The Indonesian island of Bali is a much-favored beach vacation haunt. However, Bali is much more than just a mere beach resort, it is also renowned as a hub for arts and culture. The island’s tranquil town, Ubud located in Central Bali, amongst lush green rice paddies, and steep ravines, is famous as the cultural heart of Bali. Towns and villages surrounding Ubud brim with art galleries and workshops that produce exquisite artworks, metal wares, soft furnishings, woodcarvings and more. These artisan centers are immensely popular shopping destinations, as visitors can’t seem to get enough of these wares.
The town of Ubud is easily navigable on foot. Aside from shopping expeditions visitors to Ubud also venture out of the town's limits to explore the many attractions located within easy access of the town.
Goa Ganjah Temple
The Goa Ganjah temple is located at a distance of about six kilometers from the center of Ubud. The temple is housed within a cave carved out of the hillside. The cave is an important archeological and spiritual site fronted with a carved stone bas-relief of a demon-like creature. The temple displays Buddhist and Hinduism influences and features relics representing both religions. The temple also has bathing pool onsite decorated with stone carvings of ‘apsaras’ or celestial fairies from Hindu mythology. Dense jungle vegetation and splendid waterfalls surround this magnificent cave temple.
The Ubud Monkey Forest
The Ubud Monkey Forest is perhaps the town’s most popular attraction. This verdant forest situated on the outskirts of Ubud is home to a significant population of grey, long-tailed macaques. These macaques have made the forest and its temples their stomping ground and roam about with great impunity. Visitors are warned to respect the monkeys and not eat in front of them or even feed them. The three hundred odd monkeys who reside within forest are brazen creatures for they have been known to snatch food and other items from the unsuspecting tourists. The village foundation of Pandantengal village located near the Monkey Forest manages the attraction. The foundation in addition to managing the site for tourists also conducts research and studies on the diet, health and breeding activities of the primates.
Touring the green rice paddies
Bali’s lush, green rice paddies constitute an iconic attraction that adorns travel brochures and advertisements for the island. These stunning terraced landscapes are the result of an ancient, co-operative system of irrigation called ‘Subak’ and serve as a tourist attraction in their own right. Visitors to Ubud often head to the highland area of Tegallalang to take in gorgeous green views of these terraced lands.
Trekking the Campuhan Ridge Walk
This nine-kilometer trek leads tourists away from the crowds that line the many artisan workshops, restaurants and galleries of the Ubud town center. The trek traverses the lush Campuhan Valley as it crosses a bridge over the Campuhan River and directs walkers to the imposing Pura Gunung Lebah temple complex while affording stunning views of the green hills and dales. The best time to attempt the Campuhan Ridge Walk is during the early hours of the morning or late evening when the usually scorching temperatures are cool.
Sunrise tour to Gunung Batur
Another popular expedition from Ubud is a sunrise tour to the mountainous region of Kintamani. Several local tour guides offer this expedition and tourists often set out by car before sunrise to drive to the Kintamani region located approximately 34 kilometers from Ubud.
Kintamani is home to Mount Batur and Batur Lake both of which occupy a 14 kilometer caldera, the result of ancient volcanic activity thousands of years ago. The views from the rim of the caldera are simply stunning especially as the sun rises and bathes the craggy, wild area with golden light. Other points of interest in the area include the Pura Ulun Danu Batur temple. This temple located near Batur Village houses ninety shrines and is the main focal point during the temple’s Odalan festival that commemorates the goddess who controls irrigation on the island of Bali.
Bali abounds with Buddhist and Hindu temples. Many temples are located within the vicinity of Ubud and offer much scope for sightseeing.
Gunung Kwai also known as Poet Mountain dates back to the 11th century and features a collection of ancient shrines carved into a rock cliff. The temple is located at the bottom of valley and is reached by climbing down 371 steps. The temple is believed to be the burial complex of King Anak Wungsu and his wives. The temple offers stunning views of the surrounding paddy fields.
Pura Kehen temple is another temple located near Ubud, at the town of Bangli. This ancient temple was established in 1206 and is renowned for its 11-tiered meru (tower) which rises within the temple’s inner courtyard.
Tirta Empul temple located at a distance of 20 km northeast of Ubud is regarded as one of the holiest temples in Bali. The temple is built around natural hot springs, which continue to serve as bathing pools for devotees until today.
The Ubud Royal Palace
The Ubud Royal Palace (Puri Saren) is a prominent cultural attraction located within the heart of Ubud town. Records state that the palace was constructed during the reign of the late Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel during the early 19th century. The present-day heirs of the king are responsible for the upkeep of the palace today.
The Puri Saren is a fine exponent of Balinese architecture and is set amongst landscaped gardens. The Palace serves as a repository of arts, literature and dance and hosts Balinese dance performances on most evenings. The palace also functions as the host venue for the annual, highly acclaimed Ubud Writers and Readers festival, which attracts literary greats from around the world.