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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Northern and Estern Bali: the north, Sideman and Padangbai

The northern part of Bali is one of the least touristy, as it is further away from the airport and the area of ​​Kuta and Canggu, but also due to its colder and rainier climate. Nevertheless, in the northern part of the island there are some real hidden gems, absolutely not to be missed on your trip to Bali. Splendid temples such as Pura Ulu Danu, located on a wonderful lake in the middle of the mountains, and many breathtaking waterfalls that can be reached after some hiking in the very green Balinese forest .. impossible to skip this area: we loved it, especially the part of the waterfalls and the hiking in the middle of the forest! Moving east then, the wonders don't end. The Sideman area is vaguely comparable to Ubud, only much smaller, quieter, and uncrowded: here you will find splendid rice fields, other waterfalls and wonderful temples, as well as other activities like rafting. Sideman is a very small village located in the east of the island, halfway between Ubud and the east coast: in fact, it lends itself very well as a base for visiting this part of the island. We definitely adored it: it's the ideal place to stop and relax in this wonderful corner of nature. Going further east, we finally stopped in Padangbai, which was an excellent base for exploring some splendid temples and palaces located in this area, but also in view of the transfer to the Gili Islands: in fact, the ferries leave right from the port of Padangbai, a small fishing village, very quiet and not very touristy. The north-east area of ​​Bali is often out of the classic travel itineraries, which tend to be concentrated in the south of the island, but I guarantee you that setting aside a few days to explore this part is essential in order not to lose a different face of Bali: quieter and certainly more natural.


As for the accommodation, as already mentioned, in Sideman we chose the Sawah Ndah Villa, of which I also recommend the excellent Warung d'Pedi, both for dinner and for breakfast (included in the price).

In Padangbai however, we chose a simpler and more comfortable option, staying at the Bamboo Paradise, a delightful guest house run by a very kind European couple.


Now let's see the itinerary we planned for this part of the island. As you can see on the map below, we dedicated two days to this part of Bali:

- ⑥ on the sixth day of our trip we explored the north of the island, visiting Pura Ulu Danu, a splendid temple on an immense lake, and then at the marvelous waterfalls of Sekumpul and Fiji: to follow this itinerary comfortably we moved with a private driver for the whole day, so we could bring ourr bags with us and stop directly in Sideman at the end of the day;

- ⑦ the seventh and last day in Bali instead we spent in the north-eastern part of the island, making a base in Padangbai, from where we would take the ferry to the Gili islands the next day. In this area we visited the must-see Tirta Gangga Water Temple and Pura Lempuyang, also known as the gates of heaven.

Now we are back home, I can say we would have liked to have stayed one more day in the Sideman area: very green, luxuriant and peaceful. In this part of Bali there are many other things to do and experiences to live: rice fields, waterfalls, the Mother Temple and many others. If you want to know a bit more about a 3-week itinerary..

If you are following our trip to Bali post after post, we left in Ubud, which was our base for the fourth and fifth day in Bali: below is a quick recap of the stops in case you missed them.

Go and check also the next steps of our trip to Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok:

To find out what and where to eat along the various places.. READ ALSO:


Transportation we used in these two stages of our itinerary

  • Private driver from Ubud to Sideman: to explore the northern part of the island we chose to use a private driver, so you can travel directly with your luggage and end the day in Sideman, without having to go back. This choice was also dictated by the fact that the distances to travel were very long and the climate in the north cooler and rainier than the rest of the island. Obviously this is a more expensive way of getting around than our trusty motorbikes, but I have to say it turned out to be a great decision, well thought out and comfortable. You can find the private driver in any tourist agency in every corner of Bali, or do like us, who relied on the usual Grabb app, paying less than half the estimates they had offered us in the various agencies. Driver for 10 hours on the entire island of Bali with Grab app 700,000 IDR (about €47): in the time available to you, the driver will take you wherever you want and will wait for you for as long as necessary.

  • Taxi from Sideman to Padangbai: for the last trip to Bali, we used the usual taxi booked with the Grab app for 138,000 IDR (about €9.20). From Sideman to Padangbai it is about 29km which we covered in 45 minutes always traveling early in the morning to avoid traffic and not lose the day.

  • Motorbike rental to get around the north-eastern part of Bali: from Padangbai, to reach the Tirta Gangga Water Palace and Pura Lempuyang, we rented a motorbike for the whole day. We got away with 60,000 IDR (about €4), one of the best prices so far, relying directly on the owners of the Guest House where we were staying: the Bamboo Paradise.

For more information on motorbikes rental and how to move around Bali..


The North of Bali

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali, Indonesia

As we have just said, to make the most of this day and save time, we decided to travel with a private driver who picked us up in Ubud and then, loaded our suitcases, we left for the north of the island, heading to Pura Ulun Danu Bratan. This important Hindu-Buddhist temple, founded in the 17th century, is one of the symbols of Bali: in fact, you will also find it on the IDR 50,000 banknotes. Pura Ulun Danu Bratan is dedicated to the goddess of water and stands on a series of islets on Lake Bratan. I'm sorry to tell you but in the photo it is much more beautiful than in reality: the temple is quite small and, although the structure on the lake makes it rather scenic, its size and everything they have built around it ruins the atmosphere a lot. The temple is in fact located inside a "park" which will cost you 75,000 IDR (about €5) to enter: inside the park you will find lots of stalls, cafes, the Temple and lots of games for children.. everything has helped create a mock, built environment. Anyway, the temple remains splendid, don't get me wrong.. I'm just saying I'm not sure it's worth the price of admission.

Sekumpul Waterfalls and Fiji Waterfalls

Cascate di Sekumpul, Bali, Indonesia
Cascate di Sekumpul

The Sekumpul Waterfalls were perhaps among the destinations we most awaited on this trip: after various searches, among all the waterfalls found in Bali, these are definitely the ones that struck me the most and that I couldn't wait to see. Our expectations were really high and they weren't disappointed at all, on the contrary.. we went to see the Sekumpul Falls but we discovered that Fiji is also a few meters away and I must say that I don't know which of the two are more majestic and spectacular! Now, let's see what to expect from an excursion of this type... first, let's see what to bring! Sneakers are definitely essential, for the walk you will have to do to reach the area near the waterfalls, rock shoes or possibly rubber slippers, essential for walking in the streams and at the base of the waterfalls, a towel and a bathing suit bath!

Due to recently approved regulations by the local government, anyone wishing to visit the falls is now required to hire a guide for the duration of the visit. This is partly for visitor safety, but also to support the local economy, maintain infrastructure, and respect local customs. Although the fare can be quite expensive, we managed to agree 150,000 IDR per head (10€), it is definitely a good measure that will help maintain the beauty of Sekumpul, as well as support the local economy in general. On your way to the falls, we come across a number of 'registration' points, which say 'Sekumpul registration'.. ignore them! These "registration points" are nothing more than a scam to get unsuspecting tourists to pay "registration fees" to visit the waterfall or join their hiking tour, which they claim is the only way to visit the falls. But it's not! Pass these "registration points" until you reach the official parking lot of Sekumpul Waterfall. Once these matters were settled, we set off starting our trek!

Sentiero per le Cascate di Sekumpul, Bali, Indonesia

With our very kind guide leading the way, it took us about an hour to get to the Sekumpul Waterfalls, the first we reached. The route is totally immersed in the forest: the outward journey is all downhill so it's not particularly difficult, which I can't say about the return... but don't worry! It is just a few kilometers and with a little calm and patience you can do very well. The route is really wonderful: you pass on small hills with a breathtaking view of the rice fields and in the middle of a splendid tropical forest full of strange plants and flowers.

Even just the walk to reach the waterfalls is definitely worth it, which you can admire both from above (only the Sekumpul) and from below.


Once you arrive near the Sekumpul Waterfalls, called Air Terjun Sekumpul in Balinese, the path will end and you will have to make your way through the stream to reach the base of the imposing waterfall. As you get closer you will hear the roar of the water cascading from these massive and beautiful twin waterfalls, which will almost block you from hearing the sound of the voices of those around you. If you want, you can literally enter the cascade of water, even if you stay at a distance you will get completely wet, thanks to the wet mist produced by the roar of the water on the ground. Unquestionably, the most spectacular waterfalls in all of Bali, an unmissable sight!


Cascate Fiji, Bali, Indonesia
Cascate Fiji

Not least are the Fiji Waterfalls, not far from the Sekumpul: about another half hour on foot and you will reach them after a nice crossing of the river that originates from the falls. I didn't have slippers, and our guide kindly gave me his: I really regretted my rock shoes with which I could have moved easily and without slipping, but okay, now I know for next time! I honestly cannot tell you which waterfall between Sekumpul and Fiji we liked the most: they are both truly spectacular, it is almost impossible to believe that they were real and above all natural. If you want, you can stop for a while at the base of both waterfalls, admire them and take a nice bath under their jet. However, consider almost another hour to get back to the parking lot: in all I would say at least 3-4 for a visit complete at both of these waterfalls!

Sideman and surroundings

Sideman, Bali, Indonesia

Sideman is a green oasis still little frequented by tourists, making it the ideal place to relax and get away from the crowds and confusion that reign in the south of the island. Sideman is located in one of the most beautiful river valleys in Bali, with beautiful landscapes among the rice fields and an incredible view of the Gunung Agung volcano. The village itself is small, made up almost exclusively of resorts and a few alleys with shops and warungs: remember that there isn't even a currency exchange office here, so get organized before arriving in this area.

To find out what and where to eat in Sideman READ ALSO:

There are so many things to do around Sideman, that's why I suggested you to stay an extra day if the trip you are planning a 3-weeks trip to Bali.

You can indulge in the wonderful walks through the rice fields and along the streams where you can also go rafting, explore some beautiful waterfalls or visit the Mother Temple. Unfortunately we only stayed for one night, so we didn't get to visit this area as we would have liked. With one more day, surely we would have done these things:

  1. Mount Batur sunrise trekking

  2. Tukad Cepung Waterfalls

  3. Pura Besakih mother temple

Mount Batur sunrise trekking

The volcanoes of the ridge of the island have a lively spirit that bubbles under the surface: Gungung Batur (1717m) in fact continuously emits steam. The most requested excursion to visit Batur is certainly the one to watch the sun rise from the top of the volcano.

For this kind of experience we sincerely, if we had had the time to do it, would certainly have chosen a guided excursion for many reasons: first of all, driving a scooter at night is not very safe, especially if you are tired, so having someone picking you up and drop you off is a very convenient option. Furthermore, trekking at night on unknown paths is difficult and risky, it is certainly better to be with a local guide who can lead you on the right paths and also explain things to you step by step. We had looked at the various proposals and in general, each option provided for an early morning departure, around 2 am from the hotel, to then reach the slopes of the Batur volcano, the second highest point in Bali, which boasts no less that 1717 meters high. Once there we start the trek up to the peak, on the Batur crater to enjoy a beautiful sunrise over the Balinese nature. Many agencies also offer packed breakfasts! Usually, before starting the descent, the other three craters of the active volcano are explored and some agencies also offer a visit to a coffee plantation to taste a delicious hot drink at the base of the volcano. Usually around 9:00 you're already back at the hotel, and you have the whole day at your disposal!

Tukad Cepung Waterfall

The Tukad Cepung Waterfall is hidden inside a cave not too far from Sideman: we had to go there after the Sekumpul waterfalls but we didn't have time. Among other things, to better enjoy the beauty of this place, the ideal is to go in the morning, when the combination of water and the sun's rays create wonderful plays of light for a breathtaking show. The circular rock walls give the sensation of being in a cave, while the open sky from which the waterfall emerges, offers a magical view. Given its well-hidden location, it is not easy for tourists to reach, so imaybe it's better to be accompanied by a guide, also because of the trekking necessary to reach this place, as well as the hundreds of steps to climb. In fact, after paying a small entrance fee, it takes about 45 minutes to walk to Tukad Cepung Waterfall. As I told you, we were not able to go to the end so I have included this splendid place in the hypothetical 3-week itinerary, as an excursion to be done based in Sideman.

Pura Besakih

Pura Besakih, also called the Mother Temple, is located on the slopes of Gunung Agung, about 1000 meters above the sea level. It is a complex of 23 interconnected temples, of which the largest and most revered is Pura Penataran Agung. Scholars are still investigating this site, but it seems to date back to prehistoric times: the foundations of many temples in fact resemble step pyramids built 2,000 years ago. The most beautiful temple is the Pura Penataran Agung, with its six terraced levels on the hill on which it is built: here too, tourists are not allowed to enter, but the show is already wonderful from the outside. Having only 2 weeks for this trip, we decided to cut this temple out of the itinerary due to the not so positive reviews I had read. In fact, a visit to the temple is not a very characteristic experience, partly for the same reasons we have already talked about for Pura Ulun Danu: it is full of locals who insist on being your guide, who ask you for an additional payment to enter .. Beyond this somewhat insistent crowd and the numerous stalls found at the entrance to the temple, with a little more time available we certainly would not have missed this marvel!


Padangbai and the eastern area of Bali

Padangbai, Bali, Indonesia

Padangbai is a small beach town located on the east coast of Bali, which is also the port from which the main ferries sail to Lombok and the Gili Islands. Padangbai is a delightful place to stop - we loved it. Small, quiet, not very touristy, a real gem where to base for the exploration of this part of the island. It is in fact located on a small inlet on the sea, where there are also splendid beaches such as the White Sand Beach, to the right of the village. It is a very peaceful place, where the fishermen live a slow and relaxed life, ideal for snorkelling and diving in one of the many diving or travel agencies that you will find on the main road along the seafront, where you will also find some delicious Warung where to eat, such as the homonymous Warung Padangbai.

To find out what and where to eat in Padangbai READ ALSO:

We had a great time in this town, especially in our guest house, the Bamboo Paradise, where the owner helped us a lot, getting us a motorbike at an excellent price and giving us some very useful information for the tour we had planned for that day. She also took care of booking tickets for the Gili Islands for the next morning, also organizing the transfer directly from the hotel. To know more about accommodations..

READ ALSO: Bali, Gili Islands and Lombok: how to plan your trip to Indonesia on your own Our choice to stop in Padangbai was mainly dictated by convenience: from there we managed to reach the Tirta Gangga Water Temple and Pura Lempuyang, north of the city, in a short time and without problems .. plus the day after we jumped on the ferry to the Gili without wasting time! So I highly recommend this solution if you are considering an itinerary similar to ours!

Taman Tirta Gangga

Taman Tarta Gangga, Bali, Indonesia

The Taman Tirta Gangga is a palace located in Tirta Gangga (in Balinese it means water of the Ganges), very famous for its tanks full of koi carp and lakes full of lotus flowers. Thanks to its fame, Taman Tirta Gangga is often very crowded with tourists from all over the world, however you will be able to visit it quite peacefully because it's quite big. We decided to stop at Taman Tirta Gangga as a first stop after leaving Padangbai by motorbike, and then leave the rest of the day at Pura Lempuyang, which definitely takes more time: both temples are on the same road, within walking distance of each other on the other, so you choose in which order to visit them.

Entrata al Taman Tarta Ganga, Bali, Indonesia

In front of the Palace you will find a large parking lot and then, in the middle of a small walkway full of stalls, you make your way to the entrance of the palace, where you will have to pay a ticket of 50,000 IDR each for entry (about 3 ,30€). Once inside, the most beautiful part of the building is certainly the one immediately to the right of the entrance: the pools of water are crossed by a stone path that will give you the impression of walking on water, surrounded by koi carp waiting for you to feed them. In fact, remember to buy some fish feed in the stalls in front of the entrance, in order to be able to feed these gigantic fish that populate this building. The path of stones over the water is not very easy to walk, falling into the water is quite easy: I suggest you not to cross it when there are many people, because being two on the same stone can be quite difficult! But don't stop at this first part of the building and explore it entirely: the park is wonderful, full of splendid statues and highly decorated gardens. We absolutely loved it!

Pura Lempuyang

Mappa del Pura Lempuyang, Bali, Indonesia

Pura Lempuyang, also known as the Gates of Heaven, is certainly one of the most famous Balinese temples in the world and is located on a hill on the side of Gunung Lempuyang, a 1058m mountain. This religious structure is one of 9 executive temples built to preserve the island of Bali from evil spirits. Pura Lempuyang is a complex of 17 temples located on the hill: to visit them all you need at least 4 hours and a nice pair of comfortable shoes. The whole complex is spread over an infinite climb which I assure you is really challenging, especially under the scorching sun of Bali. Reaching the temple at the top of the mountain can be very tiring: you will have to climb around 1700 steps. Once you reach the parking lot, you can get to the entrance by walking (there is immediately a very steep and not so short climb) or take the shuttle which costs 50,000 IDR return: I sincerely recommend this last option in order to save your energy for the temple visit, which will challenge you enough already. Once you arrive at the entrance, in addition to the classic Sarong and a shrug for women, you will be given a map and the structure and how to best visit it will be explained to you: I must say that everyone was very kind. The ticket to enter costs 55,000 IDR per person (about €3.70). Following the Balinese philosophy of the Tri Mandala, the complex is divided into three parts:

Pura Lempuyang, Bali, Indonesia
  1. Sang Ananta Bhoga: at the base of the mountain, dedicated to the god Brahma, where the Pura Dalem Dasar Lempuyang temple is built;

  2. Sang Naga Basukih: the central part of the mountain, dedicated to Visnu, where the Pura Penataran Agung is located;

  3. Sang Naga Taksaka: the top of the mountain, dedicated to Shiva, on which Pura Luhur Lempuyang is built.

In the central courtyard of the first part that you will meet after entering you will find the imposing triple staircase adorned with naga (sacred snakes) which takes you to three finely decorated doors: the part in the center is not passable, it is reserved for religious ceremonies, but I recommend to climb to the top to enjoy a spectacular view of the Agung volcano and the surrounding countryside.


In the courtyard you will also find the very famous double-leaf entrance portal super photographed by tourists, which frames the enchanting panorama below and on the volcano to be nicknamed by the Balinese and visitors the Gate of Paradise in Bali. But let me warn you: the splendid photos of the Gates of Paradise are a scam. I was expecting a splendid basin of water and instead the iconic mirrored photo is simply taken by the temple staff who will portray you with a mirror under the lens of the camera. For this reason the queue of tourists waiting their turn to take the famous photo is literally endless: when you enter you will be given a card with a number, which corresponds to your place in the queue for the photo. On average, in order to take the famous photo, you will have to wait about 2 hours, among the hordes of tourists waiting their turn in the shade. In the end we gave up and waited, but I don't know if I'd do it again: two hours of waiting for a fake photo.. I honestly suggest you go on and do something else. Nothing detracts from the fact that the door is wonderful, especially with the glimpse of the mountain behind that is lost in the clouds! Don't get me wrong: the temple is splendid, and definitely worth a visit, my only doubt, which I think is also acceptable, is on the photo. What do you think about it?

Reality vs Instagram

Sang Hyang Ambu Temple

On the way back to Padangbai, we stopped at a temple that we met on the way: the Sang Hyang Ambu Temple or even Gate of Moksha. Located on the Sang Hyand Ambu Hill, it offers a splendid view of the hills, the ocean and the mountains: the best time to visit it is at dawn, when the sky and the landscape below are tinged with red. What you see from the entrance is the gate that leads to Gumang Temple. In addition to the splendid building, another attraction of the place are certainly the monkeys that populate this temple! If you are staying in Padangbai, don't miss it on the way there or back!


Well, we are at the end of the Balinese part of this journey: from here we will continue to the Gili Islands and then to Lombok.

Don't miss all the destinations of this trip:

To find out what and where to eat along the various places.. READ ALSO:


If you think this post is useful, please like it, while if you need more information don't hesitate and comment below!


Have a nice trip (:

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Guest
Mar 25
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

And your map is so good

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Guest
Mar 25
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Ciao Vanessa, Love you Bali and Lombok itinerary. So comprehensive and informative.

I'm planning a 3 week summer trip at the moment and find this so helpful. xxx

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Vanessa Valenti
Vanessa Valenti
Apr 02
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thank u so much!! you will love it!!

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