With over 17,000 islands, it’s no surprise that Indonesia is staggeringly diverse. From the ancient temples and smouldering volcanoes of Java to the lush jungles and powder-white sands of Bali, it’s a country that begs to be explored. We asked our Indonesia expert Jessica Sweeney, who has just returned from her third visit to this beguiling destination, to share the highlights of her trip:
What was your most memorable experience?
It has to be my visit to Nihi Sumba Island. This untouched island is just a one-hour flight from Bali’s capital, Denpasar, but upon arrival you feel like you’ve reached a world far from reality. Set on the island’s remote south-west coastline, this former surfer’s retreat is really something special. It’s hard to pick just one highlight, but the spa safari was truly unforgettable. The day begins with a beautifully scenic hike past rolling hills and rice fields to the Nihi Oka Spa, which is swiftly followed by a private breakfast overlooking the ocean. You’re then shown to your cliffside spa room to relish in the relaxation of your selected treatments, which range from body wraps to organic facials. The pace of the day is up to you, but I recommend allowing plenty of time for a picturesque dip in the gorgeous infinity pool.
What’s new in Indonesia?
Opening in May 2018, Capella Ubud surpassed all my expectations. Indonesia’s first luxury tented camp is a unique experience offering complete immersion in the rainforest. Designed by Bill Bensley, who masterminded the Four Seasons Tented Camp in Thailand, each of its 22 tents feature four poster beds and private plunge pools. Six Senses Uluwatu will bring a new level of luxury to southern Bali when it opens later this year. Set close to the iconic Uluwatu temple, the Children’s Den here makes it a fantastic contender for families. Last but not least, Como Echo Beach brings chic and stylish design to the coastal village of Canggu, a wonderful area for either relaxing by the beach or learning to surf. With all these exciting new hotels, now is undoubtedly a great time to plan an Indonesia trip!
Best beach hotel?
Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay epitomises the classic beach break and delivers the essence of an idyllic hideaway. There are numerous activities to keep all ages entertained, and every evening is guaranteed to finish with an exceptional sunset. I’d recommend staying in either a Deluxe or Premier Villa, where you can appreciate the panoramic bay views from your own private pool. If you want to be closer to the action while remaining beachfront, The Legian in Seminyak is another great choice.
Most magical sunrise?
It doesn’t get any better than watching sunrise from the top of the world’s largest Buddhist temple. Comprising 504 buddha statues, 72 stupas and 1460 carvings, it’s impossible not to be left astounded with the magnitude of Borobudur. Arriving at dawn, I watched in wonder as the sky transitioned to shades of fiery orange and the magnificent structure was brought to life. The only way to make this experience even more magical is by staying at nearby Amanjiwo, which replicates the temple in its design and certainly upholds the typical Aman standards.
Best spot for honeymooners?
Surrounded by Ubud’s tropical greenery, The Viceroy delivers exclusive intimacy alongside regal design. You’ll stay in your own thatched roof villa with its own private infinity pool overlooking the jungle. For beachside romance, I’d suggest a stay at the Bvlgari in Uluwatu. Not only are the views of the Indian Ocean staggering, but they really go the extra mile with adding personal touches to your stay, such as special treats prepared by the chef and filling the bath tub with fragrant frangipani’s.
Where surprised you the most?
Hidden away on Bali’s quiet north west coast, Matahari Beach Resort is set in an authentically rural spot where tourism almost feels non-existent. It’s a world away from the more developed south of the island and is perfect for a few days of total relaxation. I loved the water-palace inspired spa, where statues delicately cascade water into the central lily pond. The evening Balinese performances were fantastic too, and the restaurant’s rambutan crème brûlée was pure indulgence!
Most unmissable restaurant to dine at?
Indonesian cuisine is varied, vibrant and delicious. I had many fantastic meals, but dining beside the Ayung River in a cocoon shaped pod at the bamboo inspired Kubu Restaurant takes some beating. Set within the stunning grounds of the Ritz Carlton Mandapa in Ubud, Kubu exudes luxury and class. Under the guidance of Executive Chef Maurizio Bombini, exquisite and creative dishes are served within the most intimate and blissful surroundings. I recommend opting for the six to eight course degustation menu, an unforgettable culinary journey with dishes such as Boston Lobster ravioli and Cherry Chocolate Fondant accompanied with Amaretto di Saronno ice cream.