Ubud doesn’t have the beaches or party culture of other Bali destinations like Seminyak or Kuta, and that’s exactly why people flock here. Though traffic on the main road can be congested, Ubud on the whole is fairly laid-back. Walk its comparatively quiet backstreets and you’re as likely to see an offering to a Hindu deity as you are a cute café.
If you’ve got a weekend in Ubud, here’s how to spend it.
What to do
Not for the faint of heart, Ubud Monkey Forest is a Hindu temple complex and nature reserve where hundreds of macaques roam freely, unafraid of snatching anything shiny that catches their eye — including your glasses.
Another excellent place to spend a couple of hours in the heat of the afternoon is Museum Puri Lukisan, which showcases ancient and contemporary Balinese artwork.
You’d be remiss to leave Ubud without strolling the vibrantly green Tegalalang Rice Terraces. Sit at the simple café at the top and sip from a coconut and admire the view, or walk along the terraces and immerse yourself in the calm of this iconic site.
Saraswati Temple, where a pond overflowing with lotus blossoms leads to the temple, offers more serenity. The nightly dance performances make for a pleasant after-dinner activity.
Where to eat
For the caffeine needed to fight jetlag, head to third-wave coffee shop Seniman Coffee Studio, where you can sip on a cold brew while perusing the bags of local beans.
Open-air restaurant Fair Warung Balé serves big portions of delicious curries, salads, sandwiches and grilled fish, but the appeal of the restaurant goes beyond its food; 100 percent of the restaurant’s profits go toward public health programs.
Romantic Blanco par Mandif serves seven-, nine- and 13-course set menus with wine pairings. Expect dishes like octopus with semi-dried tomato and lamb with peanut sauce.
Excellent satay is served at bistro-style Arang Sate Bar, but for those who aren’t keen on skewered food, there are dishes like tofu and ricotta dumplings and sesame chicken wings.
Where to shop
Blue Stone Botanicals sells handmade, palm-oil-free soap, lotion, essential oils and balms from Balinese and Javanese plants.
At Saraswati Papers, locally sourced, recycled wastepaper is turned into paper, notecards and notebooks. Colors come from dyes made of roots and leaves, and texture from plant fibers and petals.
For gorgeous, museum-quality textiles, head to Threads of Life, a fair-trade shop that works with more than 1,000 female weavers across Indonesia.
Ikatbatik sells its namesake ikat and batik textiles, clothing and accessories.
Where to stay
Designed in the style of a traditional Balinese village, Amandari’s 30 villas fit seamlessly into the surrounding jungle. The villas, some of which have pools, come with private gardens, outdoor soak tubs and twin vanities in the spacious bathroom. The resort is a 15-minute drive from central Ubud, so you can take a stroll along the Ayung River, spend the day in town and come back in time to laze by the infinity pool or enjoy a refreshing black rice exfoliation at Amandari’s spa.
Just down the road is Four Seasons Bali at Sayan. Its 18 suites and 42 private villas spread across a verdant 18-acre property. If you can tear yourself away from the villa’s private pool or the resort’s infinity pool, take part in yoga and meditation classes, cycling excursions, a village walk and a garden tour. (Bonus: Activities are included in the room rate.) The resort runs shuttles all day into Ubud, which is a short 10- to 15-minute ride.