A winding mile from the village below, the hilltop boutique resort of Alila Ubud owes its inspiration to traditional Balinese village life. 14 two-storey wood-and-stone-made blocks house just 56 rooms. Each one offers panoramic views of the valley below, the River Ayung that runs through it and the ring of volcanoes surrounding the hotel.
Get this when you book through us:
Free Bayad trekking experience, either early in the morning or at sunset
Noon, later check-out can be arranged if the room is still available. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £168.78 ($212), including tax at 21 per cent.
Some rates include breakfast (room only rates will need to purchase it separately).
Alila Ubud’s spa is one of it’s biggest assets: the massages are out of this world, and all products are made bespoke from natural, local ingredients. Mountain bikes are freely available to borrow and offer a great way of exploring the forest.
No check-ins or check-outs are allowed on 7 March 2019, when Bali observes Nyepi Day (Day of Silence), although stays are still possible. Bali’s airport also closes for the day.
At the hotel
Spa, library, TV lounge, WiFi in lobby and restaurant, boutique, art gallery, sculpture garden, free shuttle to Ubud. In rooms: iPod sound system (in Deluxe rooms and Villas), minibar.
Our favourite rooms
The Ayung River Villas have wrap-around decking perched over the gorge, making them ideal for honeymooners wanting a breathtaking backdrop, as well as huge bath tubs sunk into lotus ponds. The Deluxe Rooms on the ground floor have outdoor showers.
The pool at Alila Ubud has a global reputation, and no wonder: it’s a watery sliver of infinity that seems to overhang the valley plunging beneath it. Secure your lounger early – it can get busy surprisingly quickly.
If you plan on trekking or cycling – the area’s perfect for both – then some suitably sporty shoes are essential. The Alila Living Boutique sells appropriately floaty tai chi/yoga gear.
Alila is more orientated towards couples seeking seclusion.
The resort is Green Globe certified, recycles extensively and is closely involved with green initiative and community support programmes.
Arrange to eat in a private bale – you can have a tailor-made seven-course dinner served with lashings of romance.
Beneath a thatched, coconut-palm-pillared canopy, open-air restaurant Plantation cooks up a combination on health-conscious cuisine naturelle, Western and Balinese dishes – all locally sourced where possible.
The chilled-out Cabana Lounge overlooks the pool and offers soaring valley views; at night, you can sip sundowners while watching the candles floating on the pool’s surface.
Plantation closes at 10.30pm, while last call at the bar is at 11pm.
Fly into Ngurah Rai International Airport, near Denpasar. Ngurah Rai is a hour and 30-minute drive south of the hotel. The hotel can organise transfers (US$55 a vehicle each way) with 48 hours notice. If you need one, visas can be bought on arrival, so have cash with you if necessary.
The hotel is a 10-minute drive (5km) out of Ubud, the island’s artistic centre, and an hour’s drive away from the capital.
Worth getting out of bed for
If Ubud is Bali’s cultural heart, then the gangs (alleys) are its veins and art is its lifeblood. You can lose a day just wandering around the town, pootling between art galleries and craftsmen’s workshops.
It may be a bit rough around the edges, but don’t let that put you off – Naughty Nuri's Warungon Jalan Raya Sanggingan in Ubud is the best barbecue in town. Residents converge here for homey, cheap and cheerful fare such as hearty pork ribs. Nobody knows in advance what they’ll be eating at Mozaic(on the same street) but rest assured, nobody ever comes away disappointed. Chef Salans’ modern French tasting menu is an ever-changing revelation and the wine list is similarly inspired.
Depending on what the team at Seniman Coffee Studio have hunted down and roasted up, you can expect a wide selection of single-origin coffee beans from across Indonesia, the Americas and Africa – there's a big bean world out there… If you can name the bean, they'll probably have it, and with baristas from all over the world, they know next to every technique out there: want a Taiwanese Syphon or Japanese style pour over? Just ask. Coffee newbies should start with one of their own blends, like E.S.P. and Trans-X. They also serve food from breakfast through to dinner; arrive at 8am sharp to bag a table for breakfast as it's a popular location with both locals and tourists looking for that early morning caffeine buzz.
No Más may look slightly like a derelict 1920's drinking den, but we promise nothing but a lively and buzzing scene when you arrive. One-off live music concerts and DJ gigs take place throughout the week, but tunes from the likes of Bowie, Depeche Mode and Black Keysare are a constant. Take drinkspiration (their pun, not ours) from their extensive drinks list with wines, beers, spirits and a variety of cocktails like the sweet everlasting gobstopper pitcher or the vodka, rum and gin based, solar plexus.
I’m lazing on a bamboo bed, sipping a lychee martini and absorbing the last of the day’s sun. Bali’s vast Ayung Gorge stretches away below me, and I can hear the water trickling over the edge of the Alila’s infinity pool. Then, in my peripheral vision, I notice a hairy, grey figure skulking behind me. He creeps past and is swiftly joined by six others. It’s a large family of monkeys. One promptly appropriates a bottle of Nivea Sun (from his excitable chattering it’s clearly a good steal) and another nonchalantly helps himself to my watermelon chunks. I’m usually protective when it comes to food, but I’m not about to pick a fight with these guys, cuddly as they look. As I settle back into my martini I realise that’s one of the joys of Bali: just when you think it’s becoming a little too Westernised, a little too predictable, you experience an unexpected thrill.
We’d arrived at Alila Ubud in the middle of the previous night. Despite the inky darkness it was obvious we’d reached a rural idyll – our taxi cut its way through terraced rice paddies and, on emerging from the car, we were greeted by the chorus of geckos.
With its fresh white linen, frothy duvet and garland of scarlet roses, our king-size bed was a welcome relief. But first we showered in our outdoor bathroom, using Alila’s organic exfoliating rice soap. As bathing experiences go it’s pretty unique – you shower in the shadow of a banana tree with a heavy bamboo screen protecting your modesty. Glass doors strategically placed beside the bed meant, however, that I could sneak a peek at my newly hitched Mr Smith while he washed (yes, we were on our honeymoon).
The next morning we slid back vast transparent doors at the foot of the bed and absorbed the view across the valley below. On our way to breakfast we passed delicately scented frangipani and huge white orchids, and yellow-bellied lizards scuttled across our path. After refuelling with eggs Benedict (yolks cooked to runny perfection), croissants, freshly squeezed papaya juice and earthy Balinese coffee we took up residence by the sublime pool. It’s said to be one of the top 50 in the world but that surely has to be doing it an injustice. It’s a glorious jade green infinity number raised over the gorge – when you swim towards the drop it’s easy to imagine you’re being pulled magnetically towards the edge of a waterfall. It’s both exhilarating and incredibly peaceful.
That afternoon we took one of the hotel’s three daily shuttles into the small, rural town of Ubud, Bali’s arts and crafts centre. It’s a 15-minute drive but I lost count of the number of motorbikes that zipped past us en route. And I could have sworn that several of the drivers were children. When we later mentioned it to a local taxi driver, he sheepishly confessed that his 10-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son often pinch his bike. ‘It’s OK,’ he assured us, ‘the police don’t come this far out of town.’ Once in Ubud we drifted around the covered market, picking our way through stalls selling hand-painted silk sarongs, jewellery, paintings and dodgy looking phallic bottle openers. I felt somewhat smug when I bartered a woman down from 75,000 Indonesian rupiah to 45,000 for a packet of saffron and vanilla pods, but judging by her chuckle as I left, my negotiation skills weren’t so great. Later, we snacked on chicken satay at a nearby restaurant, while watching green hummingbirds dart around the hibiscus.
On our return to Alila we took the hotel’s bicycles and pedalled through the vivid green paddies dotted with scarecrows. We explored local villages, dodging children, chickens and numerous stray dogs. They’re quick to gobble up the many Hindu offerings that the Balinese leave on the streets, which can include rice, banana and, on a dog’s lucky day, duck. It’s fortuitous the Balinese don’t mind their offerings being eaten; they believe it’s the act of making them and praying over them that’s important, not who – or what – gets its paws on them afterwards.
That night we ate at the Alila’s restaurant, overlooking clusters of floating lanterns twinkling in the pool. We started with vegetable spring rolls with chilli sauce, followed by a Balinese coconut curry with tofu and quail’s egg, then banana fritters and creamy vanilla ice-cream. My mojito was the ideal sweet and tangy combination; Mr Smith enjoyed a Bintang, the local beer. We recovered from our food frenzy in the poolside bar, where we played chess on an enormous glass set and sat on sofas so deep our feet couldn’t touch the ground. It was like we’d entered the land of the giants.
The next day we swaddled ourselves in luxury, indulging in a 90-minute massage. Spa Alila is a slick operation. After choosing our oils (there’s one for relaxing, a headier scent for couples, and a minty energising potion), we were led to a glass-fronted room where we could hear the birds and geckos outside. Much to Mr Smith’s horror we were presented with paper pants. He point blank refused to suffer the ‘indignity’, ironically insisting on wearing his Speedos instead. The treatment, though, was sheer bliss. Perfect pressure was applied in firm strokes and our limbs were gently stretched – even our toes were wiggled. Once we managed to rouse ourselves, we were led outside and given dishes of delicate strawberry sorbet, a heavenly wake-up for dazed patients. All that remained was for us to head back to the pool, feeling invigorated and refreshed. In just two days this quiet retreat had soothed our stresses and left us feeling remarkably peaceful. I just hope we can return. They say your first wedding anniversary present should be made from paper. Does a plane ticket count?