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Escape to Shape review
Off the beaten track detox, fitness & cultural holidays

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Retreat

The Quick Read: Set up by American fitness and travel expert Erica Gragg, this excellent ‘travelling fitness spa’ combines a week-long body workout with yoga, healthy eating and cultural experiences in interesting countries all over the world. Accommodation is in carefully-chosen private villas or boutique hotels away from the tourist hoards, and tasty regional and seasonal meals are inspired by local cuisine and use organic ingredients wherever possible. The clever combination of wellbeing and culture means you get to chillout, workout and expand your mind all in one week.

££££

Escape to Shape on beach

At the beach in Cartagena, Columbia

Queen of Retreats logoOur Experience: Healthy traveller and writer Eleanor Seaman is a professional single woman who goes on a healthy holiday at least once a year, and was so taken with Escape to Shape that she’s now done no less than seven of their trips. We got to know her on a healthy holiday in Mexico, and totally trust her opinion. Here’s what she told us:

‘I love Escape to Shape’s combination of yoga and exercise with culture, mindful eating and plenty of down time. Each trip has its own unique schedule, so no two trips are exactly alike, and I’ve now done seven of them – to Cartagena, Sicily, Guatemala, Istanbul, Hudson New York, Puglia and Vietnam – and never been disappointed. There is plenty of time each day to soak up a little local culture (Erica always has some off-the-beaten-path excursions arranged), and the atmosphere feels like a group of people who have been friends for ages although we have just met. I especially love the villa holidays –  each evening I feel like I am at a private dinner party at a close friend’s palatial home. The food is divine (yet healthy – though in Italy we got some pasta), and meals are thoughtfully planned so you get controlled portions with clean eating in mind and the occasional indulgence. My favourite destination so far is Cartegena, for the outstanding villa we stayed in and the excursion to the mud baths. My second favourite was probably Sicily – again, the villa was so special and I loved the town we were near – but really it’s very difficult to choose. Erica’s meticulous in her research, too, so  It would be hard to replicate on your own without the help of an insider. Every detail during the day is taken care of and the itinerary is well thought out, so it alleviates the copious research I always usually have to do myself before embarking on a trip. Now, where shall I go next?’

Doing yoga infront of a temple in Cambodia on an Escape to Shape holiday

Doing yoga infront of a temple in Cambodia on an Escape to Shape holiday

More on the destinations: Escape to Shape offers a vibrant annual mix of interesting locations from Croatia to Cambodia, and wellbeing activities and healthy food are always tailored to suit the region. Accommodation is in either a villa or boutique hotel, and always top notch, with gorgeous bed linen and good service. Locations for healthy holidays they use include Todos Santos,- in Mexico, Cartagena in Columbia, Marrakech in Morocco, Hudson in New York, Quito & Galapagos in Ecuador, Luang Prabang in Laos, Siem Reap in Cambodia, Halong Bay in Vietnam, Bali and Kyoto in Japan.

The villa Escape to Shape uses at Cartegena in Columbia is typical of the standard of accommodation you can expect on these healthy holidays

The villa Escape to Shape uses at Cartegena in Columbia is typical of the standard of accommodation you can expect on these healthy holidays

More on the healthy activities: You’ll have a tailored programme of at least two sessions per day from a menu of activities taught by hand-picked visiting experts including yoga, pilates, circuit training or power walking, and hiking, kayaking or biking. Fitness activities are designed so you get as much connection with the local region as possible, so you might have African dance lessons in Cape Town, climb Mt Etna in Sicily, or go horseback riding through the vineyards in Colonia, Uruguay. Meditation is offered on the Laos, Cambodia, Bali and Marrakech trips. Spa treatments are available, and one spa treatment – usually a massage – is included in most of the trips. These reflect the region you are in – so you’ll have a Turkish Bath in Istanbul, or a Khmer Massage in Cambodia. After Christmas you can escape to Mexico to detox, shape up and do some nutritional re-education.

Erica on a boat in Croatia

Erica does a warrior on a boat in Croatia

More on your hostess Erica: Erica set up Escape to Shape to pursue her passions for travel, exploration, connection and wellness – she was the co-creator of the Bikini Boot Camp at Tulum in Mexico, but moved on in 2008 to go it alone. Friendly, capable and good company, Erica meticulously researches and organises each trip herself.

Quinoa cakes with pink tahini dressing on mixed baby greens

Quinoa cakes with pink tahini dressing on mixed baby greens

Food and drink: Tasty regional and seasonal meals are inspired by local cuisine and use organic ingredients wherever possible. All meals are unprocessed, high in nutrients and fibre, and low in unhealthy fats and empty calories. A typical menu consists of whole grains, fresh fish and shellfish, organic chicken, lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and traditional dishes and desserts. Every dish can be prepared vegetarian on request.

Fellow guests: You’ll find an interesting mix of professional men and women in search of  some decent time out. You’ll find Americans, but also healthy travellers from Europe (especially England, Italy, Germany, Holland and Sweden) and sometimes Hong Kong and other places in Asia.

Costs: Prices vary in each location, but cost from $3700 (about £2435) per person for a week in a shared room and from $5000 (about £3290) per person per week in a room alone including everything except flights.

 crownWhat’s queenly: Erica is your single point of contact – friendly and capable, she ensures your every need is taken care of.

What’s lowly: That Escape to Shape changes its locations each year is wonderful – unless you particularly loved a property or place and wanted to go back.

© Queen of Retreats

www.escapetoshape.com Other fitness holidays

Walking through rice fields with Escape to Shape

Walking through rice fields with Escape to Shape