In recent years, Bali has welcomed a record number of visitors as it’s gained a reputation as both a surfer and yogi paradise. Because of this growth in popularity, more and more of the island’s towns and villages have been permeated by tourists, and the well-known serenity that originally captivated travelers is becoming harder to find. One destination that’s managed to keep a low profile amidst the headlines, is the village of Sidemen. This hidden gem lies just an hour’s drive from Ubud and boasts an impressive combination of Bali’s rich cultural and natural offerings that include homemade cuisine, rice fields, hiking trails, religious temples, and one hulking volcano — Mount Agung — making it a getaway within a getaway!

BASICS

  • Location: Karangasem Regency, East Bali
  • Population: 30,000
  • Pronunciation: See-da-men
  • When to visit: April to June
Photo by Fredrik Helliesen

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

The drive from Ubud to Sidemen takes less than an hour, and upon your arrival you’ll find a collection of small, rural neighborhoods with dirt roads and modest homes built among hilly rice paddies. Due to its location in East Bali, and because it lies at the base of the island’s largest volcano, Mount Agung, Sidemen’s climate is much drier and cooler than the rest of the island, so you’ll want to pack an extra layer or two if you’re coming straight from the beach. Those planning to do some trekking while here (the valley is comprised of lush foothills perfect for exploring) won’t want to forget proper footwear.

Culturally speaking, most locals in Sidemen are Hindu, though there’s a small Muslim population as well. During your visit, you’ll be sure to come across at least couple of temples so, as always, be sure to respect these sites and those practicing their beliefs publicly. The peacefulness of local life will be a nice break from the bustling, tourist-heavy areas on the rest of the island. Wander around, soak up the quaintness, and watch the intricacies of Balinese culture go by, such as children on their way to school or banter at the local market. Sidemen is the perfect place to fall into the rhythms of the local culture, so challenge yourself to be part of that relaxing tempo during your visit.

Photo by Jack McDermott

GETTING THERE & AROUND

First and foremost, if you feel confident about navigating the countryside by yourself, by all means hop on a scooter or motorbike and enjoy the drive. Bali is a small island, and it doesn’t take long to reach Sidemen from most major cities. But because of Sidemen’s close proximity to Ubud, where many guides are located it’s easy to hire someone to transport you (or a group) there and back, and even show you around the area. Having a local with you will no doubt come in handy as English isn’t as widely spoken outside of the larger urban centers. Many guides will even bring you directly to their home and offer you a homemade meal or drink if they live close to the attractions on your itinerary. Regardless, a guide’s insight into the lay of the land is invaluable, as they will gladly share information about the local ecosystem and agricultural endeavors as they show you around. In most cases, you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to guides, so ask around and see which company works best!

Photo by Sonnie Hiles

WHERE TO STAY

Though some only consider Sidemen a day-trip destination, we highly recommend an overnight stay. Accomodation in the village ranges from luxurious to something that’ll simply do the trick. Regardless of which star-rating you settle on, most of Sidemen’s lodging options offer exceptional views of the surrounding landscapes, authentic Balinese cuisine, air conditioning, and a comfy bed. The main drag in Tabola (a local village) is where the majority of villas, hotels, spas, and warungs (family-run establishments) are available. Some favorites include Surya Shanti Villa and Samanvaya, or on the cheaper side of things, there’s Rad-Ha Warung. As with most places, you get what you pay for in Sidemen, so choose accordingly.

Photo by Justin Kauffman

WHAT TO DO

There are a number of ways to explore and experience Sidemen and the surrounding area, which is why spending a night or two is a never a bad idea. If you’ve opted to visit Sidemen with a guide, they will undoubtedly show you around the rice paddies, which makes for a picturesque outing. Since signs and trail maintenance aren’t common, having a local show you the ropes will definitely help. For those looking for a more challenging trek, you’ll want to check out the sacred Mount Agung — the tallest point in Bali at 9,944 feet (3,031 meters) — which is roughly 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Sidemen. While en route to the top, a climb that takes between five and seven hours to complete, you’ll have the chance to see two beautiful temples — Pura Pasar Agung and Besakih Temple (known as the Mother Temple of Bali) — depending on your ascent route.

If you’re looking for more relaxing activities in Sidemen, there are plenty of those, too, such as learning all there is to know about songket, a traditional form of weaving. You can also have a picnic along the Unda River or join a cooking class to try your hand at local cuisine. However you choose to spend your time in the tucked-away atmosphere of Sidemen, you’re in for a memorable stay.

 

Want to learn more about Bali? Click here for our full, in-depth guide!

Header image by Heiarii Soler

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Brad Donaldson is a writer and editor proudly based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Although his roots are in Canada, his desire to see more of the world frequently takes him away from home. His work, both as an editor and writer, has appeared in local newspapers and publications.