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Hotel review: COMO Shambhala Bali (Indonesia)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (September 3rd, 2014): Review of COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali’s most luxurious health retreat.

  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Kec. Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
  • Hotel website: COMO Shambhala Bali
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso

Located in the breathtaking Balinese rainforest near Ubud, COMO Shambhala Estate immerses its guests in a positive, holistic and healing experience. It isn’t just a luxury resort. Nor is it just a top-notch health retreat. It’s a sumptuous combination of the two, staggered up the steep slopes of the sacred Ayung river gorge. Previously known as Begawan Giri, the estate has been beautifully revamped a couple of years ago. So, it is time to shake up your chakras at Bali’s most luxurious health retreat which is the flagship of the COMO hotel group, one of the world’s most exclusive luxury hotel brands.

COMO Shambhala Estate features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Bali, the best spas in the world, and the most beautiful hotel pools in the world.

In this review (more info and photos below my slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • General info on Bali (how to get there, best time to visit, highlights, suggested itinerary)

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Pre-arrival communication via email with the hotel staff is excellent, as you would expect from a resort of this caliber.
  • The warm, kind and lovely hotel staff will do all they can (and beyond) to give you the time of your life, right from the General Manager who welcomes everyone individually, to your personal butler, and all the restaurant, ground and spa staff who constantly will bring a smile to your face throughout the day.
  • There are 30 suites, housed in five shared residences, plus five Retreat Villas and four two- or three-bedroom Private Villas. The one-bedroom Retreat Villas – each with a private treatment room – are ideal if you’re planning on being a regular at the nearby spa. Of the Private Villas, Sukma Taru has valley views. The COMO Shambhala Suites – one in each residence – are large and lavish. Inside, Indonesian artefacts, Mongolian rugs, Burmese wood carvings and Chinese medicine chests sit alongside traditional Balinese alang-alang roofs and polished teak floors. You can find more info about the 5 residences here in order to reserve a suite in the one that best fits your taste.
  • Each of the residences has its own pool and stand-alone villas have private pools. In most cases, they are infinity-edged, surrounded by decking and with beautiful jungle views. The spa, as well as a 25m lap pool, has hydrotherapy pools and jet beds. These are some of the most beautiful hotel pools in the world.
  • All residences and villas come with large terraces that overlook tropical gardens or misty paddy fields, and all you can hear is birdsong and the river below.
  • The hotel grounds are exceptionally stunning : you can make very nice walks down to the Ayung River gorge through the beautiful rainforest, and relax midway at the hidden jungle pools above the gorge  (the view and setting will take your breath away).
  • East meets West in the holistic Ojas spa, with therapies running the gamut from Ayurveda and anti-ageing to Thai massage and stress management. IMHO, this is the best spa in the world, so take advantage of it.
  • Complimentary classes and group activities are scheduled throughout the day, including Yoga, Pilates, Qi Gong, guided hikes, meditation, aqua therapy, cooking demonstrations and specialist learning seminars.
  • Food (lunch & dinners) is ridiculously good and among the best that I ever enjoyed during a hotel stay. The quality of ingredients and the freshness is outstanding. Kudus House serves Indonesian cuisine in a 19th-century Javanese villa. Glow is an all-day restaurant, with an open kitchen, offering local organic dishes with a healthy bent. And at the Ojas spa and poolside, you can choose from a menu of snacks, sorbets and granitas.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

This is one of the grand hotels in the world and should be on your bucket list (if you can afford it). Your stay will be perfect and there are no real cons, just some things you need to beware of:

  • The Estate is located about 15 minutes from Ubud. The setting is pretty remote and once you’re there, you probably won’t leave the grounds: I enjoyed the hotel grounds so much that I skipped my initial aim to visit the area.
  • The hotel charges a high fee for a transfer to Ubud. It would have been wonderful though if the hotel would offer free (shuttle) transportation to Ubud to overcome its isolated location.
  • You will be impressed by the quality of the lunch and dinners, but the breakfasts are a little underwhelming. Choice at breakfast is limited, and you can only choose one hot dish per person.
  • You may have to share your pool and living areas with other guests. For total privacy book an entire Residence or one of the self-contained Villas.
  • The stone steps leading down to the river are steep and not suitable for the less agile; once you’re down, it’s a heart-pumping climb back to the top.
  • There is some (harmless) wildlife present at the Estate. Remember that you are in the jungle. I encountered snakes near my room on several occasions. Pretty scary, but on the other hand, it was a blessing that I got to see these creatures. While the wildlife may freak out some, others will love it.
  • This is by no means a cheap resort – but it is definitely worth it.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 9/10
  • Rooms: 9/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Overall experience: exceptional: 9/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury resort like COMO Shambhala Estate (and receive many free perks).
  • Save money: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. room upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
  • If you don’t know what suite and residence to choose, then go for the Principal Suite in the Tirta-Ening residence, which has a private entrance, terrace, waterfall pool, balé and Jacuzzi, and a six-ton carved stone bath.
  • Do not complete your stay without having one of the excellent health treatments.
  • Stay at least 2 nights to enjoy the wonderful setting. I recommend 5 nights for total relaxation.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

GENERAL INFO ON BALI

Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, takes a serious claim to be paradise on earth (although its popularity has taken its toll in certain areas). Varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all provide a picturesque backdrop to its colourful, deeply spiritual and unique culture.

# WHEN TO GO

The best time to visit Bali is during the dry season from April to September, when humidity is not as high and when a refreshing breeze cools everything a bit down. The hot and sticky rainy season lasts October to March with downpours that can obscure all visibility. The worst rains fall between December and February and this is certainly a time you do not want to be in Bali.

# HOW TO GET THERE

The following airlines have regularly scheduled flights to Bali:

  • From/via Oceania: Qantas Airways, Jetstar Airways, Air New Zealand (seasonal), Virgin Australia
  • From/via Asia : Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Asiana Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, EVA Air, Hainan Airlines, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines
  • From/via Middle East: Qatar Airways (via Singapore)
  • From/via Europe: KLM (via Singapore), Transaero Airlines

# HIGHLIGHTS

  • The city of Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali
  • The magnificent ricefields of Jatiluwih
  • Bali’s highest mountain, Guning Agung
  • Lake Batur
  • Tanah Lot Temple

# SUGGESTED ITINERARY

Do not stay in one hotel during your Bali holiday as there is so much to see and explore. I suggest the following 7 to 10 day itinerary:

  • 2 to 3 days in Seminyak in South Bali to overcome the jetlag and enjoy the beach (recommended hotel: W Retreat & Spa – review coming soon).
  • 2 to 3 few days in the legendary town of Ubud, located in the jungle of Central Bali (recommended hotel: Como Shambhala Estate).
  • 2 to 3 few days in the wonderful remote setting of the West coast (recommended hotel: Alila Villas Soori – read my review here).
  • 3 days in Uluwatu as the grand finale to your holiday (recommended hotel: Alila Villas Uluwatu – read my review here).

All hotels are excellent (and over-the-top) and also well located to visit the different areas of interest in Bali.


WATER GARDEN

WATER GARDEN

WANAKASA RESIDENCE

WANAKASA RESIDENCE

WANAKASA RESIDENCE

WANAKASA RESIDENCE

WANAKASA POOL

WANAKASA POOL

WANAKASA COMO SHAMBHALA SUITE

WANAKASA COMO SHAMBHALA SUITE

UMA BONA TERRACE SUITE

UMA BONA TERRACE SUITE

UMA BONA SUITE LIVING AREA

UMA BONA SUITE LIVING AREA

UMA BONA POOL

UMA BONA POOL

UMA BONA POOL

UMA BONA POOL

UMA BONA GARDEN ROOM

UMA BONA GARDEN ROOM

TIRTA ENING TERRACE SUITE

TIRTA ENING TERRACE SUITE

TIRTA ENING RESIDENCE

TIRTA ENING RESIDENCE

TIRTA ENING POOL

TIRTA ENING POOL

TIRTA ENING ESTATE SUITE

TIRTA ENING ESTATE SUITE

TIRTA ENING BATHROOM

TIRTA ENING BATHROOM

TEJASUARA RESIDENCE AT NIGHT

TEJASUARA RESIDENCE AT NIGHT

TEJASUARA ESTATE SUITE

TEJASUARA ESTATE SUITE

RETREAT VILLA

RETREAT VILLA

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

RESORT GROUNDS

REFLECTION CHAIR

REFLECTION CHAIR

POOL IN RAINFOREST

POOL IN RAINFOREST

POOL IN RAINFOREST

POOL IN RAINFOREST

OJA SPA BUILDING

OJAS SPA BUILDING

OJA SPA TREATMENT ROOM

OJAS SPA TREATMENT ROOM

OJA SPA LOUNGE

OJAS SPA LOUNGE

LOBBY

LOBBY

LAP POOL

LAP POOL

KUDUS RESTAURANT

KUDUS HOUSE RESTAURANT

KUDUS RESTAURANT

KUDUS HOUSE RESTAURANT

ROMANTIC DINNER

ROMANTIC DINNER

GLOW RESTAURANT

GLOW RESTAURANT

GLOW RESTAURANT

GLOW RESTAURANT

BAYUGITA TERRACE SUITE COURTYARD

BAYUGITA TERRACE SUITE COURTYARD

BAYUGITA RESIDENCE POOL

BAYUGITA RESIDENCE POOL

BAYUGITA MASTER

BAYUGITA MASTER

AYUNG RIVER GORGE

AYUNG RIVER GORGE____


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