Chances are that at some point during your trip to Bali you’ll want to leave the bustle of the coastal tourist spots behind for a bit more tranquillity. But which inland Bali tourist town should you choose? In this post I’ll compare the main options — it’s a three-way battle: Ubud VS Munduk VS Sidemen.
The first contender, Ubud, is by far the biggest and most geared towards mass tourism. There are hundreds of food and accommodation options and if you walk the streets during heavy traffic you won’t feel very relaxed. It’s kind of like a suburb of a big city at times but get away from the main streets and you’ll find some peace. You can sleep in a hotel surrounded by rice fields only a few minutes’ walk from the bustle, or you can go a bit further out and really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
Ubud is good like that — all the luxuries and trappings of a major tourist town, but small enough that you can escape the crowds if needed There’s heaps to do in Ubud, although you’ll need transport to get to most of the best spots.
Ubud is also home to the Sacred Monkey Forest — monkeys are always fun to see and these ones can get brazen if you let them get too close.
So, if you want a busy tourist town with endless eating options, decent nightlife and a good variety of accommodation, and somewhere that’s central to heaps of places to visit on day trips, Ubud is your best bet. You could stop reading now, but why not see it through to the end?
Munduk is a far less popular tourist town in Bali’s interior and offers a very different experience to Ubud. Set on a ridge with awesome views on both sides, it’s definitely prettier in terms of views.
There aren’t as many places to eat, drink and sleep in Munduk, but the ones that are there tend to have awesome views. In Ubud your view while eating might be a busy street, but in Munduk it’ll be forested hills and volcanos. The sunsets are great there too.
A short walk from the main strip you’ll find several waterfalls. I love a tourist town that has genuinely impressive natural sights within walking distance of the main street!
From Munduk it’s easy to explore the northern parts of Bali, including some of the best waterfalls on the island (the photo below is Sekumpul Waterfall, the best I’ve seen on the island).
The only negative I’ve found about Munduk is it can be hard to get to. I took a bemo and ended up at Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, eventually having to wave down a driver to take me the rest of the way to Munduk. I couldn’t find a tourist shuttle there, so if you visit be prepared to navigate confusing local bemos / buses or get a private transfer. You could combine that with a trip to some sights in the area to make it better value for money.
I didn’t stay in Sidemen but did visit on a day trip during my 2022 Bali trip. It’s even smaller and less geared to tourism than Munduk and requires a bit of effort (or money) to get to. Your best bet is probably a private car / driver — there didn’t appear to be any public transport there when I researched it.
Another negative with Sidemen is that it’s very spread out, and most accommodation / restaurants aren’t really in a town (there is a small village but most people don’t stay there). I’d recommend it if you have a motorbike, or if you just want to go somewhere beautiful for a few days without going too far from your hotel.
I walked around the Sidemen Rice Terraces for a while and explored the area where are a lot of the hotels were and it was really nice (and very quiet) — I only saw locals while walking around the rice terraces!
There aren’t that many places to eat, drink and sleep in Sidemen but some of the villas there have amazing views — it could be a good place to splash out and relax for a couple of days before your flight home.
So, Which One Should You Choose?
If you’re on a budget, want somewhere easy to get to, love exploring cafés or want that balance between tranquility and bustle, Ubud is your place. If you want somewhere a little prettier, quieter but with a decent variety of places to eat, drink and sleep then Munduk could be the one. It’s more of a hassle / more expensive to get there though, but you have the added bonus of some stunning waterfalls close to town.
And then you have Sidemen, perfect for people wanting to spend a few days relaxing somewhere beautiful, with far lower chances of running into other tourists every few minutes.
Which inland Bali tourist town will you choose? Let me know in the comments below!