Ella & Haputale: Our Favourite Things To Do

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Ella and Haputale are located in Sri Lanka’s Hill Country and are both stops along the famous Kandy to Ella route. Whilst Ella likely needs no introduction, Haputale is located just an hour away and offers a quiet retreat (away from Ella’s general business) with similar incredible views. Haputale is also close to most of the attractions Ella is famous for.

We compiled this list to combine both towns as they offer the same views and sites but with different vibes. One will appeal more to you than the other, depending on the type of traveller you are.

Ride the train along the world famous Kandy to Ella route

Sri Lankans and foreigners departing the train in Haputale

One of the most famous and scenic train routes in the world and the image that is often conjured up in traveller’s minds when they think of Sri Lanka. This route has consistently amazing scenery throughout the Hill Country and is an excellent opportunity to talk and mingle with local people.

Overcrowding: Be warned, It gets incredibly busy. During weekends, holidays or peak season it’s nearly impossible to get a seat or good view unless you book your tickets far in advance. Don’t worry too much if you don’t get tickets. We were travelling through peak holiday season and didn’t ride the full route. We only a couple of small parts of it when we were in Haputale. The views you get from the road are more or less the same. Plus you have the freedom of stopping to take photos.

The parts we did ride we literally couldn’t move at all. To do the full ride in those conditions would not be fun!

Watch the train pass over Nine Arch Bridge

The famous blue express train passing over the Nine Arch Bridge

A 10-minute hike from just outside Ella’s main town (there is a pathway just past the Art Umbrella Cafe if coming from the main town) leads you to a viewpoint to see the Nine Arch Bridge. The walk can get quite slippery if it’s been raining but otherwise it’s an easy, scenic walk.

Keep an eye (and ear) out for the train coming and check the schedule beforehand if you want to see the train passing over the bridge. From the viewpoint you can walk down towards the bridge and cross over it. It’s a cool place to visit! As always, visit early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Take in the breathtaking views from Little Adams Peak

Ponte Vecchio bridge

Not too far from the Nine Arch Bridge is Little Adam’s Peak. We ended up walking from Nine Arch Bridge to the peak in about 1 hour. Although it was quite exhausting. You can get driven most of the way up and enjoy a short, 15 minute hike to the top if you desire.

The views from the top are, once again, breathtaking. The sheer natural beauty of Sri Lanka can feel relentless and constantly outdoes itself. We came here to watch the sunset. Once you’re at the top there are a couple of other places you can walk to. Definitely not to be missed.

Trek from Liptons Seat to Dambatenne Tea Factory

Tea pickers and Sir Thomas Liptons statue at themain viewpoint

The Duomo (the iconic dome attached to Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral) is located in the Piazza del Duomo, surrounded by traditional Tuscan buildings, however it is unmissable. The architecture, details and colours of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and Duomo are as grand in real life. The exterior of the church is an impressive piece of architecture, and you’ll want to walk around and step back to take it all in from all angles. Entrance to the cathedral is free however, you'll need to plan and book tickets ahead if you want to climb 463 steps to the top of the dome.

Admire (or hike) Ella Rock

The view of Ella Rock from our guesthouse

Ella Rock sits tallest amongst the landscape in Ella. Keen travellers can easily admire this mountain from afar. We had a beautiful view from our guesthouse, Country Homes. We loved watching the sun set each afternoon from our balcony with Ella Rock in view.

The more adventurous (or the ones who have more energy at the time) can climb to the peak in a few hours. There are a lot of guides online that explain the route in detail and we'd strongly recommend checking out a few of them before attempting to reach it yourself. We have heard a lot of conflicting reports regardingthe complexity and difficulty of the route. 

Walk the tracks between Idalgasinna and Haputale

Idalgasinna Train Station

One of the coolest things we did in this area was simply exploring around the railway station in Idalgasinna. Located just 15 minutes by train from Haputale on the Ella to Kandy route, you can quickly reach this area and then walk back to Haputale station. Being one of the most scenic parts of the route, this gives you the opportunity to see the views from the train and on foot.

If you plan on walking the full distance by aware that there are a couple of areas where the pathway gets narrow, somewhere you don't want to be if a train is passing through. Be aware of the train time table which you will be able to find out in Idalgasinna.

Visit a Tea Plantation

Damro Tea Factory

You can't visit Sri Lanka's Hill Country without visiting a tea plantation. The most famous ones in the region are found along the route between Kandy > Nuwara Eliya > Ella. Most places offer tours and the opportunity to sample their teas. The views around the establishments are often big draws too.

The tours themselves are usually free but some may have a small cost. We visited Damro Labokellie Tea Factory where we were taken on a short, 20 minute stroll through the factory. We finished in their restaurant where we sampled some tea and chocolate cake.

Spend the night with a view

Views from our guesthouse in Haputale

You'll always be surrounded by beautiful mountains and hills when you're travelling through this region. However, all the hiking you'll be doing to seek these views will leave you tired. Why not treat yourself and bring the views to you? That way you can appreciate them from the comfort of your balcony with a hot cup of tea!

We spent a night at Leisure Mount View Holiday Inn where we had an incredible view from our balcony that was nearly as good as what we saw at Lipton's Seat. This guesthouse also served up a very delicious buffet in the evening which was one of the best meals we had in Sri Lanka. 

Eat some comfort food in Ella

Ella offers traditional Sri Lankan food and health staples such as avocado on toast

When you're on the road for weeks at a time you may find yourself craving some of the food you're used to back home. Or maybe you just want to eat something other than rice and curry. Don't worry, we won't judge you.

Ella, being a touristy backpacker town, has a great variety of restaurants and can help settle those cravings! Cafe Chill serves up excellent burgers and breakfast staples such as avocado on toast. Cafe UFO is your answer if you're seeking somewhere fancier. A date night perhaps? We spent New Years Eve here and enjoyed a great meal with cocktails.

Have no fears if you wish to keep it fully local though. There are great Sri Lankan restaurants in the area too.

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Sigiriya: Climbing Lion's Rock and Pidurangala Rock

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Lion Rock is Sri Lanka’s most famous tourist attraction and for good reason. Its simply spectacular and visiting it was one of the best experiences we had during our visit. Nearby Pidurangala Rock is also definitely worth a visit. Read on to find out why.

Which rock should you climb?

The views from the top of Pidurangala Rock

The short answer is both. Absolutely climb both if you have the budget, and more importantly, the time to do so.

Lion Rock is notoriously expensive (tickets cost $30USD) and some backpackers tend to not climb it to avoid the entrance cost. Nearby Pidurangala Rock offers a good alternative at a fraction of the cost. It also has the benefit of being able to see Lion Rock in from the top.

Both offer incredible views overlooking the area. There was something really special about climbing up the Lion Rock. An ancient fortress built on top of a giant rock 1,500 years ago. It reminds us quite a bit of Machu Picchu.

So, to summarise the slightly longer answer:

Lion Rock: Prioritise Lion Rock if you only have time for one
Pidurangala Rock: Visit this one if you don’t want to pay the $30USD entry fee but still want phenomenal views

Lion Rock

The main pathway leading to Lion Rock and stairs to reach the final peak

Catching the first glimpse of Lion Rock when arriving in Sigiriya was a great moment for us. The sun was setting and there was a golden glow cast over it that made it appear so beautiful.

Given its popularity it’s essential to visit early in the morning. The place to buy tickets is located on the west side of the Rock. It's marked as the 'Foreigners Entrance' on Google maps.

From the main ticket entrance it will take around 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to reach the top (depending on your level of fitness and how often you stop for photos). The pathway up is well-kept but wearing decent shoes is recommended as there are some uneven surfaces on the peak.

Entrance Fee: $30USD (Price paid in rupees based on current conversion)

The lion's paw and ruins at the top

The ancient fortress was built atop of Lions Rock by King Kashyapa in the 5th century. The rock was used partly because of the views in every direction from the top, allowing enemies to be easily spotted. The views from the top are breathtaking. Lush, green forest as far as the eye can see. White Buddha statues and monuments dot the landscape too, contrasting with the green forest.

There is a small museum in the main access area you can access that's included within the ticket. Worth a visit if you want to learn more about the historical significance of this amazing site. 

Pidurangala Rock

Perfect view of Lion Rock in the distance

Located just a few kilometres away from Lion Rock is Pidurangala Rock. Offering the same incredible views of the area with Lion Rock as well. You enter the walk through a small temple after paying the entrance fee. There are a couple of pathways up. The one on the left has a detour where you can see some old statues. You need to consider what you’re wearing as you pass through the temple but it’s possible to borrow a sarong when you pay the entrance fee.

The walk up to the top is much shorter in distance than Lion Rock but has quite a difficult part right before the peak. This section will require careful climbing and is best to be done with some one else so you can support each other. Proper shoes are essential.

If you’re concerned about doing this by yourself you can hire a guide at the bottom to help you out with this section (and also learn a few things!).

Last thoughts

Housing and facilities for the tea factory workers and a tea picker beginning their mornings work

It’s very much possible to climb both rocks in a single day. Both offer incredible sunrise and sunset views but, as always, its dependent on the weather. We split them over a couple of days and preferred it this way. Although we also had the luxury of staying in Sigiriya.

Staying in Sigiriya

Sigiriya makes a great base for exploring the spectacular Lion Rock. It also sits in the centre of Sri Lanka's Cultural Triangle. There are wildlife parks nearby such as Kaudulla, Minneriya and Eco Park.

We stayed at Sigiri Rock Side Home Stay and had a great time. The owners were lovely and helpful. The breakfast was delicious. It was quiet and also within walking distance of a bunch of a local restaurants.


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Sunrise Trek: Liptons Seat to Dambatenne Tea Factory

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One of the highlights of our trip to Sri Lanka was visiting Lipton's Seat and it’s surrounding tea plantation. Lipton's Seat is where Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of Lipton teas, was said to look over his vast tea plantation fields. Having seen these fields ourselves, it’s not hard to see why. On a clear day you can see all the way to the coastline from this vantage point.

Dambatenne Tea Factory is just a 7 - 8km trek away through these beautiful fields. Combine these activities together and they make a great half day trip from Haputale or Ella.

Getting to Lipton’s Seat in time for sunrise

The restaurant at the observation platform. Above it is the smaller observation platform

In order to arrive before sunrise you’ll need to arrange tuk tuk transportation beforehand.

From Haputale: Around 45 Minutes
From Ella: Around 1.5 Hours

It’s also possible to catch the train from Ella to Haputale in the morning and then take a local bus to Dambatenne Tea Factory and begin the trek upwards. The benefit of catching the tuk tuk is being taken right to the entrance and getting to walk downhill.

It’s advisable to arrive as early as possible as the area becomes quite foggy by midday. To be fair, we had quite a foggy view even at sunrise (but it was still spectacular!).

Round trip cost from Haputale: 1,500 rupees

Lipton’s Seat Viewpoint

Statue of Sir Thomas Lipton and hot tea from the viewpoint restaurant

Lipton’s Seat has quite a large observation platform and there is a restaurant there where you can have tea, coffee and breakfast. Behind the restaurant there is also a small observation platform where you get an even higher view. Definitely check out both.

In addition to these there is a lovely statue of Sir Thomas Lipton himself, where you can pose for a photo next to him with a freshly brewed cup of Lipton tea.

Entrance Cost: 100 rupees per person & 50 rupees for tuk tuk

Trekking to Dambatenne Tea Factory

Landscapes of the area

From Lipton’s Seat, you can organise to have your driver meet you at Dambatenne Tea Factory whilst you walk down through the beautiful tea fields. We really loved walking through this area. There was hardly anyone around, just the occasional friendly local.

The walk is around 7 - 8kms and will take you around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on your pace. It’s quite fast as it’s all downhill. There are opportunities to take shortcuts at parts but definitely check with locals first if it's the correct way. If you stick to the road the path is quite straight forward, but veering off can lead you to overgrown pathways and dead ends.

Housing and facilities for the tea factory workers and a tea picker beginning their mornings work

We learnt this the hard way whilst following Google Maps. The pathway disappeared under the overgrowth and we kept walking until we ran into 2 older Sri Lankan women. They immediately told us to turn back and walk the other way. They also imitated what I imagined to be a wild boar, implying that we will be eaten by an animal if we keep going! Our imagination was likely running wild but we were quick to take their advice.

They ended up leading us to a shortcut that was hidden just over a waterfall. You wouldn’t be able to find it unless you knew where to look. Be wary of the direction you are going and you’ll have a fantastic time. Better safe than sorry.

Dambatenne Tea Factory

Dambatenne Tea Factory entrance

When you arrive to Dambatenne Tea Factory you have the option to take a tour. We skipped it as we had already seen one at Damro Tea Factory. We were also tired from the early start and all the walking!

Photos aren’t allowed during the tour, otherwise we have read that it’s quite an informative one.

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Anuradhapura: Visiting Mihintale and the Ancient City

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Anuradhapura is one of the most important cities in Sri Lanka. Known for its ancient ruins dating back over 2,000 years ago. It's part of the Cultural Triangle (the other parts being Polonnawarru and Kandy). Most of its sites are located in the Old Town’s archaeological site.

Nearby Mihintale, a mountain peak featuring ruins and temples, is also easily accessible from Anuradhapura. In this guide we won’t go into detail on every site, just the ones we found were the most interesting.

For a full list of the sites check out TripAdvisor.

Mihintale - The birthplace of Buddhism in Sri Lanka

Mihintale is located just 13km outside of the town centre of Anuradhapura. It makes for a great half-day excursion and is not to be missed if you're in this part of the country.

Regarded as being one of the birthplaces of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Mihintale is a culturally important place to Sri Lankans and you’ll see devout buddhists and monks making their pilgrimage here.

Inside the main complex you’ll find ruins, stupas and a giant Buddha statue. These are all easily accessible. There is also the mountain peak which you can climb. Unfortunately, we had to miss this due to heavy rain that happened halfway through our visit, forcing us to end it early.

Entrance Cost: 500 rupees (as of 12/12/19)

Exploring Anuradhapura - Guides, entrance & transport options

Anuradhapura is guarded behind a steep entrance fee. To be honest, we aren’t quite sure which parts are required to have the ticket and which parts aren’t as we didn’t end up paying until halfway through our tour.

There is the option of cycling around the different sites or renting a car/tuk tuk. We originally had our hearts set on renting bicycles but the heavy rain the night before ensured us that it wouldn’t be pleasant, so we opted for the tuk tuk. This ended up being a good decision as our driver spoke great English and gave us a good amount of background on each site we visited.

Hiring a driver with knowledge of the ruins makes for a good alternative if you don’t want to splash out for a guide. However, local guides are available.

Touring the ruins by bicycle will take up to 8 hours, whilst via Tuk Tuk could could take 4 - 5 hours depending on how long you spend at each location.

Entrance Cost: 25USD (The cost is dependant on the exchange rate at that time)
Bicycle Rental: 500 rupees
Tuk Tuk Tour: 2500 - 3000 rupees

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi - Home of the oldest known tree in the world

Drummers leading a parade to take the orange cloth to Ruwanwelisaya

Our first stop of the tour was Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, home of the sacred Bodhi tree that’s the oldest known and documented tree in the world. It was supposedly born from a sapling from the Bodhi tree that Buddha sat under when he gained enlightenment.

The tree itself is held up by golden railings and a temple complex surrounds it. It’s a deeply important religious centre for Buddhism and thousands of Buddhists bring offerings here every day.

Buddhists dressed in white with offerings and incense

The best part about visiting this place of worship is to witness the level of dedication. We were fortunate to see a ceremony begin where the local people (and tourists alike) were holding a very long orange cloth, intended on being wrapped around Ruwanwelisaya, led by drummers through the temple (pictured).

Throughout the complex are a number of smaller sites to visit as well.

Ruwanwelisaya - The white stupa

Buddhists following a monk around the stupa exterior and the stupa's spiral peak

Close to the Bodhi Tree is Ruwanwelisaya, a wonder of the ancient world dating back to 160 BC. Standing at 92 metres with a golden, jewel-encrusted spire this stupa is also of huge significance to Buddhists.

An engineering and architecture marvel of its time, the stupa is truly a sight to behold. There are many spots to take great photos of the monument and the best thing to do is take your time walking around its exterior, likely talking to friendly locals along the way.

Into the Ancient City

Monks visiting Kuttam Pokuna, the twin ponds

Next we enter the main archeological zone of all the different sites in Anuradhapura. This area has more guard stations who will be on the lookout for people without tickets.

Some of the ruins are over 2,000 years old and are in bad shape. So be ready to use your imagination to picture what this area would have looked like back then.

Our guide defining the visual differences between types of stupas

There are many fascinating stops you’ll make along the way, including Kuttam Pokuna (The twin ponds), Jetavanaramaya (the worlds tallest stupa), the Samadhi Buddha statue and the Moonstone.

Last thoughts: Should you visit Anuradhapura?

Monks and local Buddhists entering a stupa and a design similar to the Moonstone

We could only imagine how it feels to visit a place of such cultural significance as if we were Buddhists, but visiting as we are was a very special experience and one of our highlights in Sri Lanka.

Depending on how much time you have in Sri Lanka and where else you plan on stopping is what will ultimately factor in to your decision to visit Anuradhapura. You may experience 'temple-fatigue’ if you combine this with the likes of the Dambulla Rock Caves or the other ancient city, Polonnaruwa.

We feel it’s worth visiting Anuradhapura over the others due to its significance and less touristy feel. A lot less people make the journey this far north so you will have less families and selfie-stick aficionados to contend with.

Where to stay - Amsterdam Tourist Rest

It’s entirely possible to visit as a day trip from Sigiriya, however we feel it’s best to stay nearby. It’s a long day to explore the area in full. Especially when you factor Mihintale in as well.

We stayed at the Amsterdam Tourist Rest and had a fantastic 1 night stay. The owner was lovely and helped us arrange all our tours and transport options. The food was also delicious. However, there are plenty of local eateries not too far away if you prefer to eat outside your guesthouse.


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Bali: Your Perfect 3-Week Itinerary

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After spending several weeks across many different areas, we've put together what we consider to be a perfect 3-week itinerary. We believe this gives you a great taste of the unique adventures and delights that Bali has to offer.

Tanah Lot, Diamond Beach and the Rice Fields of Sidemen

Why Bali?

There is something special about Bali that keeps people coming back over and over again. It wasn't until we had travelled extensively around South East Asia that we decided to give it a try. We now believe the hype.

Bali offers incredibly diverse landscapes, impeccably cool cafes and restaurants and some of the friendliest locals that we have come across.

Combine all that with excellent value for money and the ease of getting around and its success is no longer a mystery. 

Week 1: Leaving Bali & Hitting Up the Islands

Kelingking Beach, Sunrise at Gili T and Atuh Beach

It might seem counter-intuitive to leave Bali just as you arrive but some of the best beaches, ones that South East Asia are known for, aren’t always found there. Start your trip off right with a combination of adventure and relaxation with Nusa Penida and the Gili Islands.

You can reach these islands by ferry from Sanur or Padang Bai. If your flight or bus arrives late at night, spend a night in Sanur or Padang Bai the night before.

The Gili Islands - 4 Days

An iconic swing at sunset and the main port

The Gili Islands all have their unique character and have something for everyone. You can party in Gili T, feel like you’re on a deserted island in Gili Meno or enjoy couple time in Gili Air. Pick one to stay on and visit the others as a day trip.

Nusa Penida - 3 Days

Kelingking Beach and Diamond Beach

Nusa Penida is still under the radar by Bali standards but that’s rapidly changing. The island offers some of the most stunning and dramatic coastlines we’ve ever seen and getting from point A to point B, when you’re here, always feels like an adventure.

Week 2 - Soaking up the culture in Central Bali

Campuhan Ridge, Mount Batur and a local temple in Sidemen

Some of our favourite areas to spend time on this island are within the towns of Central Bali. There is so much to explore here and the locals are some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.

Basing yourself in Ubud and Sidemen allows you to take day trips to see sites such as the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Temple of Heaven and many more. Although the distances between places may seem short, still allow for plenty of time to get around.

Sidemen - 3 Days

The Sidemen Morning Market and rice fields

Often described as being the ‘Ubud of 25 years ago’, Sidemen promises an authentic look into the Balinese culture. Like Ubud, Sidemen is a small town surrounded by rice fields. Sidemen is a great place to relax and unwind, which may be sorely needed depending where you’ve visited so far.

Mount Batur - Day Trip

Mount Batur at sunrise

A sunrise trek up Mount Batur, an active volcano, is an unforgettable experience. It requires a very early start as tours generally start between 12:00 - 2:30am. You can begin your tour from most places on the island, but doing so from central Bali will give you a couple more hours of sleep beforehand.

Ubud - 4 Days

The view from Cafe Pomegranate and wares at the Ubud Central Market

Ubud is the cultural hub of Bali. Our favourite thing about Ubud are the treks you can take from the centre where you can see the lush, green surroundings of the rice fields and jungle. There are also countless restaurants and bars here of a very high quality, including Indonesia’s top ranked restaurant, Locavore.

Week 3: Live it up in South Bali

Uluwatu Beach, Theanna Eco VIllas and Lifecrate Cafe

South Bali is where most people picture when then think of Bali, whether positive or negative.

Influencers, drunk Australians and more inhabit these parts that promise a certain type of holiday lifestyle that mixes decedent beach clubs with world-class surf.

There are a lot of towns to choose from in South Bali, each with their pros and cons. We’ve only seen a few but these are the ones we feel stand above the rest.

Uluwatu - 3 Days

Karma Beach and Bingin Beach

Uluwatu is famous for its world-class surf and decadent beach clubs. For non-surfers there are many gorgeous beaches hidden and scattered around worth checking out. There is also Uluwatu Temple, which sits perched on a cliff edge.

Jimbaran - 1 Day

Sunset on Jimbaran Beach

Jimbaran ended up being a surprise highlight for us. We stayed a night here to break up the journey from Uluwatu to Seminyak and loved it. If you walk north from the beachside seafood restaurants you’ll find a stretch of sand with a much more local vibe.

Canggu - 3 Days

The Lawn and Mexican at La Bandidas

Canggu is today’s Seminyak. The perfect place to unwind in a villa at the end of your adventure across Bali. There are many great cafes, restaurants and beach clubs here to keep you busy. A few days will barely scratch the surface of what’s on display, and you’ll soon learn why people keep coming back here.

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Canggu: Our Favourite Places

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Whilst the beaches of Canggu don't match the likes of Uluwatu down south or off the mainland towards the Gili Islands, this beachside area offers something else.

Canggu is Bali's epicentre of cool. A home for expats and influencers where Bali's unique holiday flavour is experimented with and refined. This is the place to visit in Bali if you want to see to try the latest beach club, restaurant or concept cafe.

Sometimes you may feel like you are in Sydneys Eastern suburbs rather than Bali whilst you are here, but thats part of the appeal for some.

Here are our top places for teh area:

Accommodation

Where to stay: Theanna Eco Villa

Details of Theanna Eco Villa

Beautiful villas that are offered in Balinese, Japanese or Scandinavian style interiors. They have a 24 hour shuttle service that can drop you off anywhere in Canggu, free of charge.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Cafes

For the best coffee: BGS Bali

Some of the best coffee we've had in Bali

Small coffee shop located on the main street in Batu Bolong. Easily the best coffee we have tried during our travels in Bali.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Beachgarden: Organic Kitchen

Street artwork and smashed avo on toast

Beachgarden offers vegetarian food. You can get all your healthy favourites here in a quaint setting close to the heart of Batu Bolong.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Lifescrate

Vegetarian breakfast choices and exterior

Super popular concept cafe offering a huge range of breakfast options. A pretentious crowd and setting doesn’t defer from the quality of the food.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Restaurants

Our Favourite: La Bandida

Quesadilla and burrito

La Bandida serves up delicious Mexican fare in a cool, chilled out setting. The interior and vibe is unpretentious with beds and lounges to lay down on. There are daily specials too.

  • Cash Only

La Baracca

Grungy interior

Cosy and intimate Italian restaurant offering up authentic cuisine. Perfect for a date night.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Mason

Beautiful interior stylings and well presented food

Mason has a minimal menu offering cured meats and more. We had the mixed meat board, hummus and spinach & ricotta filo pastries.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Bro Resto

The dumplings here were amazing

Bro Resto is another fusion restaurant combining French & Chinese. The dumplings they have on offer (especially the mozzarella ones) are excellent.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Pit Stop

An excellent burger stop for all your unhealthy, late night cravings. They can deliver to your villa too.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Bars

Best Value: Echo Beach Club

Beachfront location

Chilled out beach club offering superb sunset views at very reasonable prices. They offer fresh seafood also.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

The Lawn

Iconic umbrellas at The Lawn

Super stylish beach club located next to Old Mans. Like other Bali beach clubs, day beds are based on a daily minimum spend.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

Old Man's

Rustic feel with sea themed muras

Another Canggu beach club offering a relaxed, laid back vibe. Happy hour from 5 - 6pm everyday offering buy 1 get 1 free for all drinks.

  • Cash & Card Accepted

La Brisa

The pool area at La Brisa

One of Canggu’s most popular stops and a must-visit during your stay. Family friendly and a very relaxed atmosphere. Perhaps too relaxed?

  • Cash & Card Accepted

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Mount Batur: The Sunrise Trek

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Mt. Batur is Bali’s second tallest mountain standing at 1,717 metres. It’s an active volcano that has a special reverence to the Balinese people.

Climbing the mountain to witness a spectacular sunrise is a popular activity with a lot of agencies on the island being able to arrange a tour for you. Group or private. Whilst you can more or less do the trek yourself without a guide, we used Mt Batur Sunrise Trekking Company for ours thanks to their excellent reviews.

We were blessed to be staying in Ubud before undertaking this trek. It meant that we got to sleep in for another 90 minutes compared to our South Bali based climbers.

Our driver picked us up at 2:30am and we were on our way!

Toya Bungkah Village - The starting point

Upon arriving here we met Ayu, our guide who would take us up the volcano. There was an opportunity here to rent a jacket if you hadn’t already brought one.

Before long we started on the trail with nothing but our flashlights and the stars above to illuminate our path forward.

The sun shining through Lombok's Mt Rinjani in the distance

Ascending the volcano - How hard is it?

The first 25% of the trek is quite straight forward and not too steep. The biggest challenge during this part is getting used to walking in the dark with your flashlight.

The first challenge comes when you reach a rest stop and are given the options between the easy and hard routes:

Easy Route: This is a straight forward zigzagging path that doesn't require any dexterity with your footing. When you come back down afterwards, this is the route you will take.

Hard Route: This route is actually faster but requires more climbing and the trail becomes quite slippery at times. There are lot's of parts where you have to take big steps and need to find your gripping.

We went for the hard route and were glad we did so as it offers more variety as you go up rather than just being, more or less, a straight path. It actually ends up being faster to get to the top by taking this route as well.

Overall, it was challenging but definitely doable. You'll get the opportunity to take plenty of rests on your way up.

The morning sun shooting through the steam

Reaching the top - The final stretch

Before getting to the top, both the easy and hard routes meet in another rest area that has a shop selling snacks and food.

The next 15 minutes of walking from here are the most challenging but you will feel extremely rewarded upon getting through them!

We began walking at 3:40am and reached the top viewing area at 5:15am meaning we had around 45 minutes to relax before the sunset.

While we were perhaps faster than average, it gives you an idea of how much time you can spend going up and you can feel free to take lots of breaks.

Lena overlooking the mountains

The sunrise - Let the show begin

When you arrive, your gyide will likely offer to make you some tea, coffee or hot chocolate and also prepare a basic breakfast for you.

As for the sunrise itself, you will be at the complete mercy of the weather gods as for how amazing it will be.

Regardless of whether or not a gigantic cloud decides to pop in front of the sun, the views up here are absolutely stunning. You will not be disappointed with your choice to get out of bed at such an early hour.

It felt truly special up here, witnessing the day begin from such a vantage point.

Exploring the crater and descending

After you've taken a few thousand photos of the sunrise at every creative angle you can think of you can explore the area in more detail.

You get to walk around the crater and enjoy sweeping views all over Bali. You can take a photo with sulphur steam all around you (This is also where the watert hey use to make your hot drinks and boil the eggs).

Steam along the crater

You can take as much time up here as you like before deciding to being your descent. 

It took us around 1 hour to get back down but it was definitely tough on the legs and the steepness is constant. 

It was interesting to see where we had walked up in daylight to give context as to where we had started that morning.

Eventually you'll reach the bottom and, depending which tour company you went with, you'll be taken back to where you're staying with possible pit stop on the way.

Mount Batur in daylight

Last thoughts

The Mount Batur sunrise trek is a must-do experience in Bali. We would easily put it in our top 3 things to do here.

Book it in now, you won't regret it!

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Sidemen: An Authentic Slice of Bali

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Sidemen is a quiet village in East Bali famous for its rice terraces and promise of an authentic look at life on Bali. This is the place to go if you want to relax, unwind, enjoy stunning views and people watch. Often referred to as what ‘Ubud was like 25 years ago’, a couple of days spent in Sidemen won’t go to waste.

Rice Fields Walking Tour

Ruins amongst the rice fields

In the afternoon we went on a 3 hour trek through the rice fields of Sidemen. Our guide calmly led us through the fields whilst pointing out local vegetables and teaching us about the techniques at display to harvest the rice.

Rice fields in Sidemen

We were greeted warmly by everyone we passed and it appears that our guide knew every single one of them, as he’d stop for a brief chat each time. Sidemen has a very strong communal feel and at no time was it more pronounced than here.

In preparation of Purnama

During our tour we crossed small lakes, passed through a small village and witnessed spectacular views over the rice fields. We were lucky to be here during preparation for Purnama, a ceremony entered around the full moon. Extra offerings are given during this period and the temples are decorated in golden fabrics.

Sidemen Morning Market

Locals purchasing goods at the morning market

The following day we braved the early morning and ventured into the main part of town to visit the morning market.

The market runs from 4am - 10am but we were advised to arrive before 7am, as after then the stalls have sold or packed up most of their wares.

Walking through the town we were surprised to see all the kids being dropped off at school at 6:30. How’s that for an early start?

The market itself sells various things such as fresh produce and offering baskets, but the main draw in visiting is to see the people of Sidemen in their morning routine.

There was quite the hustle and bustle despite the early hour.

Sidemen morning market

Other things to do in Sidemen

Sidemen makes for an excellent gateway to East Bali, shortening the lengths of day trips to this area considerably.

You can avoid the dreaded 4am starts from Ubud or Canggu to visit places such as Lempuyang Temple or Tirta Gangga by staying here and instead enjoy a couple of extra hours sleeping in.

You can also go on water rafting or bicycle tours, a great way to see more of the surrounding countryside. There is also a small temple that you can hike up to offering panoramic views of the area

A local worker in the rice fields

Last thoughts

Staying in Sidemen is guaranteed to give you relaxation and insight into the Balinese way of life. 

We only spent 2 days here but could see us spending more time in the future, especially as an alternative to Ubud.

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Nusa Penida: Exploring the East Coast

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We had to leave Nusa penida earlier than exepected today so unfotunately had to cut our trip short. This meant we didn't get the opportunity to climb down to Diamond Beach or see some of the other areas the east coast is famous for.

However, what we did see made up for it and Diamon beach, especially, exceeded expectations.

Goa Giri Putri Cave

A ceremony happening inside the cave

Starting the day off with something different, we visited a temple located in a massive underground cave.

Our driver stopped in a car park just outside and directed us to where we could rent a sarong. We paid 5k each.

After climbing up some steps you’ll be blessed and then be required to sign your name in a visitors book. You’ll then get directed to a tiny hole in the ground that leads to the cave.

It’s incredibly atmospheric inside, all you could hear were the echoes of chanting and praying. You can walk all the way through to the exit and then follow the road to the right which will take you back to the main road where you can find the car park.

Diamond Beach

The swing down below on Diamond Beach

The coastline of Nusa Penida thus far has not failed to disappoint! We let out an audible ‘holy shit’ upon seeing seeing the full view of Diamond Beach.

The white cliffs juxtaposed against the turquoise waters and palm trees looked unbelievably beautiful. We couldn’t stop taking photos.

There are few areas to check out for different views and there is, of course, the beach down below.

Famous views of Diamond Beach

We unfortunately arrived here during a very busy time and didn’t get the chance to make our way down the staircase to the beach as we were on a tight time frame so we opted to take the walk down to Atuh Beach instead as we heard it was a better place to swim.

Atuh Beach

Views of Atuh Beach and rock formations in the bay

There is another steep staircase near the entrance for Diamond Beach which takes you to Atuh Beach. The surface down is difficult but a rope is attached to the cliff side which makes it easier (and feel much safer).

Lena walking into the water

Atuh Beach is a great place to stop and chill as there are restaurants and beach chairs all along the beach.

Once again, a stunning rock formation sits out in the bay just waiting to be photographed. Coming here for sunrise would be a treat.

Thousand Island & Treehouse Viewpoint

The monument marking the viewpoint

Our last stop for the day we’re the Thousand Island & Treehouse Viewpoints.

The shots of the treehouse are quite famous on Instagram, and you can get your own shot for just 50k if you’re so inclined.

Diamond Beach in the distance and ongoing construction

To reach this area requires another steep walk down some stairs which we had become pros at during our time on this island.

The main viewpoint offers sweeping views of Diamond Beach and more. There is not much else to do here other than take photos of the surroundings.

Last thoughts

Whilst we didn’t get the chance to visit everywhere the east coast offers, we received a nice sampling.

Some other spots are Teletubbies Hill and Suwehan Beach which we would have loved to visit if we had time.

The views of Diamond Beach alone, however, make this trip more than worthwhile and it’s beauty & perfection is something that will stay etched in our minds for a long time to come.

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Nusa Penida: Exploring the West Coast

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We started our day bright and early at 7:30am. We had a few places we wanted to visit and our plan was quite ambitious.

We met our driver, Simanta, and headed to our first stop, the now very famous Kelingking Beach.

Kelingking Beach

Kelingking Beach and alternate views

We arrived at around 8:35am and were pleased to see it wasn’t too crowded yet. The beautiful formation, which resembles a T-Rex, set against the turquoise waters was wondrous. Seeing this place in so many photos beforehand didn’t do it justice.

The T-Rex shape coming through

We opted not to make our way all the way down the ultra steep footpath to the beach below and stopped halfway, preserving our energy for what else the day had in store for us.

Hot tip: We explored the area to the right of the main pathway where we had a different view of the iconic formation all to ourselves.

Angels Billabong & Broken Beach

Angel's Billabong and the central archway at Broken Beach

Angels Billabong is a naturally formed infinity pool overlooking the ocean. We were warned against going in for a swim but it was safe to dip your feet in.

Broken Beach, just a short walk away, boasts an incredibly distinctive coastal line. As it’s name suggests, it feels as if the coast started breaking apart to reveal a beautiful beach below.

The stunning turqoise colours of the water

An archway stretches over the middle allowing you to admire the view from many angles, opening up a lot of photo opportunities.

As with Kelingking Beach, be warned that this area gets very busy in the morning as it’s on most tour companies itineraries.

Tembeling Forest & Beach

Piled rocks through the cave

An area more off-the-beaten-path, Tembeling Forest hides a natural pool and secluded beach at the end of an incredibly steep and rocky trail. From the entrance point, you have a few options on how to reach the bottom:

  • • You can walk 30 minutes down the trail
  • • You can pay between 50 - 75k for a return taxi motorbike ride
  • • You can brave the road yourself and drive down on your rented motorbike
A quiet beach and water fountains

We opted for the return taxi ride. Riding down yourself requires a high level of skill, so only do so if you are extremely comfortable riding a motorbike.

The natural pool itself is the first part you’ll walk past and the area around it serves as a place of worship for locals. There were locals cliff jumping into the pool.

Pressing forward will take you past a second pool which is much smaller in scale.

Peguyangan Waterfall

The waterfall at the bottom

Our next stop was possibly the highlight of our west coast tour. A 300ish step walk down a rickety set of stairs anchored to the cliff side takes you to a small waterfall, worship area and stunning views of the coastline.

You will be required to rent a sarong before beginning the trail, which cost 15k each.

A local family walkingdown the iconic blue steps and the ocean below

We had to muster up all of our courage to face the heights and stay focused on the walk down. The walk down feels worse than going back up. You will feel a great sense of accomplishment when you reach the bottom.

Locals gathered at a small temple at the bottom of the stairs

We were walking behind a group of Balinese people who were making their way down to make offerings and prayers. I wonder how often they make this trip down?

Crystal Bay

Sunset at Crystal Bay

Our last stop was the somewhat underwhelming Crystal Bay. Whilst not that spectacular (by Nusa Penida standards) it served its purpose as a place to unwind with a couple of Bintangs and watch the sunset.

There is a small island in the bay that appeared to have a small temple on top, giving off some similar vibes to Tanah Lot in Bali.

Locals and tourists enjoying Crystal Bay

Last thoughts

No visit to Nusa Penida would be complete without visiting sone of the spots on this list.

Whilst Kelingking Beach is essential, if you’re short on time you could easily drop Crystal Bay and even Angels Billabong & Broken Beach (Especially if you are planning on visiting the east coast as well).

Tembeling Forest and Peguyangan Waterfall were much quieter and were more enjoyable as a result.

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