A verdant checkerboard of rice paddies and lush expanses, Ubud has staked its claim as the spiritual and artistic capital of Bali. About an hour from the airport, give or take a thousand or so motorbikes, twisty bends and road work delays, you’ll relish in the tranquillity and these unique places to stay in Ubud, Bali.
Unique places to stay in Ubud, Bali: Viceroy
Heaven forbid you only had one night in Ubud, but if you did, then the Viceroy Bali is THE place to stay. No need to negotiate the traffic, simply send for a helicopter to collect you from the airport and deliver you directly to your private villa suspended over the Valley of Kings. Bali’s architectural grandeur goes without saying but it’s the small things that set the Viceroy apart. My bale perched over a heated infinity pool includes power points and by the pool are towel rails and a games table engraved with a chessboard.
The mini bar is stocked with Veuve Clicquot and if there was ever a time to splurge it would be while soaking in the oversized bath at the centre of the opulent bathroom. Crank up the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin speakers and emerge through the bathroom’s filmy curtains all Zoolander-like as you head out to CasCades Restaurant.
Dinner is quite an event and features a local and international line-up including western classics with premium ingredients or the Balinese version of degustation known as Rijsttafel with traditional Babek Betutu (roasted duck) and Babi Guling (suckling pig) as you’re waited on by staff in traditional uniforms and gracious Balinese charm.
Or you can enjoy nibbles and cocktails by the pool
There’s a buggy on standby to help you back to your villa, which I must say is especially handy after a deplorable display of decadence at the Lembah Spa.
Talk about rooms with a view, and there’s over 40 villas to choose from catering to romantic couples and loving families. Integrating Balinese architecture with luxury, there are six villa categories featuring marble bathrooms, espresso machines, rain showers, 24-hour service, artifacts and infinity pools with traditional bales with valley or Petanu River views.
This dreamy resort is imbued with Balinese sensuality and bespoke details cocooning guests in privacy, romance, adventure and relaxation.
The Viceroy Bali offer a range of activities including helicopter tours, luxury yachts, outings to local attractions, tours, yoga, cooking classes, rice paddy treks and even Balinese dance lessons. There’s no guarantee you’ll look as graceful as these beautiful dancers but the experience will undoubtedly be unforgettable.
I couldn’t agree more with the hotel’s motto, “Viceroy is a sanctuary in paradise.”
Unique places to stay in Ubud, Bali: Como Uma
No matter where you are in Ubud you’re never far away from an artisan whether they be painters, carpenters, weavers, musicians or those crafting batik patterns. Even the wafting incense in the open dining room at Uma by Como seems to sway in time to the smoky jazz playing in the background.
In Sanskrit, Uma means home, a concept the Como Uma fulfils within all 46 suites and villas set on 2.3 hectares of lush grounds overlooking the Tjampuhan Valley amide paddy fields carved out of hillsides dotted with palm and banyan trees. Laid out in a traditional Balinese village style, at the heart of the resort sits the lobby, 25-metre pool, bar, gym and the Ubud COMO Shambhala Retreat offering award-winning wellness treatments in serene rooms along wooden pathways flanked by koi ponds.
In addition to a menu drawing on seasonal ingredients, including Indonesian and Indian spices, guests can also order from the Shambhala Cuisine menu designed to maximise energy and well-being with the use of raw organic foods rich in living enzymes, vitamins and sea minerals. There are two restaurants to choose from, the informal Uma Cucina and Kemiri, meaning ‘candlenut’ – a key ingredient in Indonesian cuisine.
Immersive experiences transform any stay and beyond the handcrafted villas and lush grounds, excursions range from strenuous treks and white-water rafting to visits to local villages in Ubud dedicated to creating exquisite art. Batuan Village is famed for its painting style of the same name depicting village life and history while drawing on Hindu mythology. A few minutes away a new generation of budding artists are hard at work producing equally intricate art works at the Keliki Painting School. I ask my guide Anom Suyadnya, Uma’s Activity Specialist what sets the artists apart in Ubud and he replies with, “Tourism is thriving so there are many opportunities for artists. For example, the Ritz Carlton in Ubud features Batuan art in every room.”
Unique places to stay in Ubud, Bali: Trinity Gardens
Calling all you devoted Eat Pray Love fans, Trinity Gardens will set you on a path of self-discovery, or at least a bohemian stay in their rustic complex comprising of joglos (a traditional Javanese dwellings), The Den which is ideal for a couple or small family or The Mansion perfect for a lengthy gathering of like-minded souls.
Access is gained by a beautiful 15-minute walk along the Sari Organic path depicting rural life with a smattering of organic cafes, day spas, galleries and industrious ducks along the way.
More than just somewhere to lay your head, owner Susanna Nova offers workshops in health, beauty, relationships and creativity. Susanna lives onsite with her family and was drawn to Ubud, as are many women, because of its feminine energy. She says Bali makes her feel alive, and her message to visitors is to, “Come to Bali to listen deeply to the devotion in the people. They have a quality of devotion and ritual. It’s a treasure you can’t find in other places.”
With its open bathrooms, remote access, communal living spaces, and relying only on the breeze and the onsite pool to provide relief from the humidity, Trinity Gardens is unconventional without a doubt. Without the distractions of the outside world, it’s a thrilling escape route from the confines of reality.
Unique places to stay in Ubud, Bali: Kano Sari
Symphonies of cicadas and spine-tingling chanting echoing across the ravine come as part of the package at Kano Sari, along with the meditative snipping of grass by hand; the staff prefer tradition over convenience.
There’s no mistaking where you are as owner Karen Lewis helps support Kutuh Kelod village, where Kano Sari is located, by contributing to the community, embracing Bali’s seemingly endless ceremonies (she even has outfits for her guests to use), placing offerings around the property and hiring locals.
What was originally supposed to be a villa for her family and friends to enjoy, evolved into a rambling guesthouse using natural materials sourced locally including the stone, linens, artworks, weavings on the ceilings and even the communal dining table is crafted from an old truck; although the marble came further afield from Sulawesi where her parents once lived.
Comfortably sleeping 13, Karen urges visitors to “Stay as long as possible and immerse yourself in the culture. Take the time to communicate with the locals.”
One way to take Karen’s advice in a mindful manner is to hire her local driver and guide Tano for a unique tour. If you only have time for one excursion, make it Tirtu Empul Temple for a water blessing beneath a dozen spouts; even if praying isn’t your thing, I guarantee you you’ll leave refreshed and invigorated.
If you enjoyed this article, please subscribe for more journeys.