Ubud in the centre of Bali is the cultural and spiritual centre of Balinese culture. This place has a different vibe, with lots of people coming for yoga retreats, the amazing foodie culture and to enjoy the lush rice fields and architecture. These attractions symbolize the rich culture of the Balinese and the people’s love affair with art. If you are heading to Ubud this summer, then we highly recommend checking out these stunning natural attractions:
#1 Gunung Kawi
Located in the Tampaksiring region just north of Ubud, Gunung Kawi is an 11th century temple and funerary complex for the members of Balinese royalty. This impressive structure is comprised of 10 7-meter-high candi, carved into the sheer rock face. The sheltered niches are meant to honor Anak Wangsu, his parents King Udayana and Queen Mahendradatta, and his brothers Airlangga and Marakata.
Photo credit: Bejitour
Statues of Anak Wangsu’s wives and concubines can also be found inside the temple including an isolated 10th candi dedicated to a royal minister. Several legends have been told about the statues, but others say the memorials were cut out of the rock face in just one night by Kebo Iwa.
The complex is located up 250 steep stone steps, but is worth the climb for the ancient temples and monuments along the way with offerings from devotees and the views of the lush rice terraces from the top. Gunung Kawi is open to the public daily from 11am until 5pm.
#2 Nyuh Kuning Village
Nyuh Kuning is a small Balinese village on the south side of Ubud. This pedestrian-friendly village is considered to be one of the cleanest on the island. Although it comprises of only two streets that meet at a soccer field, the village is home to renowned artisans and healing centers. This village prides itself on its rich culture and art-centric heritage and is a friendly place to walk around with little kids. The Monkey Forest is located at the north end of Nyuh Kuning so you can stop at the entrance and meet the monkeys from a safe distance. There are also some nice little restaurants around the football field where you can stop for a smoothie.
Initially, Nyuh Kuning was known for its wood carvers who created intricate animal statues and figurines, but after being featured in the movie Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts in 2009, tourists began pouring into the sleepy town. Nyuh Kuning cemented its place as one of the best tourist spots in Bali after one of its local residents, Robin Lim, was honored at CNN’s 2011 Hero of the Year for her work at the Bumi Sehat Birth Centre.
#3 Puri Saren Agung
Puri Saren Agung is usually referred to as simply Ubud Palace, home of Ubud’s royal family. The palace features traditional houses and is still home to some of the descendents of the royal family today. Puri Saren Agung symbolizes the artistic culture of Bali and is the centrepiece of Ubud with its ornate façade and thick walls.
Most evenings the palace holds traditional Balinese dances in the courtyard. These dances are a great way for kids and parents to experience the amazing culture of dance in the atmospheric heart of Ubud.
The palace also sits across from Ubud’s bustling market, where you can shop for artworks by local artists and pick up cheap sarongs and other souvenirs.
#4 Monkey Forest Ubud
The famed Monkey Forest in Ubud is a nature reserve that features a massive Hindu temple in a middle of a wooded area. The forest is the most important economic, educational and spiritual center in Ubud. It attracts around 10,000 visitors each month!
Of course, the star attractions are the macaques that freely roam the lush 27 acre property. The monkeys are fed three times a day although some stalls near the park sell bananas to feed the monkeys.
We do not recommend feeding the animals, especially if you are taking the kids with you, as the monkeys can be intimidating and like to grab food and belongings. Nevertheless, you can take lots of close up pictures of the animals that inhabit the park as well as the dozens of flowering plants and exotic trees in the Monkey Forest!
#5 Gajah or the Elephant Cave
Goa Gajah, or the Elephant Cave is an ancient temple structure that has seamlessly blended with its natural surroundings. Built around the 9th century, it was used as a place of worship and meditation. Buddhist relics have been found from around the 9th century, even before Hindu religion came to Bali.
The entrance of the cave features a gaping mouth and intricately carved stone walls. Inside, the cave is filled with relics and sacred artifacts, such as the statues of lingga and yoni as well as the Hindu gods Shiva and Ganesh. The cave also features a sizable courtyard with two bathing pools. If you make it all the way to the back of the cave, you will be treated to stunning viewd of the rice paddies below.
#6 Yeh Pulu
Located in Bedulu village, just a short drive from Central Ubud, Yeh Pulu features ancient rock carvings that date back to the 14th or 15th century. With the verdant rice paddies serving as a backdrop, Yeh Pulu looks as if you just stepped into a 19th-century painting!
Yeh Pulu was only discovered in the 1920s because the statues are mostly hidden from view. There is a site dedicated for offerings and prayers, sacred relics and stone carvings, and also a holy well. For a real Bali experience, ask a local priest to bless you and your companions with the well water. This amazing natural wonder is a few minutes away from Goa Gajah, so the two are great places to visit on a cultural day out.
#7 Tirta Empul
Tirta Empul is a yet another amazing temple complex located just a short drive from Ubud. According to local legends, the temple was a setting of a traditional tale of good versus evil.
Tirta Empul was built in 960 AD and is one of the most important cultural heritage sites in Bali. The temple features a natural spring, very holy to the Balinese, hence the name Tirta Empul, which literally translates to ‘Holy Spring’. The spring water in the pools there is used to purify worshippers. The giant stone pool features cool blue-green water and 13 stone spouts where people say prayers and give offerings.
Cultural Attractions Around Ubud Can Make Your Trip Really Special
Making the time to take the kids to see some of these historical and fascinating attractions will really pay off. Kids are fascinated by the carvings in Bali which often seem straight out of a fantasy movie. Make sure you head out early in the day with plenty of water to beat the heat and take the time to enjoy a gelato as a reward for your adventures!