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Sidemen, Bali Overview

Sidemen is a valley in east Bali known for its rich cottage industries and lush rice fields. Pronounced ‘see-da-men’, it is a fairly traditional village in the Karangasem region. It isn’t known for its wild parties or thrilling activities, instead, it boasts of an insight into local Balinese life like producing traditional books, manufacturing the local palm drink called ‘arak’, clothes weaving, and exploring agricultural life.

Sidemen is home to a predominantly Hindu population with a small Muslim population that descended from the Karangasam kingdom in modern-day Amlapura. Sidemen has both temples and mosques, but the most noteworthy temple is Pura Besakih at the foot of Mount Agung. It has an authentic, relaxed environment amongst lush fields you can explore on foot or cycle and a warm sense of community that is open to tourists.

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Things to Do in Sidemen

Hiking & Trekking: Because of its plethora of rice fields, paddy, and green hills, Sidemen offers pleasant walking trails for the adventurous traveller. There are neighbourhood guides you can hire to take you around Sidemen and offer insights into everyday life and agriculture here. For more of a challenge, there are hiking trails in and around the area, especially at Mount Agung, to be explored.

Visit the Weaving Centres: This region is home to some of the most popular weaving centres in Bali. There are three major weaving plants in Sidemen: Arta Nadi, Swastika, and Pelangi. They are known for this region’s traditional endek or songket weaving techniques. These techniques are intricate and time-consuming – even a sarong can take months to be finished. A tour of the weaving plants at Sidemen will give you a first-hand look at the intricate weaving process.

Visit Traditional Bookstores: Sidemen contains book stores that still use the traditional book-making procedures, producing books from palm leaves and bamboo. When you visit these stores, you’ll get to watch how the text is carved into the dried leaf, then rubbed with a mixture of oils to make the scratchings visible, then bound together and bookended with bamboo. Most of these traditional Balinese books store sacred Hindu texts in Sanskrit.

Enjoy Local Music: If you’re interested in music, you would love to catch a performance by Sidemen’s local music group. They perform genjek, a traditional music form from east Bali that follows a quick beat (almost similar to hip-hop). It is a male-dominated art form and even includes a dance-off between the male members.

Shopping: There’s a traditional local market in Sidemen that offers a traditional Balinese shopping experience. It opens as early as 6:00 AM and shuts down by 10:00 AM. From food stalls serving hot breakfast and local delicacies to fruit, vegetable and meat vendors, it can get quite busy with locals bustling about buying their groceries. The local market is located on Sidemen’s main road.

Local Cuisine in Sidemen Valley

Most of the meal options in Sidemen are found in warungs and restaurants. They specialize in local Indonesian food like pisang goring (fried bananas), nasi goring (fried rice), satay, and babi guling (suckling pig). These are cheap and delicious food options starting at IDR 30,000. This region is known for the manufacturing of a palm drink called ‘arak’. Arak is a type of toddy that can be further refined into palm wine. You’ll find plenty of little industries producing this throughout the village. It can be quite strong, mind you, but it’s worth a try!

Warung Deva serves Balinese food in a more professional environment. Their prices start at around IDR 100,000. Meanwhile, Café Amrita is a bed and breakfast in Tabola that’s well known for their coffee and granola bowls. Other quick food options include Warung Organic, Warung Damuh, and Warung Melita.

Best Time to Visit Sidemen

Sidemen sees the greatest footfall in the months of March to June. Because of this, hotel prices and ticket prices can be more expensive than usual, but this can be curbed by making your bookings much in advance. The best time to visit Sidemen is from May to October when the humidity starts to diminish and you can calmly enjoy your time here. The least humid month is August.

Getting Around Sidemen Village

Because of the infrequency of buses and public transport in this area, it can be difficult to get around especially since most of the tourist accommodation and restaurants are in Tabola village. The best solution is to hire a motorcycle or a taxi for your travels in Sidemen. There are plenty of tour agencies that offer these services. Motorcycles would start at around IDR 50,000 per day while taxis would charge prices starting at IDR 150,000. Don’t hesitate to clarify prices and negotiating beforehand.

Tips While Visiting Sidemen

1. It’s advisable to dress respectfully while visiting Sidemen such as covering shoulders and knees.
2. Look into reports of Mount Agung before visiting. Although Sidemen is outside the danger zone near the volcano, it can be difficult to find drivers or buses going to Sidemen if the volcano has been active.

How To Reach Sidemen

Sidemen Valley is located in Karangasem Regency, the ‘agrarian bowl’ of villages surrounding Mount Agung, an active volcano, in eastern Bali. It is around 53 kilometres (1 and a half hours) from Ngurah Rai International Airport and 50 kilometres (1 hour 15 minutes) from North Kuta. The popular tourist area of Ubud is 31 kilometres (1 hour) away. 

To reach Sidemen, you will have to drive through Klungklung with elective stops at Besakih, Rendang, or Klungklung. You can rent motorbikes for around IDR 50,000 per day to reach the valley, alternatively you can rent a taxi. This would charge around IDR 300,000 to IDR 400,000 from Ubud or Kuta while a taxi from Pemuteran or Singaraja would cost anywhere between IDR 500,000 to IDR 800,000.

Public transport like buses is scarce to Sidemen Valley. There are some shuttle buses that operate between Klungklung and Sidemen, but they cater to locals attending the traditional Sidemen market and finish operations by 10:00 AM.

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