We’ve been enjoying our time here so much on the Indonesian island of Bali. The last few weeks have been packed with doing Ubud activities and learning about Bali facts. From visiting the famous Monkey Forest to walking along the rice terraces of Tegalalang, the village of Ubud is full of family-friendly activities that allow travelers to experience Balinese culture.
I recently partnered with Global Family Travels, a tour company based out of Seattle, WA, to explore Ubud activities and experience Balinese culture. They have family-friendly tours in countries around the world scheduled throughout the year. The one I went on was focused on learning about the culture of Bali and opportunities for service that families can do while in Bali.
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Getting to and getting around Ubud
The village of Ubud, and the surrounding villages, has historically been a center of culture for the Balinese. And it’s this richness in culture that draws tourists to come to Ubud in search of the quintessential Bali experience. The Lonely Planet Bali, Lombok, and Nusa Tenggara guide book has some helpful introductory information to Balinese culture and history.
Ubud is located close to the central part of Bali, away from the beaches and ocean. It’s about an hour and a half drive from Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar. The village is surrounded by rice terraces and rice paddies, as people still cultivate this crop for their own subsistence. You can even rent accommodation in Ubud next to rice paddies!
The best way to get to Ubud from Denpasar is to hire a private car and driver. It will cost between Rp. 400,000 to 600,000 (roughly $28-35 USD). Once in Ubud, you can hire taxis to get around (you’ll need to make contact with local drivers as they are all privately owned).
Alternatively, you can rent scooters to drive around the village and its surroundings. Scooters cost roughly Rp. 50,000-70,000 per day to rent. You’ll need an international driver’s license to drive a scooter around. Also, be sure that you get helmets to go along with the scooters. Many of the injuries among travelers in Bali occur from scooter accidents.
Experiencing Balinese culture with Global Family Travels
An alternative to trying to organize all the Ubud activities on your own is to go with a group tour, like Global Family Travels. This takes all the travel planning out of your hands, so you just need to go along for the ride as you discover Balinese culture. This makes your Bali experience so much easier!
Global Family Travels’ tours really focus on cultural immersion and service learning. It’s a perfect fit for worldschooling families, who want more than just the standard tourist sites. With Global Family Travels’ Ubud activities, you really get a chance to talk with Balinese people, and learn about Balinese culture first-hand.
During our Bali tour, we met a Balinese prince, took part in cultural activities, and even learned all about the complex water irrigation system that ties the rice paddies to the temples throughout the island. In Bali, Global Family Travels partners with an organization called Bali Institute to select activities and organizations that are truly locally-focused and locally-run.
Global Family Travels has upcoming family-focused trips to Galapagos, Ecuador, and India. Take a look at the tours they offer to find one that fits your family’s travel plans.
Our favorite family-friendly Ubud activities
As we’ve spent time in Ubud, we’ve tried to really immerse ourselves in Balinese culture. While visiting the tourist sites have been fun (who can resist snapping some Instagram-worthy shots of the rice paddies or using our Fujifilm FinePix XP140 underwater camera to snap photos of fish and coral while snorkeling?), the activities we’ve enjoyed the most have been focused mainly on learning how locals live.
In addition to the activities we did with Global Family Travels, we did a few additional Ubud activities on our own. It made our Bali experience truly special and unique!
For those of you looking for ways to experience Balinese culture on your next visit to Ubud, here are our favorite Ubud activities that are perfect for families.
#1: Sample Balinese cuisine at Green Kubu Cafe (and enjoy family-friendly Ubud activities too!)
The way to our family’s heart is through food, and Ubud has no shortage of great places to eat! For authentic local Balinese cuisine, though, I suggest making a trip out to Green Kubu Cafe. It’s located north of Ubud in Tegalalang, in the middle of rice paddies!
At Green Kubu you can sample Balinese dishes like Satay Ayam (chicken satay) or Bakmi Ayam (chicken soup with egg noodles). And after your meal, you can walk around the grounds, have your kids play in the playground, or take a ride on their big swing (it’s a fraction of the cost of Bali Swing, and just as fun!).
#2: Take a Balinese culture class
From our trip with Global Family Travels, we learned that Balinese culture is based on the concept of Tri Hita Karana, the three causes of goodness. For Balinese, life is about the balance between the spirit, nature, and community. All the Ubud activities we’ve done have focused at least one of these elements.
As part of our Bali experience with Global Family Travels, we took some short classes in Balinese culture. These classes include learning how to make a traditional Hindu offering (known as a canang) and learning some Balinese dance movements. During the end of the week, we also learned about mask making, and even took home our own mask! It was a great way to expose ourselves to the rich culture that exists in Bali.
#3: Take a woodcarving workshop
One of Bali’s lasting cultural traditions is woodcarving. You can see it in the beautiful doors, furniture, and sculptures throughout the island.
As part of our Bali experience with Global Family Travels, we took a woodcarving workshop with a Balinese carver. During the workshop, the carver showed us how to use chisels and hammers to carve out designs on wood. It’s an intricate process, and a complex traditional Balinese door can take months to carve! We had a chance to carve parts of our own names on wood. That process took us close to 30 minutes for just a few letters!
#4: Do some cultural Ubud activitieis with a tour at a royal palace
While there is no longer a king in Bali, there are still princes and princesses who lived in Bali! One of the fun Ubud experiences you can do is to tour a royal palace and learn about how the traditional Balinese homes are structured.
The Ubud Royal Palace is open for tours to the public. But the nearby Peliatan Palace, in the neighboring village of Peliatan is also available for tours. We visited this palace with Global Family Travels and had a chance to meet a real prince!
#5: Watch a dance performance
At the Ubud royal palace, as well as other places throughout Ubud, you can watch a traditional dance performance of Balinese dance. This is one of my favorite Ubud activities to experience.
Within Balinese culture, dance is an important part of Hindu ceremonies at the temples. The dance is often accompanied by a traditional percussion ensemble called a gamelan. The gamelan sets the rhythm and mood of the dance, with its frenetic beats and multi-layered melodies. It’s such an iconic part of the Bali experience.
#6: Do some active Ubud activities with a walk among the rice paddies
Another iconic part of Bali are the rice paddies. The most famous rice paddies around Ubud are the Tegalalang Rice Terraces. But if you want a rice paddy experience without the crowds, head to the Juwuk Manis rice paddy walk, just off of Jalan Kajeng in central Ubud.
We walked along this walking route as part of an herbal walk we took with Global Family Travels. The walk was led by a local company called Nadis Herbal, and we got to learn all about the local herbs that Balinese use in their cuisine and medicines.
The herbal walk offered by Nadis Herbal cost Rp. 300,000 (roughly $21 USD) per person. They last about two and a half hours.
#7: Learn how to cook Balinese food
While walking along the Juwuk Manis trail, we passed a restaurant called Dicarik Warung that offers Balinese cooking classes. After our tour with Global Family Travels, our family came back to take a cooking class on our own. It was by far one of our favorite Ubud activities!
During our cooking class, we made a turmeric drink, Balinese satay, chicken meatballs, and even dessert! The classes cost Rp. 300,000 (roughly $21 USD) per person, and last about two and a half hours. Dicarik Warung doesn’t have a functioning website, but you can send a WhatsApp to their number (+62 819-9936-0090) to schedule a class.
#8: Visit a water temple
Water is life in Bali. It’s what helps the rice grow, which in turn feeds the population of Bali. In fact, the Balinese continue to use a centuries old irrigation system called subak that brings water from the mountain springs to the far reaches of the island.
At the base of the water sources are water temples, the most famous of which is Tirta Empul. The water temples provide holy water to help Balinese purify themselves during worship.
During our tour with Global Family Travels, we visited Pura Mengening, a smaller water temple located near Tirta Empul. We had a chance to learn about Hindu prayers at the temple, and our guide even led a prayer for us. Similar to my experience visiting Pura Lempuyang, it was so moving to take part in this ritual and learn about another religion.
#9: Take a batik class
My family loves doing arts activities. One of the Ubud activities we did with Global Family Travels was to take a batik class with Deking Batik. I had previously done a few batik classes in Yogyakarta, so I was excited to refine my skills in wax print.
Batik is a big part of Balinese culture. During our batik lesson, we traced wax designs onto the fabric. And we also added paraffin wax to create additional texture in the design before dyeing it a color of our choice.
#10: Enhance your Ubud activities with a ride out to nearby villages
Another one of the Ubud activities we enjoy doing as a family is riding around the villages outside of Ubud on our scooters. Riding along the small roads, past houses and shops, you can really get a glimpse of what Bali life is like, away from the buzz of Ubud.
As part of our tour with Global Family Travels, we did a bicycle tour through the small roads near Tegalalang with Greenbike Adventure. During the bike ride, we stopped by a traditional Balinese house to experience local Balinese culture from a village perspective. And we also rode through traditional rice paddies. I was channeling my inner Julia Roberts from the movie, Eat, Pray, Love!
Our bike tour was a modified version of their regular Kintamani Downhill Cycling Tour. These tours usually cost Rp. 550,000 (roughly $30 USD) per person. Bicycles and helmets are included, even for kids. There’s a van that rides down behind the bicycles during the ride, so even young kids can take part in the tour.
Getting the ultimate Bali experience from these Ubud activities
In Ubud, it’s easy to just stay in the center of Ubud, and frequent the usual stops that tourists visit. Because the village is so popular with foreigners, it has virtually every kind of amenity you might want – coworking spaces, coffee shops, massage spas, international restaurants, swimming clubs. But these things only show you the tourist side of Bali.
To really get a Bali experience, it takes a bit more effort to step outside of the tourist path. But it’s doable, even for families. With the tours from Global Family Travels, families can leave Bali with meaningful Bali memories and a deeper appreciation for Balinese culture. And even if your family is visiting Ubud on your own, all of these Ubud activities can help you gain a deeper understanding of the culture of Bali.
Have you done any of these Ubud activities before? What did you think? Share your family’s experiences with Balinese culture in the comments!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received a free tour from Global Family Travels in exchange for writing about the company. However, the views expressed in this post are completely my own.
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