Ubud is Bali's thriving cultural heart. It is here that you will find art galleries, museums, Balinese dancing and authentic gamelan (sounds like plink plonk) music. But this is only part of the story.
Today, it's population is a happy mix of locals and international ex-pats who share a of love of delicious healthy food and good-quality coffee - take your pick from the town's many tempting eateries. There are also deep forested gorges with gushing rivers below and you’ll easily find yoga teachers, mystics and savants; Ubud takes its name from ‘Ubad’ meaning medicine and you are never far from rural ceremonies and temple offerings.
Ubud has a wealth of beautiful temples to discover. Beyond the town, on the southwest slopes of daunting Gunung Agung (towards the centre of the island), is the 8th-century Mother Temple: Pura Besakih. When you reach the Pura, you’ll be rewarded with incomparable vistas of sky-reflecting crater lakes, distant water temples and smoking caldera. If you’re super-fit, there’s a gruelling climb to the summit, but, to get there for sunrise, you’ll need to start climbing at midnight. And you’ll most definitely need a guide.
Drive 30 minutes out of Ubud to tour the world-renowned Green School, a pioneering project featuring the world’s largest bamboo structure, an unrivalled commitment to sustainability, and a holistic approach to education that involves open-air classrooms and a bespoke curriculum. It’s a fascinating insight into what can be achieved when people commit to a vision. Creator John Hardy also owns Bambu Indah, a beautiful eco-retreat on the outskirts of Ubud.
If shopping’s your thing, you can bargain in the market to your heart’s content (look out for slide robes, patterned yoga mat bags and carved woodwork) or drop in to some of the boutiques down Monkey Forest Road. Ubud's not short of restaurants but try taking a table in one of the bustling warungs (local restaurant). As you’d expect, it’s cooler in this area, so you may need to wrap up on cloudy days and in the evenings.