Bali,  Road Less Traveled

Sidemen Bali: Why You Need to Visit Before It’s Too Late

I just returned from Sidemen Valley Bali, and I have never been more excited to return from a trip so I can write and share about it!   

Sidemen is, without question, quintessential Bali – the panoramic rice terraces, farmlands and the quaint villages nestled in hills and valleys.  When you visit this magically preserved region, it’s easy to imagine what Bali must have looked like 30 years ago before the tourism altered the landscape of the island.

The scene in Sidemen Bali is so rural in fact that you feel like you traveled in a time machine because you can’t fathom how such an enchanting countryside exists just 2 hours north of populated and developed tourist center of South Bali (Denpasar, Kuta, Nusa Dua).   

Seeing how much this island has developed just in the last ten years that I’ve been visiting this paradise, I don’t imagine that Sidemen will be able to maintain its traditional charm and way of life for much longer.   

If you are keen on seeing the “real” Bali while it remains, I urge you to explore Sidemen village before it’s too late.  

In this post, I share with you all the travel tips you will need for an epic adventure trip to Sidemen, including how to get there, things to do, and where to stay.  Read on!

A panoramic view of Sidemen's rice fields
The breathtaking view of Sidemen Valley

About Sidemen Valley Bali

Sidemen is located in Karangasem Regency in eastern Bali, just south of Mount Agung and about an hour east of Ubud.   

Sidemen offers not only magnificent views and landscapes but also a glimpse into the traditional way of life, which is rare if you only visit the popular hot spots of Bali. 

When you take a stroll around Sidemen, it’s evident just how intimate the communities are, as you will see just about every local person stop and talk to one another, working together in the fields and taking coffee breaks in the shades.

Even though I have been to other acclaimed rice terraces in Bali such as Tagalalang and Jatiluwih, Sidemen was special.   I thought hard about how to articulate the unique feeling at Sidemen, and it comes down to this:  Sidemen felt very much like a community

At Tagalalang and Jatiluwih, as stunning as the views were, the experience for me was like visiting an attraction.  You drive to the destination, and “bam!” there it is.  You get out of the car, see the “attraction,” take photos, and move on.  

sidemen valley bali: lcoals tending to their farm
Locals tending to their farm

In Sidemen village, on the other hand, you are immersed in the local culture and lifestyle  – you are IN the presence of locals working, shopping, walking about, doing laundry in the river and otherwise going about their days – rather than being just an observer.   

That’s what I adored about Sidemen – being able to experience the charming village life up close and personal.

Visiting Bali for the first time? 

Make sure to check out the Bali Transportation Guide to learn the best ways to get around the island, and The Ultimate Bali Travel Guide to for inspirations on things to do and where to go during your epic vacation! 

It's impossible to get tired of this view!

How to Get to Sidemen Valley Bali

You can easily locate and access Sidemen using Google Maps.  The route to the main town of Tabola (where you will find the majority of accommodations) is straightforward, using one main road through Karangasem regency.

You can reach Sidemen in about an hour from Ubud or Sanur; or 2.5 -3 hours from South Bali (Kuta, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran). 

You can take a scooter or, if you prefer to hire a driver instead, you can book one online for about 35-50% cheaper than hiring in person or through your hotel.

While you can drive through Sidemen as a part of a day trip or en route to another destination, I would HIGHLY recommend that you stay overnight for at least one night. 

I spent the most memorable 3 days strolling through the villages, hiking through the rice fields, talking to the locals and soaking in the stunning landscape.

I could have easily stayed longer in this magical place.

sidemen valley bali: kids playing in the jungle
sidemen valley bali: view of rice field

Heading to Bali but want to avoid the crowds? 

Some of my top recommendations include the natural jacuzzis in Uluwatu, Tukad Cepung waterfall, or Nyang Nyang for the best secluded beach

Or, check out this post for the list of 6 Hidden Gems in Bali

Things to Do in Sidemen Valley Bali

If there is one thing to do in Sidemen, it’s to immerse yourself in, and absorb every bit of the authentic Balinese life as possible!   

Sidemen is quaint, serene, and peaceful which is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of southern Bali.  Enjoy the tranquility and the magnificent scenery throughout the valleys.  

And when you are in Sidemen, make sure you book a trekking or cycling tour. 

With a guide, you have better access to some of the most breathtaking views of Sidemen!

I did both trekking and cycling tours on two separate days with a guide through my accommodation, Samanvaya Villa Ubud (details below).

My guide Wayan took me through the valley crossing rivers, exploring the oldest temple in the village, observing farmers work in the fields, and hiking through some of the most gorgeous sceneries I have seen in Bali.

Usually, I enjoy adventuring on my own as I like to take my time taking photos and go at my own pace.   But I was SO grateful to have Wayan in Sidemen because:

  1. I would have never discovered some of the narrow trails through the rice fields on my own.   The trekking route eventually led us to a top of a hill for a 360° panoramic view of the valley, which took my breath away.It was so stunning in fact that we went back the second day!
  2. The tour was so informative – being from the local village, Wayan was extremely knowledgeable about the irrigation system, the farming seasons, the various crops that are grown in the region, and the local culture and history that you can only learn from someone who grew up here.
A field of orange flowers with a mountain backdrop in Sidemen Valley Bali
These orange flowers are usually used for Hindu offerings

Tips for Hiking/Cycling Tour:

  • Wear sneakers!  I almost wore my flip-flops for the tours, but I’m so glad that I changed my mind.   The hiking can be anywhere from an hour to 3 hours (depending on your tour package), and you will likely walk through some slippery and uneven terrain.  Take sneakers.  You will thank me for it!
  • Take a poncho.  I went to Sidemen in January, which is Bali’s wet season.   But rain in Bali is not always predictable, so take one just in case, particularly if you have an expensive camera!   I got soaked in torrential rain during the hike, but at least the poncho kept my equipment dry. 
  • As with any outdoor activity in the tropics, wear plenty of sunscreen.  Even on a cloudy day, I got a shade darker from my 3-hour tour. 
  • There is no toilet along the trek – you should be comfortable using the “nature toilet” 😉
photo credit: Weda @ Samanvaya Villa

Another popular activity in Bali is a cooking class – a couple of classes recently opened in Sidemen, which is worth checking out!   

Learn how to create local cuisines like nasi goreng, mie goreng, nasi campur and soto ayam with a local host – it’s experience you don’t want to miss, especially if you have never taken up a cooking class – it’s  a blast!    

Other Things to Do Around Sidemen Valley

If you are basing your Bali trip in Sidemen, you may be interested to know other fun things to do outside of town!  

You can either visit these top attractions individually or if on a limited schedule, customize a day tour package with your bucket list destinations in Bali.

  1. Want to spend a day on the beach?  One of the most stunning and pristine white sand beaches lie less than an hour drive on the east coast of the island called Padang Bai.  Much less crowded than the other hot spots of west coast beaches (Canggu) or south coast beaches (Uluwatu), Bias Tugel Beach is a beach destination you don’t want to miss! 

  2. With so many incredible waterfalls around Bali, you can easily spend your entire trip chasing waterfalls.  But when in Sidemen area, head to a unique waterfall on the island, Tukad Cepung Waterfall.  Beautiful sunbeams that shine through a cave opening with the cascading waterfall is one breathtaking sight! 

  3. If you have never seen a volcanic black sand beach, it’s definitely worth exploring while in Bali!  There are several black sand beaches along north and east coasts, but the closest from Sidemen is Keramas beach 45 minutes to the south.  Far removed from crowded tourism, you will love being surrounded in a quiet and peaceful village town in Gianyar.

Sidemen Bali Accomodation

enjoying the morning coffee in my villa at sidemen valley bali
enjoying my coffee with a view in my villa @ Samanvaya

If you want to know where to stay in Sidemen, I spent 2 blissful nights at Samanvaya Sidemen Villa located in the heart of Tabola village, and I can’t say enough about this eco-resort.  

From the pre-arrival email communication with the General Manager, delicious and hearty breakfast in their restaurant (with more incredible views!), beautiful spa treatments with Juli, fantastic Happy Hour by their infinity pool, to flower baths prepared in the room, my stay was absolutely perfect. 

I adored the use of natural resources such as wood, bamboo and thatched roof for the construction of the resort, including all the villas, spa, and the restaurant.   The rooms are spacious, airy, gorgeously decorated, and look out into the stunning views of Sidemen valley. 

For me, it’s also the thoughtful details that make resorts stand out above others.   I loved that Samanvaya bans the use of plastic on their property, and provide cell phones to all the guests so that the resort is only a button away if you ever need to reach someone while exploring the countryside! 

Oh, and did I mention the resort’s two pools and an outdoor jacuzzi?  

Note:   Sidemen is rural.  Whether you choose to stay in a homestay or a villa, you are surrounded in nature which means there will be insects, lizards, frogs, and geckos.  

Just remember that you are the guest in their environment 😉

Sidemen Bali Restaurants

Aside from accommodations that provide in-house restaurant, there are not too many restaurant options in Sidemen Bali.  If you are staying in the main town of Tabola, there is a row of villas and hotels at the south end where you can also find several warungs and restaurants.  

While you will find enough food options to keep you satisfied for a few days, don’t expect to have access to a variety of menus you may be used to in the likes of Ubud or Canggu.   There are no vegan restaurants or fancy baristas in this part of town.

I once visited Joglo Duma based on someone’s recommendation, but to be honest, I was not impressed with my selection of fish peanut curry.  It was watery and bland, compared to many other curries I have had throughout Bali.   But, the view of the rice fields from the restaurant was amazing, and the owners were super friendly and welcoming.   I was able to enjoy the sunset with a glass of arak wine, so it was all good! 

Tabola is probably the only place in Sidemen where you will see western items on the menu.  Outside of town, you will likely only find local warungs offering Indonesian food (which by the way, is cheap and delicious

sidemen valley bali: joglo duma restaurant from the outside
Joglo Duma restaurant

Summary of Sidemen Bali

Sidemen Valley is perhaps one of few places left in Bali that has maintained the traditional and authentic charm that has helped place this island on the list of “top world destinations” in the first place.   While there are many places where you can view rice terraces and Bali’s many iconic landscapes, a glimpse into Sidemen’s village life is a unique experience you don’t want to miss!

I hope you found this post helpful in planning your trip to Bali.  Leave me a comment below and let me know if you have been to Sidemen, or looking forward to visiting this magical destination 🙂 

Bali Guide | Bali Travel Tips | Things to Do in Bali | Get off the beaten path and explore some of the most stunning rice terrace views in Bali - check out this guide for how to explore the rural villages in Bali! #bali #balitravel #baliindonesia
If you want an authentic local experience on your next Bali trip, be sure that Sidemen Valley is on your Bali itinerary. From the vast rice fields to traditional villages, this bucket list destination in Bali, Indonesia should not be missed! Click on this post for the ultimate Bali guide and travel tips you need for your epic Bali vacation! Things to Do in Bali | Beautiful Places in Bali | #bali #balitravel #ricefields #riceterraces #baliindonesia #balitips #indonesia #southeastasia #asia

Disclosure: This trip to Sidemen was sponsored by Samanvaya Villa, but the views expressed in this post are strictly my own.

This post also contains affiliate links, which means that if you make a purchase using the link in this post, I get paid a small commission at absolutely no cost to you (yay for you and me!).

32 Comments

  • Linda

    We have just returned from Sidemen, where we stayed for 4 nights at Sawah Indah Villa, also a luxurious place, with a beautiful infinity pool and views to die for. Extremely good value at less than £40 / night for a superior room with the most gorgeous outdoor bathroom (and breakfast)! Wayan was also our guide on the rice fields trek which was a real highlight of our trip. It was out of season so very quiet….good for us but the area relies heavily on tourism and when we visited local warungs (which were very good) we were often the only people there, so keeping it a secret has to be balanced with maintaining the local economy! Many people we met were only staying for one night on their way to a further destination, and they quickly realised what they were missing so my advice is definitely stay a while and enjoy this amazing place.

    • Mo

      Hi Linda, I’m so glad to see that you enjoyed Sidemen and the rice field trek as much as I did! I agree with you that a few days in Sidemen is optimal to fully appreciate the quiet countryside and take in the beautiful surrounding scenery 🙂

  • John

    We just got back from Sidemen and what a traet it was. Felt like a secret place that I wanted to keep to myself. No reading this blog I see it’s not as secretive as I thought 🙂 Loved the place, the people and we nailed some excellent accommodation at Samanvaya too which didn’t hurt. I’ve heard it called the next Ubud, which is a little sad. I hope it keeps its charm while getting tourist dollars to help the local people, who really were wonderful. A must go for sure.

    • Mo

      Hi John, I’m so glad to hear that you enjoyed Sidemen too – wasn’t Samanvaya gorgeous! I couldn’t get enough of that infinity pool 🙂 I too hope that Sidemen maintains the authentic, quaint charm. It’s so lovely there, it would be a shame to see it turn into another tourist trap.

  • Dina

    I would have never thought a part of Bali is left undisturbed by tourism! It seems like another island! Really beautiful place, I love that it’s off the beaten path in a way. And the view from the Budget villa is fantastic! Will have to add it to my list!

    • Mo

      Yes! With so much tourism on Bali these days, it’s hard to believe such a village has remained untouched…it was truly a beautiful place, I hope you get to experience it on your next trip to Bali 🙂

  • Suzy

    We’ve been thinking about visiting Bali but want to avoid the tourist trap places. Thanks for your write up, Sidemen looks like the perfect authentic getaway

    • Mo

      Hi Suzy – I say avoid Kuta & Legian at all costs. All along the west coast is crowded, although Seminyak can be great for shopping and eating and Canggu has a great chill, laid-back beach vibe if you are into that. Ubud is very commercialized but you can stay outside the Ubud center and still enjoy the rice terraces and the lush greenery. If you make it to Bali, definitely visit Sidemen – it was one of the most authentic villages I had seen around this island 🙂

  • Bonita

    This is what I have always my SEA trip to feel and look like. Unfiltered, rural and authentic. This now has to be added to the long list of places to see. I love the emotions behind the beautiful photos.

    • Mo

      Thank you Bonita 🙂 “Long List” is right! I traveled around SE Asia for a year, but haven’t even scratched the surface yet! So many places to see, so little time (and money….:-P) But the destination bucket list keeps me looking forward to the next trip!

  • Laagan Kaayo

    wow this is interesting.. I’m up for anything underrated, off the beaten path spots! and it sure doesn’t look like there are any other tourists except you. I wasn’t really super impressed with ubud last time.. it’s too commercialized. but im curious, how did you come across this place?

    • Mo

      I agree, Ubud is quite the mainstream Bali destination so it’s overpopulated and commercialized. But there are many areas a bit north of Ubud where you feel like a world away, yet accessible to the city center. I live in Bali, in the southeast region of the island. I often just hop on my bike and go exploring off-the-beaten-path spots to immerse myself in nature (and provide tips like this to my readers :))

  • Teja

    This actually looks really nice. I didn’t like Bali both times I’ve been – as a typical tourist, and then for work. There are some outstanding sights, sure, but the crowds wore me down. Getting dusted for drugs and then propositioned at the beach 5 minutes after sitting down only reminded me why I don’t like the touristy part.

    But this is very nice, and looks a lot more like what Southeast Asia is supposed to look like, in our common rural nostalgia.

    • Mo

      Hi Teja – I hear that a lot from visitors, that they were disappointed or that they were not impressed with Bali. I agree that there many places that are too commercialized, like Kuta and Legian. That’s why I try to discover these off-the-beaten-path destinations so that I can help visitors see the beautiful parts of this island that I LOVE 🙂

    • Mo

      I know, the island is huge! I have been living here for 4 years and feels like I’ve only been here 4 weeks – there are so many adventures to be had on this amazing island 🙂

  • Bidisha

    Sidemen truly looks idyllic and worth a visit. I am sure you must have had great fun and it truly shows in your post. Pinned your image for a future reference when I get a chance to visit Bali someday.

    • Mo

      Thank you Bidisha! I’m glad you found the post helpful – and I do hope you get to utilize it in your trip planning to Bali one day 😀

    • Mo

      Sidemen is definitely off the beaten path but it’s SO worth the visit! I hope you get to travel to Bali one day – it’s stunning 🙂

  • Ketki

    I am glad to know there is still a portion in Bali which is untouched from tourism. I had never heard about Sidemen before and it looks gorgeous and relaxing. I’d definitely consider this if I go to that part of the world 🙂

    • Mo

      Admittedly, peaceful and “untouched” areas are rare on Bali these days but it is still possible if you are willing to get adventurous and travel away from the masses. I hope you can use this as a guide for your trip to Bali 🙂

  • Katie Diederichs

    Oh my goodness, I’m so excited that I found this post! I am in Bali right now, and this sounds like a place I would absolutely LOVE! I hadn’t heard of Sidemen before reading this article, so thank you for all the info. Hopefully I will make it there soon 🙂

    • Mo

      Oh yay! I’m so glad you found the post while you are still in Bali! I hope you make it there too, the views are absolutely incredible and worth the trip.

  • NieNie

    This place looks so magical! I want to visit Indonesia so bad! I want to stay in those beautiful villas you shared, they look so stunning and beautiful! Great tips!

    • Mo

      Thank you NieNie! The accommodations in Indonesia are so cheap (well, cheap compared to western standards) and you can get such great value like infinity pools overlooking breathtaking views 😀 I hope you make it out to Indonesia one day!

  • Lauren

    WOW. This sounds absolutely fantastic. I’ve heard so much about Bali but always pegged it as a tourist destination for nice resorts and beaches. This sounds like something I could totally get behind though!! Hiking? Check. Community and culture? Fantastico!!

    • Mo

      Hey Lauren! Thank you for reading 🙂 I won’t lie, Bali CAN be touristy depending on where you go. But if you are willing to go off the beaten track, I think there are plenty of destinations on this island where you can still avoid massive tourism. As I hate touristy places myself, I cover mostly “hidden gems” in all my posts. I hope you find inspiration and get to see this beautiful island one day 🙂

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