21 Sep The Hidden Gems of Bali Away from the Tourist Hotspots
Bali is made up of four islands, the island of Bali and three smaller islands off the southeastern coast; Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningen. For such a small country Bali offers a vast array of places to visit and things to do from off the beaten path traditional villages to verdant forests, jungles and rice fields, ancient temples, towering waterfalls and monkey forests. Activities can include boat trips, spiritual blessings, retreats, volcano hikes, white water rafting, cycling, cooking classes, shopping, beach clubs and so much more.
If you are looking to explore further then the islands of Lombok, Java, Flores (for access to Komodo National Park), Sumba and many more islands are all accessible from Bali and offer something unique and different. For our trip to Indonesia we choose to combine Bali with the remote island of Sumba.
During our 10 days in Bali we explored Southern, Central and Eastern Bali. Our first stay was at a luxury eco resort called Nirjhara which is located partly in a lush jungle and partly alongside a beautiful waterfall with views of rice fields beyond. It is conveniently located in the region of Tanah Lot, home to one of Bali’s most iconic temples. So conveniently located we could hop on one of the hotel’s bikes and cycle through the traditional neighbouring villages to get to the famous Tanah Lot Temple. Going early in the morning is highly recommended before the bus loads of visitors arrive. Nirjhara is also conveniently located close to Kedungu Beach, also a short bike ride away.
From Nirjhara we headed east to Sidemen located in the south-eastern Karangasem Regency. Sidemen is one of Bali’s little explored hidden gems with small villages, less traffic (compared to other parts of Bali) and endless rice fields and valleys with Mount Agung dominating the scenery. Here we stayed at the lovely Samanvaya, a beautifully designed hotel with traditional but luxurious architecture, two infinity pools suspended over the rice terraces, a spa and a fantastic restaurant. Samanvaya is located in the heart of Sidemen Valley and is well placed for visiting local villages, authentic cooking experiences and rice field picnics and walks.
One of our highlights of the trip (there were many) was a private Balinese cooking class at the Green Kitchen, an open air kitchen surrounded by an organic farm and breathtaking countryside. The chef and staff were so welcoming it was great experience for all the family to get stuck in and to cook together with local produce.
After our stay in the Sidemen Valley we headed to Capella Ubud. A refined and luxury tented camp located in the lush green forests alongside the sacred Wos River in Keliki Village, about half an hour from the centre of Ubud. Our over river tents were enormous with large outdoor decks, a private pool and indoor and outdoor bathrooms. The boys loved the “Officer’s Tent” living room where at dusk we played pool and sampled the carefully curated cocktails.
On our bucket list of activities in Bali was the sunset hike up Mount Batur, an active volcano and UNESCO heritage site. Hiking on an active volcano was something none of us had done before and the scenery around Mount Batur was absolutely stunning and did not disappoint. Whilst most people tend to do it at sunrise we choose not to get up at two thirty in the morning and join the crowds but have a less busy experience at sunset. From Capella we headed to the remote island of Sumba. You can read more about our trip to here.
From Sumba we returned to Bali and for our last night I choose one of the “grande dames” of Bali hotels, the Legian Seminyak. This beautifully furnished all-suite hotel set in landscaped tropical gardens with unrivalled views across the Indian Ocean certainly has a sense of place in a quiet enclave in Seminyak and was the perfect hotel to spend our last night at in Bali. Our two bedroom suite was enormous and the service impeccable, I just wished we had been able to stay longer.
We could of spent so much longer exploring Bali and it’s neighbouring islands and whilst we covered good ground during our time there we need to go back and explore further.
Helen visited Bali with her family in August 2023.