Ubud, the cultural and spiritual heart of Bali. Situated in the cool mountains just 37km north of Bali’s International Airport, Ubud is renowned for its lush rice paddies, intricate Hindu temples and thriving arts scene.
But of course, to truly appreciate a country’s beauty takes time. Ubud is no different, with countless fascinating aspects that beg to be explored. It is so captivating that many travellers who have grown weary of the hubbub of city life visit Ubud and never want to leave.
However, not everyone is blessed with the abundance of time on their hands. For those who are only able to squeeze 24 precious hours out of their tight schedule, here is a 1-day “Must See, Must Do” guide to experience the spiritual beauty of Ubud!
Tip: Rent a motorbike or a scooter. Ubud is quite a huge place (14 villages in fact) and there is plenty of traffic from noon onwards. Getting a taxi / private car would leave you stuck in traffic especially when you are travelling through central Ubud. A scooter is very affordable (USD 8 – 12 a day) and allows you to zip through congestion easily.
Morning – A Sense Awakening In Ubud Morning Market
The Ubud morning market is a riot of sounds and colours. Starting as early as 6am, vendors set up stall to sell fruits, meat, eggs, flower offerings, dried produce and whatever the local community needs.
It is a boisterous affair that allows tourists a glimpse of genuine local life before the rest of the island wakes up. The good thing is that there will not be many tourists at this time. So, you can banter and interact with the friendly local people, take some pictures and buy seasonal fruits at really cheap prices.
It is a must-visit for all intrepid travellers!
Note: This exciting local market transforms into a souvenir market for tourists in the afternoon where you can shop for cheap souvenirs to take home.
Start The Day Well With A Hearty Meal of Babi Guling (Roast Pork)
The Balinese people predominantly practise Hinduism unlike the rest of Indonesia’s Muslim population. This explains Bali’s famous roast pork dish loved by locals and tourists alike – the legendary Babi Guling!
Babi Guling is basically suckling pig, whole-roasted over an open fire until its skin turns into a lovely shade of golden-brown. Juicy tender meat, well-marinated blood sausage, a heap of local stewed vegetables and slices of that amazing crackling skin are served over warm, fluffy rice. Merely thinking about it makes one salivate!
There are many warungs (meaning local eatery in Indonesian) throughout Ubud serving this delightful suckling pig and this local delicacy is not to be missed!
Be Inspired By Balinese Art At Neka Art Museum
Located just 10mins away from Ubud central, the Neka Art Museum is a fantastic place to get introduced to the strong artistic influences of Ubud.
Named after a Balinese teacher and art collector – Suteja Neka, this museum that was opened in 1982 has a well-curated gallery of works by local and foreign artists. The most unique thing about the Neka Art Museum is that the works featured here were all inspired by the natural beauty, life, and culture of Bali.
Even if you are not a fan of the arts, you will definitely appreciate the beautiful and peaceful gardens surrounding the premise.
Neka Art Museum
Address: Jalan Raya Sanggingan Campuhan, Kedewatan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571.
Opening Hours: 9am to 5pm daily.
Noon – Take A Scenic Ride To Tegallalang Rice Terrace
The Tegallalang Rice Terrace is famous for its amazing terrace landscape that almost resembles a stunning green patchwork blanket. And the actual view lives up to its reputation!
It is a short 45mins ride to this famed attraction from central Ubud. The journey will have you passing by long streets of shops hawking all sorts of wonderful art pieces and local handicrafts. There is no rush in Ubud. Take it slow and buy some Balinese art along the way.
Tip: The shops here are more reasonably-priced compared to the ones located in the city and there is more variety too. Bargaining is expected and you can try negotiating upwards, starting from 50% of the initial price.
When you reach, the magnificent sight of the layered paddy fields will blow you away. Soak in the view from the many vantage points or cafes scattered in this area. Or, venture down the steps and take an up-close stroll around the fields. It is an easy walk but do remember to wear proper shoes because the paths may be muddy.
Some of the cafes here also offer a giant swing ride hung from the trees. It is a rather exhilarating experience to be pushed over the top of trees. Costing around 100,000IDR to 220,000IDR (around $7 – $15 USD) for a mere five minutes of swinging, remember to snap as many pictures as possible to make it worthwhile.
Bask In The Serenity Of The Holy Tirta Empul Temple
After the bustle at the rice terrace, continue upwards to Tirta Empul, a beautiful ancient temple located approximately 7km away.
You will pass through the quiet town of Tampaksiring, which is a wonderful experience in itself. Keep your eyes open because you will come across endless acres of spectacular paddy fields, with farmers ploughing and ducks swim idly beside… all oblivious to the travellers passing by.
The stunning Tirta Empul temple is founded in 926 A.D and this place is dedicated to Vishnu, the Hindu god of water. According to the Balinese, the water here is holy and many come here to spiritually cleanse themselves.
Tourists are not allowed to enter the two purification pools unless they purchase a special sarong from the temple and follow the bathing ritual. Regardless, it is a very therapeutic and interesting sight to watch the locals partaking in the holy bathing ritual.
Note: Tourists should be dressed conservatively. They have sarongs (a batik cloth which you wrap around your lower half) available for rent outside the temple premises if your clothing is too revealing.
Spend some time exploring the beautifully tranquil temple grounds accompanied by the calming chants of the monks. Gently trace your fingers along the the intricately carved statues and be awed!
Take A Refreshing Dip In Tukad Cepung Waterfall
To end off the long day, head on to one of the best-kept secrets of Ubud – the Tukad Cepung Waterfall located north-west of Ubud. It is a hidden gem that is still not known to many tourists and it may be hard to locate. However, the breathtaking feeling when the waterfall looms into sight makes it all worthwhile.
Nestled within majestic circular cliffs, this surreal waterfall gives you the feeling that the water is falling down magically from the sky. Stand under the waterfall or take a dip, and let the refreshing water rejuvenate your body and mind.
If you are lucky enough to encounter sunny skies, look up and be enchanted by the sun rays shining through the top of the falls, creating a mesmerising visual of Mother Nature at its best.
Nightfall – Romantic Paddy Fields & Cultural Performances
And, the magic in Ubud continues even as the sun sets. Unlike the quiet countryside, central Ubud is bustling with energy. Throngs of people amble along the streets in search of art, music and food.
Advice: give the touristy souvenir shops a miss and watch a traditional cultural performance instead.
Among the few cultural performances available, the Kecak Fire Dance is highly recommended. Based on the epic Ramayana story, it is a hypnotising experience of chanting and theatrical dancing that ends in a flaming (literally) finale!
End The Day With Good Food And Drinks
Ubud is also well-known for its vibrant night scene. Of all the pretty paved streets in the main street, Jalan Gootama is a crowd favourite. Closed off to traffic at night, this charismatic street is home to many quaint restaurants, cosy cafes and artsy shops. Quite the perfect place to unwind and let your thoughts wander after a fulfilling day.
For travellers in a rush, this guide can hopefully expose you to some of the charm that Ubud has to offer. If you didn’t have enough time to visit everything listed in this article, rest assured because it will definitely not be your last trip here.
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