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5 Essential Travel Experiences in Ubud, Bali

Bali is truly the Island of the Gods, and one of my most beloved travel destinations. Ever. Between the majesty of it’s crashing surf, and the most extraordinary sunsets I’ve ever seen, there’s endless landscapes of verdant vegetation, and this is where I always find myself. Blissfuly lost amongst the easygoing green of the rice paddies that surround Ubud, Bali’s cultural and artistic beating heart.

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When I do venture into town though, I seem to end up in the same places over and over again. Here’s my list of can’t miss travel experiences in Ubud, Bali.

Try Babi Guling at Ibu Oka, but Eat at Kafe Ubud the rest of the time
Ibu Oka is an Ubud institution where you can try babi guling or roast suckling pig that has been marinated in spices and religiously turned on a spit for 6 hours. Open only at lunchtime or until the oink runs out, get there early and order a “special,” to get a taste of everything. If you want an extra order of pork cracklings, get there ultra early, or miss out. (And trust me, you don’t want to miss out). ;p

When you’re all porked out, head over to Kafe Ubud for the freshest, organic juices and meals. It’s where we end up eating nearly every day, whether we mean to or not. It’s just that good.

Our tip: Try the roasted beet and walnut salad. You won’t be disappointed.

Dare to Feed the Macaques at the Sacred Monkey Forest
Based on the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana (3 ways to reach spiritual and physical well-being), the Sacred Monkey Forest is populated by 600 (sometimes) warring macaques, 115 different species of trees and 3 magnificent Hindu temples.

There’s no doubt it’s one of Ubud’s most famous tourist attractions, but it’s also an integral part of the local community’s economic and spiritual life, and an important centre of research and conservation efforts.

If you’re brave, you can buy bananas to offer the monkeys at the entrance of the forest, but do not fool yourself into thinking they’re tame. They’re used to humans, but most definitely wild and sometimes aggressive, especially during mating season. I, for one, wasn’t allowing a single banana anywhere near me.

Our tip: If you’ve got a bit of monkey phobia, but still want to visit, don’t buy the bananas. And don’t carry any other food on your person. Oh, and make sure you strap or hide everything on you that you don’t want stolen by aggressive monkeys. Because they WILL climb on top of you to get it.

Pamper yourself at Shangrila Spa
The streets of Ubud are as choked with spas, as they are scooter traffic, and in truth, you’ll leave satisfied from pretty much any place you walk in to. They all have gorgeous environments, silent masseuses completely focused on what they’re doing (yes, I’m talking to you Thailand), and a massage style so filled with love, you’ll never want to get off the table.

Despite the plethora of choices though, the place I return to again and again is Shangrila Spa. Tucked away on a small side street, partly hidden behind gorgeous vegetation and decorated in colourful fabrics, the place positively screams relaxation. Or rather, whispers it in waves of ultra calming bliss.

And with a 4 hour spa package including multiple massages, reflexology, facial, and pedicure costing a mere $40? You really can’t lose, can you?

Our tip: Book in advance and try to have your massage with Rama. I’ve never had a better one. Period.

Caffeinate at Starbucks before being Awed by Pura Saraswati Temple
Getting your java at Starbucks might seem strange in a place where you’re absolutely spoiled for cafe choices, but the decor of this one is unique. Serene and minimal with lots of stone and wood accents, it’s a peaceful spot to take a break from Ubud’s noisy scooter traffic.

Add in the fact that there’s an incredible Hindu temple with lotus pond, gorgeous flora, and carvings that honour Dewi Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom and the arts, located right behind it, and there’s really no excuse not to grab a drink and take a stroll. Seeing Pura Saraswati for the first time took my breath away. Literally.

Our tip: Visit after dark, when the temple and lotus pond are lit up. You might even chance upon a traditional dance performance in progress.

Get Outta Ubud
It’s counterintuitive, but to truly appreciate Ubud, you gotta get outta Ubud. Otherwise, all you’ll remember is tour buses on parade, congested traffic and enough souvenir stores to make you feel trapped.

Take the 5 minute ride out of town though, and you’ll be surrounded by blue skies, fluffy clouds and rice paddy vistas as far as the eye can see. It’s tranquil perfection and just the counterpoint needed to make you thankful for everything Ubud has to offer.

Our tip: Rent a scooter and let the road take you where it may. You’ll chance on glorious scenes, surprise temples, and strange happenings.

Have you visited Ubud? Do you have any must-do experiences to add? Tell us all about it in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great post, and we did just about all of it. We spent a month there a few years ago and fell in love with it. Who doesn’t? Now I need to go back to try what we missed – babi guling and Pura Saraswati Temple.
    Alison

    November 16, 2016
    • I’ve only been able to spend a week at a time there on a few separate occasions, and it always feels too short. A full month sounds like complete heaven. I’d love the chance to experience that one day. πŸ™‚ Did you have a massage with Rama? Pure bliss, right?

      November 16, 2016
      • I can’t remember which spa I went to, but yes it was pretty blissful.

        November 16, 2016
  2. Saving this for sure! I MUST get to Bali, and soon.

    November 16, 2016
    • I’m super surprised that you haven’t been there yet to be honest! :0 There are parts that are definitely touristy, but there’s so much to love in between. I’m missing it so much…

      November 16, 2016
      • One of my gaping travel history holes … if it weren’t so far I would have been there multiple times already, from what I can tell!

        November 16, 2016
  3. Rahul #

    Nailed it with this post. Roaming around in central Ubud with its old Hindu charms and the odd smell of incense felt wonderful.

    November 17, 2016
    • One of the best places on earth, as far as I’m concerned. I really must go back as soon as possible! πŸ™‚

      November 18, 2016
  4. I am planning a Bali visit in May 2017. Will surely use some tips from your Bali posts πŸ™‚

    December 14, 2016
    • Oh you’re so lucky! I’m missing it so much and really want to go back. Enjoy your trip and make sure to get a massage with Rama. I could sure use one now. πŸ™‚

      December 16, 2016
  5. Definitely one of my favorite places in the world. We have been twice and the most recent time added Ahmad to our places we love.

    One of the cons are the huge amounts of garbage and trash that are disposed into the rivers and therefore the ocean 😦 A world wide problem no doubt…)

    My husband loves the pig, but for me, Ubus is about raw and vegan all the way…

    Peta

    December 15, 2016
    • Yes, an unfortunate worldwide problem. The worst place I’ve seen it is in Egypt outside of Dahab in the Red Sea. My husband was so upset, every time he went under the water, he came out with plastic bags…but it was an impossible task. There was just SO much.

      We have also been twice to Bali, but never made it out of Ubud and area. We really need to get out and explore more of the island I think. Will check out Ahmad. Have never heard of it before…

      December 16, 2016
  6. I can suggest to do yoga with rice field view… πŸ™‚ Great tips – I will tweet it!

    December 16, 2016
  7. Nice post! I didn’t know Bali had all this to offer..

    December 17, 2016
    • Thanks Jaspreet. This, and so much more. We’ve really not explored the island much at all, and only visited Ubud. Must remedy that soon I think! πŸ™‚

      December 20, 2016
  8. Hi, I am planning a Bali trip in May 2017. Is it a good time to explore Bali? Please suggest

    December 20, 2016
    • Hmm, I’ve never personally visited Bali in May, so I can’t comment on the weather then. Both times I’ve visited in Jan/Feb, during rainy season, and had no troubles at all. It’s gorgeous no matter what, so I’m sure you’ll have a great time. πŸ™‚

      December 24, 2016
  9. We’ve been to Bali too but never had the chance to visit Sacred Monkey Forest, maybe next time! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

    January 3, 2017
    • There’s always a next time with Bali, isn’t there? Almost everyone I know has been back for a 2nd or 3rd visit. Can’t wait to go back ourselves. πŸ™‚

      January 4, 2017
  10. Holland Daze #

    Just got back from Indonesia and I loved Ubud too! I was also too afraid to feed to monkeys, haha, actually just wrote about my visit.

    Did you visit the Yoga Barn? That was another must see for me I’m planning to post on πŸ™‚

    January 13, 2017
    • Our visits to Bali have always been too short for my liking, and we never get to do everything we want, so no haven’t been to Yoga Barn. 😦 I need to go back and stay for a month or longer and really discover what it’s about. πŸ™‚

      January 15, 2017
  11. I’ve always wanted to visit Bali. Please tell us what you’re favourite place in Ubud!

    January 16, 2017
    • Hi Shamim, Bali is amazing!! There are so many amazing places in Ubud, but Kafe Ubud for food, and Shangrila Spa for massage are 2 places that I never miss when I visit there. Hope you get to go soon! πŸ™‚

      January 17, 2017
  12. I think the monkey forest is a must-visit place when traveling to Ubud, Bali.

    February 1, 2017
    • Definitely a required stop when visiting Ubud…but man, those monkeys can be scary sometimes! πŸ˜‰

      February 5, 2017
  13. This is great! I am hoping to go next year. Did you ever run into problems with being ticketed while on your scooter for no real reason? I’ve heard about this happening to a few different visitors and it’s making me second guess renting one!

    February 15, 2017
    • We’ve rented a scooter every time and never run into problems, and it’s an amazing place to have one. My hubby drives pretty crazy and no one even blinked an eye, so I’m sure you’ll have no problems, plus they are only about $5/day…totally worth it! Enjoy your trip!!! πŸ˜„

      March 1, 2017
  14. Great post. We are going in August and I can’t wait to see it all!!!

    March 4, 2017

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