The 7 Best Luxury Resorts in Ubud, Bali’s Booming Spiritual Centre

The inland Indonesian hub is a victim of “more” everything. Its best resorts will help you escape the crowds.

By Annie Daly 14/03/2024

Bali has been a fixation of the Western imagination since the early 20th century. But blame Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 Eat Pray Love memoir and the subsequent movie adaptation starring Julia Roberts for the crowds.

The “Eat Pray Love effect” caused a massive influx of visitors that has only compounded over time. While this rapid growth can be felt all across the island, it’s especially apparent in Ubud, the lush, artsy and spiritually minded inland center where Gilbert stayed. Once a peaceful haven for locals and spiritual seekers across the globe, the town—whose name is derived from the Sanskrit word for “medicine” (ubad)—is now filled with more of everything: more hotels, more art galleries, more cultural events, more expats, and much, more traffic.

“Like many places around Bali, Ubud has seen significant changes in the past decade, with increased tourism and infrastructure development and a shift in its cultural and environmental landscape,” says Bali-based Ravi Singh Shekhawat, general manager of Indonesia travel at the small-group tour company Intrepid Travel. “And while these changes have brought economic benefits to the area, they have also raised concerns about preserving the essence of Ubud and managing the challenges that come with rapid tourism growth.”

To escape the crowds (sorry, the traffic is unavoidable) a reservation at a top hotel is essential. Most are located within the lush jungles and rice paddies right outside town, and that means no Bintang boozehounds within earshot. But better still, these resorts offer incredible cultural programming that will give you the fast track to the area’s true spiritual essence. Here is a look at seven of Ubud’s best luxury resorts.

1. Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape

Located about 40 minutes north of Ubud’s city centre, surrounded by rice paddies and a lush jungle, Buahan feels like a true tropical sanctuary. Opened in June 2022, it’s the first of Banyan Tree’s new Escape properties, the brand’s collection of adults-only hotels specifically designed to connect guests to nature through a “no walls, no doors” concept. Each of the property’s 16 bales (villas) features a 180-degree view of the lush tropical jungle from bed, not to mention serene private pools, copper bathtubs, locally designed robes and an open kitchen with a zero-waste menu and a botanist bar featuring ingredients from the property’s farm. The cultural programming at Buahan is also incredible, with offerings such as the soul freedom journey (a traditional Balinese spiritual purification ceremony along the Ayung River), and tri hita karana, a journey that introduces you to the three sources of happiness in Balinese life.

2. COMO Uma Ubud

COMO Uma leans elegant, with an aim at ultimate relaxation.
COURTESY OF COMO UMA UBUD

COMO Uma is located right in the heart of Ubud, and you can easily walk to town or take a five-minute shuttle. But despite its proximity to the hustle and bustle, the property—which overlooks the Tjampuhan Valley and River Oos—still feels like a true sanctuary. There are 46 rooms, a combo of suites and villas, with interiors designed to feel like local mountain homes (think huge windows that let the light in, traditional Balinese materials, and tropical plants). The experiences are also curated to help you relax and connect with nature, with offerings ranging from rafting on the Ayung River to a traditional Balinese water purification ceremony to a guided climb up to the top of Mount Batur to complimentary daily yoga. Don’t miss the themed dinners, with options such as Balinese “ribs ‘n bibs” (featuring Balinese-spiced ribs and more) every Monday to Street Eats, a selection of Indonesian street foods, every Friday.

Rates: $529 per night.

3. Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan

Spa and spirituality are center stage at the Four Seasons.
COURTESY OF FOUR SEASONS RESORT BALI AT SAYAN

Checking into the Four Seasons Sayan is quite literally like crossing over into paradise: You enter via a dramatic suspension bridge that towers over the trees below. And while the hotel, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, is just a 15-minute drive from Ubud proper, chances are high you may not want to cross the bridge again until checkout. Located in the flourishing Sayan Valley between two rivers, the 60-room hotel (with 42 pool villas and 18 suites) is the epitome of a relaxing riverside retreat, with on-site activities such as riverside Balinese cooking classes, private rafting experiences and a sacred river spa with chakra ceremonies and river stone massages. You can also meet and learn from wise local experts, including a former Buddhist nun and resident wellness mentor and a born-and-bred Sayan Valley guide who leads guided hikes and cycling trips around his home turf.

Rates: from $1027 per night; $1,587  per night in a one-bedroom villa.

4. Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

Dedicated butlers at Mandapa do the thinking for you.
COURTESY OF MANDAPA, A RITZ-CARLTON RESERVE

Mandapa means “temple” in Sanskrit, and the hotel certainly lives up to its name. Located along the Ayung River, about a 15-minute drive from the heart of Ubud, Mandapa feels like a sacred space—with a luxurious twist. Each of its two to three-bedroom villas has gorgeous views of the surrounding tropical oasis and is serviced by a dedicated personal patih (butler), who can help arrange everything from a private barbecue by the rice fields to a trip to Tirta Empul Temple, Ubud’s famous Hindu Balinese water temple known for its purifying holy water. The property also offers tours of town, the rice fields, and the local villages in vintage VW convertibles. What truly sets Mandapa apart, though, is its incredible wellness programming. The spa is set along the river and offers all sorts of unique treatments, including a newly launched “Disconnect to Reconnect” program with complimentary daily classes and experiences centered around mindfulness and inner tranquility.

Rates: $2,237 per night

5. Capella Ubud

Capella Ubud is known for its signature Bill Bensley design.
COURTESY OF CAPELLA UBUD

If you’re looking for an extra unique Ubud hotel stay, Capella may be the spot for you. The property is a good 30-minute drive from town, set by the sacred Wos River in a Balinese artist village called Keliki, and all 23 villas and eating/drinking areas are actually luxury, Bill Bensley–designed tents, giving the whole property a “safari in Ubud” feel. There are five different categories of tents (including rainforest tents, river tents, and terrace tents near the rice paddy fields), and each one comes with its own scenic deck and saltwater pool. All tents are individually styled, too, with eclectic furniture and antique decor that’s meant to evoke a sense of adventure and pay tribute to the storied cultural heritage of Indonesia. Don’t sleep on the campfire experience, where you can chat with a local storyteller over hot chocolate and marshmallows, or the complimentary daily afternoon tea, cocktails, and canapés.

Rates: $1,340 per night, plus a 21 percent tax and service charge.

6. Amandari

Valley Suites come with private a living room and terrace.
COURTESY OF AMANDARI

Like all Aman properties, Amandari oozes luxury while still maintaining its local cultural spirit. Set on a hillside in the village of Kadewatan in the Ayung Valley, about a 10-minute drive from the center of Ubud, the resort gives you a feel for traditional daily life in Bali by connecting locals with guests. Each of the 31 thatched-roof suites is framed by a traditional Balinese stone archway and surrounded by colorful tropical gardens; most of them have private tiled pools as well. Another standout aspect: The spa has lots of interesting practitioners, including joy coaches, traditional numerology shamans and dance teachers, and a resident Balinese spiritual healer who can guide you in a customary practice in the privacy of his own home. Don’t miss the open-air bar and restaurant, which offer Indonesian, Balinese, and international cuisine—not to mention spectacular views of the mountains below.

Rates: $1,463 per night.

7. Viceroy Bali

The Viceroy is an independent resort with an ambitious culinary program.
VICEROY BALI

Many of the top luxury hotels in Ubud have quite a rustic wooden vibe, but if you like your hotels to feel a bit more sleek, this one’s for you. Set on top of a remote ridge above Pura Gunung Kawi, a lush temple complex also known as Bali’s Valley of the Kings, the family-owned-and-operated resort does not shy away from marble floors, white tablecloths, and fine china—yet it still incorporates many distinctly Balinese elements, too. Viceroy offers 40 villas and four suites, all with their own heated plunge pools and many with typical grass-thatched roofs and Balinese pavilions. But the hotel is perhaps most known for its food, with an all-day dining restaurant and bar that overlooks the magical valley below and a grand fine-dining restaurant and bar, Apéritif, that’s inspired by 1930s glamour and may just be the speakeasy vibe in Ubud you didn’t know you needed.

Rates: pool suites start at $1,284; the Viceroy Villa starts $3,778 per night.

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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