AN INTIMATE ECO RESORT THAT REPRESENTS THE HEART & SOUL OF BALI.

Dara Ayu Villas would be easy to miss. The eco resort is located in its own stunning valley below the small village of Majangan, a forty minute drive from the cultural hub of Ubud.

To say we were pleasantly surprised with Dara Ayu Villas would be an understatement. On the day of our stay, Adi, Dara Ayu’s driver, picked us up from our previous accommodation and drove us to the villas. On the way he explained a lot about Balinese culture and answered some questions we had racked up the past few days.

Arriving at the resort, Adi directed us to a lovely reception area overlooking the valley whilst he checked us in. We then realised that Adi wasn’t just our driver, he was one of the key staff at the villas.

Adi insisted on taking both of our bags and led us through magical landscaped garden paths. He explained that all the water through the resort, in the ponds, and even coming out of our taps was spring water from the valley. (We took a video of the walk through the gardens to the lobby. You can watch it here.)

We jumped over stepping stones and navigated through the artistically-paved gardens until we reached Villa Kunti. We had booked a smaller room closer to the lobby, but Villa Kunti wasn’t occupied so Adi insisted that we stay there for the night. We were only too happy to oblige.

Adi explained that Villa Kunti is often used for families of four. It is comprised of two separate villas, in the centre of which lies a private infinity pool overlooking the rice paddies in the valley.

There is also a stunning view of the mountain ranges on the horizon. Whilst only occupying one of the two villas, we could definitely see that Kunti would be perfect for families, groups of friends or couples travelling together.

Steep, sloping ceilings gave a feeling of spaciousness to the room. The room featured a King-sized bed with mosquito net and window-paned doors which provided a panoramic view of the postcard surroundings.

All open-plan, we walked behind the wall at the bed head to find a vanity area with twin sinks to accommodate two people. A private garden out the back of the villa provides the setting for the outdoor bathroom. Shower, bath and toilet are all set outside. The bath and shower are designed and carved from stone to compliment the natural eco theme of the resort.

Despite only staying one night, Adi talked us through the different activities the resort offers. “For next time, when you stay longer,” he said with a cheeky smile. The resort offers treks, tours and day trips, as well as different dining experiences. These include barbecues, picnic lunches, cooking classes and romantic candlelit dinners. The candlelit dinner sounded pretty special so we asked if they could arrange it for us on such short notice.

After making a quick phone-call he smiled and asked what time we would like it. We also got to choose whether we would like it set up for us right by our private pool outside our own villa or in the gazebo by the main pool. Wanting to make the most of our private haven, we decided to have it brought to us.

After giving us time to settle in the room Adi led us to the main lobby. Most of the rooms branch off this part of the resort. Stepping into the landing we saw a dazzling infinity pool with an open view over the valley. A smaller pool lay on the level underneath and can be heated as a Jacuzzi with two hours notice. By the landing where we stood was an open kitchen with tables set by it under the sunshine.

Adi explained that breakfast would be here and that we could order meals from the al-a-carte menu for lunch. All food is prepared and made to order.

Marcus ordered a small late lunch and I settled for a beer and we happily spent the next couple of hours swimming and reading by the pool.

In the gazebo set up by the pool, Rani, one of the staff members, gave us both short massages in traditional Balinese style. Full treatments of a wide variety are available at the spa located a short walk down into the valley. If the short teaser I received is anything to go by, you’ll want to check it out!

Like Adi, we soon realised that Rani wasn’t just the spa therapist at the resort. She was also the one who later prepared our villa for our candlelit dinner and served us breakfast the following morning. Remembering us and other guests by name, the entire staff is only 17 members strong and made of people from the local villages. With only nine villas in the resort, that’s about a staff member per guest, enabling a a level of personalisation hard to come by in most resorts.

Returning to our villa at 7pm for our dinner we were in awe. Rani had worked absolute magic. She had set a table by the pool, which was surrounded by flower petals. A heart of roses sat at the centre. Rani had folded leaves to make decorations which she had strung up over head. She had also made a beautiful bouquet from flowers and leaves in the lobby which she had placed on the table.

Just as we sat, Rani came down, balancing our tray of food on her head. With another staff member helping they lit the candles on the steps and bordering the pool and then presented us our four-course dinner.

The dishes were delicious and used fresh, organic ingredients from the garden. The food was traditional Balinese and included some new flavours I hadn’t tried before. All eaten under the stars by candlelight, it was an amazing and romantic evening.

The next morning, after a delicious breakfast of Nasi Goreng (Western breakfast options are also offered), Adi met us again to check how we had slept. Adi organised to drop us at a nearby resort we were visiting that day, and then pick us up later that evening to take us to the airport for our midnight flight.

With only a couple of hours left at Dara Ayu we were taken for a walk down to the spa and fitness centre, where Gusti, from management, explained future plans for the resort.

Capitalising on their nature as an eco resort, Dara Ayu are expanding all their organic produce and are working on a 3-5 day agenda for guests to get immersed in the culture of Bali. All in a hands-on way, right from the comfort and luxury of Dara Ayu.

Before we headed back to the lobby, Wayan, one of the gardeners, climbed a papaya tree to cut down some fresh fruit for us to try along with a couple of passion fruits. Carrying our haul back up to the kitchen, we had the papaya chopped up for us and some yoghurt to go on the side. With the passionfruit pulp on top, this made an amazing snack.

It was the hardest place to leave on our trip, with hugs, smiles and waves from the staff. Dara Ayu Eco Resort was the best value resort we stayed in, and the one which most exceeded our expectations.

Dara Ayu is the perfect choice for those wishing to travel and stay in luxury accommodation, but still experience the heart and soul of Bali, and the people who call it home.

For more photos of Dara Ayu Villas, visit our Flickr Page.

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