Bali

5 Sights in East Bali That’ll Take Your Breath Away

A GUIDE TO SIDEMAN, BALI IN ONE DAY

It’s only fitting there’s a location called, ‘The Gates of Heaven’ on the Island of the Gods.

Home to some of the most beautiful sights on the island with Mount Agung, Bali’s largest active volcano towering in the distance, East Bali remains relatively untrodden. In comparison, at least, to the more frequently visited Ubud, Canggu, Kuta, Seminyak and Nusa Dua.

There are so many incredible things to do in East Bali, but many visitors overlook it. This means a lot of the attractions are less crowded than temples, waterfalls or beaches you’ll find elsewhere.

Sideman, in particular, quickly stole my heart. The only reason I haven’t stayed in this part of Bali for longer than a day?

I come to Bali to work, and while there’s WiFi in Sideman, the strength can be a bit unreliable. If you’re just here to holiday, all the more reason to spend some time in East Bali- relaxation nearly off the grid.

The region is one of my favorite areas on the island, and somewhere I hope to spend more time on return trips to Bali.

I’ve visited East Bali twice- once as part of a sightseeing day trip, and another time to spend the night at a beautiful villa. On the second visit, there wasn’t much time to sight-see, but we managed to sneak in a few sights early morning before heading to the airport to make a late afternoon flight.

A Guide to Sideman: 5 Sights in East Bali That’ll Take Your Breath Away

Pura Lempuyang (The Gateway to Heaven) 

Calling this temple Instagram famous would be an understatement. These beautiful temple gates and mirrored reflection with Mount Agung in the background have been a well recognised image on accounts from anyone who has ventured to Bali.

One of the most well known attractions on the entire island of Bali, it’s definitely a place worth visiting.

If you’re just coming for that Insta shot though, be prepared to wait upwards for 1.5-2+ hours. I enjoyed wandering the temple complex, and seeing more of the grounds. It’s one of Bali’s holiest temples, and actually, several temples- six of them, to be exact. There’s quite a bit to see, so you could easily spend a few hours here just wandering around, aside from just coming for the iconic photo.

Do note, only Balinese can enter the temples. They’re sacred to them, and as such, they try to protect them. You can go right up to them, but not inside.

Normally, I’d advise coming first thing in the morning but other people have figured out that trick, so waits can be just as long early in the day.

And, most mornings, it can take some time for the clouds to clear. So, if you come too early, you may not even see the view the temple is famous for.

On the day I visited, we arrived at 8 am. By the time I got in line, it was nearing 8:30. I waited just over 1.5 hours for a photo, which I was totally fine with since it was a cloudy, overcast morning.

Around 9:30 am, the clouds started to lift, and the view became absolutely magnificent. When it was time for my photo, I couldn’t have been happier with the scenery.

Before visiting this temple, I did a bit of research, so I wasn’t left disappointed by the imagery trick clever locals employ to make an already beautiful temple truly jaw-dropping.

Some people though, who just see a photo on Instagram and then decide to visit without any further research are upset when they realize the reflection in front of the gates isn’t a lake, but actually a mirror trick locals perform when taking a photo of you in front of the gates.

I think it’s quite funny, and give them kudos for figuring out a way to drive even more interest in visiting such an important Balinese sight. And, with so much of Balinese tourism being foreign profit, I actually applaud a team of locals for figuring out a way to earn a bit of cash on their own terms.

The queue didn’t bother me- I’d brought a book and expected a wait.

I also found the whole production of photo taking quite entertaining to watch. When it’s your turn for a photo, you’ll likely have 3-5 chances to pose for shots. I liked watching what other people did for ideas while I waited.

If you’re short on time though, and trying to see many things in one day, I can understand why you’d be irritated by waiting so long for a photo. In which case, may be best to skip Pura Lempuyang.

If you decide to visit, there’s no entry fee but you will have to rent a sarong, as is customary at all Balinese temples. Expect to pay 10-20k (<$1 USD) for sarong rental.

Tirta Gangga, The Water Temple

Once a royal residence, this water temple is now known for its various ponds and fountains.

The most unique feature of the complex are the large stepping stones located throughout the main pond. You’re free to walk on them, which lets you explore right beside the water’s edge.

Almost immediately, you’ll notice huge Koi fish in the pond. You can buy fish food to feed them, and even though I did, I regret that action now.

These fish see hundreds of visitors daily- all who want a chance to feed them. No wonder they’re so huge!

Besides the main pond, there are smaller ponds with huge lily pads, lush gardens, and beautiful fountains to admire

Cost to enter: 30k IDR (~$2.10 USD), no sarong rental needed

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Bukit Cinta

Stunning any time of the day, especially at sunrise, this viewpoint from the side of the road is worth a quick pull-over.

The soft morning light over the countryside landscape, rice terraces and towering volcano in the distance is absolutely incredible.

You can park your bike (or car) by the side of the road and walk past the banana trees, down towards the tall grass to where the view opens up.

Bukit Cinta photo credit: Digital Travel Couple

Taman Ujung Water Palace 

The sister temple to Tirta Gangga, it’s one of the lesser known things to do in east Bali. Much larger than Tirta Gangga, and without as many crowds, time spent exploring the unique stone structure and beautiful gardens is sure to be relaxing.

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Taman Ujung Water Palace photo credit: Lush to Blush

Tukad Cepung Waterfall

Although I’ve never been to this waterfall, I’ve heard it was a hidden gem until Instagram recently made it famous- which can pretty much be said for most of Bali.

After short hike from the parking lot (15-20 minutes), you’ll find a cave, which you climb through to reach an opening where sunlight streams in and a waterfall pours down.

In the rainy season, it’s not recommended to visit Tukad Cepung, as water levels can be quite high. I’ve also heard accounts of needing to wade through water to reach the waterfall opening, depending on time of year, so I’d recommend wearing trainers or waterproof hiking sandals.

Tukad Cepung photo credit: Digital Travel Couple

Three Bonus Recommendations

Friends who’ve spent more time in East Bali also recommend stopping at the Blue Lagoon Beach (quieter than some of Bali’s other beaches, and with water that’s a bit bluer than what you’ll find on the west coast).

I’ve also heard lovely things about the Bukit Lemped tree houses, which you can stay in or stop by to explore if you’re in the area. There’s a suspension bridge in particular that offers stunning views of the surrounding rice terraces and valley.

And, while a sunrise hike of Mount Batur is possible from any starting point in the main parts of Bali, you’ll spend less time in transit if you leave from east Bali. Mount Batur is Bali’s second tallest active volcano. A sunrise trek takes 1-2 hours to reach the summit at 1,717 meters. Worth noting, Mount Agung is currently closed to trekking, due to active volcano activity.

Mount Batur photo credit: Girl Eat World

Tips for a Day Trip To East Bali

Only have one day to see the best of East Bali?
Start early, like 4:30 or 5 am early.

This ensures you’ll make it to at least one sight for opening when it’s likely to be less crowded. And, depending on time of sunrise, may have time to stop to watch that as well.

A perfect one day itinerary for me would include:
Early start from Ubud (4:30 am)
-Reach Bukit Cintra for sunrise
-Visit Tirta Gangga when it opens at 8 am
-Then, go to Pura Lempuyang
-And then, pending time, either head to the Taman Ujung Water Palace or Tukad Cepung waterfall. If you get lucky with queues at Lempuyang, you may be able to do both

I’d recommend visiting Tirta Gangga before Lempuyang because it’s only a ~15 minute drive from the temple, and if you’re there when it first opens, it’ll be quieter and more enjoyable than later in the day. Most people visit these stops in reverse order, so Tirta Gangga becomes quite crowded as the morning and day goes on and people leave Lempuyang.

Day tours on Airbnb will run you $60+ USD per person, but may have additional suggestions for stops at jungle swings or coffee plantations.

If it were me, I’d hire a private driver and direct them where to go. Many of these other activities can be experienced on a day spent exploring the area around Ubud, leaving you more time to see the beauty of East Bali.

When I went to the region for the first time on a day trip, I hired a driver for £33 to start at 5 am. That cost covered 9 hours of the driver’s’ time, and ensured I didn’t have to drive my scooter on unfamiliar roads in the dark, or long distances.

East Bali is about 2.5 hours from Ubud, so it can be quite a long distance to drive yourself.

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A Guide to Sideman: Need Somewhere to Stay in East Bali?

I can’t recommend Patal Kikian Villas enough. We spent one night there to cap off my three months in Indonesia, and it was incredible.

The suites are massive, made from natural materials and beyond comfortable. We loved the outdoor shower, and of course, the the whole reason to stay at Patal is the epic infinity pool view.

The views of Sideman and Mount Agung were just incredible. The best way to end a stay in Bali.

We booked last minute, and scored a deal of £80 per night for one of their last rooms. Our rate included breakfast for two, plus welcome massages. A stay also includes a session with the hotel photographer at the infinity pool (cue Instagram madness), but we decided to pass on this offer since we were so short on time and just wanted to relax.

If we were forced to find fault, we’d note a bit of disappointment with the dinner and breakfast menus. Both were too Western for our liking- would have much preferred Indonesian or Asian-inspired options. But, for what it was, the food was good.

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Only regret was we didn’t spend more time at this beautiful property. With how much there is to do in the area, it’s an incredible place to get a bit off the well-trodden tourist path and see a stunning, peaceful part of Bali.

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Have you ever visited Bali or stayed in Sideman? What would you add to this guide to Sideman?

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