Algarve Yoga review
Rebalancing healthy holidays in the Algarve, Portugal
The Quick Read: Algarve Yoga offers all sorts of healthy holidays in Portugal’s Algarve region between April and September, including yoga holidays, detox retreats, a ‘hormone yoga retreat’ and yoga and surf holidays. You either stay at a rustic villa, Quinta das Pedras, in the beach town of Salema, or at Monte Velho, a gorgeous eco retreat in St. Vincent Natural Park. Joining an Algarve Yoga retreat feels like you’ve joined a family – it’s not just that your host Diana and her team are ever present with their warmth and care. It’s also the intimate setting of the retreat, the warmth of the Portuguese sun and the family-style outdoor meals with your fellow yogis/surfers that will make you feel a sense of belonging. We tried Algarve Yoga’s Yoga Surf Holiday at Quinta das Pedras, and found it a wonderful trip on which to gain (or improve) yoga and surf skills, spend a week detoxing your body with organic, locally-grown, minimally-processed food, and remember the importance of balance in life.
Who it’s best for: Algarve Yoga’s Yoga Surf Holiday is aimed at anyone who wants to get a healthier sense of balance in their lives, and takes up to 15 guests at any one time. The combination of yoga twice a day, plus an intensive surf session each afternoon, will keep you active, challenged and in the present moment. Whether you’re alone or with a significant other, from the city or the country, aged 25 to 65 – as long as you bring your sense of adventure and a young heart, you’ll feel at home.
What you do: The day starts with the sound of a Buddhist singing bowl waking you at 6:45 am. You’ll dress, walk downstairs and grab a glass of warm lemon water to sip on as the group awakes and gathers. Yoga then takes place on a shaded outdoor deck, as the sun and the birds and the rest of the world begin to stir. You can expect to have one of four teachers – we had Kathrin on our retreat, who led us through a 20-minute morning meditation, followed by an energising 90-minute hatha yoga session. During shavasana, don’t be surprised if the combination of salty air and sea breeze lulls you back to sleep.
After polishing off a hearty vegetarian breakfast, you’ll grab your wet suit and towel, pile your surf boards onto a seasoned Sagres Natura surf van and spend the afternoon surfing at various locations across Portugal’s Algarve coast. If you’re lucky, the tide and the waves will be just right at either Praia do Zavial, Praia do Tonel or Sagres Point (our favourite spots). In between surf lessons, there’s a hand-prepared and delivered power lunch.
Back at the villa, a second, gentler yoga session on the outdoor deck takes place around 5 or 6pm before a family-style dinner at sunset. Evenings are free to spend them how you wish — you can book deep-tissue massage, Shiatsu massage, Ayurveda massage, foot reflexology and even a tarot card reading, or just head to bed to rest up for the next day. Throughout it all, you’ll be with a fun, soulful, small (15 or less) group of fellow yogi-surfers.
Where you stay: The Yoga Surf Holiday is held at a calming, homey villa, Quinta das Pedras, located a couple kilometres from the sleepy beach town of Salema. It has a minimalist vibe to it — whitewashed walls speckled with massive ocean-inspired canvas paintings; rich, dark hardwood floors and trim; large windows and doors that invite the warm Portuguese air to freely flow throughout. The grounds are colourful, intimate and rustic. Surrounded by a quaint, lovely garden with meandering paths inside, majestic palm trees, and a swimming pool out front, you’ll feel tucked into your own peaceful world.
Four simple shared bedrooms with shared bathrooms are located on the ground and first floor – those on the first floor have a large balcony complete with hammocks and a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. Ask for one of the two double rooms if you’re a couple, friends, or want to share with someone the same gender. If you are travelling alone and would like your own ensuite single room, Diana also uses three Portuguese guesthouses nearby – one in the village, two in nature, all around 10 minutes walk away.
How was it for us: I went on Algarve Yoga’s Yoga Surf Holiday to gather up the pieces of myself I had been neglecting – my health, my writing, my general wellbeing. I was a novice to both the yoga and the surf, yet quickly, I got it — not necessarily the mastery of each, but an understanding of why the principles behind each are so important in work, and in life. In the yoga sessions, I’d sweat as I tried to hold an asana pose for just a few more seconds. While surfing, I repeatedly dragged my board against the wild waves for just one more shot at riding a wave without falling over.
As a writer, I find my clearest thoughts happen while walking. Whenever I had a free moment, I’d find myself wandering around the labyrinth of small rocks behind Quinta das Pedras. No one else seemed to notice them or the fact that they formed a random winding route around the bushes and flowers and palm trees towering above. It became my sanctuary of sorts; a place to collect my thoughts. And ultimately, the place where I struck upon a simple truth: balance isn’t something that’s conquered once and then forgotten. Life is a constant balancing act. Yoga Surf helped remind me of the importance of deliberately and constantly trying to improve my balance, even when you know full well how elusive the little bugger is. And that when I find my balance is off — to give myself the permission to keep working at it.
What we took home: I left Algarve Yoga feeling stronger, more wholesome, with a new skill (surfing) under my belt – and definitely more balanced.
Would we go back: I would definitely go back to Algarve Yoga – to improve my surf technique if nothing else.
People watch: Algarve Yoga’s owner Diana, her partner Robin and yoga instructor Kathrin were fantastic, welcoming and a pleasure to get to know. As the head yoga and meditation instructor on our week, Kathrin kept in tune with the group’s energy levels and catered each yoga session to ‘what the group needed’. In the evenings, Trixi, Igor, Sofia, Okka come to offer various types of massages. Igor’s Shaitsu Massage seemed to be a favourite among the group, though I didn’t try it myself.
Food watch: Although it’s not billed as a dedicated detox retreat, expect to be detoxed! From the early morning warm lemon water, to the homemade yogurt for breakfast; from the super salad lunches on the beach, to the wheat, meat and fish-free dinners; from the freshly picked figs and oranges, to the locally grown nuts and olives — you’ll begin to wonder why you don’t eat like this back at home. Each meal is satisfying, minimally-processed, organic and vegetarian.
Fortunately, taste or feeling of fullness isn’t sacrificed. Robin cooks up some mean organic vegetarian dishes. (A favourite was the corn-based pasta with a homemade pesto sauce.) There’s no alcohol or caffeine (even decaf coffee) – though coffee substitutes such as their own blend of carob powder and soy/rice milk are available ( you never know, you may convert!)
What’s lowly: Surfing is a fickle sport. Since it’s so dependent on things like the weather, the tide and other surfing groups, half of your time ‘surfing’ may include a lot of driving around and waiting for good, available surf. This can be frustrating when you’re eager to surf (or a welcomed treat when you’re tired of surfing!)
Insider tip: Bring bug spray. Where there are open windows and airy rooms, there may also be mosquitos.
Price with a companion: From €990 [£774] per person in a double room based on two sharing, including everything except treatments and transfers.
Price going solo: €1050 [£820] per person for a single room in the nearby guesthouse, including everything except treatments and transfers.
Value for money: This holiday is great value for money. Besides the evening massage and transport, you won’t need to spend any additional cash throughout the week. That is unless you sneak a bica (espresso), cerveja (beer), or pastel de nata (traditional Portuguese pastry) from a bar while out surfing one afternoon (not that we did – honest).
Reviewed by Matthew Trinetti
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