We spent a weekend in Ubud, Bali to experience Fivelements Retreat's holistic wellness retreat

Sacred springs, temples, spiritual healers and an abundance of energy—it’s no wonder Bali is called the Island of Gods. For most travellers who find themselves in this Indonesian Island, a wellness getaway comes in the form of spa treatments and yoga by the beach, but for some, Bali is the perfect destination for healing and finding peace.

And peace was what I found after an hour and a half’s drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport when I arrived at Fivelements Retreat in Ubud, a sanctuary along Bali’s sacred Ayung River. Granted, finding inner peace wasn’t exactly on my agenda when I first scoped out the retreat’s website. Like most, I was looking forward to endless massages to ease my stress and tension, and Fivelements Retreat’s award-winning plant-based cuisine as part of the wellness experience.

But over the three-day wellness journey curated by Compare Retreats, as spiritually uninitiated as I was, I was beginning to see why Bali, especially Ubud, is hailed as a place of holy inspiration.

First Impressions

Surrounded by paddy fields on one side and the Ayung River on the other, Fivelements Retreat is a restful respite from the bustling city life. Seeking to blend into its natural environment rather than stand out, the architecture resembles a village, inspired by organic silhouettes and constructed using sustainable materials like bamboo, wood and straw. Despite its cosy space, Fivelements Retreat has everything you need—a reception pavilion, restaurant, pool by the river, healing village, activity centre and nine exclusive suites.

What I first noticed as I explored the landscape was how cool the air felt on my skin despite the strong sun. This, as wellness curator Michael Hallock shares with me, is the result of the cleverly placed streams and ponds which not only soothes you with white noise, but contributes to the passive cooling of the property.

The plants in the retreat are also not merely decoration—they were carefully picked and placed to filter and purify any greywater that flows through them into the water catchments, sustaining the habitat for birds and fishes.

Do Not Disturb

Naturally, the bamboo suites in the retreat are named after the five elements in Balinese—Pertiwi (earth), Apah (water), Teja (fire), Bayu (air) and Akasa (ether)—as well as two Waterfall suites and two Bidadari (angel) suites, which boast their own plunge pools. Every suite overlooks the Ayung river from an outdoor verandah.

I was checked into Apah, which I arrived at after a rather peaceful walk across a stone bridge over a pond—a nice touch for a suite named after water. The sunken stone tub next to the verandah is perhaps the centrepiece of every room, offering views of the river while you soak in your bath. Curtains and a bamboo partition offer the option of privacy.

Inside, the room continues the theme of rustic, Balinese decor, but you’ll find that the music and lights—including the ambient lights in the bathtub—are fully controllable from a tablet, discreetly placed beside an Asian-style teakwood bed beneath a canopy. Further in, wooden doors slide open to reveal a bathroom with an outdoor shower, framed by tropical plants. Fivelements Retreat makes it a point to keep nature close, whether you’re indoors or out.

The Extras

Fivelements Retreat offers a selection of three wellness retreats—Panca Mahabhuta for rejuvenation; Tri Kaya Parisudha for detoxification; and Cuisine for Life, for health and longevity. Adopting a holistic approach, the sanctuary combines authentic Balinese healing, plant-based cuisine, and sacred arts—multi-disciplinary activities like yoga, aikido and meditation that involve “movement, creative expression and self-awareness” for their wellness experiences.

What’s especially unique about Fivelements Retreat is that it connects guests with local healers, bringing them to the comfort of the retreat’s spa village so guests won’t have to travel across Ubud for a healing session. The healing rituals at Fivelements Retreat range from Sandi Prana (full body reflexology) massage to metaphysical massage, and I was treated to a Taksu massage with Balinese healer Pak Tirka.

The session began with Balinese Sanskrit prayer, after which Tirka performed an energy scan, followed by an acupressure massage to clear any blockages and release tension from the meridians or chakra points in my body. The knots in my shoulder and back were then skillfully smoothed out with broad sweeping strokes before the ritual was complete with a mantra by Tirka. I wasn’t sure if I felt any different spiritually—Tirka shared that I didn’t have many blockages to begin with—but I definitely left feeling more refreshed.

Food & Drink

One of the biggest draws that brought me to Fivelements Retreat was their plant-based cuisine, served at the award-winning Sakti Dining Room. According to Chef Tantra, 80 per cent of their menu selection is raw food, which he shares contains more nutrition, vitamins, and enzymes for energy. Ingredients are mostly sourced locally and the property even has its own garden to grow herbs and spices.

Despite being a vegetarian, I must admit I don’t have the healthiest of diet plans, so I had my first dinner—a three-course tasting menu—with a mix of apprehension and anticipation. This quickly transformed into surprise as I realised how going vegan and gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean having to eat bland and tasteless meals. My favourites were the Asian tomato “Caprese” with cashew tofu, and the chickpea and cassava flatbread, topped with raw carrot hummus.

No alcohol is served here—but you’ll be happy to find an extensive selection of juices, elixirs, and green smoothies to quench your thirst.

Tatler Tip

While in Bali, why not go for the full healing experience with a Balinese blessing ritual? Fivelements Retreat offers Agni Hotra (a fire blessing ritual) which takes place in the ceremonial fire space on the property, where a fire is raised in the pit.

A priest presides over the ritual, guiding you through Sanskrit mantras as you make offerings of grains and other foods into the fire, which not only serves as tribute to the sun, but also as a means of purifying negative thoughts and unwanted energy. As the ritual comes to an end, the priest sprinkles holy water over you and blesses you with sacred ash.

Water blessing rituals are also available on the property, where holy water from the sacred springs are poured over you to cleanse your body physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

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