Ubud is the heart of Balinese culture.
Located in the foothills of the Gianyar regency among rice paddies, waterfalls, temples, ceremonies and traditional costumes and events, this area attracts visitors from all over the world for its rich arts and crafts. There is so much to do and see here and below we have listed our top five cultural experiences in Ubud where you can really immerse yourself in the Balinese culture.
1. Wander the traditional art markets
The Ubud Art Market is located in central Ubud opposite the Puri Saren Royal Ubud Palace. Here, locally crafted goods are plentiful including handmade woven bags, purses and baskets, hand crafted and wood-carved buddhas, bowls, and other ornaments, bright clothing, blankets and pillows, all of which you can bargain your way to a good price. The products tend to be made in the neighbouring villages of Tegallalang, Payangan and Peliatan. Taking a drive to the temples will allow you to see the locals hard at work creating their unique handicrafts and souvenirs with skills that have been passed down for centuries.
2. Enjoy Watching a Traditional Balinese Dance
Balinese dance is an important part of Balinese culture. Dances can be classed as sacred (Wali), semi-sacred (Bebali), while others are for entertainment or social events (Balih-Balihan). Dancing is both a religious practice and a performing art and before performing a sacred dance, Balinese dancers take part in religious rituals and receive blessings from temple priests. The ‘Legong Dance’ used to only be performed in front of the royal family within closed palace walls, however, nowadays you can watch the dance performed in various open stages and shows throughout Bali, such as the Puri Saren Royal Palance in Ubud.
3. Explore the temples
There are abundant historic temples in Bali to explore and in Ubud you won’t go short. You can read more on our top 3 Must-see Temples in Bali here, including a couple of our favourites, Gunung Kawi and Goa-Gajah (Elephant Cave) Temple. Additional temples include Gunung Leah Temple, Pura Samuan Tiga (Temple of the Meeting of the Three), and Pura Taman Saraswati, more commonly known as Water Palace. The latter was designed by one of Ubud’s best loved architects, I Gusti Nyoman Lempad. Located in the heart of Ubud, the temple is easily accessible. The carvings largely honour the goddess of knowledge and art, Saraswati.
4. Visit the Monkey Forest
Located in central Ubud and open until 6pm daily, the Monkey Forest offers a great way to spend an afternoon after visiting the traditional markets. The locals view the forest as an important spiritual, economic, educational, and conservation centre for the village of Ubud. The entrance fee costs a minor 30,000IDR for adults and 15,000IDR for children. The monkeys are real characters (all 700 of them!) and are super fun, just make sure you remove anything shiny such as jewellery (especially earrings) because they love glistening objects and won’t hesitate to steal from you.
5. Swim in the waterfalls
Exploring and swimming in natures waterfalls is a must for any traveller and in and around Ubud there are many for you to choose from. A couple of our favourites are Tegenungan waterfall and Nungnung waterfall (35km drive out of Ubud). If you book on a full or half day excursion, you can simply choose a trip that includes a waterfall visit or you can hire a driver to take you straight there and bring you back when you are ready. Although it is located 66km north of Ubud, we recommend Sekumpul waterfall, which is a collection of seven waterfalls (“Sekumpul” meaning “group” in Indonesian) with the tallest waterfall at a staggering 50-metres high.