Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali, lures visitors from all around the world to its enchanting dances, art galleries, ceremonial procession, luxurious spas and divine restaurants. The pace of life in Ubud, set on the dramatic Ayung River, is a sharp contrast to the chaos in the south of the island. Many people spend their days here being pampered in spas, taking yoga classes, relaxing in the town's fantastic cafes and taking the occasional stroll through the surrounding ricefields.
Ubud is a destination where it is possible to chance upon local people participating in ceremonies right on the main road and more frequently in many of the back streets surrounding the town itself. These ceremonies are the real deal and not put on for tourists, although local people are usually comfortable for tourist to look on.
For those not lucky enough chance on an authentic ceremony, it is possible to attend one of the many dance performances that take place nightly in Ubud and the surrounding villages. While these performances are put on especially for tourists, the performers are first rate and it is a great insight into how these performances take place in villages around the island. Shadow puppet shows are also performed at Oka Kartini on Jalan Raya Ubud to small audiences three times per week at 20:00.
Ubud boasts a superb eating scene and many of the best restaurants in Bali are located here. Most are attached to luxury hotels, but others such as Mozaic strike out on their own with stunning success. Further down the ladder of culinary refinement are such popular establishments are Ibu Oka's and Naughty Nuri's where eating with your fingers in less posh surrounds is all part of the experience.
Accommodation in Ubud ranges from simple backpacker digs in family compounds to some of the best luxury hotels in Asia. The diversity of options can be overwhelming and it's often best to set a budget and then look for a hotel that meets it.
Depending on traffic, Ubud is roughly an hour by car from Sanur or Seminyak and a little longer from Kuta near the airport.
By Adam Poskitt.