reckon and her memoir Eat Pray Love which was made into a film of the same name starring Julia Roberts.


From being the sleepy cultural hub of Bali, Ubud has morphed into a busy town where you’ll find lots to do, and plenty to buy. However, you can still step just beyond the main streets and find rice fields and stunning scenery – where the more traditional Bali carries on in much the same way as it always has.


The main part of Ubud is vibrant and it’s a hive of activity with tourists and travelers coming here from all over the world to soak up Balinese culture, colour and beauty and let’s not forget the traditional healing such as meditation, massage and yoga that Ubud is also renowned for.


We stayed at Samkhya Villas – you can find details and photos here, Where to stay in Ubud, Bali – and often walked into town – it took about 50 minutes. The road was quite busy with taxis, cars and motorcycles and we walked along a rutted pavement, which at best could be called ‘intermittent.’

Step away from the road through ornate Balinese doors and you’re transported into another world; the old, traditional Bali – where fine art, contemporary art, and artisan crafts jostle for space in ancient courtyards and crumbling buildings, where temples (and cockerels and songbirds in cages) take centre stage.

Then again step off the road and wander around luxury hotels with bright blue pools and views across farmland – perhaps check out a gorgeous quiet room with a balcony that looks out onto rice fields maybe.

Perhaps have lunch or an iced ginger tea and poppy seed cake in an open sided restaurant, and look forward to finding another new and interesting place to eat in the evening.


What’s lovely about Bali? You’ll continually be greeted by smiling and oh-so-friendly Balinese people anxious to spend the time of day with you.

So without further ado, here are some of the things which will keep you busy on a trip to Ubud (besides ancient sights and temples). I haven’t included the Monkey Forest because personally I don’t like it, and if you get bitten by a monkey (I know someone who has) you’ll be up for rabies injections.

Tip: Stay more than a couple of nights – Ubud is a great jumping off point too for day trips to the East of the island,  and to places such as Besakih Mother Temple below.


1. Antonio Blanco Gallery

This is much more than a gallery. It’s called Blanco The Renaissnce Museum – The grounds are beautiful and Antonio Blanco has a fascinating history with Ubud.


2. Spa – Wellness – Yoga

There are plenty of spas and yoga centres in Ubud. If you’re at a 5 Star hotel you may well have them conveniently situated on the premises. Otherwise never fear. Grab a copy of the Bali Advertiser (free) or Ubud Community (also free) which you can pick up from restaurants (I picked them up at Murni’s by the bridge in Ubud) and you’ll find helpful information at the tourist information centre in Ubud.

3. Relax and Recuperate

Laze by a pool and read – nearly all hotels and villas have lovely pools. If you are staying in budget accommodation, you could have lunch at a hotel with a pool, and ask if you could maybe laze by their pool for a couple of hours. If not, join a host of other travelers who sit and drink lassis and ginger tea or Bintang beer under cool swirling fans in any number of quirky restaurants.


4. Go Walking away from the crowds

Walk through rice paddies and lush countryside – Although Ubud main streets are busy, you are only a short hop skip and jump away at any time from rice fields and beautiful country scenery.


5. Get Arty

Check out the art galleries – there are so many.


From classic Balinese scenes to contemporary art to fine art. If you’re in the market to purchase you’ll be spoilt for choice. At some galleries you can watch artists at work.


6. Cycle Ride

Quite a few companies are now offering cycle trips. One is a popular ride down the hill from Mount Agung stopping at places of interest along the way.

7. Traditional Dance Performances

In the centre of town at Ubud Palace there are traditional dances every day at 7.30pm. You could choose to watch Legong Dances, Ramayan Ballet, Shadow Puppet performances, or  Barong Dances. Other places you can book to watch dancing are at the Ubud Water Palace and the Monkey Forest. Pick up a map from the Ubud Tourist Information on Ubud Main Road (almost diagonally across from Ubud Palace) and you’ll find a list of the daily performances.


8. Go on a tour

There are day tours to all sorts of places – from river rafting, to hiking, to the elephant park, to stone markets and batik factories.

9. Classes and Workshops

Sign up for a cooking class – you not only learn how to cook Balinese dishes but you’ll also be taken to the fresh food market to buy the food and get some behind the scenes insight into unusual food choices, and their preparation.


Enrol in a photography class – I’ve noticed that a couple of photography tours have started up. I also picked up a brochure for a bird watching tour, Bali Bird Walks. Ask at the tourist info centre for more up to the minute recommendations.

10. Visit Petulu Gunung

This is a small village about 3kms north of Ubud which is renowned for its Egrets which come to nest in their thousands around 5.30pm each night.


It’s an astonishing sight to watch the birds coming in and the noise (and the smell) is quite something too!


Take an umbrella if you’re worried about bird poo!

There’s an interesting and disputed tale about Petulu that you can read here and more about Petulu here.

Like this post? You might also like …

Where to stay in Bali for first timers

Where to stay in Ubud, Bali

29 Awesome Things to do in Bali

Bali – The Split Gate to Heaven and Hell

Why Take Holidays in Bali?

Bali Holidays: What to pack for a Tropical Break

Would you retire in Bali?

How to create Balinese Gardens without going to Bali

5 Tips for creating a Bali Garden 

How to create a Balinese garden in your backyard

Have you been to Ubud, or Bali? What would you recommend doing?


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  1. I’ve always wanted to visit Bali so your post was timely. And, I’ll be checking out your other posts. When I read your opening about Elizabeth Gilbert and her book/movie, I wondered if the locals resent tourists invading their little oasis? In France, Peter Mayle’s book, “A Year In Provence” brought truckloads of tourists and supposedly the locals were not happy. One doesn’t say “Peter Mayle” there! Did you encounter anything like that?

  2. Great article Jo! I have bookmarked it under a folder for ‘to do’s’.

  3. Michele Peterson

    I read Eat, Pray, Love but didn’t remember where in Bali it was set so this info is all new to me! Ubud looks like an ideal place to spend some peaceful time in a forest or bird sanctuary ( although the umbrella is a funny but likely good idea!). I’d love to take a cooking class and have pinned it to my must-try list

  4. Great choices and places to discover on the island, my personal preference is to get away from all the crazy and busy tourist venues and fortunately there are still many areas far away from all the crowds in Bali

  5. I’m sold! I really would love to stay here and do a yoga retreat and wander around those rice fields and temples. When I visited Bali a few years ago my daughter I did that bike ride from Mt Agung down to Ubud and it was fabulous. 🙂

  6. I have not been up to Ubud in years and it was so quiet when I last went! Sounds like it has changed a bit but still looks beautiful

  7. Ubud looks beautiful. Great list of things to do. The cooking class in particular appeals to me.

  8. I’m one of the few who wound up not liking EPL but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to visit Bali! Your recommendations of things to do in Ubud will come in handy when we do get there!

  9. I can probably do without the Monkey Forest, too. But I like your 10 recommendations a lot. I wasn’t a big fan of Eat Love Pray and actually didn’t recall the Ubud scenes, but I can see why things have gotten busier there. Hopefully, it won’t get too touristy before I finally get to visit,

  10. Bali looks so exotic and foreign – exactly the kind of place I’d like to go to sometime next year. I like the fact that you can have the luxury and tourist attractions in and near Ubud and then find other places to experience a more authentic, quieter Balinese life. How fun to take some cooking classes but a photography class would be equally enjoyable. Looking forward to a visit and your suggestions will be very handy!

  11. I’ve never been to Bali and our photos and descriptions make it sound very appealing. Definitely on my bucket list!

  12. Yes Anita, I think the cooking classes would be fun … so to photography – so much to do in Bali – including rest and relax!

  13. Many people didn’t enjoy EPL Catherine, and although I did, I understand why they didn’t! I did however enjoy the Bali scenes and the book made me want to return, which we did. I hope you get to visit, and yep, no need to go to the Monkey Forest 😉

  14. Hi Carole, it’s always both good and bad to have missed things on a first trip I think – good because it makes you want to return and bad because you sometimes think you should have allowed more time for discovery. Ubud is quite different and well worth a return visit.

  15. Hi Janice, I think those with businesses have been cashing in like mad, but I’m betting the locals and expats probably don’t mention her name, much like Peter Mayle in Provence!

  16. I definitely second giving the ‘monkey forest’ a pass, we went a long time ago and even before the extra burst of crowds with Ubuds increased popularity it was really just sad and while we weren’t bitten I had a scare from not paying enough attention while exploring around a temple and had a large male block me in with bared teeth. There are many other places in the world I would and have seen monkeys in the wild but in Bali there are many better things to do.

  17. Hi Lyn, ah yes, lots of people either love or hate Bali. I hope you’ll love it if you do visit.

  18. I think that’s how it found its fame, Billie. Back in 1983 it was such a tiny little village.

  19. Hi Lyn, many people would agree with you. But Bali still has its beautiful benefits.

  20. Great tips, thanks Jo! Second time someone has recommended cooking classes to me in Ubud this week so I’m thinking it’s a sign! We’ve just settled in Australia, so we’re so close to Indonesia that I have no excuse not to plan a trip this year! Your tips will come in handy. Cheers! (Found you on Y Travel blog Pinterest links)

  21. Such a great tips. I love taking photos and I’m glad there are posts like these, it’s so useful. Such a magical place visit this. Thanks for sharing your information.

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