Ubud was founded by a seeker; a Javanese monk named Rsi Markendya who discovered the profound spirituality he was looking for and never left. Since then, thousands of people have come seeking something of their own in Ubud; this town on the tiny Indonesian island of Bali has lured painters and dancers, filmmakers and craftsmen, shamans and preachers.
Nestled among rice paddies and steep ravines in the foothills of the Gianyar regency, it is a place of the perpetual hiatus, a view shared by countless artisans. A true cradle of inspiration, Ubud allows its visitors to immerse themselves deep within its commonly perceived zeitgeist; inspiring, creative, and serene.
There are plenty of stay offerings in Ubud, and it varies from high-end chains all the way to charming boutique hotels and quaint guest houses. For something upscale, visit the Ritz-Carlton Reserve, a stunning hotel sanctuary flanked by winding rice paddies, meandering pathways, and gorgeous views facing the fabled Ayung River.
For those seeking a balance of contemporary design, prime location, and luxurious intimacy, look no further than Bisma Eight, a family-owned boutique hotel centrally located between the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary and Ubud Market. Touches like handcrafted Japanese-inspired soaking tubs, a large living area, and nods to Balinese art and architecture make a stay here feel indulgent yet effortlessly comfy. The hotel also houses Copper Kitchen & Bar, a restaurant offering a non-fussed, contemporary approach to dining with modern cooking techniques, styles, and recipes from both Western and Asian influences.
For an eco-friendly option, check out Bambu Indah, a hotel inspired by Balinese craft traditions, offering thematic villas and bungalows with an undulating, raw terrain overlooking lush paddy fields.
For a no-frills, farm-fresh, high technique, and yet casual dining experience, visit Locavore, a testament of the owners’ commitment to reflect the agriculture traditions of Bali on each and every plate.
For trendy, lighter fare, Folk Ubud offers a space which resembles a blend between a Tunisian mudhouse and minimalist Balinese craft museum. The menu features Melbourne-inspired favorites with a localized twist, such as smashed Balinese avocado on sourdough and a crunchy, succulent soft shell crab burger meant to be washed down by the slew of punchy tropical mocktails on offer.
Any avid coffee lover must experience a tasting session at Seniman Coffee Studio, a local institution that embraces in-house craft roasted beans, upcycled furniture, and contemporary menu pairings. Their mission in creating the best coffee has been proven through the validation of a dynamic cult following.
To put it quite simply, Ubud is a majestic destination like no other.
For textured materials, drop by Threads of Life, a gallery of authentic Balinese and Indonesian textiles carefully curated from women from the entire Indonesian archipelago in part to preserve the beautiful heritage while showcasing the awe-inspiring intricacies of a thousand-year old art form.
Need a slick set of plateware for your next function or party? Then head on down to Ubdy, where the not-too-hidden secret to a smooth bowl finish is hand-carved teak dipped in olive oil coating.
KOU Cuisine sells little jams in jars with exotic flavors sourced from sustainable farms and fisheries. Grape and buni, kusamba sea salt, and passion fruit and tangerine are some of the on-point flavors worth tasting.
Ubud does not have public taxis. But you can always have your hotel’s front desk or concierge help in renting a bicycle, scooter or a car with a driver for the day. The other options are using the Go Ride option on motor-taxi app Gojek, or car and driver apps like Uber and Grab to get around the area.
At the center of town is the Puri Saren Ubud, also known as the Ubud Palace. Founded by Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandelin in the early 19th century, the palace is the seat of Ubud’s royalty and serves as a temple complex, as well as an artistic and cultural center. Capped by a Wantilan, an auditorium partly made out of a beautiful banyan tree, the palace also boasts ornate architectural elements and hosts traditional Balinese dances and performances in the evenings.
Just across the street from the palace is the Pasar Ubud, or Ubud Market. In the mornings it’s a lively local market, selling produce, spices and other necessities and in the afternoons it transforms into a place for visitors to haggle for handicrafts and curate a collection of local Balinese art.
One of Ubud’s most storied sites is Pura Taman Saraswati, a temple built to honor Saraswati, the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge, Literature and Art and is set within a beautiful water garden with thousands of lotus flowers.
For the art-savvy, head to Museum Puri Lukisan, a gallery that showcases modern Balinese paintings and drawings, and Tonyraka Art Gallery. This internationally-recognized gallery was established in 1968 by A.A Gede Raka Wirayuda. Tonyraka presents a curated selection of modern and contemporary artwork, including paintings, sculptures and installations.
For the budding yogis, stop by the Yoga Barn, a friendly and unpretentious community center that serves as Ubud’s prime health and relaxation retreat, serving yoga classes, ayurvedic rejuvenation, as well as cleansing and detox sessions.
Head to Tegenungan waterfall, a mere 30 minute drive from the center of town. Sit on one of the scattered rock formations, listen to the constant roar of the plunging water, and admire the fresh breeze billowing soft vapor.
To put it quite simply, Ubud is a majestic destination like no other. The sweet embrace of a traditionally rich and stimulating community is what led the bikini-clad to escape to not only what has become a global center of well-being, but also a holy respite from the hectic pace of life often found in the southern enclaves of the island. The resulting benefit? One’s mind, body, and soul journey to become stretched, shaped, and tempered only to come out blissfully invigorated and renewed. There truly has never been a better time to visit.
So, what are you waiting for?
What has been the most majestic place you’ve ever visited?
Images provided by Bisma Eight