Adventure Yogi Sri Lanka review
Relaxing yoga holiday near Bentota Beach
The Quick Read: Adventure Yogi runs group yoga holidays all over the world – its annual Sri Lankan beach retreat held twice in February near Bentota Beach in the south of this beautiful country offers daily morning and evening yoga sessions as well as plenty of down time where you can relax around the villa and pool, bike to the beach or around town or partake in various excursions. With a focus on gentle yoga set in a serene jungle villa, it’s a good option for those looking for a winter escape and rejuvenating mind-body experience.
Who it’s best for: The Sri Lanka retreat is a good fit for beginner to intermediate yogis who are looking to unwind and relax and who like their yoga gentle and restorative. This won’t be so great for those who prefer an advanced and sweaty practice. The jungle setting complete with Ayurvedic gardens and the sounds of birds and monkeys is a dream for nature lovers, but not ideal for anyone who gets bothered by critters like mosquitos and geckos! The group is relatively small (around a dozen on our trip) and mostly women, which makes it a comforting option for female solo travellers.
What you can do: Yoga instructor Wenche Beard (who hosts several of Adventure Yogi’s other international retreats) has her roots in hatha yoga and takes you on a heart-opening journey of self-discovery. She places an emphasis on stretching and breathing and incorporates aspects of meditation, visualization and spiritual philosophy into her classes. Wenche also offers one-to-one sessions of energy work, card readings and personal yoga instruction.
Aside from the twice daily yoga classes, there is plenty of time to relax around the villa or to explore (we felt perfectly safe alone). You can rent a bicycle and Bentota beach (a wide and sandy beach with clear and warm water ideal for swimming) is around a 15 minute bike ride away. If you don’t fancy cycling, transport by car can be arranged. While there isn’t much to see in the local village, various excursions can be arranged such as visiting an elephant sanctuary, sightseeing in the nearby town of Galle, taking a riverboat tour and scuba diving or surfing. You can also schedule a massage from a local Sri Lankan therapist.
Where you stay: Accommodation is in a beautifully restored Dutch colonial villa with a lush jungle setting. The gardens stretch around the house, with hammocks strung between trees. There’s a pool and a comfortable shaded lounge area for curling up with a book or just being. The house was previously the home of an Ayurvedic doctor who planted many rare species of plants – the staff proudly point out these and unusual wildlife too. There’s a combination of shared and single rooms in three colonial-styled villas. The Doctor’s house is a mix of single and shared rooms. Coconut villa is all single rooms – our choice if you’re travelling solo. The third villa, Mango, is all shared rooms. All rooms have a balcony or verandah and some have outdoor showers. Given the jungle setting, you shouldn’t be surprised about visits from occasional critters. There are mosquito nets and air conditioning for the evenings which make for a comfortable sleep.
How was it for us: I usually practice vinyasa flow and like my yoga to be a pretty dynamic workout so adjusting to a much slower style of yoga was difficult. For the first few days I felt some resistance to the long meditations at the beginning and end of the class and the extended periods of stretching and slow postures. But I worked through it and was able to release the resistance and just accept that what I needed most in that moment wasn’t a strong workout; it was to slow down and just be. To become present and let the instructor guide us on a journey of self-discovery and playfulness in our bodies. I went out exploring on a bike and found a splendid yet quiet stretch of beach in Bentota on my second day and ended up going there almost daily. Biking through the quiet backstreets of the village, the locals would offer a friendly greeting and children would often run out to the streets to wave and shout their hellos as well.
It was easy to connect with people and we swiftly became an easygoing group of friends. Most evenings we would order a few bottles of wine to share between us. Life is all about balance and I like my yoga and my wine!
One of my favorite nights was when Wenche organized an impromptu beach party after a sunset yoga session one evening. We had a delicious seafood dinner and danced in the sand around a bonfire to local drummers and musicians alongside some lovely locals. It was the kind of night you dream about as a traveler.
Sadly I wasn’t such a huge fan of the local massage. I like deep tissue or muscle work and this was more like body brushing with the therapist just rubbing the body a lot. But I’d highly recommend a one-on-one session with Wenche. She does different kinds of energy work, depending on your needs, and her card readings are great too. She chose Goddess cards for me, and was very intuitive. Her reading gave me some really helpful insights and sparked some fresh ideas.
The combination of a mindful yoga practice, Wenche’s energy and instruction, being in the middle of nature and lots of time in the sun and ocean really made this the ideal combination for my mind, body and soul.
What we took home: I left Sri Lanka with a group of new friends (my fellow yogis) and a love for the people and food of the country. I felt as if I had hit a much needed “reset” button.
Would we go back: Absolutely. Next time, I’d like to explore one of Adventure Yogi’s more active retreats – maybe one featuring diving, hiking or surfing.
People watch: Wenche, instructor and main go-to person, is a lovely, accommodating and skilled hostess. With a calm yet strong energy, she knows how to make everyone feel at home and well looked after.
Food watch: The food, prepared by local chefs, is delicious and mostly vegetarian, other than a few nights on which seafood is offered. The kitchen is happy to accommodate vegans as well as food intolerances and allergies.
Breakfast is substantial and traditional – a hearty spread of breads, fresh sambal (an Asian dish made of fresh onion, tomato, chillies ground together) and jams plus, say, potato curry and coconut rice. For the less adventurous, fresh fruit is also offered at breakfast and the option of eggs.
Lunch isn’t included in the programme but breakfast is so substantial you could easily miss it. If you do want something at lunch-time, it’s charged extra and the choice is pretty limited – salads, sandwiches, a few pastas. We recommend the chef’s salad.
Tea and snacks such as biscuits or cake are offered in the afternoon about an hour before the evening yoga class – these aren’t sugar-free, but they’re delicious.
The evening meal consists of three courses – usually a soup to start and then shared dishes of different curries, rice, noodles maybe – followed by dessert. There’s curry nearly every day but always something different so you didn’t get bored. The potato curry and the local sambal were particular favourites on our stay but everything is delicious.
Unlike many yoga retreats, there’s alcohol on offer, including beer, wine and cocktails. These aren’t included in the programme and are charged. People who do drink, drink lightly, enjoying a glass or two with dinner if they feel like it.
What’s lowly: Given the setting, there are lots of mosquitos, so bring plenty of repellent and light long sleeved shirts.
Insider tip: WiFi at the hotel can be spotty at best which is either a blessing or a big frustration depending on what you’re there for. If you’re dying to stay connected, you’re best off buying a local SIM card at the airport when you arrive (there are two local cell comm kiosks before exiting) and paying $5-10 to have 3G during your stay. Even the 3G is a bit unreliable at the villa, but it’s better than the WiFi.
Price with a companion: From $1270 [£845] per person in a double room based on two sharing.
Price going solo: From $1355 [£900] per person for a single room.
Prices include two yoga sessions daily, ground transfers from the airport, hearty breakfast and 3 course dinner.
Value for money: Prices for extras at the villa are high so factor in extra money for lunch and beverages (including alcohol) which aren’t covered by the retreat cost. However, even though it’s not a fully inclusive program, it’s excellent value for the level of yoga, service, meals and accommodation provided.
Reviewed by Tanya Lopez
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