A wonderful family-run yoga retreat in the Italian countryside. You are picked up from (and, sadly, dropped back to...) Pescara airport and taken to the six-bedroom villa near Atri for a snack and tea before bed. The next morning you wake to the wonderful views across the valley, yoga on the terrace and lovingly home-grown, home-prepared vegetarian meals which will rival anything you've ever tasted (vegetarian or not). Local wine and 2 yoga classes a day are included, and you also have the option of paying for extra treatments and/or snacks on top. Spend your days enjoying the beautiful views over the mountains while you swim, sauna, hot-tub or just swing in one of the hammocks dotted around the garden. For those who prefer to get out and about, there are options of day-trips to nearby towns, a beach yoga day (all included in the price) and a meal out in a local restaurant (transport there and back included, meal is approx. £15). There are also bikes to borrow and a cafe a short walk away for that authentic capuccino (just don't ask for white tea). Stephanie teaches yoga in a calm, confident, serene and non-judgemental way, so you really will be fine whether a complete beginner or an expert. Her massages are to die for. (Seriously. Have one.) Rupert takes care of all the cooking (and, basically, rocks the kitchen). Put all these things together and you get a week (or a weekend) of utter bliss. You'll come back a different person. (And you'll be forever planning your next trip back...)
Pescara airport (from Stanstead) or Rome
About a 10 minute drive from Kitzbühel, this is a great place for recharging your batteries with yoga. If you’re staying nearby you can come for a yoga class, but the best thing is to stay for a weekend or longer to really get the benefits of the yoga practice. They take a holistic, classical approach to yoga, so in addition to twice daily yoga classes we did meditation and mantra chanting mornings and evenings. The vegetarian meals are excellent, and you have time between classes to explore the surrounding countryside and enjoy the view of the Wilder Kaiser mountain range. It may sound like a busy schedule, but I was surprised by how invigorated I felt after just a few days of following it.
While travelling in Thailand, my wife and I cajoled each other into embarking on a retreat in a Buddhist monastery. The overnight train from Bangkok took us Suan Mokkh Hermitage where, after registration of £30, we entered into ten days of practising yoga (never done before); meditation (never attempted); receiving instructions in Buddhist philosophy (never chased spiritual guidance) and in mindfulness (ask my wife!) All in total silence. It was truly the most challenging, thought-provoking, difficult, weird and ultimately rewarding experience I've had and I came out the most balanced, relaxed and healthy-looking I can recall - but nonetheless dying for a beer. A very small step on the road to enlightenment. Two years on and I'm still carrying a large chunk of that time around with me.
I stayed in Tochni villages in Cyprus couple of weeks ago. I'm into yoga, so handily, they are offering private yoga classes with a local teacher, Sylvia Braun. Those who like yoga, it's a great experience - you get to practice in a picturesque environment with a very experienced teacher who tailors the practice according to your needs. I'm not a beginner so my classes were pretty advanced, but another person staying there was a total beginner and found the teacher to be very attentive. The accommodation was very comfortable, traditional houses. And I love Cyprus food (half-board included in the package). They have vegetarian options which was good for me. The beach is not accessible by foot but you can drive there. You can also do horse riding, hiking. Peace and quiet, beautiful people.
+357 99 139 722
Amazing location right next to beach in Asvem, North Goa. Accommodation is in 'eco pods' made of local materials, very comfortable inside with designer touches. The resort is laid back, no TV, just sound of ocean and cool breeze. Perfect combination of nature and comfort. Breakfast is served at your pod, home made jams, delicious teas and coffee, with fresh breads and fruit. Very family friendly too.
A fantastic yoga retreat for those who are looking to relax, unwind and let go. Never mind if you are new to yoga; the retreat caters for all levels. Advanced practitioners will enjoy too. relaxing atmosphere, vegetarian food to die for, a range of holistic therapies from Thai yoga massage to acupuncture to reiki from highly professional therapists. In just a couple of days you are miles away from a hectic city lifestyle mentality.
If you really want to experience fantastic health benefits of Ayurveda, go on an ayurvedic retreat. On your day one an ayurvedic doctor will access your health condition and will prescribe a bespoke programme of various ayurvedic treatments including all sorts of massages, herbal baths, your bespoke diet etc. Even chronic serious diseases can be dealt with, not to mention an overall benefit on your mental and emotional health.
Barberyn Reef Ayurveda Resort
Beruwela, Sri Lanka
+94 34 22 76036
I cannot describe the joy in finding the Wild Rose Yoga Studio in Chiang Mai during my travels through Thailand. Between the amazing Anusara Yoga class taught by Jonas Westring, the Thursday night Kirtan or the Friday night herbal steam, I would have a hard time choosing. Beautiful people!
Jan is based in Ubud and she really helps you to help yourself when it comes to seeking some guidance or just confirmation that you are on the right track.
A truly wonderful place for relaxing. Everything about it is conducive to a nurturing atmosphere. The sunny, country location. Crisp sheets, cosy rooms, deliciously nutritious vegetarian food. The yoga room has its own special energy and the salon a tented Moroccan feel. The pool was fresh on a very hot day! The hosts Alex and Adrian are friendly and warm and their attention to detail amazing. I wish I could bottle the smells of the beautiful garden, the wafting incense and the spices of the yoga tea. If stressed I could inhale and be transported back to paradise. This centre shines out as an example to all others.
A converted hilltop farmhouse in Puglia in the heel of Italy. It's an amazingly peaceful and beautiful place where you can go on a yoga retreat. Some of the rooms are in traditional trulli houses, and the food is awesome.
A very beautiful yoga retreat in the Mediterranean mountains of the Costa Daurada in Spain from only £20 per day (breakfast and yoga included).
Daily Sivananda yoga classes are enjoyed on a spacious yoga deck surrounded by olive groves and stunning mountains. The golden Costa Daurada beaches are only 12 miles away.
Excursions to local castles, markets, beaches and more are offered each day. Stylish safari style tents with fully sprung beds are available for just £35 per day (breakfast and yoga included). Finally, a beautiful retreat at a beautiful price!
(0034) 663 140 297
I have been in Zollino, near Lecce, in the countryside, 20 minutes from beautiful sea spots such as Porto selvaggio, Baia dei Turchi or Otranto. The pool is huge, the food was incredibly healthy, the yoga at 7 a.m. was nice in order to go and visit Apulia.
Great priced eco campsite only 1.5 hrs south of Barcelona. Only 20 pounds per night. It's run by a friendly family. Yoga is taught each morning in the flower filled courtyard. Beaches only 12 miles away. A 'get away from it all' holiday with a lot of activities to keep the non-yoga enthusiasts happy too. Castles to explore, beaches to sunbathe on, giant catfish to catch in the river Ebro, hiking in stunning mountains straight out of the front door. The camping facilities are clean and modern in a converted stable. It's only £20 a day too.
It's a Mediterranean mountain ecoretreat only 12 miles from the unspoilt beaches of the Costa Daurada, which has been missed by mass tourism. They run yoga classes each day in the olive groves with stunning mountain scenery.
Camping facilities are in a beautiful converted stable. You can pitch your tent in complete privacy (wild camping) and hiking possibilities are unlimited in the surrounding designated natural park (Serra de Cardo mountains).
The fishing villages are picturesque, the river fishing and kayaking are fun, the beaches and coves are golden and uncrowded, and it's only 20 euros a night. What's not to love?
At only US$12 a day for accommodation, free yoga classes and 3 delicious vegetarian meals a day, the Eco Yoga Park outside Buenos Aires in Argentina is a beautiful place to unwind, learn yoga and practice meditation.
An affordable, friendly and inspiring yoga and pilates retreat in idyllic surroundings close to Faro beaches. Guaranteed sunshine, delicious food, congenial company and, most importantly, stimulating and enjoyable yoga and pilates classes morning and evening.
Led by Beata who brings the spirit of the circus to the yoga mat, with fun, laughter and lightness spilling over from her ongoing experiences as an aerial performer.
Yoga at the level of your choice: one, two or three times a day; stunning natural surroundings; delicious imaginative vegetarian/vegan food; a swimming pool; a nearby river to swim in/canoe down; traditional markets in medieval hilltop villages? Yes, please! La Roane near Toulouse has all this and then some (a treehouse, sauna, massage). Nigel Shamash (your host) is a wonderfully warm and open-hearted man, with much experience of life, and a mad sense of humour. He is a clown and a musician, but like many artists has a quiet reflective side as well.
La Roane is set in 20 acres of peaceful meadow and woodland, away from roads and neighbours. It’s peaceful and secluded with wonderful woodland walks to explore, a paradise for nature lovers. It is Nigel Shamash’s home, and when you stay there it feels as though you are staying with a friend. People (a maximum of eighteen at any time) go there to enjoy the activities of the week’s course, and to spend time in a relaxing environment where there are few rules. If you want, your greatest responsibility is to decide whether or not to eat another peach. Bring your books, your diary, and your computer, or your swimsuit and your running shoes, or none of them. It’s up to you.
La Roane offers one-week yoga retreats/holidays (as well as other holistic-themed weeks) during the summer months. There are three houses, a hundred metres or so from each other, set in a huge meadow and surrounded by woodland, all Nigel’s property. In the grounds are also a tree house, a swimming pool, a sauna, a huge swing in the forest, ping-pong tables, croquet and badminton facilities, and bicycles to borrow. The nearby medieval town of St Antonin has a thriving community, with a lively market on Sundays. The town nestles on the Aveyron river, surrounded by both the spectacular sheer cliffs of the Aveyron gorge and rolling hills of lush green countryside. It is exceptionally charming, and peaceful too. In the heart of the village is the oldest civic building in France, which dates from the 12th century. You can wander through the maze of alleyways and enjoy the patchwork houses which bear witness to centuries of life. Coffee and croissants are never far away.
Each yoga course is run by a carefully-chosen and experienced teacher. There’s usually an early-morning session, another before lunch, and one before supper. There’s plenty of equipment – mats, blocks, belts, bolsters etc. The sessions are held in the converted barn; it’s cool and airy with a smooth wood floor and doors on three sides lead to the garden. Your teacher helps you to work at your own level, beginner or expert.
The place is full of flowers, both cultivated and wild. The local wildlife list is long and as well as deer includes jay, hoopoe, nightingale, buzzard, honey buzzard, glow-worm, edible dormouse, rabbit, hare, badger and fox. There are frogs and fish in the pond, and an occasional harmless snake. There are literally hundreds of species of butterfly and moth and zillions of insects, but no mosquitoes!
The pool, always clean, is set in the meadow and surrounded by flower and bushes that attract butterflies. A modern system has done away with the need to add chlorine. There are plenty of sun loungers and you can move them into the shade if you want.
All the bedrooms are comfortable, with rustic décor, not luxurious. But there are enough hangers for your clothes, and towels are provided. There’s a washing machine in each house and washing lines for drying.
Some afternoons, members of the local community arrive to give excellent shiatsu and aromatherapy massages. On Sunday morning you can visit the market in St Antonin, and twice in the week Nigel offers an optional excursion at no extra cost. On these trips you might go for a walk in the local countryside, picnic by and swim in the river, visit a local town for tea or a beer or an ice cream, or a group might go canoeing down the river.
Nigel’s philosophy is that you are on holiday, and if you don’t want to do an activity then you don’t have to do it. But going off to get drunk at a different bar each evening and turning up late for meals every day is not considered acceptable.
The food is exceptionally good! Breakfast (at 09.00h) is a help-yourself affair of seasonal fresh fruit, fresh bread, local cheeses, jams, cereals, yogurts, with an endless supply of tisanes, fresh coffee, tea, rooibush etc. If what you want isn’t there, Nigel will try to get it, or you can bring your own. You eat breakfast wherever you want: in a sunny spot in the garden, or a shady spot if it’s very hot, or inside if it’s raining; with or without others, as you wish.
Lunch and supper are taken on the terrace of the manor house, weather permitting. If it’s wet you eat in the big room of the big house. These two meals are prepared by Enzo, an Italian chef who has lived in the village for 20 years. He describes himself as an artist whose medium is food. All vegetarian, every meal begins with a smooth vegetable soup: turnip, beetroot, a broth with dulse, leek, nettle, courgette... whatever was in the market that morning. The main course will include a grain (rice, couscous, quinoa, barley etc) cooked in an interesting way; a protein (a pulse or two, local cheese, soya, eggs) and plenty of fresh local vegetables exquisitely cooked with herbs from the garden (a courgette/tomato/potato/rosemary bake, or grated carrot with anise) or a vegetable curry. His crepes don’t last long! Pudding at lunch-time is fresh fruit if you want it. In the evening, Enzo makes a desert: tarte aux pommes, chocolate mousse to die for, banana-and-coffee cream, fruit pancakes… You can help yourself to tea, coffee, fruit juice and biscuits throughout the day. Good local wine is served in the evenings.
If you have special dietary requirements Enzo will happily accommodate you: no wheat, no sugar, no dairy, no eggs, no problem!
There’s always enough to eat but you never leave the table feeling too full. Enzo studied food phytology and combines his ingredients with knowledge and intelligence. And what’s more, your plate always looks divine, decorated with herbs and flowers from the garden and blazing with colour. Enzo frequently gets a round of applause at the end of a meal!
The courses are held only in the summer months. Like all of northern Europe, the weather can be unreliable. If you’re lucky, you’ll get long hot summer days and long warm evenings; if not you might get a terrific electric storm or a few cool rainy days. In the summer it’s never cold.
I keep returning to La Roane. Fresh air and nature, peace and quiet, solitude, company, riotous laughter – all these are easy to find. The surrounding countryside is as beautiful as anywhere in the world. Nigel takes great care of his guests. His community is warm and welcoming and in the course of running La Roane he provides many local people with work. There is also always a wonderful new friend to be found and each group has a different flavour, depending on the personalities who come. La Roane is like the best box of chocolates!
phone: 0033 563 68 23 67
nearest town: St Antonin Noble Val
nearest airports: Toulouse, Rodez
nearest station: Caussade
This delightful and reasonably-priced course is a weekend of Lyengar yoga sessions and therapeutic massage tuition, with very experienced teachers.
The atmosphere is one of relaxation and enjoyment, with small group sizes and very friendly hosts. All food is provided, from the delicious healthy vegetarian meals, to the yummy home-baked snacks brought out in the tea and coffee breaks between sessions. Most meals include some home grown produce from the farm's extensive organic vegetable garden!
Accommodation is in simple but comfortable shared rooms (single or double/twin rooms available on request). Book early, as this course is often very popular!
Lower Shaw Farm is a small farm on the outskirts of Swindon - once you arrive at the farm, you'd have no idea you were in Swindon - the surrounding trees make you feel like you could easily be in the middle of nowhere! The farm has been established as a venue for courses and workshops for over 20 years.
I attended the November 08 and March 09 weekends, and the course is repeated again on 3rd-5th July 2009, and 2nd-4th October. It is priced at £120, which includes two nights accommodation, all food, and all yoga and massage sessions.
Lower Shaw Farm, Old Shaw Lane, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN5 5PJ
The nearest train station is Swindon - and it's only 1 hour from London Paddington, and easily reachable for other parts of the country too.
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