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)
- Review: Amandari, Ubud (today)
- 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 Amandari, Ubud (Bali, Indonesia)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Amandari
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Inspired by a traditional village, Amandari is framed by jungle and rice terraces in Bali’s cultural heartland. Alang-alang-thatched houses – some with pools, all with private tropical gardens – cosset guests under bamboo ceilings, their suites elegantly decorated with teak and coconut-wood. The grounds of Aman’s Ubud outpost are both sacred and essential to local families: children attend dance classes here, and religious processions pass through regularly, leading down the steps that spill below Amandari to a 7th-century stone tiger – a motif repeated throughout the property. Guests can follow the road out of the village to hike or bike the emerald-green landscape; or head further afield for artisan villages, hidden temples, and the palaces and boutiques of Ubud.
Amandari features in my top 10 lists of the best hotels in Bali and the best hotels in Ubud.
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
- Amandari lies 75 minutes by car from Bali’s Denpasar airport and a 15 minute’s drive from Ubud (with transfers to/from the airport and Ubud offered on a complimentary basis). The magnificent area around Ubud has been known for centuries as Bali’s cultural, natural and artistic center. Ubud village itself offers a wealth of cultural sights and shopping attractions, including galleries, museums, palaces, artist’s studios and markets. Nearby artisan villages are notable for their woodcarvings, jewelery and pottery. The famous tiered rice fields that dot the area around Ubud are interlaced with paths, ideal for exploring on foot or bicycle.
- Although the resort is close to one of Ubud’s main roads, it feels a world apart: the moment you turn on to Amandari’s tranquil driveway, the noise of Bali’s chaotic traffic is replaced by the soundtrack of birds, crickets, and frogs. Fringed by rice paddies, the property enjoys an extraordinary setting on the jungled slope of a natural ridge, which winds alongside the sacred Ayung river. Albeit surrounded by the wilderness, Amandari is uniquely integrated into the charming village of Kedewatan, in which it has co-existed for almost 30 years and which is home to the large majority of the staff. Since it’s part of a local community, the resort’s lush grounds are dotted with statues of Hindu deities at which staff make daily offerings.
- Designed by Australian architect Peter Muller, Amandari was the second Aman resort to be built. Since it opened in 1989, the resort’s understated elegance and authentic Balinese decors have inspired countless imitators, but Amandari’s timeless design still delivers. The property goes beyond the concept of a traditional resort as it is modeled after an Indonesian village. Like the neighboring homes of the locals, the pavilions are made of local teak and mahogany, topped by vaulted thatched roofs, and supported by bamboo poles. Blending perfectly into its natural surroundings, Amandari’s organic design maintains the scale of a rural village without ever compromising on impeccable taste and absolute comfort.
- Amandari’s layout is remarkably simple but convenient. The main facilities are centered around a couple of large pavilions, which house a high-ceilinged, open-walled reception area, a sophisticated bar, a chic library, a boutique shop and the elegant dining room. It’s here that all guests are welcomed upon arrival by the resort staff and little local girls throwing flower petals. Beyond these pavilions lies the property’s famous green-tiled infinity pool (more on that below). From the lobby area, picturesque pebble walkways lead to the thatched-roof suites that are hidden behind moss-covered stone walls. The property’s far end also features an intimate spa and a small but well equipped gym.
- Surrounded by traditional paras-stone walls, each of Amandari’s 32 freestanding suites is accessed by a traditional Balinese stone gateway, leading to private courtyard gardens and sumptuous interiors. During my holiday, I stayed in a ‘Valley Suite’, which came with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors on two sides to maximize the views of the Ayung Valley. The open-plan, marble-floored bedroom featured a king-size canopy bed, a desk, a dining table (with daily replenished fruit), and two rattan chairs. The room’s rustic vibe was clearly inspired by the Balinese traditions of stone and wood carving. The large bathroom featured an outdoor sunken bath, his/her sinks, a shower, and toilet. There was also a small terrace with two sun lounges.
- Amandari’s 32 m (104 ft), crescent-shaped, main pool has a curving sweep of lightly salted water that mimics the rice terraces below. The pool’s end lies close to the edge of the gorge, affording spectacular views of the rice terraces and the verdant rainforest that covers the opposite slope across the steep Ayung Valley. There are several green cushioned loungers with Oriental-style umbrellas beside the pool but with 14 of the resort’s 32 thatched-roof suites – located to the left and right of the main pool area – featuring their own pools, the main pool area is never crowded. The pool is overlooked by an adjacent music pavilion that hosts daily complimentary afternoon tea, nightly gamelan players and regular dance performances.
- Exposed to cooling mountain breezes, the open-air restaurant and adjacent bar enjoy spectacular views of the green-tiled pool and the Ayung River. Offering fine tropical dining from à la carte breakfast through to dinner, the restaurant serves up a sophisticated menu of Indonesian and Western dishes. An upper level provides an ideal space for more intimate dinners. The restaurant gets most of its produce, as well as free-range pigs and poultry, from local organic farms. Gamelan players perform every evening – their songs joined by a dusk chorus of birds – enveloping the serene atmosphere. Private dining is also available in-suite, 24-hours a day.
- The name of the local village, Kedawatan, means ‘place of the Gods’ and Amandari means, literally, peace and heavenly beings. Every six months for the last 1500 years, there is a great procession of the locals leading along a narrow path through the hotel to two shrines 129 steps below Amandari, near the river bed. But even when there’s no procession, I highly recommend to descend to the valley floor and visit the shrines, which are guarded by a stone tiger that was left by a seventh-century Hindu priest as a reminder of the village’s blessing.
- For those in need of a wellness, there’s a tranquil spa at the resort’s far end, staffed by a team of self-assured therapists. The spa comprises two open-air treatment rooms, which both seem to float on a lotus pond, creating a serene ambience. There’s also a beauty room, sauna and a marble steam room. Treatments can also be booked in-suite, or in a bale overlooking the Ayung valley. As you may expect from an Aman resort, there’s an exhaustive treatment menu that features local Balinese ingredients renowned for their soothing properties. I highly recommend Amandari’s signature massage, a fusion of Balinese, Swedish and acupressure styles, which can be soft as a feather or hard as stone, as you please.
- Amandari also boasts an on-site library – located besides the reception area – with dozen of books to choose from. One wall is taken up by the teak bookcase, which contains a large collection of works on Balinese and Indonesian culture and tradition as well as classic holiday fare from the likes of Stephen King and Michael Connolly. An outdoor bale – consisting a daybed on a raised platform crafted from Javanese stone and underneath a picturesque Balinese pavilions – can be used for reading over tea, coffee or cocktails.
- If you can tear yourself away from the resort’s pool or your private suite, you’ll be glad to know that Amandari can arrange guided tailormade excursions anywhere in Bali. The resort offers invigorating treks and out-of- the-way cycling routes through the Ayung valley, as well as white-water rafting along the Ayung River below Amandari – an exhilarating way to explore the lush rainforest. Other popular excursions include day trips to Gunung Kawi, a group of 11th-century temple monuments dedicated to King Anak Wungsu; Lake Batur; Mount Agung; and Ceking, famous for its precipitous rice terraces. Amandari guides have a thorough knowledge of the island and will show guests both popular and off-the-beaten-track sights.
- Amandari 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.
- Amandari is one of Aman’s five luxurious 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:
- Amanjiwo: a superb hotel located in the cultural heartland of Java near the world-famous temple complex of Borobodur.
- Amankila: a secluded seaside resort on Beali’s eastern coast, overlooking the Lombok Strait.
- 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
Nestled among the splendor of the rainforest near Ubud, Amandari is a luxurious sanctuary for those who value intimacy, privacy and the authentic Bali. It’s a magnificent property, although you need to know the following when considering a stay here.
- Amandari is one of Aman’s oldest properties, almost 30 years old (it opened in 1989). While some would say the decor feels dated and definitely less swanky as compared to some of Ubud’s newer resorts, I would say that the resort’s rustic vibe and authentic design has weathered its tree decades of existence with timeless flair and understated elegance (something that cannot be said of most other hotels in the Ubud area). The serenity of Amandari is something that gets under your skin the longer you stay at the resort. Apparently, the Aman management has considered redesigning the resort, but cancelled those plans to preserve the resort’s traditional setting (and I am glad they did).
- The suites at Amandari don’t feature a TV nor does the library. The aim of the resort’s design was to mimic a typical Balinese home, without the intrusion of modernity, giving you a sense of place and what it feels like to be a guest in a rural Balinese village. That proved to be a challenge though during my stay at Amandari last July, since my country was playing the semi-final of the World Soccer Cup and I had no other option but to watch the match on a giant TV screen in a café in Ubud.
- Complimentary WiFi is offered to all guests, but the speed of the internet was variable, ranging from excellent to annoyingly slow.
- The property features only one restaurant, and although this venue offers terrific cuisine, the menu may get a bit boring if you plan a longer stay. However, the good news is that resort offers complimentary transfers to/from Ubud, so there’s a wild range of dining options only minutes away.
- There’s plenty of wildlife in the jungle around Amandari (including monkey), and while it’s exciting to observe the animals, the call of the wild can be surprisingly noisy in the morning, so if you’re a light sleeper, I suggest you pack some earplugs.
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 8/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,2/10
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: To look out on the verdant Ayung river valley without lifting your head from the ultra-plush pillow, book the duplex Ayung Suite.
- Room tip: Book a suite with a private pool if you can afford it. Pool Suites 14 and 15 are extremely private
- 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 Bali hover at a balmy 30°C (85°F) year-found. Temperatures in the Ubud area remain fairly constant throughout the year, although some cooler evenings can occur due to its location in the mountains. The frequency of precipitation is the only concern for travelers seeking to visit Ubud. 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 Bali at its finest.
HOW TO GET THERE
Amandari is a 90 minute from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. The resort provides complimentary airport transfers. Click here for a continuously updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Bali.
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