Bali: love island

by Amanda.Statham

Couples in search of a classic honeymoon destination should grab flip-flops and sarong and head for the heart of Bali

Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall put Bali on the lovers' map when they had their blessing there in the 70s and, despite recent troubles, the Indonesian island continues to be one of the all-time most romantic places to head for a honeymoon.
 
It’s not just the fantastic climate (temperatures rarely drop below 30°C), golden beaches and warm waters of the Indian Ocean that capture the imagination, it’s also the sublimely spiritual side of the island that makes it such a magical destination. Hinduism is in evidence wherever you go, from the humblest offerings of rice and petals by roadside shrines to vast, exquisite temples, and adds an extra dimension to a trip. Another powerful draw is the magnificent landscape, particularly the rice fields carved out of the lush hillsides like giant steps and soaring volcanic peaks.
 

What to see & do

Once you’ve touched down, the island’s treasures are there for the taking. If you’re a couple that likes to party in paradise, head to Kuta, where the bars and clubs are as busy as the mile-long beach. If you’re more culture vultures, the island’s numerous temples and ancient shrines, such as Gunung Kawi, will leave you entranced, while nature lovers will want to explore the forested slopes, lake and volcanic cone of Gunung Batur. If you’re looking for true tranquillity, however, nowhere beats the timeless, laid-back charm of Ubud, known as the spiritual heart of Bali. The perfect place for lovebirds to nest away, this hippy-chic town, which is home to beautiful temples – a visit to the Lotus Temple is a must – art galleries, a colourful market and funky street cafes, has some of the hippest hotels in the Indian Ocean right on its doorstep.
 

Top honeymoon hotel

The latest five-star getaway making the headlines is COMO Shambhala Estate at Begawa Giri just outside Ubud. The first thing that strikes you on arrival is that the resort is truly Balinese. Built from local stone and wood, the low-lying buildings look perfectly natural against a backdrop of lush green jungle. There’s a choice of places to stay; five grand residences which each have four or five suites and a communal swimming pool, or, for more privacy, one- two- or three-bedroom villas with private pools, which are scattered in clearings throughout the grounds.
 
Despite a rustic exterior, the interiors are firmly in the 21st century, with DVD and CD players, giant king-size beds, private bars and seriously sexy bathrooms with massive sunken bathtubs and outside showers. Another modern touch is the concierge assigned to each residence and villa. Cooler than a butler, they’re more like a personal assistant who will arrange pretty much anything you desire, from a bowl of olives to a trip into Ubud, which makes for an exceptionally hassle-free honeymoon.
 
There are lots of complimentary activities to try every day (you get a list of what’s on when from your personal concierge) including t'ai chi, yoga, qigong and pilates. If that doesn’t float your boat, there are guided nature walks, white water rafting, mountain biking and a beautiful swimming pool to enjoy. With your physical wellbeing taken care of, you can concentrate on some serious pampering in the spa. There are nine treatment rooms plus four open-air gazebos overlooking the Ayung River, the perfect spot for a romantic couples’ massage.
 
The spa menu is based around traditional Eastern techniques including a good choice of Ayurvedic treatments including shirodhara, where a continuous stream of warm oil is poured onto your third eye - sounds odd but is wonderfully rejuvenating. Massages include deep tissue, hot stone, Thai and Indonesian. The final step on your road to wellbeing is a trip to the charming Ayurvedic doctor, who, after a quick assessment of your diet and lifestyle, advises you what you should be eating. It may not come as a shock to discover you need to ditch the chocolate and cocktails, but you’ll get some useful advice on what to eat to calm a stomach or give you more energy. Armed with this info, yummy dinners in the beautiful open-sided restaurant can be enjoyed safe in the knowledge that they are suited to your body type.
 

Also recommended

The Bulgari Hotels and  Resorts, an all-villa retreat built from local stone and wood, lies on a cliff at the southern tip of the Jimaran Peninsula, and boasts ocean views and a gorgeous private beach. The 59 villas have private plunge pools and terraces, and there’s also a spa and two restaurants to indulge in.
  

Don’t leave without…

  • Having an outside massage overlooking the Ayung River
  • Trying Nasi Goreng, a local dish of fresh veg and rice
  • Buying some local wood carvings or art work
  • Watching a legong dance show
  • Seeing the long-tailed macaques in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary

Amanda.Statham

Travel editor of Cosmopolitan and You & Your Wedding magazines, plus freelancer for various national newspapers and magazines. Author of the Brit's Guide to New York and The Globetrotter's Guide (out in May 09); keen photographer and addicted to travel. Aside from roaming the planet, I love cocktails, surfing, sunshine, reading and flip-flops. Favourite places? It's soooo hard to whittle it down. My perfect morning would be waking up to sunshine and the call to prayer in Marrakech before having breakfast on Riad Tarabel's rooftop, with views of the whole city. Lunch would be a long and lazy affair sitting with friends at the huge al fresco table at Villa Fontelunga in Tuscany, while an afternoon surfing at Hana in Maui or Florianopolis in Brazil would be hard to beat. For sundowners, it has to be a gin & tonic on an African safari, and for a night out, New York, New York, or Jamaica's remote Pelican Reef bar. Built by owner Floyd from mangrove sticks, it lies on a sand bank one-mile offshore from Treasure Beach, can only be reached by boat, and is the coolest bar on the planet.