Bali is often called the Island of the Gods, thanks to its breathtaking natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and the warmth of its people. It offers one of the best family holiday destinations in Asia. This Indonesian island is home to some of the most iconic landmarks and attractions you’ll discover in Southeast Asia, from majestic temples to pristine beaches. Read this guide for the top things to do in Bali, Ubud and Uluwatu.
Two of the most popular destinations in Bali are Ubud and Uluwatu. Both offer their own unique charms and attractions. Ubud is Bali’s artistic and cultural heart, nestled among rice paddies and rainforest. Uluwatu, on Bali’s southern Bukit Peninsula, is renowned for its cliff-top temple and world-class surf breaks. A trip to Bali would be incomplete if it doesn’t feature Ubud and Uluwatu on your itinerary. Here’s an overview of the best places to visit in these two iconic Balinese regions.
Ubud: Bali’s Cultural Hub
The village of Ubud is located among Bali’s central foothills, about an hour’s drive north of the airport and south of the volcanic Mount Batur. Surrounded by lush jungle and terraced rice fields, it provides a glimpse into traditional Balinese culture. From ancient temples to art galleries and yoga studios, here are some highlights of Ubud.
Top Things To Do In Ubud, Bali
Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
Also known as Ubud Monkey Forest, this attraction is a wildlife reserve and a temple complex. The wildlife sanctuary is home to over 700 Balinese long-tailed macaques. Visitors can observe the playful primates up close as they swing through the trees and temples of the 27-acre reserve. Keep an eye on your belongings, as the monkeys are known to snatch anything interesting!
There is a 14th century Hindu temple located within the reserve. Seeing these cheeky monkeys should be on your list of things to do in Ubud.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces
Get your camera ready for the iconic vista of Ubud’s emerald-green rice terraces. A visit to these stepped paddies, carved into the hillsides north of Ubud, is easily one of the best things to do in Ubud. You can take scenic walks through the area and stop at cafes overlooking the terraces. Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful times to visit.
These rice terraces holds cultural significance as an example of Bali’s traditional Subak irrigation system, recognized by UNESCO. They are just a 20-minute drive north of Ubud. You can even take a cycling tour to explore the Tegallalang rice terrace.
The palace and its temple, Puri Saren Agung, sits right in the heart of Ubud. This is a historical landmark for the locals. While most of the complex remains closed to the public, you can still see the ornately carved gates and explore the surrounding gardens. Dance performances are held nightly on the palace grounds. (at 730 PM each night for about 1.5 hour, cost less than USD 10)
Morning hours are the best time to visit Ubud Palace. There is no entry fee to visit.
Escape the heat with a refreshing dip at Tegenungan Waterfall, located just 5 km south of Ubud. This waterfall located in Kemenuh village is one of the top tourist attractions of Bali. You can swim in the pool at the base of the 65-foot waterfall and enjoy a natural waterslide formed by the rushing water. Nestled amidst green landscape, this waterfall is a photographer’s delight.
The entry to the waterfall is free. But you must pay a fee of IDR 10,000 (less than 1 USD) to climb the steps to the top of the falls. The views are worth the climb.
Yoga and Meditation
Ubud is considered one of the world’s top destinations for yoga, healing, and spiritual retreats. You can take drop-in classes at studios like The Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive. Many offer views of the jungle or rice fields as you flow through the poses and find inner peace.
Ubud Art Market
This sprawling market is the place to go in Ubud for handicrafts shopping. While you will find shops all over Bali selling souvenirs, it is here that is the best known place for balinese souvenirs and handicrafts. You’ll find handmade textiles, woodcarvings, baskets, paintings, and more. Be sure to bargain – vendors expect you to negotiate! The market stays busy until early evening.
This Art market is located in the centre of Ubud. The best time to visit is either early in the morning or at the end of the day (closing time is roughly 6 PM) to get good deals.
Campuhan Ridge Walk
Campuhan Ridge walk is a simple nature trek. Take a free and easy stroll along this scenic 9 km footpath overlooking the Sayan Valley. The trail starts from the main Ubud street Jalan Raya Campuhan and offers iconic views. Go early to beat both the crowds and the heat.
Folk Music and Dance Performances
In the evenings, you can watch traditional Balinese dance, like the Legong and Barong dances, held at local temples and palaces around Ubud. This is one of the unique things to do in Bali. Gamelan orchestras also commonly perform, allowing you to experience Bali’s rich musical heritage.
Uluwatu: Bali’s Beachfront Gem
Uluwatu sits on Bali’s southwestern Bukit Peninsula, a limestone plateau with sheer sea cliffs. It’s renowned for the cliff-top Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple as well as some of Bali’s best surf breaks along the coast.
Top Things To Do In Uluwatu, Bali
Pura Luhur Uluwatu
No trip to Uluwatu is complete without visiting this 11th-century seaside temple. Pura Luhur, also known as Uluwatu Temple, this is one of Bali’s key 6 temples and provides a slice of authentic Balinese culture. The location is magnificent. Perched at the edge of a cliff over 200 feet above the waves, it offers breathtaking sunset views. Make sure to see one of the daily Kecak dance performances held in the temple grounds (every day at 6 PM).
There is no public transport to get you to and from the site to your hotel, so make sure to pre-arrange a taxi or take a guided tour. You have to go through a forest with native monkeys to reach the temple. Watch your belongings here. There is a meandering walkway that gives breathtaking views of the ocean before you reach the temple grounds. There is an entry fee of 30,000 IDR per adult.
Uluwatu is renowned for its stunning beaches. Spending a day at a beach is one of the popular things to do in Uluwatu. The beaches along the coast of the Bukit Peninsula are some of Bali’s most beautiful. Suluban Beach is the most popular beach in Uluwatu, it lies in the Bukit Peninsula. Surfers flock to Balangan, Dreamland, and Padang Padang beaches which offer excellent surf breaks. If you prefer calmer waters, head to the nearby Blue Point, Suluban, and Bingin beaches.
Uluwatu Surf Lessons
With great breaks for all levels, Uluwatu is arguably the best place in Bali to try surfing. You’ll find many surf schools offering lessons and board rentals at Kuta and Suluban beaches. It’s a top bucket list activity for a visit to Uluwatu.
Are you looking for a romantic evening in Uluwatu? For a memorable meal with an epic view, make a reservation at one of Uluwatu’s cliffside restaurants like Bawang Merah at Kelan beach, or Single Fin Bali. They offer unforgettable sunset views overlooking the waves crashing on the rocks below.
With your feet in the sand and fresh seafood on the table, Kisik Bar offers an iconic beach dining experience. Try their grilled snapper, prawn skewers, and more while enjoying the sunset over the bay.
Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park
Located just 10 minutes from Uluwatu, this cultural park is home to a massive 120-meter-tall statue of the Hindu god Vishnu riding the mythical eagle Garuda. The statue, still under construction, is set on a hilltop with panoramic views over south Bali.
If you are looking for cultural immersion, GWK Park offers the Kecak Garuda Wisnu dance, traditional Balinese music and dance performances, and more.
Best Time to Visit Ubud and Uluwatu
The best time to visit Bali is during the dry season months of April to October. This avoids the frequent rainfall during the monsoon season from November to March.
In Ubud and central Bali, April, May, September, and October are ideal with slightly cooler temperatures, less humidity, and lush greenery after the rains.
The Bukit Peninsula’s peak season is June to August when the waves are at their best for surfing. But it’s busier and more expensive. May and September are great shoulder season options.
Aim for weekday visits if possible, as weekends are very crowded. And book several months in advance if visiting during peak times like July/August and holiday periods.
Travel Tips for Ubud and Uluwatu
Visa requirements: Check visa requirements in advance as some nationalities need to apply for a visa on arrival at the airport. A 30-day visa can be applied online before entering Indonesia.
Airport transfer: Arrange airport transfers or hotel pick-ups in advance for a smooth start to your trip. The hour-long drive from DPS airport to Ubud or Uluwatu can be challenging to navigate.
Vaccinations and Travel Insurance: Get any recommended vaccinations like typhoid and hepatitis A/B before your trip. Anti-malarial medication may also be advised. Consider getting an international travel insurance policy for added peace of mind in case of any medical emergencies.
Packing essentials: Pack lightweight, breathable clothing as temperatures stay hot and humid year-round. Be sure to bring a swimsuit and cover-up for the beaches. Here is a complete packing list for Bali. Apply sunscreen liberally and often to protect against the strong equatorial sun, even on cloudy days. Wear a hat for added coverage.
Cash to carry: Travel with small denominations of Indonesian Rupiah for easy transactions like paying for taxis or street food. Get some at the airport upon arrival.
Things to remember during the trip:
- Stay hydrated and avoid overheating by taking breaks in the shade, especially during outdoor activities. Carry a water bottle with you.
- Respect local customs by dressing conservatively when visiting temples. Sarongs and sashes are often provided or required.
- Download an offline map like Maps.me to help navigate around Ubud and Uluwatu without cell service or data.
Experience the Magic of Ubud and Uluwatu
With its captivating culture, iconic landmarks, great surfing, and beautiful nature, it’s easy to see why Bali tops so many travelers’ bucket lists. On my family vacation to Bali, I stayed at the W Hotel in Seminyak, you can read my review of W Bali here. If you are looking for something from beach resorts, then the convenient locations of Ubud and Uluwatu offer some of the best places to stay on this Indonesian paradise island, for all traveler types.
Following the tips above, you can fully experience these magical places. Just get ready for a truly unforgettable adventure on the Island of Gods! The only difficulty will be deciding which place you love more.
FAQs on Ubud and Uluwatu:
What are the top things to do in Ubud?
Visit the Sacred Monkey Forest, stroll through the Tegallalang rice terraces, see a performance at the Ubud Palace, go waterfall hopping, take yoga and meditation classes, shop at the Ubud Art Market, and walk along Campuhan Ridge.
What are the best beaches in Uluwatu?
Dreamland, Balangan, Padang Padang, Suluban, and Bingin are some of the top beaches in Uluwatu known for great surf, beautiful scenery, and stunning sunsets.
What is there to see at Pura Luhur Uluwatu?
This 11th century cliffside temple features stunning ocean views, traditional Balinese architecture, resident monkeys, and the must-see Kecak fire dance performances held every evening.
What is the best way to get around Ubud?
Many opt to rent a scooter which offers the freedom to explore at your own pace. Just be careful of the sometimes chaotic traffic. Organized tours and private drivers are other options.
When is the best time to visit Ubud and Uluwatu?
The dry season from April to October offers sunny days and less crowds. Avoid the busy holiday periods if you can.
Are Ubud and Uluwatu expensive?
While not the cheapest destinations, you can visit Ubud and Uluwatu on a budget by opting for affordable accommodations, eating at simple warungs, and avoiding high-end experiences.
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