Ubud is ideally placed for exploring Bali and a weekend is more than enough to get to the furthest corners of the island for a weekend or a few night’s break. All are easily reached on your scooter with an overnight bag, just remember to pack light!
Laid Back Weekend in Sleepy Amed
This trip goes East from Ubud to the peaceful coast-side villages of Amed. It’s a long drive, so stop and take a few hours on the fantastic Virgin Beach on the way there. Amed is ideal for kicking back, relaxing and doing some diving or snorkeling.
On the way back you can drive right by Mount Agung, take a visit to one of the most beautiful water temples on the island at Tirta Gangga and then pass through the scenic countryside of Sideman Road.
I will detail a recommended route on the way there and the way back, places to stay and eat in Amed and my top things to do while you’re there.
Candidasa Refresh Family Restaurant
The first stop on your way is around halfway to Amed after approximately 1.5 hours. You’ve just come off burning down the Padangbai highway and have entered Candidasa. Halfway down the main street (which is only about 100m long so slow down or you’ll miss it!), you’ll see a sign for Refresh Family Restaurant. They do a good breakfast menu so it’s a great place to refuel for the next part of your journey.
Virgin Beach is arguably one of the best beaches in Bali. Stunning white sands, great snorkeling, one of the most beautiful approaches you’ll find which is – as an added bonus – navigable on a bike (so no agonizing stair climb on the walk back). Its relative isolation (it’s a good 2-hour drive from Ubud and an hour from Amed) means it’s tricky as a day trip from most places in Bali and so it does not suffer from inflated prices or overzealous beach vendors, masseurs, etc, making it an ideal spot.
You will see signs pointing off to the right not long after passing through Candidasa and, don’t worry if you miss the first one, there will be a second one just a little further up. You follow the signs up a mountain road which, at the top gives you spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and, as you get further up, of the beach itself, which will have you salivating in anticipation! There is a small entrance fee, which you pay at the top and then follow the path down to the parking, which is right on the beach – bliss. I always go to the right, away from the main carpark and developed area and head towards the far-right bay, where there is a warung with a couple of sunbeds and which also has snorkels, coconuts and a fresh catch of fish if you stay for lunch. You can also leave your stuff here without any problems when you go in the sea. The snorkeling over by the rocks and right until the middle of the beach is excellent, with plenty of tropical fish on view as well as a couple of turtles who often frequent the area.
If you still have the energy after your trip to the beach, there is one more interesting stop before you reach Amed. The Ujung water palace is literally at the side of the road, so no great detour is needed. It consists of several large pools in a complex with numerous temple buildings and its location, right on the coast and in the shadow of Mount Agung, affords it enviable views which are popular for wedding shoots.
- Google map: here
- Total km: 78km
- Difficulty: Medium
- Cost: 20k (petrol), 50k (breakfast), 25k (coconut), 25k (sunbed), 100k (lunch), 25k (water temple)
Amed – Where to stay
When people refer to Amed, they are in fact referring to a number of small villages which scatter the eastern coastline, starting around the location of the Japanese shipwreck in the south, all the way up to the northern-most part of the outcrop. You can approach either from the North or the South although the southern route, which follows the coast, gives you fantastic views along the way. The road is not in the best shape but is perfectly fine on a bike.
There is no ‘best’ place to stay, although the northern end tends to have more bars, restaurants, dive shops and nightlife. Places on the ‘beach side’ of the road will usually be more expensive as you have less traffic noise and direct access to the beach. However, there are great options and bargains to be had for all locations and budgets. I’ve chosen a selection of these based on personal experience and recommendations from friends:
Barong Cafe and Bungalows (200k)
Barong Café Bungalows are situated on the mountain side of the road, although the individual cottages are set back into the mountain in order to avoid road noise. Rooms are excellent quality for the price, staff are very helpful and breakfast is also good. There is a small-ish pool at the hotel and you also have access to a full-sized one in the hotel just across the road. Overall great value.
Villa Taman Padi (350k)
Taman Padi is on the beach-side and although set back from the beach, it is easily close enough to walk to. It is located on a dip in the hilly road so there are no steps to access either the hotel or the beach. It’s also far enough from the road so that you don’t get traffic noise.
Rooms are excellent value, some even have their own kitchen. The pool is lovely and overlooks the beach.
Kelapa Cottage (450k)
Kelapa Cottage is right at the north end of town and down a dirt road which heads up to the mountains so if you want to spend most of your time on the beach, it may not be the most ideal. The hotel itself though is fantastic, almost like a resort. The breakfast buffet is excellent and the pool area so calm and peaceful, you may pass on the beach altogether.
They also run yoga classes and teacher training from time to time.
Solo travelers also have the option of staying in the dorms for 200k a night.
Casa de Amed (700k)
Now we’re getting into the upmarket end of the accommodation spectrum. Still far from expensive by western prices (around €45), Casa de Amed is worth a splurge to really feel like you’re taking care of yourself. The rooms are set amongst beautiful gardens which reach down to the beach. Immaculately turned-out staff cater to your every need.
Nalini Resort (1000k)
At the top end of the scale, you have Nalini resort, which is run by a lovely Australian couple who’ve been living in Amed for over 25 years and can give you advice about all kinds of activities in the area.
The highlight of Nalini has to be the excellent food cooked up by chef Gus (read more about Nalini resort in this previous blogpost)
Amed – What to do
Dive a Wreck Site
The Liberty Wreck is known as perhaps the best dive site in Bali and is where you can inspect at close quarters the USS Liberty, which ran aground here after being hit by a Japanese torpedo! Then, when Mount Agung erupted in 1963, the lava flow washed it back into the sea, where it remains to this day. Only 30m from the shore and with dive spots starting at 4m depths, it makes it one of the easiest wreck sites to dive. Although not located right in Amed (it’s a short drive up the coast to Tulamben), it’s well worth a visit while you are here and any of the dive shops in town will help you to organise a trip.
The Japanese shipwreck, although not comparable to the Liberty, is a good option for snorklers. The wreck can be accessed just off the shore and is easily visible at a few metres below the surface. You can access just from the road at the south end of Amed (it’s very well signposted) and does not cost anything to see it. I strongly recommend bringing your own snorkeling gear with you to Amed as the quality of the rental equipment is awful.
Lipah beach is at the Southern end of Amed in is one of the best options for snorkeling. The sand is black sand, but don’t let that put you off. It may not be as pretty as the picture-perfect beaches of Uluwatu, but it’s calm waters and abundant sea life are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Although it was never evacuated all through the troubling final months of 2017 when Mount Agung was threatening to blow, Amed’s close proximity to the volcano certainly put off a lot of tourists and locals alike during this period. Although things are slowly now getting back to normal, there remain some serious bargains to be had. Bali is now one of the cheapest places to do your PADI certificate in the world. There are many Dive centers to choose from, but Dive Concepts, for example, offers the Open Water course for 3.1 mil IDR (€200). Fab Dive also come highly recommended. Amed is also one of the only places you can learn to freedive on the island. Check out Apneista, who do yoga and Freediving
Drink Arak and party
Although a far cry from party-central Seminyak or Canggu (in fact Amed might even make Ubud nightlife look lively) you will find the odd ‘reggae night’ going on around Jalan Amed. Rasta bar, for example, often has a live reggae band playing and you may find a mix of ex-pats, tourists and locals dancing and getting drunk on local arak liquor (be warned, the hangover will be brutal!). Be careful of the young lads racing each other on the narrow mountain roads at night on your way home, particularly if you’re a couple of araks worse for wear!
The yoga scene in Amed is not anywhere near as well developed as yoga-Mecca Ubud and you may not be able to easily find drop-in options whenever you want. However, there is a burgeoning scene and there are now a number of places offering yoga classes and even some retreat centres if you want to really relax and take some time for yourself. Life in Amed offer daily morning and afternoon sessions at their retreat centre and hotel. Trimurti Yoga also offer daily sessions at the peaceful Kelapa Cottages and Nalini resort will be hosting annual retreats with All About Yogis starting in November 2018.
Amed – Where to Eat
Amed may still be somewhat behind other big cities in Bali in terms of pure variety of eating options, and you may find it more difficult here to get your smashed avo or superfood smoothies. However, what it lacks in vegan options, it more than makes up for in it’s direct access to freshly caught seafood. Down on Jalan Amed you will find a ton of seafront restaurants serving up freshly caught grilled fish. Hard to beat. If you are out and about early, you can find fishermen unloading their catch and may even want to choose your specimen there and then. Take it back to your hotel and ask them to cook it up with some rice and sambal for dinner!
Galanga is a lovely little warung serving fresh and delicious food. Great salads, drinks and desserts, including some good vegan and veggie options.
For fish, you have The Grill. Serving great big chunks of tuna, mahi-mahi or whatever is fresh that day
There are plenty of places down on the beach where you can get a decent grilled fish, but I particularly liked this place, with the cute tables on the sand, some perfect sunset views of Mount Agung and some of the best Lak-Lak to be found on the island being served up for dessert!
On the way back, you can decide to go back around the coastal road or go north through some breathtaking mountain scenery for an alternative, and just as spectacular, ride.
On the way, you can stop at Tirta Gangga, the sumptuously picturesque water temple, and then through Sideman, before heading back to Ubud.
- Tirta Gangga – Tirta Gangga is an easy stop on the way back from Amed. About an hour after leaving Amed, through the wonderful mountain scenery and then, the less wonderful logging roads full of nasty lorries, you will find Tirta Gangga set, a little inconspicuously, at the side of the road.
If you have made an early start from Amed, you will find it pleasingly free from tourist hordes and you will have the stunning complex to explore in peace. If you’d prefer your wanderings to be unencumbered, leave your bags, as I did, at the ticket booth.
- Sideman – I’ve written plenty about Sideman in previous posts so rather than repeating myself here, you can check out: Day trips from Ubud or Greedy Cat Adventures in Sideman Road for more info. It would be a good place to stop for lunch or you can stay a little longer and take a walk.
Way Back Summary
- Google map: here
- Total km: 78km
- Difficulty: Medium
- Cost: 20k (petrol), 25k (water palace)