Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Last summer, I enjoyed a wonderful holiday in Singapore and the Indonesian islands of Java & Bali. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 new First Class suite from London to Singapore
- Review: Marina Bay Sands Hotel (Singapore)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
- Review: Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amanjiwo, Borobodur, Java (today)
- Review: Amandari, Ubud (Bali)
- Review: Amankila (Bali)
- Review: Banyan Tree Ungasan, Uluwatu (Bali)
- Review: Bulgari Bali Resort (Bali)
- Review: Anantara Uluwatu (Bali)
- Review: Singapore Airlines B787-10 Dreamliner Business Class from Bali to Singapore
- Review: Singapore Airlines A380 (old) Business Class from Singapore to London
Today (October 24, 2018): Review of Amanjiwo, Borobudur (Java, Indonesia)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Amanjiwo
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Framed by emerald-green rice plains and the peaks of the Menoreh Hills in rural Central Java, Amanjiwo lies within view of the mystical stupas of Borobudur, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Buddhist monument directly informs the design of Amanjiwo, a temple-like hideaway with a towering domed roof, colonnades and walls built of local blush-beige paras stone. Here, guests intersperse days of sightseeing – at serene Borobudur, bustling Yogyakarta or any number of vibrant villages – with spells of relaxation at Amanjiwo’s spa, the 40 m (130 ft) pool, and the majestic open-air restaurant.
Amanjiwo features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels in Indonesia.
In this review (more info and photos below my YouTube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Reviews of other hotels in Bali & Java
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Amanjiwo is located in the center of Java, the second largest island of the Indonesian archipelago, which lies between the islands of Sumatra and Bali with the Java Sea to the north and the Indian Ocean to the south. The lush landscape around Amanjiwo is volcanic and ruggedly beautiful, and the area, scattered with traditional villages, is considered Indonesia’s cultural heartland. Legend has it that 2,000 temples once graced the plains around Amanjiwo. Getting to this sacred area is very easy: the resort is a 75-minute drive from Yogyakarta airport and two hours from Solo airport, with both airports serving direct flights to Bali, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. The resort provides complimentary airport concierge service, including customs clearance assistance and car transfers.
- The prime reason why you should put Amanjiwo on your bucket list is the resort’s proximity to two world-famous cultural properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List: the Borobudur and Prambanan temples. A pleasant 25-minute walk or cycle ride from Amanjiwo, Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple whose stone pathways tell an illustrated story of the Buddha’s life. Consisting of nine stacked platforms topped by a central dome, Borobudur was reclaimed from the jungle in the 19th century and ranks as one of the great archeological sites of Asia, if not the in world. Built in the 10th century, Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and comprises more than 200 temples, including eight massive towers. Prambanan is located along the way from the Yogyakarta airport to Amanjiwo.
- Amanjiwo – which means “peaceful soul” – enjoys a magnificent setting that is reflective of the best Central Java has to offer in terms of nature and culture. The resort is located in a natural amphitheatre with the limestone Menoreh Hills rising directly behind, the Kedu Plain in front and four volcanoes – Sumbing, Sundoro, Merbabu and Merapi – gracing the horizon. Due to its elevated position on a hill, the resort offers sublime views over the rice fields, the dense wooded valley, and – on a clear day – the gigantic volcanic cones. As the icing on the cake, Amanjiwo looks out directly onto Borobudur from its entrance gate and some of its suites. In fact, the enchanting and mythical landscape around Amanjiwo is such an eye-pleaser that the hotel provides a box of watercolor paints in every suite for capturing the inspiring views.
- The stupendous architecture of Amanjiwo carefully echoes that of its neighbor Borobudur, both in materials used to construct the property and in the hemispheric shape of its pavilions. The temple-like hideaway, built entirely of local blush-beige paras stone, has soaring ceilings, majestic colonnades and limestone walls, with a towering domed stupa roof that mimics Borobudur in the distance. The spectacular resort was designed by the famous USA based architect Ed Tuttle, who was clearly inspired by the temple’s overwhelming grandeur. Tuttle is also the creative mastermind behind other Aman properties (e.g. Amanpuri in Thailand, Amankila in Bali, Amanbagh in India, Amangiri in Utah, and Amanzoe in Greece).
- Amanjiwo features a very convenient layout. A central circular pavilion sits on top of the hill and features a majestic limestone entrance, flanked by a library and reception area on one side and a boutique shop on the other. The lobby area leads to a stunning circular salon with a coconut-wood bar and acid-etched bronze-drum tables. Behind this rotunda is the open-sided dining room, which features silver-leaf ceiling and a double row of stone columns. The view from the dining room is breathtaking as the property cascades down the hill towards the stupas of Borobudur directly ahead. Two rows of suites are located below the central pavilion, laid out in a crescent configuration and separated by impressive high-walled stone walkways. The lowest row of suites overlooks a beautiful rice field, flanked by views of volcanic peaks.
- Amanjiwo’s 36 freestanding suites radiate in two crescents from Amanjiwo’s central rotunda. All suites feature terrazzo floors, high ceilings, and domed roofs. Fifteen suites come with private swimming pools. During my holiday, I stayed in a ‘garden suite’, which is the property’s lowest room category, offering views of the terraced farmland and the Menoreh Hills. The suite featured an expansive terrace with two loungers and a thatched bale for outdoor lounging. Inside, a central, four-pillar bed on a raised terrazzo platform took center stage. The room was decorated with sungkai-wood screens, coconutwood and rattan furniture, antique batik cushions and Javanese glass artworks. The bathroom featured twin vanities (with adequate closet space), a toilet, shower and outdoor sunken bath.
- An elegant 40 m (130 ft) long swimming pool, lined with Javanese green tiles and overlooked by massive banyan trees, is set into the rice paddies below the resort. The limestone horizon pool is surrounded by wooden sun loungers and the perfect place to relax after an excursion to Borobudur. Located adjacent to the pool is a small café that serves breakfast, light lunches, drinks and snacks from a raised, colonnaded deck. From the deck or from the pool itself, you can enjoy a view of Mount Merapi, which is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548. The view is particularly arresting at dawn and twilight (when you have the best chance of clear weather), or after a cleansing rain, when the views open up over the Kedu Plain.
- Located adjacent to the hotel’s main entrance, the library is a large, light-filled space with a lovely Moorish-style decor. It features two extra-large daybeds for relaxing and reading a book. The floor-to-ceiling shelves are stocked with books dedicated to the history of Borobudur, along with CDs and games. At night, the library is used as a venue for visiting speakers, with topics of expert lectures ranging from temple preservation to Javanese art and culture. During my stay, I attended a lecture on the religious importance of Borobudur, which definitely contributed to a better understanding of the sacred site during my visit the next morning.
- Food at the resort is delicious, as you would expect from an Aman property. The main restaurant is located in Amanjiwo’s central pavilion and serves Indonesian and Western cuisine alongside a daily changing degustation menu in an open-air setting with panoramic views over the rice fields to Borobudur and its surrounding volcanoes. Gamelan players and local girls performing traditional Javanese dance offer a subtile and authentic form of entertainment during dinners. As mentioned above, there’s also a second, smaller restaurant located at the pool area, although it’s only open until late afternoon. Breakfast is a refined à la carte affair, either served at the main restaurant or the poolside café.
- The property features a large boutique shop near the hotel’s main entrance area. It sells a selection of Javanese art, textiles, crafts and antiques. Traditional items include gamelan instruments, shadow puppets, ceremonial baskets and jewellery. A selection of loro blonyo figures are also available – painted statues, found in most Indonesian homes, depicting the deity Dewi Sri and her male companion Raden Sadono.
- Amanjiwo promotes a healthy lifestyle. The resort’s small but adequate gym suite provides treadmills, cross trainers and other fitness equipment, along with personal training. There also a tennis court, sheltered by the Menoreh Hills, with a thatched-roof bale on hand for providing refreshments. Yoga is practised at the pool terrace .
- With ancient temples, volcanic mountains, traditional villages and bustling cultural hubs nearby, opportunities for excursions – in addition to visiting Borobudur and Prambanan – around Amanjiwo are endless. The nearby Menoreh Hills offer a pleasant 2.5- hour hike, which can be combined with a drive to view the sunset at Suroloyo, while the more adventurous can attempt to climb Mount Merapi’s summit at sunrise with an Amanjiwo guide. An hour from Amanjiwo, Yogyakarta is Java’s cultural capital and houses the Sultan’s Palace, a royal compound akin to the Vatican. Further ahead, Two hours from Amanjiwo, is Solo, an artisanal centre since the 18th century with a proud legacy of silverwork, music, art, dancing and painting.
- Amanjiwo is a self-contained world of lavish luxury, representing everything that its mother brand Aman tries to achieve: tranquility, exclusivity, and a sense of place. Aman is the world’s most exclusive hotel brand and the company manages a fabulous collection of intimate properties across the globe. The brand is known for the understated elegance of its resorts, exquisite attention to detail, minimalist design, heartfelt service, and otherworldly locations.
- Among Aman’s habitués is a group of passionate repeat customers who call themselves ‘Aman junkies’ (count me in) and whose travel plans are determined by Aman locations. It’s a misconception that Aman junkies are always incredibly wealthy people: I prefer to spend my money on two nights at an Aman resort than two weeks at any other resort, as you pay for a unique and life-long memory. In all honesty and without exaggeration, an Aman resort makes some Four Seasons or Ritz-Carlton resorts look like a mediocre Holiday Inn hotel.
- Amanjiwo is one of Aman’s five luxury sanctuaries scattered around various parts of Indonesia, so a stay here can be easily combined with a visit to one of Aman’s other properties in the country:
- Amankila: a secluded seaside resort on Beali’s eastern coast, overlooking the Lombok Strait.
- Amandari: a rainforest sanctuary near the village of Ubud in Bali’s cooler mountain area.
- Aman Villas at Nusa Dua: a peaceful retreats located on Bali’s southernmost peninsula
- Amanwana: a tented camp on the serene nature reserve of Moyo Island.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Amanjiwo is my favorite resort in Indonesia. The hillside setting, temple-like design, world-class service, serene ambience and view of Borobudur are stunning. Yet, you need to know the following when considering a stay here.
- Despite its focus on wellbeing, Amanjiwo does not feature a real spa center. That said, you can still enjoy spa treatments here, either in the privacy of your own suite or in the specially designed spa suite which has twin massage tables and an outdoor kubuk for relaxing afterwards with spicy ginger tea. Ancient Javanese rituals are incorporated into the menu of facials, massages and cream baths.
- A dawn visit to Borobudur is highly recommended for witnessing the sunrise over the 9th-century Buddhas and enjoying sweeping views of the volcanic landscape. However, keep in mind that this will involve a very early morning wake-up call (4 am) and that you won’t be able to experience that sunrise in solitude on top of Borobudur as there will be throngs of other tourists, competing which each other for the best photographs.
- Amanjiwo provides complimentary WiFi to all guests; unfortunately, the speed of the internet was annoyingly slow during my visit.
- There are no TVs in the suites. The idea is to limit modern intrusion as much as possible and to offer an authentic Javanese experience (although a TV can be delivered to the room in case you need one).
- The pool area is chic and elegant, but it’s located along the forested vegetation in a shaded corner of the property. Of course, this may be a blessing on a hot day, but if you like to work on your tan, you will have to do that in the morning as the pool is in the shade by mid-afternoon.
- Amanjiwo is more than 20 years old (it opened in 1997), but the resort has aged well due to impeccable maintenance and a timeless design.
- Once you stay at an Aman resort, you are hooked for life. So be prepared to become an Aman junkie as Amanjiwo will raise the bar for your future trips.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9,6/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at an Aman property (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: enjoy complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and one complimentary lunch for up to two people per room).
- Room tip: all suites feature a similar layout, but only some come with a private pool and/or a view of Borobudur, so make sure to book the right accommodation that best fit your preferences.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
REVIEWS OF OTHER HOTELS IN BALI & INDONESIA
- Review: Anantara Uluwatu, Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Bulgari Resort Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali (Indonesia)
- Review of Amankila, Bali’s best luxury hotel
- Review of Amandari (Ubud, Bali)
- Review: Amanjiwo, Borobudur (Java, Indonesia)
- Review of Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Bali, Indonesia)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan (Ubud, Bali)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: Villa Sungai, Bali (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: the Viceroy Bali (Indonesia)
- Review: Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali’s most spectacular hotel
- Hotel review: COMO Shambhala Bali (Indonesia)
- Hotel review: Soori Bali (Indonesia)
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Located close to the equator, temperatures in Java hover at a balmy 30°C (85°F) year-found. The frequency of precipitation is the only concern for travelers seeking to visit Java. The rainy season lasts from October to March, and the heavy humidity and torrential rainfalls make this period more unpredictable for adventures and exploration. The dry season lasts from April to September, and the weather during this time is warm and pleasant, so this is generally viewed as the optimal time to experience Java at its finest.
HOW TO GET THERE
Amanjiwo is within reach of the airports at Yogyakarta (a 75 minute drive) and Solo (a 2 hour drive) in Central Java. The resorts provide complimentary return airport transfers. Click here for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Yogyakarta airport and here for airlines that offer direct flights to Solo airport.
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Very nice review and GORGEOUS pictures, thank you.
But….no private/special Borobudur sunrise arrangements? At Amansara in Siem Reap, they offered a very special sunrise tour with access to Angkor Wat, it was really nice.