Buzzing local markets, chasing giant kites and exploring colorful hidden neighborhoods are just some of the non-touristy activities the Balinese town of Ubud can offer visitors. If you’re keen for a one-of-a-kind adventure on the Balinese highlands, check out this guide.
Ubud is an ideal destination for art lovers, adventure chasers and soul seeking wanderers. It’s known worldwide as the spiritual and cultural center of the Island of Gods. Despite being busy year-round with foreign visitors, Ubud still offers off-the-beaten-track activities.
The choice of accommodation in Bali strictly affects your experience on the island. Booking a room in a family-run homestay will open the mystical doors to Bali’s timeless culture and day-to-day life. Your host family – usually – will welcome you with open arms and if you show interest in the local customs, you’ll be invited in no time to ceremonies and celebrations. The banjar, local villages, are a very tight community and events take place every day. The women make colorful and detailed offerings, while the men might be gathered around a cheeky – because it’s actually illegal – cockfight. Connect with your family to enjoy the most authentic experience of Ubud.
Ubud offers a myriad of choices of food, with restaurants and cafes proposing cuisines from all over the world. However, in order to experience a real taste of the local food scene, get out of the main road, wander around little alleys and pop into a local warung, namely a small family-run restaurant. They usually specialise in only one dish – bakso, – broth with meatballs and noodles – nasi lawar, – rice with a mix of chopped jackfruit, coconut and local spices (sometimes they add pig blood, but you can skip the “red” version, asking for the “white”) – and nasi campur – literally mixed rice, with chicken, vegetables, eggs and tempe. Your tastebuds will be blissfully ecstatic. Also, do as locals do: forget the cutlery and use your hands, the right one though, according to etiquette. Except for the broth, there a spoon is allowed.
Penestanan is a lovely village in the north-west part of the Ubud district. You can easily reach it by walking 10-15 minutes from the center of the town. A colorful labyrinth of street art, cafes, shops and galleries will embrace you in a day’s worth of jungle village exploration. Have a walk in Penestanan Kaja and stop for a smoothie bowl at Yellow Flower Cafe, overlooking the wild tropical forest and Mount Agung at the horizon. If fatigued and feeling hot, go get a massage at Cantika Zest, then keep walking and try to find your way to the rice fields, for an emerald injection of natural bliss.
Ubud is surrounded by mesmerizing rice fields, where life is still untouched by the flow of tourists. Easy to reach rice fields are located in Penestanan, Peliatan and near Sari Organik. Sunset walks here are the best. Also, from May to September, it is kite season in Bali, meaning groups of children and boys – it’s mainly a male activity – give life and wings to magnificent, giant kites. Go explore and see how they make them fly. It’ll give you goosebumps and a unique sense of freedom.
Batik is the traditional Indonesian art of decorating textile with wax dye and liquids, following precise methods and techniques. Several places around Ubud hold workshops offering the opportunity to draw, design and make your own batik shirt. Imagine going back home with a unique piece of art designed by you? An ideal souvenir for an unforgettable holiday. And a day spent diving deep into the local art culture.
Over the last year, Bali has become a world-class destination for digital nomads around the world, namely location independent professionals who can work remotely from their laptop. Hubud Coworking and Community Space opened the doors to its bamboo building in 2014, gaining the reputation of the first coworking space on the island. The space is buzzing with entrepreneurs working on brilliant and sustainable ideas. They host more than 400 events per year, for all tastes and needs. Get a day pass and go mingle with their lively community. You never know, it might change your life and the way you look at your work-life balance.
Pyramids? In Bali? Yes, it might sound strange, but it’s true. Located near the traditional village of Bentuyung, where the movie Eat, Pray, Love was set, the Pyramids of Chi are a complex formed by two white pyramids, designed to provide a full-on sound healing and relaxation experience. Sound healing sessions are held every day, a trippy journey accompanied by gongs, didgeridoos and drums, with scientifically proven healing and relaxation benefits. What a delightful way to start a day in Ubud.
Every day is an early rise for the local Balinese. Farmers bring their fresh products over to town and set up their stalls around 3-4am. In order to buy the best items, buyers start their daily shopping around 5am. Ubud central market, located on Ubud main street, in front of the palace, is no exception. Get up early and go for a stroll at 6am. Be mesmerized by the scents, sounds, colors and rhythms of local life. It’ll be worth the early rise, because, after 8am, the market transforms into a tourist attraction, mostly selling souvenirs.