10 Incredible Cultural Experiences in Ubud, Bali

Cultural workshop in Ubud, Bali
Cultural workshop in Ubud, Bali | © Xenia Blair - Ubud Readers & Writers Festival / Flickr
Photo of Edira Putri
31 May 2018

One of the best ways to experience Ubud is through its captivating cultural activities. Whether you seek to be amused by traditional performances or learn a local craft, or even try spiritual healing, these incredible cultural experiences will grant you remarkable insights and sweet memories.

Watch the Ramayana ballet in Ubud Palace

The epic Ramayana doesn’t only make a great, dynamic theatrical performance, its story inspires the life of many Balinese Hindu and helps shape their everyday customs. Ramayana ballet is one of the most popular performances in Bali, but if you catch one at the Ubud Palace, your experience will be intensified by the grand backdrop of the palace, making it one of the best venues to enjoy this ancient drama in action.

Entrance to Ubud Palace | © Antonia / Flickr

Visit a traditional healer

This cultural-spiritual activity has become much more popular among tourists since Eat Pray Love, which shows Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) visiting Ketut Liyer in a village in Ubud. While this respected medicine man from Bali passed away in 2016, the traditional healing scene in Ubud has increasingly thrived. Whether or not you believe in this kind of thing, meeting a traditional shaman in Ubud can enrich your perspective on life, wellness, and at the very least, culture. Many even come with actual problems—physical, mental, emotional—and swear by its efficacy.

Sign up for a cooking class

It’s no secret that food can tell us a lot about a certain culture. But why not take it up a notch and learn to cook local dishes instead of just eating them? Many restaurants and villas in Ubud have cooking classes you can join conveniently—all materials and ingredients provided. And who knows, maybe later you can entertain family and friends back home with excellent Balinese dishes.

Cooking class in Ubud | © Henrik Sommerfeld / Flickr

Visit the Saraswati Palace

One of the most iconic attractions in Ubud, this temple was built to honor Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, literature, and art. Also known as the Ubud Water Palace, the grand traditional architecture is beautifully adorned with delicate lotus pond and water garden. But beyond a glorious sight to see, this palace is also one of the best spots to catch traditional performances. If dressing up sounds like a cultural experience you’re all for, rent traditional Balinese attire on-site.

Pura Taman Saraswati, Ubud | © Jorge Láscar / Flickr

Undergo a cleansing ritual at Tirta Empul Temple

Tirta Empul is one of the most prized water temples in Ubud, and not just for the beautiful architecture and adornment. This temple is famous for its purification ritual, which can be done in its ornate and iconic bathing pool. The pool has spouts overflowing with water, each symbolizing certain elements of cleansing. Tourists are welcome to join the procession as long as they follow the rules—don’t hesitate to ask around or even better, ask a local to join or guide you through.

Purifying water at Tirta Empul temple | © deborahkbates / Pixabay

Visit the museums

Ubud is considered Bali’s capital of art and culture for a reason. The place has hosted, nurtured, and inspired artists from across the globe, whose works are fortunately available for mortal eyes to see and appreciate. Blanco Renaissance Museum houses the works of renowned artist Antonio Blanco, and is actually located on the artist’s own mansion. Agung Rai Museum of Art, on the other hand, showcases collections from various artists from around the world and across different genres and eras.

Explore Tegalalang Village

For years, the name Tegalalang has been almost synonymous with rice terrace, which is one of Ubud’s most iconic and most-photographed sights. But that’s not all there is to it. Tegalalang is actually a fascinating village of farmers and artists, where you can learn and observe the captivating local culture. You can stop by one of the art shops or traditional warung, even interact with local farmers and chat a bit about local stories or anything you want to know about this exotic piece of land.

Tegalalang rice terrace | © Sam Sherratt / Flickr

Learn traditional crafts

True, you can buy lovely handmade souvenirs in the lively traditional market in Ubud, but learning to make one is surely more eye-opening and remarkable. Not only will you go home with an authentic craft of your own making, you’ll also learn a new skill and even perhaps find a new hobby or passion to continue pursuing. From pottery to batik-making, wood-carving to making jewellery from silver, there is something for everyone to learn in Ubud.

Explore Ubud Monkey Forest

This attraction in Ubud is mainly known as a calming lush forest with hundreds of monkeys. But this forest was not built for just fun. The compound follows an ancient traditional philosophy called Tri Hita Karana, the ‘three causes of well-being’, that include the harmony with God, with other people, and with nature. And those three you can find somewhere in the forest: sacred temples, town halls, and thriving nature that surrounds everything.

Spot monkeys galore in Ubud, Bali | © Alexis Gravel / Flickr

Get on the yoga mat

For Balinese, yoga is more than just a trendy fad. As Hindus, Balinese practice yoga in such a spiritual manner it will present you with a unique experience and perspective. But beyond Balinese Hindus, people come all over the world to learn and teach yoga in Ubud, so you’ll get a whole spectrum of options according to taste and preference. Among the excellent yoga studios in Bali are Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive.

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