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From the minute you enter this captivating town in Bali, it feels as if you’ve been permitted entrance to some secret and special place. Elaborate temples, moss-covered stone carvings, and colorful offerings made of fruit and flowers are never far from view here, where jungle foliage crowds the city streets and vines as thick as your arm sway overhead.
In Ubud, streets hum with the whiz of motorbikes and surge with visitors and locals alike. Here you’ll find fresh, healthful food; abundant yoga studios; and a booming arts and crafts scene. This cultural milieu is set against a breathtaking backdrop of emerald-green rice terraces and verdant forests.
Fly into Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), located about an hour’s drive from Ubud. Once on the ground, a taxi is your best bet for getting to your destination. Taxis are also a convenient way to get around town, but if you’re feeling confident, rent a scooter and zip around Ubud like a local.
Tropical Ubud receives the most visitors in spring and summer, during the dry season. The dry season is also the hot season, with heat and humidity peaking in the summer months. Fall and winter bring rain storms (especially in October and November), but crowds pick up again in December as visitors from colder environs flock to Ubud for the winter holiday season. You’re likely to encounter a downpour any time of year, so pack accordingly. Ubud hosts several cultural festivals throughout the year, such as the Ubud Food Festival, which features workshops and cooking demonstrations in June, and the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival in October, which brings a fleet of international writers to the town.
Explore a fascinating selection of Balinese artworks, including traditional paintings on tree bark, works from important contemporary artists, and selections from expat painters including famous German artists at this museum named for the storied art collector who founded it. You can see artists at work in a pagoda outside in a beguiling garden. It’s especially interesting to watch those who paint astoundingly intricate large-scale landscapes in minute detail.
There is a rich tradition of mask-making and puppetry in Indonesia and Bali, and you can explore the intricate craftsmanship that goes into the colorful artform at this museum housing more than 1,300 masks and 5,700 puppets. The sprawling collection includes traditional shadow puppets alongside contemporary ones modeled after public figures such as Barack Obama (who lived in Indonesia as a child), as well as some international items such as 16th-century stick puppets from Sicily. The collection is in a series of traditional Javanese teak-wood houses called joglos and surrounded by tropical gardens and rice fields. Check the website to see if there are any live performances scheduled.
This gentle hike, much of it on a stone pathway, cuts through some of Ubud’s most gorgeous scenery. Perched — as advertised — on a ridge, the Campuhan Ridge Walk will give you panoramic views of Ubud’s undulating rice terraces. Few things are as calming as undertaking this stroll under a bright sky, surrounded on all sides by vibrant green fields. If you work up a thirst along the way, you will encounter a few cafes along the way where you can refuel.