HONORS CIRCLE: INDONESIA
Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Jl. Kedewatan, Banjar Kedewatan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
One of only five properties in Ritz-Carlton’s ultra-exclusive Reserve portfolio, Mandapa is as serene and sophisticated an escape as you’ll find in the foothills of Bali. It occupies 10 hectares of a luminous green valley along the Ayung River, immersing guests in a lush landscape of forested slopes, tropical gardens, and the resort’s own rice terraces. Downtown Ubud, the island’s cultural capital, may be just a 15-minute drive away, but Mandapa feels like its own little world.
Not that the sense of place here doesn’t run deep. From its magnificent ridge-top reception pavilion down to the thatch-roofed living rooms of its riverside villas, the architecture is grounded in Balinese traditions, with a village-like ambiance enhanced by the presence of a century-old temple. Locally sourced materials and design elements feature prominently. While personal butlers — here called patih, a term once used for the viziers of Bali’s royal courts — can arrange tours to nearby communities and cultural attractions, the rhythms of island life can also be experienced on-site. Each morning and afternoon, neighboring villagers bring offerings to the temple, while farmers tend to the rice fields.
As with other Reserve properties, the room count at Mandapa is low: there are just 35 hillside suites and 25 timber-clad pool villas, the most secluded of which are set right above the rushing waters of the Ayung River. The interiors are lavishly appointed with timber-clad walls, beautiful hand-painted Balinese murals, freestanding tubs, and traditionally inspired furnishings made from teak and rattan.
The dining options are excellent too. Kubu, an open-air restaurant by the river, serves fine Mediterranean-European fare in teardrop-shaped bamboo “cocoons,” while Sawah Terrace focuses on the rich flavors of Indonesian cuisine — including classics such as beef rendang cheek and braised oxtail soup — prepared with fresh herbs and vegetables from the kitchen’s organic garden. Afternoon tea and zesty cocktails are available at the poolside Library lounge as well as at the resort’s new hanging bar, Ambar, which is perched high on a cliff. There’s also a selection of private culinary experiences called Dining Beyond that range from barbecues beside the rice field to gourmet picnics in a thatched rice barn and romantic in-villa dinners.
Mandapa’s serene spa, meanwhile, champions a holistic approach to wellbeing rooted in ancient Balinese healing practices. Guests can, for example, have their chakras realigned through energy work and acupressure, or arrange sessions with a blind healer who is said to be able to identify ailments through touch and cure them with reflexology and massage. There’s also an exhaustive menu of body scrubs and wraps, facials, and other pampering treatments available, not to mention an outdoor vitality pool with dreamy jungle and river views.
While the grownups relax, younger guests are kept entertained at Mandapa Camp, the resort’s exceptional kids club. Occupying a whale-shaped bamboo structure planted next to the rice field, it teaches children about Balinese culture through art, music, and games, alongside jamu-making workshops and other fun outdoor activities. And for travelers of all ages, the resort offers four- or six-hour driving excursions in a classic VW 181 convertible that explore the surrounding countryside, visiting temples, villages, and waterfalls en route. It’s a great way to see the island, even for Bali regulars.