Fancy an escape to nature? Head east to Sideman Valley for a taste of “real Bali” - volcanoes, rice fields and not a beach club in sight!
A far cry from the bustle of South Bali’s beach clubs and bars, Sideman Valley in East Bali is a verdant, undiscovered landscape of emerald green rice terraces, soaring volcanoes, traditional villages and working farms – a nostalgic flashback to the Bali of yesteryear.
The climate in this abundant valley is a little cooler compared to Bali’s sun-soaked coastline, making it the perfect temperature to visit mountain-top temples, adventure through jungle-fringed rice fields and trek to the summit of active volcanoes – not to mention slip into a warm bubble bath in one of Sideman’s five-star resorts…
Oh yes, despite Sideman Valley’s off-the-grid address, this charming neighbourhood is home to some of the most breathtaking resorts around. You won’t find any high-rise hotels or blaring beach clubs here, but what you will find is a humble collection of boutique destinations, consciously built using all-natural materials.
Pair this with a handful of cultural excursions, some paddock-to-plate dining experiences and plenty of outdoorsy adventures, and you’ve got yourself the perfect Sideman itinerary. Here’s our top picks on where to stay, eat and play in this peaceful East Bali ‘hood.
SIDEMAN VALLEY GUIDE: Where to stay in Sideman
1. Samanvaya Luxury Resort & Spa
Sitting in the heart of Sideman’s verdant green valley, Samanvaya Luxury Resort & Spa is an adults-only boutique destination that’s all about merging nature with Balinese culture. Not only are the “Lumbung” villas made from all-natural local materials (think traditional thatched roofs and breathtaking bamboo structures) the refined services and excursions here are carefully curated to show off Sideman’s true charm. Visit sacred temples, meet local families, experience village life and learn all about Bali’s ceremonies and traditions – all the while lapping up the many luxuries of this sublime five-star resort…
Head slightly out of Sideman Valley and you’ll find Hideout – an Insta-famous collection of bamboo homes that are as eco-friendly as they are jaw-dropping (our fave is the two-bedroom Hideout Horizon). Designed as a place to unplug and kick off your shoes as you listen to the sounds of nature, these open-air eco-lodges let you truly immerse in Bali’s great outdoors. We love the bamboo swings, oversized hammocks and stone bathtubs – just don’t forget to bring a good book.
Another eco-friendly Insta-phenomenon is Camaya, approximately 20 minutes from Sideman’s central valley. Made up of five fabulous bamboo abodes, Camaya is what off-the-grid jungle-luxe dreams were made of. Here you’ll find suspended lounges that overlook Mount Agung, outdoor showers for bathing beneath the stars, and open-air cuddle corners stacked with comfy pillows…
4. Patal Kikian Villas
Home to what is arguably the very best view of Mount Agung, Patal Kikian Villas is a humble Balinese resort in the centre of Sideman Valley. With its stunning infinity pool that looks out over Bali’s majestic volcano, waking up here is really something special. And sunsets on the deck are out of this world too…
5. Villa Sing Ken Ken
A beautiful guesthouse with private poolside suites, we loved our stay Villa Sing Ken Ken. The outdoor dining terrace is where we spent most of our days, soaking up the views of the surrounding hillside, the glittering infinity pool and the villa’s own rice fields and organic gardens. The rooms are bright and breezy for those lazy days indoors, and there’s even a poolside spa for when only a blissful Balinese massage will do.
SIDEMAN VALLEY GUIDE: Where to eat in Sideman
1. Asri Dining
Sitting within the stunning grounds of Samanvaya Luxury Resort & Spa, Asri Dining is the signature restaurant of this top-pick Sideman stay. Housed within a breathtaking open-air structure surrounded by tropical gardens and draped in lush foliage, the menu here follows a paddock-to-plate philosophy, with many of the seasonal, local ingredients coming direct from the resort’s very own garden. Graze on scrummy nibbles with spectacular views over the rice fields, or go all-out with a multi-course dinner with wine and cocktails. A Balinese curry with a vino and a view? You betcha.
2. Amrita Villa & Cafe
You’ll spot this quaint and cute cafe by its shabby-chic exteriors and roadside sign that lures you in with the promise of great coffee. Well my fellow caffeine addicts, I can confirm that the locally-owned Amrita Cafe delivers on this promise. They also serve up great breakfasts (try the yummy granola), lovely light meals (including vegan cake!) and awesome views of Mount Agung – not to mention wonderful conversations with the cafe’s owner, Nyoman. Ask him about his favourite Sideman hotspots – he’s a wealth of local knowledge.
3. Sleeping Gajah Kitchen & Lounge
For an ultra-luxe dining experience, head to the open-air restaurant within Sideman’s five-star resort, Wapa Di Ume. The restaurant looks out over panoramic views of the hillside, serenaded by the natural sounds of Sideman’s Unda river. Quality cuisine is the name of the game here, with everything from Indonesian staples to western favourites and some very special signature dishes too.
SIDEMAN VALLEY GUIDE: Things to do in Sideman
1. Scale Sideman’s rice terraces
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to exploring Bali’s rice fields in Sideman. The village is quite literally surrounded by them, but of course, the Sideman Rice Terraces are the most famous (and the most accessible). The best way to scale these emerald-green icons? Head out on a walking tour to hike through jungle, across rivers and trek to the top terraces. The views are truly breathtaking, right across the sunken green valley and out toward the volcanic horizon. Dreamy!
2. Visit the traditional weaving workshops
Textiles and ceremonial cloths have been at the forefront of Bali’s traditions for thousands of years, and in Sideman, you can visit some of the island’s oldest weaving workshops. The most famous is the Pelangi workshop, where you can witness the weaving of the Balinese “Endek” cloth, which is indigenous to Sideman and was once reserved for Balinese nobles. Watch as hand-looms clack and clap, weaving length-upon-length of vegetable-dyed threads, forming the beautifully distinctive geometric patterns of Endek. And the best bit? You can then buy these cloths to take home with you after!
3. Hike Mount Batur at sunrise
While the closest volcano to Sideman is the sacred Mount Agung, a hike to the top of this fiercely active volcano isn’t for the faint hearted (I’ve tried it once, and I honestly don’t think I could face it again!). Instead, travel slightly further afield to Mount Batur for the ever-famous sunrise hike. Almost anyone with moderate fitness can hike to the top of Mount Batur in as little as one hour (or take it easy and summit within 2 hours). You’ll leave Sideman at around 2am in the morning, summiting just before sunrise. Trust us when we say the early morning wake-up call is absolutely worth it. Our top tip? Take a tour that includes breakfast at the top, return transfers and tickets to the park. We went with Samanvaya’s Relax & Climb package, and it was perfect!
4. Bike around the valley
Disclaimer: we were too lazy to ride a push-bike up and down Sideman’s hilly valley, so we hired a scooter to do the hard work for us. Whether you go sans-motor or not, biking around Sideman is an absolute must. With every twist and turn of the valley roads, a brand new and breathtaking vista unveils. Volcanoes to your left, rivers to your right, and charming Balinese villages all around. Go slow to really soak in the leisurely pace of life in Sideman…
5. Follow the yellow bridge road
If you’ve already crossed the iconic yellow bridge on Nusa Lembongan, you’ll want to check out Sideman’s smaller sibling. This rickety bridge crosses over the Telaga Waja river, which rushes from the slopes of Mount Agung, Bali’s highest volcano. With its wide rocky bank lined by jungly thicket, it’s a lovely spot for a quick photo op.
6. Go white-water rafting
With one of the best rafting rivers running right through the valley, a white-water rafting experience should be on every Sideman itinerary. The starting point for the raft expedition is just a short drive outside of Sideman, which gives you up to 14km of wild rapids to ride. The rapids range from grade 3 to 4 depending on the season, so if you’re not up for such an exhilarating experience, opt for a tour along the banks instead, surrounded by magnificent mountains and rice fields.