Huzur Vadisi review
Warm-hearted yoga holidays in Turkey
The Quick Read: Yurt-based, rural haven Huzur Vadisi near Dalaman in Turkey, is an old timer when it comes to yoga retreats. It’s run by brother and sister Jane and Ian Worrall and their Turkish partner Tanfer Taka, and after nearly two decades has a justifiably good reputation for its serene setting, fabulous food and the quality of its teachers, who change on a weekly basis. More yoga holiday than pure retreat, it’s a bucolic, time-warped, rustic idyll with a warm-hearted ethos. Teachers vary in style and ethos – we can help you find the one that’s right for you. Yoga retreats run from April to October.
More on the yoga: Yoga takes place in the semi-open, vine-draped yoga shala in which the sound of crickets and bleating goats – plus the occasional clanging goat bell – lull you into such a state of bliss there really is no choice but to relax into those asanas. The serenity of the place lends itself to the more contemplative styles of yoga, and the heat in the summer months can also preclude more active forms. It will all depend on the teacher though; so do check with us before you go.
Most of the teachers have been coming here for years and have loyal followings. Many rotate round the other venues (see The Pomegranate and Suleyman’s Garden) so you can choose which style of venue you would prefer, without having to compromise your choice of teacher. Various types of yoga are on offer, from Vinyasa and Scaravelli to Vajrasati and Hot Yoga, and most teachers use their own more eclectic, individual approach. Your daily timetable will vary according to the teacher’s preference, but it generally includes morning meditation and pranayama and a more vigorous asana practice, then a more light hearted or restorative class in the evening – read a word from the queen on her holiday.
More on the treatments: Huzur Vadisi’s massage therapist, Steve Bracken, is interested in all forms of body work. He won’t just relax you, but can fix a lot of acute or longstanding aches and pains. As with everything in Huz Vad, the massage space is a semi open hut – totally private but never losing that contact with nature.
More on the inside & outside: The whole place is basically one big olive grove with plentiful hammocks strung between the trees so there are lots of places to retreat to for quiet reading or plain lolling. The feel is rustic and life is lived outdoors. There is a large outdoor communal eating area, a few wooden sofas for chatting, and a small ‘kösk’ – a traditional Turkish outdoor sitting room or summer house. It’s a cosy space, a little like a tree house, with a wood burning stove and lots of cushions and rugs to lounge about on. Below it is a small honesty bar and more space to lounge. Everything feels Turkish and homely rather than over-designed.
The pool is medium sized and rough-hewn, in keeping with the nature of the place, surrounded by sun loungers. It’s not glamorous or stylish, but it is attractive and comfortable and you certainly feel like you’ve gone back to nature.
Accommodation is in yurts – large, clean, spacious, with a hole in the top to let in air and light. There are a couple of doubles but the majority house two single beds, swathed in mosquito nets and each one has a bedside light and chair, and a small bookcase for your clothes. It’s basic rather than luxurious, but it is absolutely charming, and you will only be there to sleep anyway. The yurts can get quite hot during the day but there are fans. There are shared loos and showers, so this is basically posh camping.
More on optional activities: If you feel the urge to explore the area, the small seaside town of Gocek is ten minutes away by taxi – it’s a yachting centre but very laid back and friendly. It also has Turkish baths.
There are several good beaches, also a short taxi drive away. The most popular trip is a day cruise around the islands and bays in a traditional wooden sailing boat. Lunch is cooked and served on board and there are plenty of opportunities for swimming. From the property there pine forest trails leading to coastal paths and fantastic views of the mountains and sea.
Food and drink: All meals are served buffet style in open air communal dining areas. Breakfast is relatively simple with a choice of muesli, yoghurt and fruit, or bread with feta and tomatoes or honey and jams. Both lunch and supper are more elaborate, boasting a variety of mainly Turkish dishes. It is mainly vegetarian (a couple of chicken dishes kept sneaking in), and all very fresh and local.
Tanfer’s sister has been running the kitchen for 15 years, and many people come specifically for her food. She draws on traditional Turkish recipes but updates and westernizes them. The success of the cookbook she’s written, and which owner Jane Worrell has edited, flies off the shelves at the end of each week here, and is testament to how much guests enjoy her huge buffets of vegetable stews, salads and grains. Sample dishes include Yayla Corbasi (yogurt, rice and mint soup), Imam Bayildi (otherwise known as The Priest Fainted, allegedly because the dish is so delicious – baked aubergine with olive oil and tomato sauce), Mucver (courgette fritters with dill and white cheese) and Revani (pistachio semolina cake).
Alcohol and caffeine are available for those that can’t do without, but the emphasis seems to lie with the herbal teas and fresh mint which is always on tap.
Fellow guests: Teachers have their own loyal followers so fellow guests will depend on which week you have chosen. However you do have to possess a certain amount of hardiness to go down the yurt route, so most guests tend to be fairly tough and slightly disdainful of the softies who needed more modern fripperies. On our visit everyone was supremely friendly and all seemed to love their time here.
What’s lowly: Huzur Vadisi might be glamping but it is still basically camping with all the attendant minor irritations of shared showers, loos which don’t accept toilet paper, ants, mosquitos, and even the odd scorpion.
Costs: Each week is priced by the teacher so costs vary, starting from around £655 per person per week for a shared room and going up to £895. This includes yoga, accommodation and food. Flights and transfers are extra, although transfers can be arranged by the organisers who try to group people together where possible to keep prices low. Treatments cost around £50 an hour.
Getting there: Huzur Vadisi is 45 minutes from Dalaman airport. Transfers cost £20 each way.
Reviewed by Sasha Bates
© Queen of Retreats
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