Vale de Moses, Portugal
Homely yoga retreat with massage and acupuncture in the Portuguese mountains
Best for: Mid-budget retreaters in need of wide open space
Not for: Anyone who needs to be in sniffing distance of modern life
Takes up to 20 guests
Run by husband and wife Andrew and Vonetta Winter, this homely rustic yoga retreat surrounded by pine and eucalyptus forest has an easy going schedule and is a bit like staying at a friend’s place. The 6 night retreats are all yoga-based, and offer good quality teaching, holistic treatments, occasional cooking classes and lovely walks, with some weeks featuring afternoon workshops on Pilates, ayurveda, Thai massage and sleep. There’s no pressure; you are invited to do as much of the programme as you please. Be nourished on mountain air and delicious food and rest in glorious peace.
The position of the yoga shala gives you the feeling of hovering right over the valley. It’s also air conditioned when necessary so you don’t need to wear too many clothes for class on cooler days or bake on hot Portuguese summer afternoons. Amazingly for stressed out parents, childcare is available to cover classes and massage treatments if required, and though the steep terrain isn’t suitable for young children, couples with a baby can be housed in one of the Soulpads in the forest so that any inevitable crying at night doesn’t disturb the other guests’ sleep.
Having access to wi-fi in the main house where you eat, including the yoga shala, which means that those who want to digitally detox could be put off by the potential screen action going on around them.
Read our expert review
Sarah Garbett enjoys decent yoga teaching, super vegan food, mindful local walks and a darn good rest at this wonderfully authentic yoga retreat in the Portuguese mountains
Enjoy a Summer of Vinyasa Flow
Every week from July 23 to 24 September you can enjoy a summer of vinyasa flow yoga retreats with the delightful Fleur van Hille and Katherine Smith. Last few places available.
Go for a regular 6 night yoga retreat led by different teachers and enjoy treatments and down time, or choose a specialist retreat that mixes yoga with Pilates, ayurveda, Thai massage or help with sleep.
Teachers for the six night yoga-based retreats vary throughout the season so there’s something for everyone, whatever your level of practice or intention for taking a break. Typically, there are two yoga classes a day; dynamic in the morning inspired by ashtanga, vinyasa flow and dynamic hatha yoga, and a slower afternoon class which might include yin yoga, a focused asana session, playful partner yoga or acro yoga, followed by meditation or some quiet time. Co-owner Vonetta Winter, who trained in the dynamic yoga method with Godfrey Devereux, teaches around eight retreats during the season which couple yoga with Thai Yoga massage and mindfulness practices.
A handful of specialist retreats run on set dates throughout the year that mix yoga with Pilates, ayurveda, Thai massage or help with sleep.
Yoga and Pilates with Ali Burrell looks at the similarities and differences between yoga and Pilates. Morning yoga flow is coupled with Pilates workshops exploring what ‘core’ really means and learning how to move from your centre to understand how this enhances your yoga practice. All levels are welcome and no previous experience of yoga or Pilates is required.
Yoga and Ayurveda with Katherine Smith is underpinned by the principles of ayurveda and flows from dynamic morning yoga to a series of restorative afternoon sessions. There’s a mid-week afternoon workshop on the fundamentals of ayurveda, with easy to digest info and tips on how to bring it into you diet and lifestyle at home, how to improve your digestion and how to look after yourself more efficiently.
During the Yoga and Thai Massage with Peter Packard week you’ll have morning yoga classes and afternoon Thai massage sessions. In the mornings Vonetta Winter teaches and share insights on how yoga compliments Thai massage. Then in the afternoon you’ll be with Peter Packard learning new ways to both be moved and move other bodies to improve joint mobility, lengthen muscles, reduce tension and calm the mind.
The ‘Slumber and Restore’ yoga retreat is led by Dr Nerina, a physiologist, sleep and stress management expert who helps everyone from stressed-out mums to Premiership footballers and MPs improve the quality of their sleep and energy levels. Practice yoga and Pranayama with Vonetta Winter in the mornings and learn the secrets of great sleep over three afternoon workshops.
Whenever you go, all retreats include a half hour health consultation with Vonetta Winter or Peter Packard, which involves tongue and pulse diagnosis, followed by a one hour body harmonising massage or acupuncture with experienced Traditional Chinese Medicine therapists.
You can also book extra massages or treatments depending on the therapists available, including Thai Yoga Massage (a clothed massage technique performed on the floor which removes energetic blockages from the body), Chinese Tui Na Massage (a deep tissue treatment on a clothed or covered body excellent for chronic complaints such as whiplash injury, tension, disc problems and rheumatoid arthritis) and Indonesian massage (an oil massage that works deep along the lines of muscle tissues to lengthen shortened and tightened muscle fibres).
Vonetta and Peter are the main therapists during the season (though other trusted colleagues might also be available) – they both studied at Bodyharmonics in Cheltenham, and Peter also studied in Northern Thailand and China.
During most weeks there is a 90 minute afternoon cooking workshop in which to learn the kitchen secrets of Spanish chef Raul or Portuguese chef Miguel. The chef cooks a few dishes in front of you, and explains why they use their particular combination of herbs, spices and tastes to help improve digestion and maximise nutrition. Cooking workshops are 20 euros per person, and usually run with small groups of 6 to 10 people.
In the mountains temperatures can differ greatly to the coast of Portugal so make sure you pack some warm layers even in the summer months. Do bring a torch (preferably head) and some warm socks. There is accommodation and a bathroom for wheelchair users, and the yoga shala is wheelchair accessible.
Vale de Moses also hires its space out to teachers who want to run their own retreats here, and has space for a yoga teacher bringing up to 20 students.
When to Go
Vale de Moses runs retreats over Portugal’s warm spring and hot summer, although you’ll find it a little colder at either end of the season as they are 1500ft above sea level.
The picturesque village of Amieira just a little higher up the valley is usually very quiet with an elderly population. Their families return in August for the traditional village parties, and in October for harvesting the grapes for wine.
The vegan-veggie food on this retreat will be a real eye-opener for carnivores or those who worry they won’t feel sustained on a yogic diet. You’ll feast on healthy, creative dishes, their Spanish chef blending influences from his travels and working in India, South East Asia and Europe. Following Ayurvedic principles, more food is served at breakfast and lunch, and then there’s a lighter dinner.
Think super porridge made with quinoa for breakfast, with pots of chopped or cooked fruits, yoghurt, ground seeds and so on, a smoothie or a yummy chai tea. Filter coffee is also served. Lunch consists of around eight dishes; colourful salads, roasted veggies and different grains prepared with lots of flavour and a notable dose of good fats and plant protein. Dinner is usually a filling soup, salad, bread and dips.
The tea station is always open stocked with plenty of herbal teas, herbs from the garden, fresh ginger and local honey, and black tea if you are missing it. As a treat on the last night local red wine is served with dinner (with no pressure to drink it of course!).
Vale de Moses has several kitchen gardens to grow its own vegetables and buys some produce, oil, honey and wine from neighbours in season. There’s a solar heated shower in the adega (a traditional Portueguese wine press) which takes water from an ancient Moorish water mine further up the valley.
They recycle 100% of the retreat’s kitchen and biodegradable waste to make compost to improve the quality of the stoney soil, and take all tin and plastics to the local recycling depot.
All the hot water is heated by thermo dynamic panels and solar and wood burning stoves in the colder months, which also heat the main farmhouse radiators in every room.
Lisbon or Porto
Transfer Time: both 2 hours by car
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