Information before you go
The Bali Desa Sightseeing route ('desa' meaning 'rural villages') highlights the beautiful character of central and east Bali: magnificent rice fields, ancient temples and traditional villages where people love to smile and wave when you drive by.
This route can be done with three options in mind...
Option 1: travel one-way from Ubud to Candidasa
starting point from the idyllic town of Ubud to Gianyar, Bangli, Rendang, Besakih, Rendang, Selat, Putung, Manggis ending in the little coconut town of Candi dasa
Option 2: do a round trip starting from Ubud to Gianyar, Bangli, Rendang, Besakih, Rendang, Selat, Iseh, Sidemen, Klungkung, Gianyar and back to Ubud.
Option 3: do a round trip from Candidasa, Manggis, Putung, Selat, Rendang, Besakih, Rendang, Selat, Iseh, Sidemen, Klungkung, Padangbai and back to Candi dasa.
Starting point Ubud or Candidasa
For this route we will take the cultural center of Ubud as the starting point. But if you
are leaving from Candidasa then take the following route from the opposite direction.
To enjoy this Bali trip to the fullest, make sure you leave as early as possible in the morning, preferable around 7am/8am.
From Ubud the road will take you to Gianyar, the city carrying the same name as its regency. There isn't much to see in Gianyar except for some gigantic Balinese statues along the way.
While driving through Gianyar you will see signs showing you the way to Bangli.
The road to Bangli isn't as big as the ones we are used to back home in Europe, but it can be considered as a main road in the Gianyar area.
While you are leaving Gianyar the village and countryside become alive so watch out because before you know it you have a whole family of ducks crossing the road.
Our first stop along this road is the mystical Pura Kehen Temple. Continue driving at the first traffic lights you'll see in Bangli and once you're near a huge Balinese statue turn right. Now it's only another 5-minutes and you're at the temple site.
Climbing up the stairs of Pura Kehen
The ancient Pura Kehen Temple is one of the biggest temple complexes in East Bali and it's draped around a huge banyan tree.
When I walked around the complex I had the feeling that I had stumbled upon one of the sets of the latest Indiana Jones movie.
The many statues and walls of the temple complex are covered in moss while meters high temple roofs and swaying palm trees in the background give the place its unique character.
My girlfriend and my sister enjoying some tea
in a small shop along the road
After 20 minutes of visiting the temple it's time to head back to the traffic lights, where you take a turn to the left to continue towards Rendang.
From here it's pretty easy...
Just follow the tropical forest road to Rendang and on its way you'll see Balinese men carving out wooden shrines or woman carrying offerings on their heads.
The route gives you the opportunity to see the famous Balinese rice fields. At some points the fields just go on and on and you want to stop about every 50 meters to make another picture of this scenery.
The amazing rice fields of Rendang
Once you are at the small village of Rendang you can either continue the day trip by choosing to go straight on towards Selat (and continue to Putung, Manggis and Candi dasa) or turn left at the road leading to the Besakih temple, the most important temple for the Hindu Balinese also called the 'mother temple'.
Besakih is not only the most important, but also one of the oldest temples on Bali. The temple complex consists of many courtyards that are connected with steps.
Not only is the temple complex pretty impressive but the Gunung Agung in the background makes the whole setting rather dramatic.
The Besakih Temple located on the slopes of the mountain Agung
Thousands of pilgrims visit this temple everyday of the year. Once you arrive in the Besakih area and pay a small entrance fee you will see the many Balinese conducting ceremonies or placing colorful offerings.
Don't forget to dress appropriately with a sarong and a selendang (Balinese scarf).
To get past the many touts hire yourself a good English speaking guide at the parking lot who can tell you something about the Balinese religious customs and practices.
Unfortunately you're not allowed to enter the temple but don't worry there's enough to see and to make pictures of.
Bringing offerings to the mother temple
Besakih temple is not only popular among pilgrims but also among hikers who love to go all the way to the summit of Mount Agung. It's not an easy climb and a local guide is necessary.
Once you have reached Besakih temple you are half way on the route.
The second and final part of this route is through traditional Balinese villages located high up in the mountains all the way down to the low coastal towns of Manggis and Candidasa.
Preparing suckling pig
So once you have left Besakih behind, turn left to Selat. From here on it looks like you're driving back through time. Since you're high up in the mountains the villages are less colorful than the ones you've already seen on this route.
Here the Balinese buildings are gray, have simple decorations and the Balinese clothing is more practical than traditional.
It's obvious that life is hard here but the people are very cheerful especially if they see two tall foreigners passing by on a motor bike.
Farmer in his field
Selat is an other starting point to arrange your hike to the summit of Gunung Agung. This trail is less difficult then the one starting from Besakih temple and therefore more popular.
At Selat there is a crossroad where you need to decide to go straight to Candidasa (Route option 1) or turn right for round trips from Ubud (Route option 2) or Candidasa (Route option 3)
To read more about the second part of the Ubud and Candidasa round trips click here otherwise just continue reading...
The road to or from Manggis
Once you pass Selat make sure you keep driving towards Putung because at this tiny village you must take the turn to Manggis if you want to reach Candi dasa.
Here the quality of the road could be better, there are some potholes and it can get pretty steep. You may get the feeling that you are a bit off-road and in the middle of nowhere but don't worry...
You are going the right way
Despite the bad asphalt, you won't need a 4X4 car to take this part of the route though. My sister and I managed to drive up- and downhill on a motor bike, with my sister jumping off once when it got extremely steep.
View over the ocean at Candidasa
On this part of the route you will see farmers ploughing their fields, chicken along the road and of course children playing around with their kites.
The landscape and the rays of sun shining on the hills is an amazing sight. Especially if you come closer to Candidasa. From here you can see the Strait of Lombok, Nusa Penida island and a couple of anchored boats.
It's only downhill now and you end up at the main road in Manggis that takes you straight to the finish of the day trip through East Bali; the little coconut town of Candidasa.
The journey back to Ubud or Candidasa continues after driving down the road
from Besakih temple to Selat. From here drive southwards to Iseh.
Iseh to Sideman
There is not much to do in Iseh and you will probably drive through it before you realize it. Nevertheless the landscape on this part of the route is definitely worth the drive.
Sunrays on the road to Sideman
From Iseh all the way down to Sideman you will be treated with gorgeous views on the valley and the river below. It is absolutely stunning...
The German painter Walter Spies would surely agree with me, as he stayed here in the 1930's to avoid the busy life of Ubud and to get inspiration for his exceptional painting 'Iseh im Morgenlicht 1938".
This mountainous area is beautifully covered with fresh green vegetation and together with the rice terraces and the forested mountain slopes you have the main ingredients for the perfect 'Bali-picture'.
The Bali desa sightseeing route takes you along beautiful scenery in Sideman
On this stretch of the route you will also pass small villages which all have their temple complexes and you'll surely see groups of women walking along the streets with colorful baskets on their heads.
Always a nice sight...
At the end of this road you will enter the historical provincial capital Klungkung which is a pretty busy city. Here you can stop to check out the Taman Gili palace which was built in 1710 by the king at that time.
In Klungkung you will either see signs to Amlapura leading to Candi dasa or Gianyar towards Ubud.
Balancing baskets on their heads with ease
From there on the signs says it all. For the Candidasa day tour it might be nice to stop in Padangbai if you have enough time.
Padangbai has a great beach and the beautiful Blue Lagoon and Bias Tugal are within walking distance from the village.
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Now and then people send us inspiring emails and this generates even more enthusiasm to share all of the things we know about this lovely island in the hope that you can plan your tropical holiday properly and have as such a great time as we always have. Hope to see you there!
When I wrote the mail I never really expected a reply. I might have expected a computer generated but never a personally written one. The information you provided is invaluable, thank you so very much. I have been using your website as a bible through Bali. Through your recommendation, I will be heading to Ubud then follow the sightseeing route to the coast of Candidasa.
WOW...what an awesome website. I could only dream that there would be a website like this for all our travel destinations! You guys have done an fabulous job and now, I am sooo excited about our upcoming trip to Bali. To be honest, I wasn't quite sure Bali was the place for us considering some of the travel warnings (we are Americans). But I can tell from your experiences that the Bali people are so very kind and peaceful.
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