Bali, Indonesia's most famous island, is well-known for its beautiful beaches. But there's a lot more to do than swim and surf, especially if you venture inland to the beautiful town of Ubud. Located amongst rice paddies, dramatic hills, and verdant forests, Ubud is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and is full of wonderful and unique sights to visit.
1. Saraswati Water Temple and Ubud Palace
Although Indonesia as a whole is predominantly a Muslim country (Indonesia actually has the world's largest Muslim population), about 85% of Balinese follow Hinduism. You'll find Hindu temples and shrines throughout the island, but some of the most beautiful are located in and around Ubud.
Pura Taman Saraswati is the Ubud Water Temple. Located in the center of town just next to the Ubud Palace and one of the world's most beautiful Starbucks, the Water Temple sits surrounded by a gorgeous lotus pond and reached by a long stone path.
Nearby is the Ubud Palace, the home of the Balinese Royal Family. Nowadays, parts of the palace grounds are open to visitors, and there are dances and cultural performances at night.
2. Sacred Monkey Forest
Walk down Monkey Forest Street in the center of Ubud, and you'll make your way to the Sacred Monkey Forest, a nature reserve and temple complex teeming with indigenous crab-eating macaques.
There are hundreds of monkeys swinging from the trees in the forest. Make sure that your belongings are all well-secured! They are curious and greedy little things and will try to snatch any loose items, including the sunglasses from your head!
It's beautiful and shady in the forest. Besides the monkeys, there are three small 14th-century Hindu temples, each one serving a different purpose for the local community. The entrance fee goes to the conservation of the forest.
3. Pura Tirta Empul
You will need to hire a driver to get to the rest of the places on this list, but it's worth it! Not too far outside of Ubud is the Pura Tirta Empul Water Temple.
The temple, which is dedicated to the god Vishnu, is famous for its holy spring, which is used in ritual purification ceremonies.
4. Pura Besakih Mother Temple
Bali's largest and most important temple sits on the slopes of Mount Agung volcano. When the volcano erupted in 1963, the temple was barely spared the path of the lava. To the Balinese devout, this was a sign from the gods.
You need to purchase or rent a sarong to be allowed onto the temple complex, and may be "encouraged" rather heavily to hire a guide to show you around. It's worth it though, as the temple complex is huge, beautiful, and impressive.
The Mother Temple is the center of Balinese Hinduism, and is a complex made up of dozens of smaller shrines, each celebrating a number of annual holidays and festivals, meaning that there is almost always some sort of festival going on nearly every day.
5. Tegalalang Rice Terrace
One of the island's most beautiful and famous attractions is the Tegalalung Rice Terrace. Visit for some breathtaking views and dramatic scenery. Bali is one of the "greenest" places I have ever seen! Everywhere you look on the island is lush and rich, but Tegalalung is especially so.