Bali is at the heart of the Indonesian archipelago stretching 150 km wide and 80km from north to south. Its unique variant of Hinduism influences every aspect of island culture, from day-to-day village life to art, dance, food and music. Located an hour’s drive to the north of Bali’s capital Denpasar, Ubud is already internationally acknowledged for its visual arts and performance, as well as exceptional arts and crafts, making it one of the most important cultural and artistic centres in Indonesia. Unlike the beach areas, Ubud is laden with rice terraces and river crossings and forests. Coupled with a higher altitude, the overall climate is noticeably cooler than beachside locations in Bali.
Neighbouring villages offer exquisite artistry such as weaving, wood-carving, silver making, shadow puppets and village crafts that have crossed generations. The main palace is located in the centre of Ubud, opposite the town market and village theatre where nightly traditional dance performances are held. As well as opportunities for cultural study, Ubud is also a great place to observe and participate in the many Hindu-Balinese ceremonies that take place on almost a daily basis.
In more recent years, Ubud has also become the culinary capital of Bali and is full of world-class restaurants, cafés and local eateries, as well as galleries, lotus ponds, palaces and temples, all clustered close to the main crossroads.
And in many ways, the history of the greater Ubud area is the very history of Bali itself. Ubud has a known history back to the eighth century, when the Javanese Hindu priest Rsi Marhandya came to Bali from Java, and meditated at the confluence of the two Wos rivers at Campuan, just west of the modern day town centre. A shrine was established and later expanded by Nirartha, the Javanese priest who is regarded as the founder of Bali’s religious practices and rituals as we know them today. At this time the area was a centre of natural medicine and healing, and that is how the name Ubud originated: Ubad is ancient Balinese for medicine.
Numerous temples and monasteries were built over the next 400 hundred years including the cave temples at Goa Gajah (just east of Ubud center), and many of the traditional dances, dramas and rituals still practised in Ubud today, originated at this time.
In 1900, Ubud became a Dutch protectorate at its own request, and the colonialists interfered little, allowing the traditional arts and culture of the area to remain relatively unchanged. The modern era of Ubud perhaps began in the 1930s, when foreign artists were encouraged by the royal family to take up presence in the town.
In the 1960s, adventurous travellers began to arrive as the infrastructure and facilities were still limited. Since, Ubud has developed rapidly into a high profile, top class international destination, while maintaining its integrity as the centre of Balinese art and culture.
As of July 2013, 64 countries are eligible for visa-on-arrival when visiting Indonesia. The cost is US$25, payable at the airport. In some cases, this visa is extendable for another 30 days. Please visit the Bali Tourism Board for details, and check with your government for updates and particulars regarding visa requirements for your passport.