Back in 2015, I went traveling through Indonesia for a few months and fell head over heals in love with the beautiful island of Bali. As a Dutch person (and if you have ever been in the Netherlands, you will know what I mean), I love going from place to place by bike. I was thrilled when I found out Bali was a perfect island to explore by bike! I cycled through villages and rice fields in Ubud, went from Canggu to Tanah Lot and cycled my way to many beaches such as Batu Bolong and Echo Beach.
When I went back to Bali after two years I was disappointed to find it overly crowded compared to a few years ago, and it was nearly impossible to navigate from A to Z by bike. I also found out a lot of beautiful rice fields had been replaced by hotels and roads and the once so sleepy surfers paradise Canggu was filled to the brim with new restaurants, bars and shops. Even the peaceful Ubud had changed, in my opinion, into a tourist hotspot packed with tour buses.
Although change is inevitable and I am super happy for the Balinese people, whom often rely on tourism for their bread and butter, I couldn’t help but wonder where in Bali I could still find the Bali I once fell in love with. I decided to go to Sidemen, in the east of Bali. Sidemen was such a breath of fresh air! I can very well imagine Sidemen is what Ubud looked like decades ago. With its super lush rice terraces, people going about their day to day life (and never too busy to greet you with a smile) and the omnipresent silence, it’s in huge contrast with the rest of the ever buzzing towns in the south of Bali.
I can’t wait to find more gems like Sidemen in Bali, but as it turns out, Gemtrack travel already did the work for me!
Gemtrack is a team of passionate travelers who are on a mission of making slow & sustainable travel accessible to travelers from around the world. They have spent time living or traveling long-term in travel destinations like Bali, Lombok, Goa and Sri Lanka and can provide travelers with the best insider tips. Together with their team of explorers they have selected the most unique and memorable travel gems in each of their destinations.
If you are in search for an authentic Bali experience, this blog by Gemtrack is worth the read. Find out more about some of the off the beaten track travel gems on the beautiful island, ready for you to explore.
From Sidemen to Sumberkima: These Lesser Known Areas in Bali Should Be On Your List
Outside of the cluster of tourist attractions and repeated circuits, there is a fresh, raw and inspiring side to Bali that most travelers rarely get to see. After gliding through the oft talked about spots, it is great to sojourn to some offbeat areas and explore Bali in a slightly unconventional way! Not only will you truly feel the magic energy of the island, but you will have the most authentic experiences. Here are some of our favourite areas!
Sidemen, in Karangasem
Getting lost in the green valleys of Sidemen is a great idea! Most people here live from agriculture and tourism is quite a novelty in most of the villages. The area is great for long, relaxing walks through the rice paddies. Many locals around Sidemen are glad to give travelers an insight into their life and culture.
We urge you to pack your daypack and explore the surroundings of Sidemen by foot. Many say that this is what Ubud used to be like 25 years ago. Rice terraces, smiling children playing in the street, the occasional little warung serving up nasi campur and just blissful, endless silence.
Balian, in Tabanan
The wide and seemingly endless beaches of Balian are great for long walks. What’s so unique about these beaches is that on one hand you can find the ocean and on the other lush green rice paddies! What makes the view of the ocean even more exciting are the surfers scattered around the line-up of some of Bali’s roughest and toughest waves.
Tip: Surfer-watching in Balian might almost be as fun as people-watching! Why don’t you try it out?
Our favourite place to stay in Balian: Shankari
Medewi, in Jembrana
The villages on the west coast of Bali feel nothing like the busy, tourist packed towns down south. You’ll feel like slowing down considerably once you set foot in towns like the small surfer town of Medewi. The beaches on this side of the island are primarily black sanded and are blessed with a consistently good swell attracting the more adventurous surfers. The waves that reach Medewi are some of the longest breaks in Bali. It is even mentioned by some that visiting Medewi is like setting foot in Bali of the 1970’s, before the arrival of mass tourism. Guess it’s time to find out for yourself!
Our favourite place to stay in Medewi: Medewi Surf Homestay
Jatiluwih, in Tabanan
The endless rice paddies of the Unesco World Heritage site of Jatiluwih are an incredible visual and natural spectacle, stretching over the mountain region into the distance. The cultivation of rice and the water management in Bali are rather ingenious and unique to the island, which is exactly why it’s been protected by UNESCO. Depending on the time of year, you might be so lucky to experience the plantation or harvesting process.
Jatiluwih rice terraces
Munduk, in North Bali
Run by a quirky, friendly Balinese family, Natural View House is their attempt to bring the best of Balinese nature and culture to travelers. Lisna, the mother of the household, gives cooking classes which start with a walk through the local market and the farms, where you go to pick up fresh, local produce and then learn to make simple, homely Balinese dishes. Mirei, the little genius daughter will take you on long walks through the rice fields and introduce you to the village children.
She will tell you everything about what life in Bali is like!
When visiting the North of Bali, you’ll want to enjoy Munduk: a place for scenic viewpoints, tiny villages, waterfalls and the ideal area to escape the heat! Because of the cooler climate and fertile volcanic soil, Munduk is great for visiting different kinds of plantations; coffee is a popular crop here. One impressive marvel that is worth a visit is the giant Banyan tree just outside of Munduk in the village of Gesing.
Our favourite place to stay in Munduk: Ekommunity
Sumberkima, in North West Bali
North West Bali is one of the few remaining frontiers of ecological wonder. From waterfalls to jungles to hills to coral reef systems – the region is absolutely thriving in wilderness! North West Bali is probably the best spot to travel to if you are looking for a more quiet and authentic Bali experience.
The feeling that the area of Sumberkima gives you has proven to be perfect for artists looking to get inspired. And for travelers interested in sustainability projects: the village of Sumberkima is working hard to restore ecological and cultural integrity. From lush landscapes to authentic culture, from delectable food to welcoming people, this is North West Bali!
Our favourite place to stay in Sumberkima: Sumberkima Hill
Menjangan Island, in North West Bali
In North West Bali you will also find Pulau Menjangan (Deer Island), an uninhabited island, surrounded by coral reef. The island is situated in the protected marine reserve of Barat National Park and has a diverse ecology. Most visitors claim that this is their favourite snorkelling spot in Bali, due to the pristine marine life and gentle currents. You can reach the island by boat in approximately 30 minutes from Labuan Lalang harbour. Just visit the harbour and organize your trip there!
Would you like more valuable tips for Bali? You can download the Slow & Sustainable Travel Guide to Bali for free!
Photography by Gemtrack