Kuta attracts young, twenty-something travelers looking for late night dancing and cheap drinks. Canggu is a mecca for surfers, while nearby Semniyak is a magnet for ex-pats. Each of Bali’s main cities have a distinct personality, but it is Ubud that is considered the heart and soul of the island. Surrounded by terraced rice fields and rainforest, Ubud is in fact made up of 14 different villages governed by their own village committees known locally as banjars. Whether due to the runaway hit success of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love, or just an increase in tourism to the island as a whole, Ubud is now teeming with travelers as local culture gives way to increased western commercialization.
Ubud’s vibe is one of health and wellness, a place where yoga studios are as commonplace as vegetarian cafes and herbal remedy shops. Elephant print pants and Japa malas seem to be the outfit du jour, as everyone appears to be a healthier, more spiritually attuned version of themselves. If you have only one day in Ubud, here is how to soak up the cuisine, sights and wellness of the city.
Come early morning in Ubud, the first streaks of sunlight begin to cast light over the verdant green rice paddies that have become symbolic of Bali. For the quintessential view of the rice terraces, wake up early and head to Tegalalang, just 15 minutes away from the Ubud city center. The Tegalalang rice terraces are a popular attraction for visiting tourists so it’s best to go in the morning, avoid the crowds and snap those wanderlust shots.
After a visit to the rice paddies, head back into town to the Ubud Yoga House, which was founded by California ex-pat Sheila Burch. Burch studied yoga in India, Nepal, Thailand, China, Azerbaijan and France before coming to Bali and opening her own studio in 2014. Ubud Yoga House offers daily yoga classes starting at 7am, which are a great way to kick off your day.
For breakfast, walk over to Cafe Pomegranate, just two minutes down the road from Ubud Yoga House. Here you’ll find an open-air restaurant with 360 degree views of the surrounding rice paddies (because one truly cannot get enough of these views while in Bali). Enjoy a fresh fruit bowl heaped with yogurt and honey, while sipping on a papaya and tumeric smoothie or a fresh coconut.
After a healthy morning spent basking in front of the rice paddies, head into the city center for a visit to the famed Ubud Art Market, where a dizzying display of locally made crafts and souvenirs can be found. Haggling is a must at the market—which is open daily from 8am to 6pm—so come prepared to negotiate the price of that batik scarf.
One of the main attractions in Ubud’s center is the Monkey Forest, a Hindi temple complex and sanctuary for more than 600 macaques (referred to locally as the Balinese long-tailed monkey). Guests can purchase bananas at Monkey Forest and make their way past moss-covered temples that play home to these mischievous little creatures. Be warned, the monkeys are grabby, so leave those sunglasses at home.
For lunch, had on over to Taco Casa in Ubud. While the idea of eating Mexican food in Indonesia may seem odd, the city is home to an eclectic array of international cuisine—from Japanese to French to Western. Taco Casa is a popular haunt that attracts travelers with their quesadillas, fajitas and margaritas.
After lunch, pamper yourself with a truly indulgent massage and flower strewn bath at Karsa Spa. Go for the traditional Balinese massage, which includes an hour of stress relieving, tension dissolving bliss. After your massage, walk back into town for dinner at Putu’s Wild Ginger.
In order to build her restaurant, Putu and her family knocked down their family temple to create enough space to open the restaurant that stands today. Putu’s Wild Ginger serves traditional Balinese cuisine alongside family recipes and a secret menu for regular customers.
Start with the freshly made guacamole dip with a side of vegetable crackers, then enjoy Nasi Goreng—a classic Indonesian dish of fried rice and mixed vegetables topped with a fried egg and freshly chopped chili peppers. For dessert, indulge in a Pisang Goreng, which includes fried banana topped with coconut shreds and brown sugar (highly recommended).
End your day in Ubud with an evening performance of a traditional kecak performance at the Pura Dalem Taman Kaja. Kecak is a traditional Balinese dance that originated in the 1930s and depicts the Hindu story of Prince Rama fighting the villainous King Ravana. The mesmerizing performance includes a fire dance and chanting from men donning checkered cloths, as characters in intricate costumes perform around them.