Whether it’s an active adventure you seek, dear nomad, an art and culture fix, five star beauty and health pampering or a little soul nurturing escape from life’s everyday chaos, Ubud, Bali, has it all. From arid mountains and lush forests to stunning stepped rice paddy fields, a vibrant art and culture scene, shopping, five star food, holistic spa experiences and much more. So pack your batik and hit the track to Ubud. Here’s where to go, play and stay…
Ubud is the perfect destination to shut the world out and emotionally reconnect – whether you’re travelling solo, with a family, mates or on a romantic holiday. The lush, green forests, mountain fresh air, stress-free atmosphere, culture and spiritual vibe make it the perfect destination for a unique getaway for both adventure seekers and those looking for soul-nurturing escape. Known as the Bali’s spiritual centre, Ubud is the heart and soul of the island known as the Artist’s Town, for it’s incredible locally made silverware, wood carvings, fabrics, stone carvings and other unique wares. Located just 35km north-east of Denpasar Airport (the main international airport), Ubud is perched 200-300 meters above sea level, and you’ll truly feel like you’re on top of the world. The windy, scenic roads that lead the way to Ubud pass ancient temples and shrines, mountainous landscapes, expansive rice paddy fields, stepped terraces, coffee plantations, nature reserves, volcanoes, arts and crafts mills and workshops, and plenty of traditional villages. These are my favourite things to do en-route and about town in Ubud, Bali…
Watch Artisans Create Batiks
Batiks are an ancient art form of intricate fabric making. Hand-made by local artisans, the time-intensive process requires wax-resist dyeing the cloth. Artisans draw or paint intricate and unique patterns on the cloth, one colour at a time, using the wax-resist method to prevent colour transfer. The cloth is then boiled, the wax removed (often beeswax or mixed paraffin), dried and then the next colour is applied using the same process. For intricate patterns the process can take up to a year, as each colour is applied, boiled, dried and repeated. Traditional Balinese Batiks are often created with symbolic patterns, and unique colours and designs are used for weddings, ceremonies, social status and other celebrations. Children are carried in batik slings with symbols to bring them good luck, but today you can find fashionable dresses, sarongs, shirts, handbags, cushions and other gear made from light-weight fabric designs, which are perfect wearing for humid temperatures.
Generations of local silversmiths have passed down their traditional skills and crafting techniques and the results are clear in the quality, fine workmanship and unique jewellery designs. Check out the silversmith factories along the way to Ubud or in town and pick up a gorgeous Balinese pendent, ring or other silverware.
Watch Wood Carving
The sheer size and intricate detailing in the unique wood carving artworks is phenomenal – some pieces are ceiling high! If you can’t fit a hand-carved coffee table or statue in your suitcase, there are plenty of smaller sustainable wood carvings that you’ll want in your home. Be mesmerised by the wood carvers creating artworks before your very eye, some of which take weeks to create.
Get Spiritual At Sacred Sites
Temples are everywhere in Bali, as the dominant religion, the Hindus, pray daily. But some of the ancient temples, complete with centuries-old baths, burial chambers and stunning surrounds, including majestic waterfalls and trails, are a must-see. If you get the opportunity to, have a blessing by one of the local priests.
Check Out Ubud’s Town Centre
The village of Ubud is a vibrant town with plenty of shopping, beauty and massage salons, cool restaurants, organic cafes, juice bars, and heaps of local artisan shops. It is home to a thriving traditional and modern art and craft scene and many artists. Pick up bamboo crafts, furniture, wood and stone carvings, yoga gear, homewares and unique fashion. Or, visit one of the many art galleries, eat exotic local foods, or sample spices, herbs and dried fish at the market. Don’t forget to observe a Hindu-Balinese ceremony at Palace Temple.
Visit The Monkey Forest
The infamous Monkey Forest (where the cheeky indigenous grey Macaque monkeys are friendly and tame, will jump on your head if you’re not careful), is a must-see. Located on the town edge, the monkey trail leads to various temples and spiritual sites, featuring ancient stone carvings, bridges, statues of Hindu Gods and shrines.
Catch A Traditional Balinese Dance Performance
Centuries-old Hindu story telling is shared through traditional dance, elaborate costumes and age-old music. Performances are usually held in an open amphitheatre, with English translations supplied to follow the story, and retell ancient mythology but with a few modern twists thrown in for fun!
Cycle The Rice Paddy Fields
Perhaps the biggest highlight of Ubud is the breathtaking country scenery and the best place to absorb all that fresh air is by cycling through the rice paddy fields. Wide open-space fields are the easiest option for a leisurely free-wheeling experience, but for adventure seekers, hitch a ride to the top of one of the mountain trails then spend the day navigating your way back down.
Stay At: Uma by COMO, Ubud, Bali
Uma by COMO is an award-winning luxury boutique hotel located just a short bike ride from Ubud town centre. It’s nestled on Ubud town’s outskirts, just far away enough to enjoy the solitude and mountain fresh air but within close proximity to the village businesses. With 46 suits and villas, the retreat features beautiful traditional Asian design elements with a contemporary flavour. Traditional thatch roof open pavilions flow onto gardens, poolside, ponds and lawns, allowing guests to dine, sip cocktails or do a yoga session, open-air style.
The Vibe: COMO hotels are renowned for their philosophy to immerse guests in a positive, relaxing experience. Uma by COMO is no exception. The world famous COMO Shambhala Retreat at Uma Ubud focuses on holistic wellness, so you can experience active pursuits from yoga to temple visits, or simply relax in your spacious, luxe room. From check-in to departure, staff will endeavour to make your experience magical. You’ll feel immersed in the tradition of Balinese culture and village life, but with a luxurious, contemporary feel and all the mod-cons you require.
The Scene: Villas and guest rooms are all quietly tucked away within the stunning landscaped gardens, or perched at the forest edge with stunning views. Make your way to your retreat via tropical garden lined pathways, relax at the infinity pool or enjoy a cocktail at the open design pavilion bar.
Boudoir: Truly decadent, the spacious villas are designed to feel homely, with incredible sunlit scenery and solitude, set in a nature sanctuary. Featuring four poster beds with mosquito nets and outdoor areas that flow onto natural landscapes, the rainforest views are incredible, dramatically perched mountainside amongst a lush green canopy with the river below. Watch local birds, squirrels and wildlife just meters from your terrace! The garden suites have incredible feature bathrooms, with a free standing marble bath and luxury finishes. Traditional Balinese wood carvings, artefacts and interiors work beautifully with the natural surrounds. But of course you still have all your mod-cons, Wi-Fi, home entertainment system, private spa bath etc. A range of room options are available including terrace, water garden, pool suites, and villas.
Dining Style: The restaurants, Kemiri and Uma Cucina, boast world-class cuisine and stay true to the holistic approach to wellness, with nutritional dishes featuring local produce, fresh fruits and vegetables a plenty. Cucina is the Italian-inspired restaurant, producing delicious pizza, Tuscan tuna and slow-cooked tomatoes served up terrace-style, or join the communal table for an authentic social Italian meal.
Kemiri offers traditional Balinese cuisine with a huge menu including organic, raw, seafood, meat prepared as traditional Indonesian dishes, as well as a selection of modern cuisine, western dishes and healthy raw food options. COMO’s unique healthy food philosophy is based on the ‘living foods tradition’. This approach maximises the food’s nutritional benefits, so key essential enzymes, vitamins and minerals are maintained in its most pure form, allowing you to benefit from the food’s ‘life force’. Indulge in the sweet smell of galangal, spicy chilli and other local foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, followed by a poolside cocktail.
Activities: Concierge will help you book everything from dinner reservations to spa treatments, tours and hotel activities, many of which are complimentary, including yoga and scenic walks through the rice paddy fields. Or book a guided tour with a local expert for off the beaten track experiences. Whether it’s freewheeling on the ride of your life through arid mountains and stepped rice terraces, visiting ancient temples, trekking through volcanic hinterlands, a family focused trip, enjoying local festivities or a healing experience. For an authentic artisan tour, book a hotel guide for the best shopping, whether designer fashion, silverware, traditional and tribal arts and crafts, beautiful textiles or homewares. Or book a gallery tour for a cultural art fix of traditional and contemporary styles.
Pamper Yourself: At the wellness spa, COMO Shambahla Retreat*, you’re encouraged to relax completely. Whether it’s by doing a complimentary yoga session in the open-air pavilion surrounded by blooming gardens, or indulging in the Asian inspired spa treatments. Relax and reclaim your glow with award-winning massage, custom-designed facials, reflexology, pampering masks and more. A multi-layer massage will leave your skin feeling super soft and ache-free.
*COMO Shambhala retreat is an outpost of the signature wellness resort Como Shambahla Estate, which is located in outer Ubud.
Book it: Uma by COMO offers a range of stay options. Visit Uma by COMO for further details.