It’s the resort of choice for celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, and you don’t have to look hard to see why they’re relaxing at this luxe Bali retreat: COMO Shambhala Estate has it all, from lush tropical jungle to beautiful architecture. But when it comes to wellness, we like to dig a little deeper and CompareRetreats.com founder Dervla Louli chose the three-day Ayurveda Retreat Programme for a few more reasons than aesthetics.
The award-winning resort is annually included in Condé Nast’s list of best spas in the world and has received numerous accolades from publications like Harper’s BAZAAR and AsiaSpa. Opened in 2005 by Christina Ong, it’s a hot bucket list item for wellness travellers due to the combination of Asian and Western holistic treatments and unique location. Checking in to experience a weekend of Ayurvedic therapies, we see if COMO Shabmhala Estate can live up to its excellent reputation.
COMO Shambhala Estate is located just north of Ubud, about one hour and 15 minutes north of Denpasar airport. Over 16 million passengers fly in and out of the airport annually and there are frequent flights from all over the world. The best time to visit is during the dry season between April and September as rainy season spans from November to March. Ubud’s rice fields make for perfect backdrops for holiday snaps and exploring the surrounding area is highly encouraged. Balinese traffic can be very heavy so make sure to give yourself enough time to get to the airport when checking out and if you decide to go and explore.
Sitting amidst a jungle enclave with a river running beside it, COMO Shambhala Estate is easy to get to and very well known on the island. If it’s your first time in Bali, take advantage of the outdoor activities included in the adventure menu and go freewheeling down mountains or rafting down the Ayung River that runs right beside the estate. Surrounded by terraced rice fields and jungle-covered mountains, the aesthetic stays true to the Balinese landscape in the most luxurious and understated way.
There are nine villas and 21 suites on site. The suites are contained within five residences that are designed with the five elements in mind. For my Ayurveda retreat, I stayed in a stunning suite in the Wanakasa (meaning Forest in the Mist) residence. There are five suites in total within each residence, but we only saw other guests two or three times during our three-day stay.
The design of each residence ensures privacy in the individual suites so it never felt like the pool, pavilion or even the personal assistant were shared with other guests. The room’s balcony overlooked postcard-perfect view of a turquoise semi-circular pool, palm trees and the Ayung river. In the main area was a four-poster bed and floor-to-ceiling glass door, framed in the warm wood that dominated the room. The bathtub and bathroom were enormous and there was plenty of space to unpack into the two large wardrobes.
The general vibe of the resort is calm, and the programme is personalised. The multilingual hotel staff, gymnasium, 25-metre lap pool, hydrotherapy pool, steam room, sauna, Pilates and yoga studios, tennis court, spa and personal assistants ensure that your every need is catered for. For adventurous souls there are lots of activities to choose from like white-water rafting, hiking and mountain biking to name a few. Cooking demonstrations, guided cultural activities and ceremonies can also be arranged easily.
The two restaurants, Glow and Kudos, are reason enough not to leave the property. Glow serves the famous COMO Shambhala Cuisine at lunch and dinner, and Indonesian cuisine can be enjoyed at Kudos House, which is also where breakfast is served. Vegans, vegetarians, carnivores, pescetarians and raw foodies are all catered for and every single item we tried was delicious.
The prescribed diet for the Ayurveda retreat programme was made easy thanks to the excellent chefs and customised service. The list of foods the doctor recommended to avoid is extensive: alcohol, refined grains, processed food, sugar, legumes, greasy meat, certain dairy products, palm oil, onion plus many more items are all off the menu for the next three days (and preferably the next three months).
Ayurveda lifestyle suggestions are given to follow such as avoiding chilled and iced food and beverages, leaving a 30-minute gap between drinking water and eating, avoiding cigarettes and sleeping eight hours a day and keeping a gap of three hours before dinner and bedtime. I stick to all of them during my three-day stay at COMO Shambhala Estate because the GLOW restaurant menu makes it easy to stay on track. I replace my usual iced water with warm ginger tea and drink my coffee hot instead of over ice.
Treatment Programme: Three-Day Ayurveda Retreat Overview
There are five main wellness programmes that can be booked for stays of three days or longer. The biggest differentiator between the estate and any other wellness resort I’ve visited is how hyper-personalised each programme is to individual guests. Each personal assistant, consultant, expert, fitness instructor and employee on the premise is genuinely interested in ensuring each guest has a special experience, and that alone is priceless.
The three-day Ayurvedic Retreat at COMO Shambhala Estate is one of the best outside of India and can be extended to seven, 14 or 21 days. The purpose of it is to restore the body to its natural state of equilibrium by harmonising the three Doshas—vata, pitta and kapha—that make up our constitution. It focuses on balancing the body and mind and benefits include weight loss, detoxification and a sense of overall wellbeing.
The package includes accommodation, three meals daily, one wellness consultation, three Ayurvedic treatments, a 60-minute private yoga lesson, airport transfers, participation in the daily scheduled activities and use of steam, sauna and estate pool. Ayurvedic Consultant Dr Prasanth V.S. BNYS has worked in the field for over 20 years and is from Kerala, the birthplace of Ayurveda in India, so you’re in good hands.
Treatment Programme: Three-Day Ayurveda Retreat Breakdown
The Ayurveda retreat programme begins with a consultation that includes a questionnaire, physical examination and marma inspection followed by Dosha mapping. We all have three Doshas (Vata/Air, Pitta/Fire and Kapha/Water) and the mapping concludes if the elements are balanced. I’m diagnosed with a slight imbalance with excess Pitta (fire) and am slightly deficient in Kapha (water). This diagnosis determines the oils (Panda and Nolina) that will be used during my three Ayurvedic treatments – Abhyanga (rhythmic oil massage), Shirodhara (herbal oil forehead therapy) and Ubtan (full-body mud mask). I opt to add an acupuncture session with Nancy Kim who specializes in pain relief and the changing requirements of women’s bodies during each stage of their life.
After the consultation, I received an Ayurvedic prescription laying out the foods I should favour, limit and avoid in addition to breathing and meditation exercises.
A typical day during the three-day programme looks a little something like this:
- 08.30: Breakfast
- 09.30: Pilates
- 10.45: Hydrotherapy Circuit
- 13.00: Lunch at GLOW
- 14.00: Ayurveda Spa Treatment
- 15.30: Estate Flow Yoga
- 17.00: Ayurveda Spa Treatment
- 19.00: Dinner at GLOW
- 21.00: Bedtime
Expect to feel… balanced, refreshed and a lot lighter, physically and emotionally. There was a notable difference in my weight, physical appearance, and sense of wellbeing. I lost 1kg in three days and was definitely less bloated after meals, which I credit to abstaining from iced drinks, onion and garlic during my stay. The wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruit and protein on the GLOW menu make COMO Shambhala Estate one of the easiest places in the world to eat a healthy and balanced diet. I felt and looked fresh and well rested as I departed after the programme finished.
I lost 1kg in three days and was definitely less bloated after meals, which I credit to abstaining from iced drinks, onion and garlic during my stay. The wide variety of fresh vegetables, fruit and protein on the GLOW menu make COMO Shambhala Estate one of the easiest places in the world to eat a healthy and balanced diet. I felt and looked fresh and well rested as I departed after the programme finished.
Every single person from COMO Shambhala Estate that I interacted with during my stay was 100% dedicated to making me feel comfortable, happy and healthy during my stay. The consultants were really vested in helping to fix anything they possibly could and the entire team went above and beyond when I asked in-depth questions about the history of the estate and the methodology they used to create their wellness programmes. I felt so well taken care of from the moment I was collected at the airport until the time I left.
How to Carry on Cleansing
You will receive an email after your Ayurvedic consultation that will advise you how to carry on cleansing for three months after your stay at the estate. Avoiding certain food, drinks and adding breathing exercises and meditation into your daily rituals are a few ways to reap the benefits of the programme. Most importantly if you have any questions you can email your consultant who will help you on your wellness journey.
The three-night Ayurveda Retreat is USD 2,400++/room/person for 3 nights, based on the lowest accommodation category and valid for low season period. The rate is subject to 21% government tax and service charge.