Today’s article comes from Carla Peters, a freelance travel writer who is currently backpacking through Southeast Asia. She has been to Ubud several times and looks forward to staying for a while during her current adventure.
The beautiful Bali town of Ubud is a great place to get a glimpse into the fascinating history of this area. From the burial complex of King Anak Wungu to the Goa Gajah or Elephant Cave, you’ll have no trouble finding interesting things to see and do. This lovely town is located among rolling countryside, lush green rice paddies and dramatic ravines in the central foothill areas of the Gianyar Regency. For its lovely location, variety of places to eat and visit, and because it is regarded as the cultural centre of Bali, you’ll certainly want to book a hotel in Ubud.
Legend has it that Ubud was founded by a Javanese priest in the 8th century who meditated by the meeting point of two rivers, which is considered by Hindus to be a very lucky and holy place. He was inspired to found the Gunung Lebah Temple in the valley. This site remains an important destination for religious pilgrims.
This lovely city has an abundance of temples and ancient historic sites that will give you a glimpse into what the past was like. What are some of the most important historic spots in Ubud that you should explore on your visit?
Goa Gajah — The Elephant Cave
The statues and carvings within this cave date back to the ninth century. The entrance is an exquisitely carved mouth of a demon and inside you will find some ancient lingam and yoni statues as well as a statue of the Hindu elephant god, Ganesha. The pools near the entrance are watched over by stone statue guards and there is a little path that leads to waterfalls, some Buddhist stupa ruins and scenic rice fields.
This fascinating cave was hidden for many years and it was not fully excavated by archaeologists until the 1950s. It has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and admission only costs 15,000 Rp.
This very special sacred spot is said to be the ceremonial burial complex that was built for the great King Anak Wungsu as well as his multiple wives. It dates back to the 11th century and it is located at the bottom of a picturesque steep valley which is lined with lush green rice paddies.
You will see a larger complex and a smaller one; the larger complex is thought to have been built for the king and the smaller one for his wives. The structures are carved into the stone of the steep river valley. Before entering the central complex, you must remove your shoes as a sign of respect.
This beautiful complex of rock carvings is very close to Goa Gajah but it is a much lesser-known attraction. However, it is definitely worth venturing off the beaten path to see. It dates back to the 14th or 15th century and is surrounded by lovely rice fields. It is possible to reach Yeh Pulu by hiking on foot, but you will require a guide to help you find the way.
At this very special historical and sacred spot, you will also find a holy well, where the priest will offer you a blessing with the sacred water from the well. Appropriate dress code applies as these are holy places so make sure you cover up out of respect.
Pura Batur Sari
This is a royal temple that is dedicated to the religious deity of Mr. Batur. It was built so that the Ubud Tjokorda didn’t have to take the long journey up to the mountain itself. If you are lucky you might just catch a dance performance on the dance stage that is sometimes set up in front of the temple.
One of the best ways to explore the countryside surrounding Ubud and to make your way out to some of these temples and historic sites at your own pace is to hire a bicycle or a motor scooter. Many of the major historical sites are located just outside of town and you will need to get back and forth between them. Sometimes having a guide can be very helpful so that you can find your way and learn more about the spiritual and cultural significance of the sites that you are seeing.
There are so many beautiful and fascinating historical sites and temples in and around Ubud to be explored. Make sure you bring your walking shoes … and your sense of adventure!