Bali has become one of the world’s most fabulous places to visit. Because of that popularity, each fully booked plane and the millions upon millions of arrival passengers each year in some way chips away at the exotic nature of this island paradise.
The unexplored has sadly become the common with the steady flow of Instagram influencers who with each post to their followers make Bali’s hidden treasures, unhidden. However, Bali has its own hinterland, high in the mountains and far away from the nearest beach bar, that is still a place of untrampled beauty. That’s where you’ll find the little-known village of Bedugul and a lovely respite from the masses in the Saranam Resort and Spa.
Thankfully, for some unbeknown reason, there is an unperceivable line of mass tourism in Bali that stops at Ubud. Beyond seems to be an unchartered territory that most outsiders do not dare to explore. At least that is what one would think as there is very little chatter beyond that imaginary border.
Jimbaran Bay, Seminiyak, Sanur Beach, Ubud, and most recently Uluwatu have received the lion’s share of tourists staying at a plethora of these destination’s mega resorts and boutique hotels. Perhaps it is the distance from the airport or that it is just not popular for the TikTok crowd but for whatever reason, central Bali remains the delicious road less travelled.
Beyond Bali’s latitude line of mass tourism is a simpler place where the rice patty fields are bigger, the valleys wider and the mountains are higher. The roads wind and turn through small towns up the mountain to a much higher elevation at 3000 feet above sea level where the air is noticeably fresher and even several degrees cooler. That is where you’ll find the Saranam Resort and Spa, along a roadside in the crossroads village of Bedugul. From the roadside you’ll see the parking lot and not much more but once inside, prepare to be awestruck.
After a warm and genuine greeting by the staff, you’ll enter the grandiose lobby, wide-open and spacious, with beautiful objects d’art and glimmering marble floors. As lovely as the lobby may be, it is merely a frame and platform for the resort’s most riveting gem.
The treasure is the breathtaking views of the steep tropical valley; surrounding tropical jungles, lush tiered rice paddies and, in the distance, the majestic Batukaru mountain. Throughout the stay at the Saranam Resort and Spa, these fairytale-like views steal moments to appreciate, be it at sunset, after waking or during a contemplative moment during a candle lit dinner.
The Saranam Resort and Spa is a complete resort set on 5,000 acres with 79 rooms and suites and 10 villas, two restaurants, a full-service spa, and a massive free form infinity edge pool. The resort makes the ideal base to explore the area with countless activities to pursue on and off the property.
The accommodations are exceptional with all the creature comforts that one would expect in a luxury mountainside retreat. The Deluxe Rooms are perched high upon the hillside with comfy king-sized beds, beautiful furnishings and contemporary design. The most compelling feature is the outdoor living spaces created to take in the stunning views of the valley. Just beyond the floor to ceiling sliding doors, the balcony spans the width of the room with deck furnishings ideal for an evening of watching the sunset over the mountains in the east or for a cup of coffee to start the day.
The Hilltop Villas are on a hillside overlooking the property and have even more features and amenities. Inside the wooden houses are traditional Balinese décor, classic mid-century furniture and exposed rafters with king sized beds draped in muslin netting. The baths are lavish with a deep soaking tub ideal for relaxing after a long day of exploring. For an even more opulent stay, the resort’s speciality suites are fit for a king with outdoor showers and private pools.
Dining at the resort is exquisite as well with several venues and both European and Balinese cuisine options. Service is genuine and warm, while most of the caring staff are from the nearby villages so there’s a certain authenticity that comes from that.
Cafe Toya is located near the pool and is ideal for an afternoon lunch or a romantic evening dinner. Dining is available alfresco or from inside the contemporary designed restaurant area with sliding doors to allow in the fresh air and provide sweeping views of the pool and the valley beyond. L’Altitude Restaurant is the all-day dining restaurant offering incredible high-altitude views with large windows that open to let in fresh air and unobstructed sunsets during your meals.
This is a big resort with plenty to do, from lazing around the pool on chic day beds to more active pursuits. The staff literally could not be any friendlier and are happy to provide transport on a golf cart around the property from your villa or guest room.
To get from the pool area all the way to the reception and restaurant areas above there is a nifty vehicular which is an elevator that travels along the ground at a 45% angle. The activities are endless from daily yoga classes provided by talented instructors to kid’s club by adoring staff so that parents can have some alone time.
A stay at the Saranam Resort and Spa is about being surrounded by the beautiful natural surroundings of the area. Staff members are happy to take guests on an escorted rice paddy walk but expect a lot more that just a leisurely stroll. The walk is about two hours long and traipses through the fields adjacent to the property, verdant landscape and up close to the rice fields, past farmers and their day huts, rural homes, and wooded areas with vistas over the valley.
At the end of the trek guests stop at a local café for a fresh smoothie or perhaps a cold Bintan beer while overlooking the rice fields from the terrace. It’s a wonderful way to spend a few hours exploring the area and getting close to the fields, the farmers and their way of life.
Away from the property there are countless adventures in the area. Some of Bali’s most incredible landmarks are in this region yet you’ll start to see more regional versus foreign tourists. Lake Bratan offers one of the island’s top 10 temples that date back to 1633. Around the lakes are gardens, statues and temples in the lake, all offering plenty of locations to take your own enviable Instagram photos.
The Bedugul Botanical Garden is one of the four main botanical gardens in Bali worthy of spending a few hours to explore the diverse flora with more than 400 species of orchids, 650 species of trees, and over 80 species of birds. For some local treats and great souvenirs to take back home, visit the local market with prices much lower than what you’ll find at the markets in the major cities.
Arguably the most visited landmark in the area is the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, comprised of unbelievable rice terraces as far as the eye can see and most stunning to behold. It’s a bit of a tourist haunt with many restaurants and shops around. You’ll see the local people working through the rice harvesting process, as they’ve done for generations, from harvesting and cutting the plants, breaking the rice from the stalk and then preparing it for transport and drying. The area is stunning for exploring or, like countless others, take photos from the areas set up for your ideal photo high above the rice fields.
One experience that guests will never forget is to chase the area’s stunning waterfalls such as the Leke Leke Waterfall. After a 30-minute hike on a well-maintained trail, over a river and a suspended bridge are the falls, and well worth the trip. It is recommended to go early as you may just have the waterfall to yourself to dive into its fresh and clear waters that spill from 60 yards above.
For many, Bali can be somewhat of a been-there-done-that destination. The first several visits are incredible and filled with wonder. After that, the crowds at the busy tourist destinations can make it feel somewhat trite. However, beyond the invisible line that stops at Ubud are untrodden adventures yet to unfold, such as those you’ll find in the Bedugul and its surrounds, and your stay at the Saranam Resort and Spa.
Address: Jl. Mekarsari – Baturiti Bedugul, Baturiti, Kec. Baturiti, Kabupaten Tabanan, Bali 82191, Indonesia
Phone: +62 368 21038