If you’re staying in Ubud it’s easy to do the normal list of tourist activities in the city. You wake up early, join a Yoga class, visit Monkey Forest, check out the Hanging Gardens and then once you’ve done all that you chill out at one of the many cafes in town. It’s nice and relaxing, but if you explore there are a lot of great activities around Ubud (that most tourists miss).
Here are a few ideas for activities around Ubud:
What I want to share with you is a great day trip that mixes culture, nature and fun times. The itinerary combines a visit to Gunung Kawi Sebatu temple and Tirta Empul temple with an afternoon at Tegenungan Waterfall. The best bit is that you get back to Ubud in the early afternoon, just in time for a coffee at one of the cities funky cafés. Let me show you what to expect if you follow this itinerary.
Ubud Cultural Tour
If you want to follow this itinerary then you’ll need to set off from Ubud by 9am. The first stop on the itinerary are Gunung Kawi Sebatu and Tirta Empul Temple, which are a 30-minute drive to the North of Ubud. Gunung Kawi Sebatu is the closest. The Temple is located in the village of Sebatu. Tirta Empul is a 10-minute drive away from Gunung Kawi Sebatu near the town of Tampaksirang.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu
When I visited we parked outside the walls of the temple and walked to the entrance. We had to pay a small admission fee of Rp15,000 per person. The person at the counter was friendly and chatted about the temple and where I was from, before offering me a nice bright pink sarong to put around my waist. Once we’d paid the admission fee and put on the sarong we could enter the temple.
Gunung Kawi Sebatu Temple is set a bit lower than the road and so we had to walk down a set of steps to enter the temple grounds. As I walked down the steps I could hear the gently flow of water from fountains. I immediately started to feel relaxed.
The first thing you notice as you walk into the temple grounds is the large lake set next to a pavilion. You can see the fat carp swimming in the pond among the leaves. To the right of the pavilion is a large open garden, which goes up to a small stonewall. Two sets of stone steps with large ornamental doors give you access into Candi Bentar, the inner temple.
I walked across the garden to the steps on the far right and entered the ritual bathing area in Candi Bentar. There were two large pools separated by a small stonewall. Each pool was no more than half a meter deep and fed by five fast flowing waterspouts. A small snake slithered behind the head of a spout and into the undergrowth as I entered.
The main section of Candi Bentar is a lot larger and there were wooden structures and large stone shrines. The wooden buildings were all beautifully carved and brightly painted. To the left of the shrines was another large pond with a stone shrine in the middle.
We spent around 30 minutes at Gunung Kawi Sebatu and we only saw five other tourists while we were there. The temple grounds are not large, but they are so peaceful. I immediately understood why so many people think Gunung Kawi Sebatu is such a special place to visit. You can find out more about the temple here.
Tirta Empul Temple
As soon as we arrived at Tirta Empul I realized that the temple was going to be busy. The were more than 50 cars parked in the car park. I had a strange feeling, like when you see two restaurants side by side and one of them is filled with people and the other is empty. I was interested to see why that was.
Tirta Empul is a lot larger than Gunung Kawi Sebatu. The complex is split into four distinct sections. The first is a large open courtyard that you get to as soon as you arrive at the temple. There’s a huge pavilion that takes up most of the space on the right hand side of the courtyard. Immediately in front of the courtyard is an enclosed ritual bathing area with two pools. To the left of that, behind a tall brick wall is a large pond filled with carp. Finally, behind the ritual bathing area are the stone shrines where people pray.
Again I crossed the open courtyard and entered the bathing area. Well, I tried to enter the bathing area. Both pools were full of people and there was a small crowd of people on the walkway in front of the two pools. I pushed through the crowd and made my way to the far left hand side of the bathing area where people line up to purify themselves under the waterspouts.
It was interesting to watch the people in the pools. There were a mixture of Balinese and foreign tourists cleansing themselves under the waterspouts. Children were in the water splashing, teenagers taking photos in the water and grandmothers patiently lined up to purify themselves. It was busy, active and calm, like a kaleidoscope of Bali life.
After ten minutes of people watching I decided to explore the rest of the temple grounds and went to have a look at the shrines. It felt a lot calmer away from the bathing area. There were a lot less tourists, as if most came just for photos of the bathing area and left.
I walked around the shrines and sat down to watch an old man praying with incense in his hands. Eventually I decided it was time to go and headed back out towards the car park via the large carp pond.
The final stop for the day was Tegenungan Waterfall. The waterfall is to the South of Ubud, far away from the two temples. It took almost 40-minutes to reach Tegenungan Waterfall from Tirta Empul. We took the main road back towards Ubud, before following narrow roads through the Balinese countryside to the Tambunan Falls.
The first view of Tegenungan Waterfall was from one of the small restaurants perched at the top of the valley, it was an impressive view. The Waterfall was located at the top of the valley and formed by a small river literally falling over the edge of the cliff.
From the top of the cliff you have to walk down and endless series of steps to reach the base of the waterfall. There are concrete steps most of the way down, but just before the falls the concrete ends and you have to follow a thin muddy path.
There was a big crowd of people on the beach in front of the waterfall when I arrived. People were splashing in the falls while others got changed or just stood around chatting. I immediately got changed and jumped into the water, which was cool and refreshing.
After a while spent lying in the water I decided to try and put my head under the waterfall. It was difficult to get close. The water pouring over the edge and splashing into the pool made it feel like you were in a torrential downpour and the power of the current pushed you away from the falls. Eventually I decided to walk backwards towards the falls and discovered that with the water pushing against you it was a bit like having a nice relaxing back massage. The perfect way to end the day!
Ubud Day Trip
If you’re looking for activities to do around Ubud I’d really recommend this itinerary. Gunung Kawi Sebatu is a really beautiful and peaceful temple. Tirta Empul shows you a different side, or maybe the more active side, of what a Balinese temple can be like. After a morning of temples it’s nice for a change of pace and Tegenungan Waterfall is the perfect way to end the tour. After all, there’s nothing more refreshing than swimming in cold water on a hot day).
Have you visited any of the sites I mentioned in this article? Have you got a favorite Ubud day trip itinerary? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.