La Crisalida Retreat review | health retreat Spain
Homely healthy breaks in a small Spanish town
The Quick Read: La Crisalida is a lively retreat in the small town of Albir near Alicante that’s owned by British couple John Brant (a life coach) and Lisa Brant (a yoga teacher). Their retreat offers an exceptionally affordable menu of activities for you to dip in and out of including twice daily yoga classes, guided walks and ‘life makeover’ workshops. There are two pools, therapies to book as extras and easy pleasant walks close by, and it’s 15 minutes to the beach. It’s especially good for those new to yoga and retreating, and offers a very friendly, hands-on, upbeat atmosphere. Choose your day of arrival, length of stay (minimal stay is 3 nights) and tailor what you do to suit your life needs. Food is healthy and plentiful and if detoxing or weight loss is your goal, you can juice for a meal, a day or all week.
Who it’s best for: La Crisalida will suit anyone wanting a gentle detox, to de-stress and relax, kickstart a yoga routine or lose some excess weight. It’s great for solo travellers, people short on time, and those who haven’t retreated or practised yoga before. It wouldn’t suit people who want tougher, Vinyasa yoga or to be in a quiet, remote location. People from all walks of life come here – on our visit, the youngest person was a 22 year old man from the UK on his own (who worked for the army and was an amateur boxer), and the oldest was a woman in her 60s who had just retired from a UK county council, but there was an actress from Denmark, two classical musicians from Finland, a business owner from Belgium, someone from an international NGO, a housewife and a CID officer from the UK. It takes all sorts.
What you can do: There is a variety of timetabled activities to occupy you during your stay. None of it is compulsory – you’re very much left to make your own choices here. A timetable is printed out each week, with the activities colour coded according to your aims – including Detox and Weight Loss, Yoga, Life Makeover, and Relax and Rejuvenate.
The day starts with a meditation followed by a yoga class or walk. Post-breakfast there is another class or walk, two more activities in the afternoon and one more after dinner.
There are usually two yoga classes a day, covering a variety of yoga styles, including Kundalini, Yin, Anusara, and Hatha. Each teacher has a slightly different style and approach, although all place a great deal of emphasis on alignment, which is great for beginners. Yoga teachers vary, but include British owner Lisa, who trained with the Mindful Yoga Academy (registered Yoga Alliance UK and USA) and with Sarah Powers and is qualified in therapeutic yoga; and Cristina, who studied with the yoga school in Sadhana Valencia and practises mainly Iyengar and Sivananda. Her practises are very mindful.
Additional activities include rebounding (trampoline-based aerobic workouts), Yogalates, guided walks, meditation, relaxation or visualisation sessions. There’s also Qi Gong classes, cooking demonstrations, and creativity and life makeover workshops, with titles such as ‘Finding the Authentic You’. Classes take place in the hotel’s dedicated activity room, or on the yoga terrace on the top of the annex. The three guided walks are also easy to do without guidance. Owner John leads the walks, and some of the life makeover sessions.
Complementary therapies can be booked and taken in the hotel at extra cost (from around 60 euros an hour). They include a range of different massages (aromatherapy, ayurveda, swedish, hot stones), reflexology, chakra balancing, biomagnetism and reiki and some beauty therapies. You can also book one-to-one yoga sessions, one-to-one life coaching sessions, and food intolerance or nutritional testing.
If you’d prefer to chill out, there are two pools and loungers. The retreat is within 15 minutes walk of Albir beach and Sierra Helada nature park. You can also wander to local shops and markets or hire bikes. A walk to the old town of Altea is also recommended, particularly if you’re interested in seeing a more traditional Spanish coastal town.
Where you stay: The retreat was originally a hotel and consists of two buildings on a quiet road. All accommodation is in one of 15 apartments – ten around the pool in the main building and five in the annex, which has a slightly larger pool. Whitewashed walls, brightly coloured cushions on sofas, and paintings and ornaments on bookshelves give the place a simple, but warm and homely Spanish feel.
You can opt for an apartment to yourself, share with another guest but have your own bedroom, or share a bedroom. The apartments all have a kitchen area, wifi, living room with TV and DVD player and bathroom. There is also a main communal area where all meals are served, and a very small seating area with sofas and a couple of armchairs. Each building has its own pool, and the annex has a roof terrace.
How was it for us: I arrived at La Crisalida overworked, exhausted and feeling grotty from having lapsed into old stress-related eating patterns. I expected to be antisocial and too tired to do much, so was completely surprised to feel sociable and active right from the get-go. This was largely down to the way the retreat works. Rolling start dates meant that there were arrivals and departures daily, giving the retreat a lovely consistent upbeat energy, without the mid-week slump that you can often get on a week-long detox.
I took part in most of the timetabled activities for the first four days, and enjoyed them all, from relaxing yin yoga, to the high energy rebounding class and a giggle-inducing Kundalini session. I had a massage which was good but not outstanding – though I am picky and with my fibromyalgia need something quite particular, and others guests said they really enjoyed their massages.
I particularly enjoyed a spine lengthening Hatha class led by the strict but warm Cristina. Another highlight was the creativity workshop, led by extroverted Krystyn, who led us in a discussion around acceptance, and then let us experiment with paints and canvases. I let go of all thoughts of creating a perfect piece, and enjoyed the process, as well as the end product.
In the latter half of my stay, I went on some solo walks, skipping a few classes, in favour of more contemplative time. I loved being able to pick and choose my activities, as it meant that I could choose the pace of my retreat, and listen to what my mind and body needed each day. I juiced for a day, and for the rest of the time ate the delicious food. By the end of my stay, everyone remarked how happy and energised I looked – I certainly felt it.
What we took home: A renewed sense of calm and vitality, greater hamstring flexibility from doing yoga twice daily, a canvas painting entitled ‘Acceptance’ and, according to my Fitbit, a drop in my average resting heart rate – physical proof of my more relaxed state.
Would we go back: Yes, I really loved the atmosphere, energy, interesting healthy food and choice of activities. The flexibility of retreat lengths and dates means that I’m as likely to consider it for a long weekend as for a longer week away.
People watch: British owners John and Lisa Brant bring to the retreat elements of everything that’s helped them in their own personal development, from yoga and mindfulness, through to plant-based eating and inner exploration.
The yoga teachers each had their own style, but were all patient and excellent at explaining things to complete novices, while still trying to offer classes that would appeal to more experienced yogis. They did an impressive job at juggling the mix of abilities, and were attentive to everyone, even with large classes of 20.
The cooks also deserve a mention – all the food was tasty, and looked beautiful.
Food watch: Your stay includes three meals or juices, an afternoon juice, unlimited fruit and herbal tea. The flexible ethos of the retreat means you can choose whether you’re having juice or food the evening before, when you can look at the juice and food menus to help you decide.
All meals are plant-based, sugar-free and mostly gluten free. There is no caffeine or alcohol. Each meal contains a variety of dishes with different flavours and textures and there is always plenty – so there’s no need to go hungry. For breakfast, it’s a simple muesli, or granola with fruit salad. Lunches are buffet style, and include a variety of hot and cold dishes. Evening meals are served at the table and similarly abundant.
Favourites from our stay include pinto bean burgers, beetroot, coconut and sweet potato salad, smoked red pepper and garlic bean dip, and slow cooked, oven roasted courgette with lemon and garlic. Dessert is served twice a week. If travelling homewards over normal mealtimes, you’ll be sent away with a packed lunch box of wonderful leftovers to ensure that your new healthy eating regime is not compromised by your onwards travel.
What’s queenly: The rolling start dates meant that cliques did not seem to form, though friendships still blossomed. It was one of the friendliest retreats we’ve experienced, with guests of all ages coming from Europe and beyond.
What’s lowly: The retreat can take 32 people in total in 16 apartments, though typically it’s about 27, so classes and mealtimes can feel quite busy when the resort is fully booked. if you only want to do a 3-4 day stay and want to ensure a lack of busyness, come midweek as the weekends attract more people.
Insider tip: If you forget to bring your own reading material, no matter – the retreat has a well-stocked bookshelf of novels to borrow, plus some classic self-help books and DVDs to watch in your room.
Price with a companion: From €366 (£285) per person in Jan, Feb, March; €420 (£328) pp in April, May, June, October & November; €447 (£349) pp in July, August and September for three nights based on two people sharing a room. The prices include all meals or juices, fruit and herb teas, all activities and transfers from Alicante. A week in the same accommodation will cost you €769/€882/€939 (£600/£689/£733).
Price going solo: From €465/ €537/ €573 (£363/£419/£447) per person in a single room and shared apartment as above for 3 nights or €546, €627, €672 (£426/£489/£524) for your own apartment including everything as above for 3 nights.
Value for Money: With many timetabled activities, unlimited fruit, all meals and herb teas, this is a really great value retreat. You could come here and not spend another penny.
Reviewed by Ruth Rosselson
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