Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Amandari

Indonesia

The resort is built along the lines of a small rural village, in earthy stone, with nature playing the starring role

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Amandari
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Amandari

Location

5 minutes outside Ubud, the buzzing capital of Bali

Travel Information

International flights into Ubud. Transfers can be arranged by the hotel.

Top Tips

Visit perhaps the most revered healer in Bali, Pak Cok Rai

5-Star X-Factors

The luscious overgrown deep Ayung River gorge that (blissfully) dominates your entire stay

Amandari - 'Peaceful Spirit'

Myself, baby daughter Bibi and fellow traveller, Jennifer, left Amanusa near Nusa Dua in the South, to travel inland to Amandari, close to Bali's creative Mecca, Ubud.

We left the coconut palm dominated scenery of Amanusa - a legacy of a vast plantation that once swept along all the shoreline - and headed for the hinterland with its more rural and varied landscape. The drive took us past houses that appeared more like temples, interspersed with verdant green rice paddies, palm trees and rural villages. Palms remain prolific in all the greenery, framing the edge of rice paddies and populating the many pockets of wonderfully mangled jungle. It is a beautiful journey; lush, green, unkempt, peaceful, soulful and utterly enchanting.

We arrived at Amandari, five minutes outside Ubud, with open hearts, minds and spirits. Amanresorts have a sublime predisposition for filling up the blanks. From the moment we stepped out of our 4x4 into the charming forecourt of the 'peaceful spirit' we felt a wave of jungle euphoria combined with an open display of warm hospitality. We felt, strangely so, as though we already belonged. A sentiment echoed by many guests who have stayed here. I think the glorious location is, in part, responsible for this subtle seduction, however it seems also that being here, in the real soul of Bali, makes it doubly arresting.

Amandari's 'family' was immediately responsive to little Bibi and extremely helpful when I required assistance during the filming of our video review. The greeting party included two young girls, exquisitely dressed in traditional costume. It was a captivating welcome in the most wonderfully uplifting environment I can remember.

The resort is built along the lines of a small rural village, in 'earthy' stone, with nature playing the starring role. In fact, nature has spread its indomitable allure into all the nooks and crannies of the locally inspired architectural features. The real magic for me was the gorge; the luscious overgrown deep Ayung River gorge that (blissfully) dominates your entire stay. Its unrestrained gushing forms the base line of the rhapsodic tropical soundtrack.

Luxurious accommodation

There are thirty freestanding suites, each with a private garden and an additional terrace, while some have the added luxury of a pool. The suites are connected by soft volcanic paras stonewalls and andesite rock walkways; all smothered in rainforest jewels. There are small water features, or ponds, in the courtyards of each suite and my resident princely frog sang a unique tune, for me alone it seemed, each morning and early evening. Alang alang thatching is used for all the roofs, another reflection of the locale, while coconut wood and teak are standard throughout.

My bed was stupendously enormous, with a sliding hand painted screen in front of glass and wood sliding doors, set flush behind. The screen opens up to reveal even more oversized leafy lusciousness; meanwhile the bathtub beneath the stars is set secluded in a cornucopia of ferns, heliconia with brilliantly coloured bracts, and dwarf bamboo. Underfoot was a sweep of Javanese marble, a luxuriously creamy and elegant addition. My private stone terrace with daybeds faced the Ayung River Gorge allowing me to enjoy the sounds of the river to a view that never ceased to enrapture me, from dawn until I closed the sliding glass doors at night.

Culinary creations

So, hanging-out in paradise is pretty special here, and even more so when you discover the wonders of its delectable cuisine. Amandari's resident chef - Christian Hinkley, who I met while traversing the circular pilgrimage in Bhutan - is truly inspirational. He has not only embraced the local food scene, he has added and subtracted, he has put in original ideas and he is turning out, surely, some of the best food in Bali. Please Christian, write a cookbook!

Mealtimes at Amandari are a real occasion. The hand-crafted teak imbued restaurant is housed in duplex style above the curved salt-water infinite pool that looks like a magnificent rendition of the nearby rice paddies. It serves local, Indonesian and Western food, as well as offering some well-chosen wines from both France and the New World. The food was sensational, without doubt the most outstanding we enjoyed during our stay in Indonesia. We savoured both Nasi Padang and Nasi Campur which combines Balinese and Indonesian rice dishes. Taste sensations that still resonate around my taste buds are the coconut marinated diced fried chicken and the just cooked steamed fish with tomato and kecap manis. Dining in the restaurant at night, with the pool illuminated beneath the blue black of night, together with the harmonious notes of the gamelan played by musicians in the music pavilion, will stay with me always.

It's true that you could just stay at the resort for several days, enjoying the relaxing spa, dreaming on the comfortable day beds by the pool, even walking down to the gushing river and back past temples and holy water sites; or working out in the fitness centre overlooking a lotus pond. However, Amandari is also superbly located for enjoying excursions in and around this soulful heart of Bali and, with only a short stay before us, we packed-in quite a menu.

Healing Hands

Ubud, along with its surrounding valleys and villages, is renowned for its healing properties. Not only earth-bound potions, but also the more spiritually charged; albeit delivered by mortal hands. To that end we chose to visit perhaps the most revered healer in Bali, Pak Cok Rai.

We arrived at what appeared to be a temple from the Jungle Book; I almost expected Mowgli or Baloo to greet me. Instead it was Pak Cok Rai, a distinguished man with both magical and royal blood who heals by the touch of his potent hands. He holds no prisoners, and within seconds you are either crying with pain or emotion. It's good though, really good, and we left feeling both stronger and more focused. I still have the traditional Balinese oil he gave me for my lower back. Just a little goes a lot further than deep heat.

We had very much wanted to combine this massage with a 'Melekat' or purification ceremony but time is always an enemy in these situations. This treatment can, however, be readily arranged by Amandari and apparently the location, in the breathtaking valley of Sideman, is spectacular, while the blessing takes place in the village compound house belonging to the Hindu priest, Ida Pedanda Gede Ngenjung.

Local festivities

The majority of Indonesia is Muslim, however, nine out of ten Balinese are Hindu. It is an intensely spiritual island whereby daily life is governed around prayers and offerings from early dawn until nightfall. This close observation to life and its gifts creates an immensely peaceful backdrop to any stay in the heart of Bali.

On our second night we were fortunate to be able to walk a few minutes to a nearby temple where the locals were celebrating the recent harvest. It was a colourful bonanza of high spirits, including: traditional dance, plates upon plates of local offerings, musicians - from gamelan players, to horn blowers and drummers - with everyone enjoying themselves from the very young to the very old. We returned to Amandari for another glorious dinner above the glistening infinity pool to more euphonious tones from the gamelan, which accompanied the omnipresent soundtrack of thriving tropical life. Again, we felt blessed.

The creative Spirit of Ubud

Ubud is a sprawling, tangled, beautifully rustic 'village' with overgrown temples, glistening rice paddies, rural compounds, a palace, a forest and all mixed in with an ever increasing number of art galleries, museums, stylish boutiques, spas, as well as trendy bars and a mélange of restaurants. Somehow, this blending of commerce together with the innate and dense concentration of the spiritual, works both on the eye and on the soul. To leave out Ubud on a visit to Bali would leave your trip incomplete. The entire 'village' of Ubud feels like a 'temple' as many homes are still traditional compounds with the classic earthy red-black brick walls and Hindu statues.

For the real deal in authentic cooking, Ubud serves up the best on the island, and there is no better place to experience this culinary devotion than at Warung Ubu Oka on Jalan Suweta. People, both local and foreign, gather around this rustic hog hothouse in order to either observe or indulge in some of the finest slow roasted pig known to mankind. It is an island institution. Shopping at the markets is also essential Bali business, though I definitely preferred the little boutiques, particularly those near to the Monkey Forest.

It is here, in Ubud, that we met people who had visited and never left. It's not hard to see why.

We left warm, soulful, heavenly Amandari knowing we'd miss its profoundly beautiful natural spirit, but we had our next Balinese encounter to experience; Amankila.

Sophie Marchant
Sophie Marchant


Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer
Luxury Explorer