Just over an hour from Ubud, Sidemen is our prettier, more rustic cousin. This sweet town and its breathtaking surrounds is very peaceful compared to Ubud and the busy southwest of Bali.
Development is creeping up of course, and I crinkled my entitled white woman's nose at the new 5-star hotel being built amongst the pristine rice fields, while venturing out of our own 5-star resort. Don't let that put you off; Sidemen is still very pastoral and will be for some years.
I recommend an overnight trip if you have the time, but a day tour from Ubud and elsewhere is easy. In this case, arrange a guided walk and/or a cycling trip around the village and have lunch at one of the warungs in town. You could fit this in with a stop at Lempuyang Temple, the Water Palace and/or Gembleng Falls which has a little plunge pool overlooking the valley.
My friend and I split a night at Wapa Di Uma when we went in 2022. It is absolutely stunning, and the (high) cost includes afternoon tea, an excellent breakfast and a free 1-hour guided walk. The other 5-star place is the Samanvaya which is purportedly excellent although often full. However there are a good number of lovely and cheaper options. Check out hotels.com then book directly with the hotel through their website or social media. The meal in the evening at Wapa di Uma was nice and inexpensive, but if you want a five-star meal you might think about booking into the renowned restaurant at the Samanvaya. There are also little warungs in town for local and super cheap food.
Your hotel will be able to help you with booking activities, but the simplest is a slow wander through the town and you will find some little rice field paths. The local farmers are ok with you trampling through their fields as long as you stick to the raised paths. If you want a photo of someone just gesture or say 'bisa photo?' Our hotel also offered a number of complimentary activities apart from the short guided walk, including a weaving and an offering making demonstration; check your hotel's website for activities. However, the paid tours will likely be more expensive than local tour companies for the options listed below.
Here are some highlights of what to do in Sidemen:
Relax and take in the view
If your hotel has a gorgeous view, sit on the balcony or by the pool and breath it in. At sunset, watch for the pure white herons crossing across the verdant green of the rice fields and jungle beyond. If your hotel is tucked away somewhere, go for a drink at one of the posher hotels at sunset, or just have a lovely cool walk around the village.
My friend and I trooped down to the river below Wapa di Uma and then went cross country through veggie and rice fields, not entirely sure that we wouldn't meet a dead end. This was a delight. The road our hotel (and most others) was on ends in a mini jungle path. There is no round trip so you'll need to turn around again when you can't seem to go any further. Its a steep walk back up the hill but the main village is at the top. There are sweet little tea shops and warungs for a drink and bite to eat along this road.
This is lovely to do as you get a better perspective from a local including some history, culture and a run down of local fauna and flora. Your hotel will likely have any option, or you can try Sidemen Tour and Trekking. You might even get taken to one of the little batik weaving factories.
I haven't done this yet but I had a friend who raved about it. Your hotel could organise it, or you can try Sidemen Adventures.
This was spectacular and you can read a seperate article about it here. The white water was more advanced that the option in Ubud, and it was super fun. It cost us less than A$35 each for 2.5 hours including lunch and I can't recommend this enough; a gorgeous way to see the countryside. We used Bukit Cili who were excellent.
WHERE TO STAY
CHEAP AND CHEERFUL
Natya River (Glamping!)