Spa aaaah: Bali's best spas and chill-out spots

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Whether it's a total wind-down for the mind, body and spirit, or simply the desire for some quick-fix serenity, lots of travellers in Bali are spending hours (and sometimes days) being massaged, scrubbed, perfumed, pampered, bathed and blissed-out. A quick rub down on the beach or in a garden, and you'll be hooked. Here's your guide to seeking out a bit of aah & aah.

Every upmarket hotel worth its stars has spa facilities (almost always open to non-guests) offering health, beauty and relaxation treatments. Day spas are also common, many of the best booked up days in advance during high season. The cost can be anything from a 20,000Rp beach rub to a multi-hour sybaritic soak for US$100 or more. In general however, the costs are quite low compared with other parts of the world and the Balinese have just the right cultural background and disposition to enhance the serenity.

The Balinese massage techniques of stretching, long strokes, skin rolling and palm and thumb pressure result in a lowering of tension, improved blood flow and circulation, and an all-over feeling of calm. Based on traditional herbal treatments, popular spa options include the mandi rempah (spice bath) and the mandi susu (milk bath). The mandi rempah begins with a massage, followed by a body scrub with a paste made from assorted spices, and ending with a herbal-and-spice hot bath.

Good spas can be found wherever there are tourists. Day spas are particularly common in Ubud, Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. Here are a few of our favourites:

Kuta/Legian

Mandara Spa: this divine spa, part of the Hotel Padma Bali, is decorated with water features and impressive stone sculptural reliefs.

Jamu spa at AlamKulKul Boutique Resort: in serene surrounds at a resort hotel, you can enjoy indoor massage rooms that open onto a pretty garden courtyard. If you’ve ever wanted to be part of a fruit cocktail, here’s your chance – treatments involve tropical nuts, coconuts, papayas and more, often in fragrant baths. Also has spas in Sanur and

Seminyak

Prana spa at The Villas: a palatial Moorish fantasy that is easily the most lavishly decorated spa in Bali

Jari Menari: its name means 'dancing fingers' and your body will be one happy dance floor! The all-male staff use massage techniques that emphasise rhythm. Many say this is the best place for a massage in Bali, a claim backed up by
numerous awards. Book in advance to ensure a spot.

Ubud

Zen: Down a little lane, this spa has a good reputation. It offers body scrubs, 90-minute mandi lulur (Javanese body scrubs) and a spice bath (160,000Rp), among myriad other pleasures.

Ubud Sari Health Resort: Enjoy a 'total tissue cleansing' with organic and natural ingredients. Function definitely trumps form at this no-nonsense spa, salon and hotel. The range of offerings is almost as copious as the poisons sure to be purged from your body.

Spa alternatives

It's worth remembering that in a place as relaxing as Bali you don't necessarily have to visit a spa to be soothed. These low-key resorts make every day an indulgence:

Air Panas Banjar: hot springs percolate down through a series of pools amidst lush tropical plants;  soak in the top pools, or get a pummelling massage from the water as it falls into the lower pools.

Lovina: relaxed, low-key, low-rise... Lovina is Kuta's polar opposite. Even the waves are calm… Here, you can get Balinese or Ayurveda treatments in simple, soothing settings.

Nusa Lembongan: What better place to mellow out? Quiet, white-sand beaches; simple rooms right on the beach; incredible sunsets… this is the Bali that many imagine, but rarely find. Find your inner peace amidst the serenity.

Further reading: Take a look at other travellers' spa recommendations - and check out the full range of Bali spas.