Sideman (pronounced si de man — not side man) is one of those hidden-away Bali retreats that really is, well, just enchanting. Set a 45-minute drive inland from Padang Bai and an hour from Candi Dasa, Sideman straddles one of the many agricultural valleys that form the ramp up to the imposing peak of volcanic Gunung Agung.
Sidemen area is one of the greatest places in Bali that has strong spiritual aura is Sidemen Valley that located at Karangasem regency East of Bali province. There are many temples of Hindu Bali, the majority religion of Balinese people, located in these villages. This village located at the valley, surround of many hill and most of the area is a rice fields that irrigate by Subak, the Balinese traditional water system for rice field. The housing area separated with the field area, the housing area located at the right side from the road, and the field area located at the left side, that make this village very unique. The area is famous for stunning scenery, and a simple, traditional way of life, “peaceful”.
Despite the overdevelopment on the island this unique area in east Bali still has the feeling as if not much has changed. The small villages are surrounded by rice fields and agricultural land while people still tend to their fields; prepare ceremonies at the temples and head to the rivers for a bath towards the end of the day. All under the watchful eye of the impressive and sacred Mount Agung. More and more travelers are discovering this tranquil place, particularly nature lovers. Bali hiking trails and paths take you along rice fields, mountains, through the valleys of the Unda river and many coffee and cocoa plantations which dominate this area.
Sidemen village has produced masters of Balinese literature and Hindu theology, as well as generations of skillful weavers. For decades, or perhaps millennium, Sidemen have also served as a secluded heaven for the world-weary. All castes of traditional Balinese Hindu society are represented here: Brahmana live in Geria, Ksatria in Palace, Waisya in jero, and Sudra in their own house, and there is also a small Muslim populations that the descent of former the soldier of Karangasem palace from Lombok Island when the Karangasem Palace subjugate it, which has long coexisted harmoniously with their Hindu neighbors.
Things to do
Sidemen’s rice fields provide beautiful hiking possibilities. So hiking is the first thing you are likely to do here. But there is more to this green village, making it pretty easy to spend a couple of days.
Rice field (sawah) walk
You can’t really avoid not hiking through the rice fields as you are pretty much surrounded by them. But a local guide can take you along the small trekking trails, through the fields and past the villages giving you great insight on how daily life takes place in Sidemen. Sidemen is also an ideal place to start organizing a hike to the summit of the volcano Agung or to do day trips to other cultural sights in East Bali. But the best thing is the fact that it is still easy to just go for walks along the many paths and see things such as a duck herd guiding his flock, a priest carrying offerings to the nearby temple and children walking hand in hand from school.
Many hikers head to Selat to organize their trip to the summit of Mount Agung. But if you want to combine your hike with a stay in Sidemen then you can arrange all the necessary permits and transportation here too.
Traditional Ikat and other cultural activities
At Sidemen you can still find many places where they make a fine textile called the “ikat” and the “songket“. There are houses with ikat demo written on it welcoming you to pop in to have a look how it’s been done.
With all the rivers flowing through this area it comes as no surprise that there are many rafting companies. Most of the rafting adventures start of at the nearby village of Rendang.
There are also possibilities to raft down the Telaga Waja river which starts at the impressive Mount Agung. Rafting gives you the opportunity to get an adrenalin shot but also to see Bali from a different angle.
Short day trips:
Despite its location amid the valley and rice fields Sidemen is not that far from Candidasa and Padangbai. You can easily go on a drive to these beach villages and enjoy a lunch with ocean view.
Other great beach to enjoy some sun and water is Bias Tugal and Pasir Putih. Once you are on the road try to stop at one of the sites such as Tirta Gangga, Taman Ujung Water Palace or the ancient village of Tenganan. We really enjoy taking the road via Muncun, a tiny mountain village between Candidasa and Sidemen.
How to get there:
The quickest way to reach Sidemen is driving through Klungkung and from there taking the road to Sidemen, which is located in the Karangasem regency. If you are coming from the east then follow the signs to Selat and Besakih and then take the turn to Putung. The drive to Sidemen is already a short day trip with optional stops at Besakih, Rendang and Klungkung.