Olive Retreat review
Caring, cleansing breaks in Andalucia
The Quick Read: Based at La Huerta el Noque, a beautiful renovated farmhouse near Ronda in Andalucia, Olive Retreat is perfect for those who want to relax and cleanse gently. The wellbeing retreats help you clear your body and mind with healthy food, gentle exercise, optional classes in wellbeing activities such as healthy cooking or natural facials and plenty of free time to spend as you choose. Numbers are small, staff are exceptionally caring and the emphasis is on helping you change your habits on a long-term basis. It’s likely to leave you feeling relaxed, stress-free and energised by the time you leave – bespoke retreats on demand as well as workshops and home retreats can also be arranged.
More on the wellbeing retreats: Olive’s ethos is about allowing your body to detox through healthy, hearty and tasty vegan wholefoods aided with nutritional supplements, morning wheatgrass shots, and a gentle programme of exercise, yoga and meditation. There are wellbeing talks, healthy cooking classes and plenty of down time, and the retreat includes a guided daily walk of around an hour (with a little bit of interval training or jogging thrown in for those that want it) and a sightseeing trip to Ronda. All activities are optional with an emphasis on listening to your own needs – read a word from the queen on her stay. As the emphasis at Olive Retreats is on healthy habits for life, the team is available for a month after you return on phone, email or Skype to answer any questions or offer additional support.
More on your hosts: Your main host is Cristina, who has an MBA, has received Ashtanga Yoga training in the Mysore tradition in Stockholm, and holds a masters from the International School of Yoga in Madrid – she leads most of the classes and is the resident nutritionist and general health expert. We found her friendly, sociable and compassionate, happy to give you plenty of her time and answer any questions or queries that arise throughout the week. The team take your wellbeing during the retreat seriously, and aim to arm you with tools and techniques both in and out of the kitchen for improving your health on a long-term basis.
More on the wellbeing activities: Cristina leads a class every morning after breakfast, covering a range of topics, but mainly focusing on healthy eating. She is a mine of information on diet, nutrition and health. Ray, Olive’s personal development teacher, may also make an appearance and lead a talk. The exact topic will depend on the mood and needs of the group – it could be on meditation and mindfulness, leaving the rat-race, following your heart, or just stimulating a discussion about what holds us back in life. There is sometimes a bread-making class in the kitchen with the chef (and opportunities to assist her in the kitchen one morning), and a natural facial session led by Cristina.
There is plenty of time in between the morning and evening scheduled activities to spend as you wish. At La Huerta el Noque, this could mean working your way through the extensive library or swimming in the outdoor heated pool. You can also make more than one trip to Ronda if you choose for sightseeing or shopping – it’s 15 minutes in a taxi (10 Euros/£8).
More on the yoga: Cristina leads the yoga classes– either in the morning or afternoon, depending on the temperature. Classes are likely to follow the traditional Ashtanga primary series (depending on experience of the guests) as well as a few other asanas for detoxing or wellbeing, plus Pranayama and meditation. She’s a fairly decent teacher for beginners; everything is explained and demonstrated, and groups are separated if there are vastly different levels of experience and capabilities.
More on the treatments: The retreat includes one full body lymph massage designed to complement the detox process with Betty, a local therapist, who will relax you while also soothing any aching muscles (though don’t expect a full-on pummelling). Additional massages can be booked for 60 Euros (around £48). Theoretically, it would be possible to have three or four massages during your stay, depending on demand.
More on the property: Olive retreats are based at La Huerta el Noque, a beautiful renovated old farm house near Ronda in Andalucia. There is a large garden with plenty of greenery and views of the Grazalema National Park in the distance and a heated outdoor pool set away from the house with sun loungers, hammocks and sofas. Indoors, the spacious lounge and dining room has plenty of natural light, ample comfy sofas and chairs and an extensive well stocked bookshelf along one of the walls. It’s simple, yet very comfortable with high quality furniture and stylish decor – the earthy tones of the floor tiles and wooden lamps contrast with the white and cream soft furnishing giving the room a natural and homely feel.
More on the bedrooms: There are just seven bedrooms, each pretty spacious, with decent sized bathrooms that have plenty of space for leisurely grooming, most with both a bath and a shower. The owners have clearly prioritised comfort and all bedrooms have decent beds, and lovely soft White Company linen. Some of the larger rooms have small armchairs to sit in, and all rooms have a view of the garden or the courtyard.
Bookshelves in all of the bedrooms add to the atmosphere and make the rooms feel like someone’s home rather than an impersonal hotel. You’d have to stay there for years to work your way through all the (mostly fiction) books. Titles ranged from classics such as Jane Eyre, pulp fiction from John Grisham, modern chick lit, John Le Carre and literary fiction from authors such as Margaret Atwood and William Boyd. Whatever your taste, you’re bound to find something you want to get stuck into.
More on the food and drink: Meals are usually eaten outdoors on the terrace, or in the dining area. The menu throughout the week is planned to assist your body to detox, as well as give you an example of how to eat well when you get back home to your regular life. There is an option to do one or more ‘liquid’ days to make your retreat more detoxifying. Rather than being pure juice days, these include soup and other savoury juices and smoothies ensuring that you don’t get too hungry. On our visit the food was prepared by talented chef Bettina Campolucci-Bordi, who has subsequently left. Everything was freshly cooked using local fresh fruit and vegetables in season, and there was plenty of variety throughout the week. Expect imaginative salads, healthy grains such as quinoa or buckwheat, beans, pulses and nuts. Fresh herbs and spices are used to enhance both the flavour of the food and the cleansing process.
Breakfasts tend to include a healthy multi-grain porridge, fresh fruit, avocado, and breakfast breads (gluten-free). The main meal is taken at lunchtime, with a lighter, soup based meal served in the evening. Expect dishes such as: coconut, turmeric cauliflower ‘rice’, vegetable curry served with salads for a lunch meal or bean pate and broccoli soup as an evening meal. There are (sugar and dairy free) desserts most days. Snacks, such as fruit or nuts, are available for those that need to eat between meals.
Fellow guests: Olive’s groups are small, with a maximum of ten people. Guests are often (but not exclusively) first timers to detoxing or retreats and many come from the corporate or business worlds with a deep need to de-stress and get healthy. You can expect a mix of people from all over the world, many from the UK, and of all ages. Although Olive is relatively new to the retreat market, it is already getting repeat visitors.
What’s lowly: Olive would not suit anyone wanting a retreat with a full schedule or lots of strenuous activities.
Getting there: Fly to Malaga airport, from where it’s around a 90 minute drive. If your flight arrives at around the same time as other guests on the first day of the retreat, your transfer will be included in the cost of your holiday. Outside of these times, a taxi transfer will cost you around €120 – 160 (£97 – £129). Olive can help arrange one for you.
For UK readers, many of the low cost airlines fly to Malaga airport for under £200 including taxes and hold luggage. Try Jet2, Monarch or Ryan Air. Transfers to La Huerta el Noque take around 90 minutes.
Costs: A week at Olive Retreats costs from £1350 per person for a shared room or £1750 per person for a room alone. Most guests do opt for single occupancy. This includes all meals, workshops and classes, one lymph massage, all supplements, a trip to Ronda, and follow up support once home if required. 3 day detoxes cost £675 for a shared room, £875 for single occupancy.
Extra massages cost €60 (£48) per person. An hour’s one to one coaching session with Ray, the personal development teacher costs €80 (£65). This depends on Ray’s availability.
Reviewed by Ruth Rosselson
© Queen of Retreats