Ubud is an unmissable destination if you are visiting Bali, with its lush green hills and thriving arts and crafts scene. Alila Ubud is the perfect base for exploring not only Ubud but the UNESCO World Heritage rice fields of Tegalalang. Located 15 minutes from the centre in the hillside village of Payangan, it’s an intriguing blend of modern design and traditional Balinese architecture with an incredible infinity pool.
First Impressions of Alila Ubud
Arriving at the Alila, we were struck by the size of the grounds – you could easily while away an afternoon exploring the rice fields. Passing through the secure gate, we admired the contemporary look of the hotel. Nestled high above a river on stilts, the resort’s rooms and villas resemble tree houses.
Checking in to Alila Ubud
As soon as you’ve booked with Alila, you receive a link to an online system where you can personalize your stay by listing your preferences for the type of pillow, reading matter and more. Reception itself is a spacious open plan area featuring a high thatched roof to give shade. We were handed a refreshing face towel and welcome drink whilst a friendly member of staff checked us in. They then whisked our bags away to our incredible Terrace Tree Villa, a few minutes walk from the bar, restaurant and spa.
The first thing we noticed was the sheer scale of the villa – it’s 120 square meters but feels even larger due to the open plan design. You get the impression that you have stumbled on the photo shoot for an interiors magazine, such is the stylishness of the decor ;-).
The bedroom features a romantic four poster bed, with curtains that you can close in the evenings.
The amenities in the villas are particularly impressive – there is actually a separate his and hers toiletry kit including a full-sized toothbrush, sunblock, mosquito repellent and after-sun cooling lotion. Wifi is complimentary, and there’s a mini bar, safe, flat screen TV with satellite channels, and Illy coffee and TWG tea selection.
I was very taken with the straw hats that you can borrow during your stay – there’s a floppy brimmed one for ladies and a panama one for gentlemen, plus a convenient tote bag for trips to the pool, spa or local village.
The star attraction at Alila Ubud has to be its infinity pool. Due to its location above a steep ravine, you really do get the impression that there is nothing beyond the edge…
…until you venture beyond and see these comfy sun loungers, overlooking the hillside. You really can’t beat the view from these. The pool itself is the perfect spot to unwind and have your very own “Eat, Pray, Love” moment.
The other thing that makes Alila Ubud so special is the monkeys roaming the grounds. They tend to appear in the early morning or evenings when the weather is cooler, but unlike the rather cheeky monkeys at nearby Monkey Forest, they won’t come up to you or try to make off with your belongings.
Alila’s Plantation Restaurant is well known in the area as one of the best places for fine dining, combining Balinese and French cuisine. The open plan room has a traditional alang-alang roof supported by coconut pillars, lending an exotic vibe.
The menu uses locally sourced ingredients to create dishes that are strong on flavour, with just the right amount of spice. We opted for the authentic Ubud tasting menu, and particularly enjoyed the Tongseng Kambing Tongseng Kambing – braised lamb leg in Javanese spiced paste, served with homemade peanut sauce and pickled vegetables.
If you’re lucky, you might be there on a night when they have traditional Balinese dancers. These are the children of some of Alila’s staff and they put on a very entertaining display.
In addition to the restaurant, there’s also the Cabana Lounge, next to the pool and perfect for evening cocktails or light poolside meals designed by Chef Erwan for sharing. Complimentary afternoon tea is served here to hotel guests every day.
You won’t go hungry here, the charming staff will encourage you to try as many dishes as you wish. There are lots of healthy options too, as you can see I decided to be virtuous with the green wheatgrass concoction on the left.
I was booked in for a traditional Balinese massage at Spa Alila. Housed in an attractive thatched building, it nevertheless boasts all mod cons.
My therapist gave me a choice of massage oil, which was a blend of virgin coconut, kukui nut, sweet almond and wheat germ oils. Virgin coconut oil is sourced from local villages and has fantastic natural antioxidant properties. After a relaxing footbath, she set to work using ancient Asian healing techniques. The combination of gentle stretching, long therapeutic strokes and skin rolling eased away all the tension in my shoulders and back. My skin was incredibly soft and lustrous afterwards.
Our hosts had arranged a guided trek for us around the local area of Bayad. Lasting 1 and a half hours, it’s an unforgettable experience that I highly recommend. We were accompanied by Pande, a knowledgeable guide who explained about village customs, pointing out local flora and fauna along the way. You can opt for longer treks, a cycling tour, climbing experience at Mount Batur, rafting on the river Ayung, quad buggies, elephant rides or a cookery class.
We visited a Balinese family compound, before walking in the middle of the rice paddies, so sports shoes and comfy clothes are a must. The unique Subak irrigation system places water management under the authority of the priests in water temples, who practice Tri Hita Karana, drawing together the human, natural and spirit worlds.
No visit to Ubud would be complete without a trip to the infamous Sacred Monkey Sanctuary. The monkeys here can be mischeivous so it’s advisable not to bring any food unless you want them to climb on you to reach it. Alila have a regular free shuttle to Ubud and it’s a 10 to 15 minute walk from the centre.
Whilst there are many flat rice fields close to Ubud, you should venture further North to Tegalalang and beyond to see vertical rice paddies such as these. There is so much to do that I’d advise staying for a week if you can. For more ideas of what to see and do, read this beginner’s guide to Bali as well as tips for where to eat and drink in Bali.
Final Thoughts about Alila Ubud
Alila Ubud stands out for its magnificent setting, superb infinity pool, world class spa and delicious cuisine. We met many people who kept returning year after year, they loved it so much. I hope that you enjoy this visit as much as we did and check out our video tour below!
Alila Ubud, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar, Bali 80572, Indonesia