Escaping into the less-explored parts of Bali will provide you with stunning scenery, local culture and tradition. And to the heart of Bali and its people. Is it time to get off the beaten path and explore the little known sides of Bali? Here are our top picks in the east for an escape to the unknown. The best Bali holiday adventure.
Sidemen: Escape To The Authentic Bali
If you are looking for the untouched, more traditional local feel of the island, Sidemen has everything you need. Being the closest of our top picks to the main tourist areas of Bali, it is easy for you to explore if you only have a few days.
Sidemen (pronounced See-de-men) is a valley town located in east Bali. Home to authentic Balinese villages, arts and culture, rivers and a famous volcano. It is described as the old Bali, the Bali before everyone and their dog came to visit. Before it was overrun with cafes, smoothie bowls, yoga shalas…and Instagram.
So once you are here, what do you do in the unknown east?
The drive through the valley alone is worth the trip. Winding through traditional villages and past lush green rice fields will have you wanting to explore more. You can marvel at Mount Agung, stroll around local villages and experience the tradition of Ikat weaving.
If you are an early riser, a visit to the local market should not be missed. You can visit temples and even an ancient village, one of the oldest villages in Bali. And of course, explore the beautiful rice fields.
You won’t need to travel far to experience traditional local villages, that is what Sidemen Valley is. Traditional villages. All you need to do is walk outside your villa and you will see locals going about their life in a way that is reminiscent of old Bali. Not much has changed here over the years.
Women wear traditional dress, men tend the crops and children wander to and from school. There is only local traffic so wandering the winding roads isn’t a risky adventure. You also won’t find any instagrammable cafes…but you didn’t come here for that anyway. It is quiet and friendly, as you would imagine a small local Balinese village to be.
Head further afield and you will discover Tenganan Ancient Village. It is an hour drive from Sidemen but on the way to Amed if you are planning on that as your next stop. But still doable as a day trip from Sidemen Valley. Tenganan is truly an escape to the unknown.
Tenganan Village was once known to be one of the most secluded societies in the archipelago. And they still hold true to this in some way. The local people of this village are Bali Aga, meaning the original Balinese. And only people who were born in the village are allowed to live there and be part of their community.
One of the rarest and most valuable Indonesian textiles is made in Tenganan. There are many types of Ikat weaving in Bali. The Geringsing is the most notable being a double-ikat cloth. The warp and weft threads are tied and dyed independently.
What makes this work so special, and a must-see, is the fact that this technique is only used in parts of India, Japan and Indonesia. And in Indonesia, it is confined to one village, Tenganan.
Sidemen is home to traditional Balinese Ikat weaving. Tenganan might hold the most valuable weaving technique title, but Sidemen should not be overlooked.
You will notice everyone in this village wears a traditional sarong. And they are made by traditional Endek or Songket weaving techniques. There are three main weaving plants in Sidemen. You can see firsthand the technique used and the work that goes into these fabrics.
What makes Ikat weaving different is the yarn. It is dyed before being woven into cloth. Whereas with other techniques, the final cloth is dyed after being woven. You can see this work at Pelangi, Arta Nadi and Swastika which are all located on the main road in Sidemen.
When thinking about local markets, don’t think of those in Thailand and Vietnam. The local markets in the sleepy town of Sidemen are a bit more subdued. But a lot more authentic. Like most local markets in Asia, they kick off early, so make sure to get there around 7am and no later than 9am.
The rice fields around Sidemen might not have the wow factor of the bigger and more popular ones. But this only makes them feel more authentic. Because Sidemen is still rarely visited by tourists, they are also relatively quiet.
The best way to experience the rice fields around Sidemen is to hire a local guide. They will show you through local villages and across rivers. You can get a really good sense of traditional working rice fields. Without the throng of tourists. Even better, you will have stunning views of Mount Agung during your walk.
Once you have explored Sidemen, if you have more time, the next town on your list should be Amed. Why not continue your Bali holiday adventure?
Amed: Explore Shipwrecks and Volcano Temples
A little more touristy than Sidemen, the beach town of Amed still has a very quiet local feel about it. Many expats call Amed home. The main things that bring people here are snorkelling, diving, seafood and of course Mount Agung.
Mount Agung and Besakih Temple
Much of Mount Agung is for hiking, but that doesn’t mean it is still not worth a visit!
One hour drive from Amed, you will reach Besakih Temple. Situated on the slopes of Mount Agung, it is the most important and largest Hindu temple in Bali. Sitting 1,000 metres up the side of Agung, it is a huge complex made up of 23 separate temples.
Being the most important temple in Bali, regardless of what day you visit, you will get to experience Balinese Hindus, who travel from all over the island, as they come to pray and give offerings. If there is only one temple to visit on your trip, this is definitely the most special.
Snorkelling and Diving
Amed is one of the top destinations in Indonesia for diving and snorkelling. And with incredible underwater life just off the shore, it makes it very easy to experience.
The main town of Amed has a few notable snorkelling and diving areas. Head a little further north to Tulamben and you can experience the USAT Liberty Wreck. The wreck is teeming with life and is quite close to the surface so snorkellers get just as good a view.
For something a little different, why not book a spearfishing excursion! Spend a day cruising the waters around Amed, freediving and catching your dinner! Seafood doesn’t get fresher than that.
If the above wasn’t enough to make you think about a visit to Amed, if you are a seafood lover, then that might. The waters around Amed are teeming with fish and they are caught and cooked fresh every day.
The beaches are lined with local warungs grilling up the day’s catch. And a lot of them have the perfect view for a Mount Agung sunset. Prices are reasonable with fish and side dishes for around 100.000IDR. And did I mention how fresh it was?
There isn’t much else to do in this sleepy town, but that should be the reason you visit. All you need to do is spend your days wandering along the beach, swimming, snorkelling and eating a lot of fresh seafood. With a couple of sundowners. Sounds like our idea of heaven!
We hope you enjoyed the first blog in our Escape To The Unknown Series. We would love to know if you have visited these areas before or are they on your Bali travel list? If you still have more time to explore, keep an eye out for our next blog when we take you north to Lovina and Munduk for your next unique Bali holiday adventure.
Written By: Angela Rogers