The best things to do in Sidemen - Bali's hidden gem

If Kuta’s your idea of hell and Ubud is still too busy for you, then head out to the tranquil beauty that is Sidemen. This small village in the heart of rural Bali, set among the beautiful rice fields is still largely off the main tourist trail and it’s all the better for it. We first visited seven years ago on a day trip from Ubud and vowed to come back and stay. Having now done so we can say that the true beauty of Sidemen is around taking the time to explore and soak up its rural charm and you just don’t get that time on a day trip. If you can, treat yourself to at least a couple of nights.

The most striking aspect of Sidemen is the giant that appears from behind the clouds every now and again: Mount Agung. This huge volcano looms over the local villages and can seem so big that it can be hard to take it all in, even from this far away.

Agung likes to cause trouble in Bali (mainly through spurting ash clouds that ground planes) and can no longer be climbed but it makes for a beautiful backdrop to the surrounding countryside.

If you like to relax, but not too much, don’t worry as there’s enough to keep you busy!

Here’s just a few things to enjoy when visiting the rural village of Sidemen.



Best things to do in Sidemen, Bali

Explore the Rice fields

The main feature of Sidemen is the huge rice fields and terraces that characterise this area. This endless swathe of green has been carved out over centuries to feed the local area and is made even more beautiful by the occasional temple, palm or rustic hut that sits precariously on the terraces.

It may not be set on the edge of a cliff like Batad in the Philippines or Sapa in Vietnam, but Sidemen has its own charm. The fields here are not overrun with tourists and you can take a stroll through the terraces and see no one at all.

Whilst we never had a problem, be sure to ask anyone you see first for permission. Although we have no problem paying for places like Tegalalang Rice Terrace and other private land, we did find it rather lovely to be welcomed to walk around everywhere in Sidemen and not charged.


The terraces in the picture above

You can pick just about anywhere around Sidemen, but a nice easy choice is a 15 minute motorbike ride away from the majority of warungs and hotels in the village. You can see it on the Google Maps location below.

There’s a footpath on the right hand side of the road which leads to a temple, but takes you by several beautiful rice fields and terraces first.

 

Pray for a Mt Agung sunset....

As Agung is to the east of Sidemen, we recommend taking it in at sunset as the light is at its best. You’ll need luck (frequently it is under clouds from 7am, especially in the hotter part of the year), but if you do get a clear sky, the views are spectacular.

Mount Agung at sunset - things to do in Sidemen Bali

We were lucky on our first day, so ran down to a rice terrace to take it in. It was definitely a highlight of our stay. If seeing Agung is a priority it’s another great reason to stay a few nights and make sure you get the best chance, we saw it 2 out of 3 evenings.


Where we went for sunset

The spot we picked was a five minute ride away from the hotels in Sidemen on the road to Darmada Eco Resort. Simply look for the fields with a temple in the middle and check it out. Of course, ask the people there for permission but you will definitely be very welcome.

 

....otherwise, get up early for a Mount Agung view from your hotel 

If you don’t have any luck for sunset, you’ll probably have much better chance of seeing Agung at sunrise. The cooler conditions mean that it’s less likely to have clouded over. 6-6.30am is said to be prime time.

If the idea of such an early start makes you feel a bit sick, try to get a hotel with a view from the balcony. You don’t need to splash out to do this as many of the home stays lookout to the volcano.

We stayed at Maha Neka which was a simple place, but each room faced the volcano, meaning you could roll out of bed to take a look and wake up at the very last minute! If your budget is bigger there are several amazing hotels and villas with infinity pools that look out to Agung, a photographers delight.

Read next: All you need to know about the Bali Swing and Jatiluwih - Bali’s most incredible rice terrace



See Bali back in time in Iseh

This is a statement that so many places make, but Iseh is as close as you’ll get in Bali. Granted, there is power, internet and a lot of things to show that Iseh is definitely in the modern day, but you’ll get the chance to see local life that isn’t catered to tourists as much as most places in Bali. It was recommended to us by many locals in Sidemen and whilst there isn’t anything to do as such, the views and the people are wonderful.

The best part of our visit to Iseh was heading to the Warung Organic, just north of Sidemen. The road to this restaurant follows a huge vista of rice terraces.

You can then get stuck into some home made organic food at the warung and take in the stunning views. The great thing is that the money here goes directly to the local community, as it did around much of Sidemen, which we always appreciate.

Getting to Warung Organic

Warung Organic is on the side of the road, 15 minutes north of the main town of Sidemen and a short distance past the village of Iseh. We’ve marked it on the map below.

 

Read next: Our guides to Bali’s waterfalls - Sekumpul, Banyumala, Munduk, Nung Nung and Tibumana


Tea & Cake at Darmada Eco Resort

If you are looking for a great place to kick back and relax then you can’t go wrong with the outdoor cafe at Darmada Resort. The grounds here are really lush and pretty, and the cafe is right beside the river. The whole setting is blissfully peaceful and there are board games enough to keep you busy for hours!

We had a little laugh because they advertise a ‘deal’ for coffee/tea and cake for 50,000 rupiah (approx US$3.50) when the price of buying them separately is only 3,000 more (US$0.21) but despite being fairly pricey for the area we think the setting makes up for it. The cakes are homemade and we’d recommend the carrot over the chocolate.

Getting to Dermada Eco Resort

Dermada Eco Resort is a short distance out of Sidemen and has a bit of a rough driveway to get to (but still doable on a scooter). It’s pretty easy as it is signposted, but otherwise check the map below.

 

Climb the never ending staircase to Bukit Temple 

This was recommended to us by our home stay and it makes for a good little work out. Whilst it isn’t a long walk to the top the stairs are really steep and the heat and humidity had us stopping for breath a few times! The stairs are lined with pretty trees on either side and we saw lots of butterflies.

Bukit Temple - Things to do in Sidemen Bali

We were a little disappointed that the views at the top are quite obstructed, but what you could see was beautiful. The price to enter the area which is charged at a local shop by the foot of the staircase is 20,000 rupiah (approx US$1.40) per person.


Getting to the Bukit Temple

The actual name of the temple is Pura Bukit Sangan Gunung and it is on the biggest hill in the area. Naturally, this makes it a bit of a mission to get to by motorbike as the roads are steep and not in the best of condition.

We recommend going here if you are fairly confident on a motorbike as there are a lot of potholes, steep and narrow roads which locals love to weave around.

 

Bliss out in luxury

Now if we weren’t travelling on a budget we would have loved to have stayed in Wapa di Ume, the setting and views were out of this world! However, don’t worry if it’s not in your price range because you can always do what we did and go in for lunch with a view.

Naturally the food is more expensive than the majority of restaurants in Sidemen which are local warungs but you can hang out for as long as you want to soak up the truly relaxing vibe. The menu is a mix of local and international cuisine and was generally very good.

You can also use the spa, although even for the standard of the resort we found the prices way too high in comparison to anywhere else we’ve been in Bali. However, if money is no object then their flower bath with rice terrace views looked phenomenal!

Getting to Wapa Di Ume

Wapa Di Ume is located in the main area of Sidemen, so you can walk there. Otherwise it will be a short motorbike journey, just beware of the very steep driveway into the property!

 

Around Sidemen

Tukad Cepung Waterfall

If you have a little more time on your hands then you should definitely make the 30 minute drive to one of the most amazing waterfalls in Bali. No matter how many Bali waterfalls you’ve visited, you won’t have been to anything like this one. The waterfall is inside a cave which creates the most magnificent shaft of light on the falls.

You can read exactly what to expect from a visit to Tukad Cepung in this blog.


Where to stay in Sidemen

Budget - Maha Neka Homestay

Maha Neka is a local homestay and is simple but with a lot of nice touches. There are only two bungalows, so it’s a really nice and quiet place to stay. Every morning you are served breakfast on the porch of your room, overlooking the epic Mount Agung, making it a pretty special view.

Maha Neka Homestay - Where to stay in Sidemen

The rooms are large, clean and comfortable, albeit with the typical firm beds. Despite the hot weather, the rooms stayed cool at night as there were gaps to let the cool air in, but a good mosquito net around the bed to stop the bugs.

The owners are also really nice with a couple of children who are playful and friendly. They also rent motorbikes and can give tips on what to see around the local area.

Booking.com


Luxury - Wapa Di Ume

If you have the budget, then Wapa Di Ume is the perfect place to relax and unwind in Sidemen. This stunning property had beautiful gardens and one of the most amazing pools we’ve seen.

As it is set well away from the road, Wapa Di Ume is very quiet and peaceful.

The rooms are modern, beautifully designed and have stunning views straight from your bed to the rice terraces. It’s also a lot cheaper than similar properties in Ubud, so it’s a great place to treat yourself.

Booking.com

Something truly unique - Camaya, Bali

Now if you want to book Camaya you need to get on to it straight away. This property books out up to six months in advance, despite there being four different luxury bungalows to stay in. When you get there it’s easy to see why.

You’ve probably seen it on instagram, bungalows set on the edge of a dramatic hill, overlooking rice fields, palm trees and of course Mount Agung. Each bungalow is slightly different, the most famous of which is the Bamboo House (pictured below). It is on two levels with two bedrooms, it’s own kitchen, hammock, outdoor bath and of course that amazing netted area for the ultimate private getaway.

If the two bigger bungalows are out of your budget look up Nirvana cottage which starts at US$70 a night.

You could easily come and spend a few days here and not even leave the property!

Click here to check prices for the Magical Bamboo House, Camaya

Click here to check prices for Nirvana

Booking.com

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