All bent out of shape? Follow in the beautifully pedicured footsteps of beauty editors and yoga aficionados worldwide and get yourself straightened out at boutique spa Como Shambhala Estate retreat in Begawan Village, a 15-minute drive away from Ubud. This highly rated flagship is renowned for its back-to-nature approach, and promises to soothe, relax, cosset and revivify – while surrounding you in totally tropical, thatched-pavilion, wall-to-wall waterfall luxury of course.
Get this when you book through us:
A Como Shambhala aromatherapy gift; GoldSmiths will also receive a 60-minute massage for two for five-night stays or more.
Thirty suites, housed in five shared residences, plus five Retreat Pool Villas and four two- or three-bedroom Private Villas.
Noon, but flexible subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £533.75 ($670), including tax at 21 per cent.
The Como daily rate includes breakfast.
Como Shambhala Estate runs a number of residential retreats throughout the year, with visiting experts holding courses and seminars.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, yoga studios, jungle gym, tennis courts, library, shop. In rooms: LCD TV, DVD player, free WiFi, minibar, tea/coffee, Como Shambhala spa products.
Our favourite rooms
They’re all pretty spectacular. The one-bedroom Retreat Pool 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 Principal Suites – one in each residence – are large and lavish. Go for the one in Tirta Ening residence, which has a private entrance, terrace, waterfall pool, balé and Jacuzzi – oh, and a six-ton carved stone bath.
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.
East meets West in the holistic Ojas spa, with therapies running the gamut from Ayurveda and anti-ageing to Thai massage and stress management.
Every body-hugging, stretch-friendly piece of keep-fit kit you can lay your hands on, plus plenty of swimwear. Don’t worry if you forget your yoga mat, though: every room is supplied with one.
Not really encouraged, but welcome in the private villas. Under-12s stay free; otherwise an extra bed in rooms costs $75 a night. Babysitting can be arranged ($10 a child an hour) and the kitchen can rustle up special meals for children.
Glow Restaurant’s pavilion structure means every mouthful is accompanied by eyefuls of the Ayung valley. In Kudus House, request a table on the veranda.
Cotton kurtas and Thai-style wrap trousers.
The tasty, locally sourced produce perfectly complements the wellness ethos. Kudus House serves Indonesian cuisine in a 19th-century Javanese villa; Glow Restaurant is an all-day restaurant, with an open kitchen, offering local organic dishes with a healthy bent. At the Ojas spa and poolside, choose from a menu of snacks, sorbets and granitas.
As if we'd let you poison your precious liver on a wellness retreat…
10.30am for breakfast; 6pm for Glow Restaurant's all-day menu; 11pm for dinner.
A broad menu of healthy snacks and meals is available 24 hours.
Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar
Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport is an hour and a quarter-drive from the hotel. Speak to our Smith24 team about booking flights and organising transfers to the hotel (03331 222 485). Have some US dollars handy on arrival should you need one to buy a visa.
The hotel is a short drive from the island’s art centre of Ubud, and 40 minutes from capital, Denpasar.
Worth getting out of bed for
Guests are encouraged to get their bodies going, with free guided walks and yoga sessions daily. Ashtanga and Pilates fans will be in seventh heaven, but if mystical bending and being told how to breathe is anathema to you, there are plenty of gung-ho muscle-testing options to tempt you off your sunlounger. Hike or bike along mountain trails on Mount Batur, clamber up and over boulders, ace a few sets of tennis, go white-water rafting on the Ayung River or push your calf, thigh, stomach and shoulder muscles on an outdoor training circuit.
We doubt you’ll want to derail your wellness programme by eating out, but if you’re tempted make for theThree Monkeys on Jalan Monkey Forest, where the magical rice-paddy panorama is well matched by simple Mediterranean fare and divine desserts. Head to hillside Murni’s Warung on Jalan Campuhan, for Indonesian and Western dishes served on four open-air levels decorated with Balinese art.
Located next to Naughty Nuri’s Warung on Jalan Sanginggan in Ubud, Room 4 Dessert combines two of our favourite post-dinner treats, cake and cocktails. Combine a cocoa butter cake made with aloe vera, tamarind, kemangi, daun piduh, with one of their Veronica Corningstone (cosmopolitan) cocktails, or go all out and sample every dessert on offer with their big tasting menu – meant for a group, but who are we to judge…They also serve some savoury snacks like fire-roasted eggplants and braised beef shanks in red wine.
If Bali is the Island of the Gods then it is highly likely Como Shambhala Estate, nestled in a misty, mossy valley, is where they reside. My suspicions were first aroused a few years back when Mr Smith and I travelled to this hidden wellness retreat, 15 minutes’ drive from Bali’s artistic and cultural centre, Ubud, for our honeymoon. At that time we were convinced that there were good spirits inhabiting the villas while we were hanging about borrowing their space.
This time around, having been shown to our Retreat Villa, called Vasudhara, with its own pool and couple’s therapy room, we are tempted to stay put. It’s just as I remember: the timeless, understated design, every detail created with care, from the proportions of the furniture and lamps to the incredibly pleasing doormats. We even measure up a chair I’ve instantly fallen in love with, taking photos and determining to have one made for our home. Everything just seems to work, including the established vegetation that appears to have been planted strategically to maximise shade and privacy.
On offer further afield is a full schedule of activities – cycling through the village, yoga classes, even talks on philosophy if that’s your cup of Ayurvedic tea – but you could easily hole up in your room, ordering room service, dipping in the pool and getting the massage therapists to come to you. Mr Smith is keen on this option but eventually I convince him we need to explore – and eat. My restaurant of choice is Kudus House, one of the Estate’s two dining options, and I call our PA to make a booking at the modern Indonesian restaurant housed in a 150-year-old former Javanese residence.
He also offers to transport us to dinner in a buggy, but we choose instead to take a slow walk through the grounds, enjoying Ubud’s cool evening breeze.
The sounds of the Ayung River below accompany the faultless meal and our plans to move to Bali, a plot that is systematically hatched each time we visit. I wish I’d written down what we ate – it was vegetarian and came with red rice – because I would do anything to be able to replicate it myself. We half-walk, half-float back to the villa, satisfied and feeling a million miles away from the pressures of home.
The following morning, while we’re out cruising around Ubud, one of the locals comments that ‘too much is never enough’ when it comes to the Estate. Later, as I’m wrapped in a towel on our private outdoor massage suite, looking out over the valley, I realise just how true that statement is. When we last visited this holistic haven, the treatments were an absolute highlight. I guess they’re still amazing, but as I fell asleep just minutes into my massage I’m not really in a position to speculate.
That evening a little magic comes our way (it must be those gods!). It has wings and a tiny pulsating light. A firefly frolics over our heads then lands on the lampshade. Mr Smith instantly reverts to childhood, amused and amazed at this twinkling miracle of science that has blessed us with its presence. We are completely fixated. The enchanting Ubud Valley had pulled us in and real life seems so distant – at least for one night.
The next day, we decide to make the most of the wellness options at the resort. I drag the yoga-fixated Mr Smith to a complimentary pilates class, although he has trouble understanding the small core movement exercises and wonders why there’s not more ‘go go go’ involved. Later, we consult the friendly resident nutritionist, and have our pulses read by Como Shambhala Estate’s Ayurvedic doctor. He holds my wrist and promptly tells me I think too much; that even when there is nothing to think about I think something up. I think he is pretty right in his thinking.
Many people come here for a week or more to take full advantage of all these fine-tuned spa and wellness programmes. The resort encourages a three-night minimum stay to ensure you leave feeling well and truly cleansed and detoxed on both a physical and emotional level – but we still wish we’d booked in for longer.
While we’re packing our bags, I notice Mr Smith has collected a little stash of the Como Shambhala toiletries. Now, I am usually a bit of a snob when it comes to hotel soaps, but even in this department the resort excels, with toiletries all scented with the Estate’s signature Invigorate fragrance. Its amenities are made of natural botanical ingredients (so they’re better for the environment), blending mood-elevating grapefruit, fennel, cypress and lime, while the body lotion in the bathroom is beyond silky smooth. It’s the little things, as they say.
Como Shambhala Estate more than lives up to my memories of our first visit, having perfected the subtle art of being both luxurious yet understated. Of course, this time around we’ve spent quite a bit more time enjoying all the resort’s amenities rather than spending all our time doing, well, honeymoon stuff. But there is one thing that is troubling me: the name of the resort. Really, it should be called the Como Shambhalaaaahhhh.