‘A simple ceremony on New Year’s Eve to burn our regrets from the last year on a big bonfire felt far more meaningful than staying up into the early hours and guzzling champagne’ – Imogen O’Rorke experiences an Open Winter Retreat with the London Buddhist Centre
In Short: The London Buddhist Centre (part of the Triratna Order) run various Buddhist retreats throughout the year in the English countryside that are ideal for people who have recently started meditation but want to take their practice deeper. They also cater for absolute beginners who want to leap in at the deep end, and offer longer retreats and solitary stays for those with a developed meditation practice. Please check the LBC’s retreats page for availability.
Read about our experience of an Open Buddhist Winter Retreat
Read about our experience of an Introductory Buddhist Weekend
In Short: Wildfitness offer highly inventive fitness holidays that use outdoor, natural surroundings to get you fit so you feel as far from an urban gym as you possibly can. They were created in 2001 by all-round athlete Tara Wood, who’s warm, funny and lovely to be with, and are run by a hand-picked team of trainers. There are 9 day fitness holidays at Chwaka Bay in Zanzibar and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, 7 and 14 day breaks in Spain and short fitness and cooking breaks on the Isle of Wight. It’s not a problem if the last time you did anything like this was when you were five, as you’re encouraged to go at your own pace and rest when you need to. Your body is pretty much guaranteed to change shape for the better, and you’ll feel it. From £690 per person for 3 days on the Isle of Wight.
Note: Because of the political situation Wildfitness are not currently running fitness weeks where they first started in Kenya.
Read about our experience of Wildfitness
Wildfitness holidays cost from £690 per person for 3 days on the Isle of Wight, from £1970 per person for a week in Spain, from £2250 per person for a 9 day course in Kenya.
In Short: Zening Elia Villa Resort is an eco resort in the peaceful Chrysochous bay of the Mediterranean. Set in Latchi, a small village on the North West coast of Cyprus, its focus is on the union between mind, body and soul through yoga. The Yoga Retreat package, which starts on Monday for 6 days and includes full board, is for beginners and intermediate yogis, delving deep into the postures and philosophy. You can also stay half board, dip in and out of classes or attend yoga teacher training sessions if you are advanced and wish to be more challenged. The yoga therapy, mixed with meditation classes and fresh vegetarian food promises to resurrect flagging souls and reinvent frazzled bodies and minds. Somehow the Zen gets in, and switching everything off allows your real self to switch on. Zening is simply done, but when the sun melts into the distant mountains, turning everything into crème brulee, you realise you are emanating an inner glow too. Destination Yoga also runs holidays here. In 2015 Zening will be accepting children.
In Short: Held in the home of Deborah Dooley and her partner Bob Cooper in the picturesque North Devon village of Sheepwash, Retreats for You offers a relaxing, cosy, creative space for writers, both published and unpublished – other artists occasionally book in too. Why come? Because all your needs will be met, so that you can focus on putting pen to paper. And, if you choose to be sociable, you’ll benefit from the creative chats that arise when you are in a community of like-minded writers. You can also go to the local beach, bike, walk, have in-room treatments and even book a woodwork workshop with Bob, who’s an artisan carpenter. This is a great value retreat that’s open all year, though closed on the 23-30th December.
Read about our experience of Retreats for You
In Short: A remarkable project created by English-Dutch couple Angela and Dirk, Puyssentut is a specialist retreat that offers a wonderfully restful environment for anyone wanting to get away from the rollercoaster that is cancer. Puyssentut means ‘protected high place’, and this retreat is nestled in the glorious rural countryside of Commune of Homps, in South West France, just an hour away from Toulouse. Your base is a carefully restored, beautiful 14th Century Chateau in the middle of fields of sunflowers, with just 10 super ensuite rooms. Week-long group retreats run four times a year, in May, June, September and October. It’s a truly special place, offering calm and inspiration, and comes highly recommended. For those who want to go on retreat but can’t afford it, financial help is also available from The Puyssentut Foundation.
In Short: The Queen of Retreats team rather likes the Six Senses resorts – they choose rather remote locations and build little eco-lux villages from scratch on them, all so that you can walk around barefoot without the risk of stepping on anything you wouldn’t want to. They’ve popped up all over the world, and now offer yogic programmes at many of them, designed for anyone who wants to find body/mind balance in a lovely, healing location with lots of one-to-one attention. The three programmes – Discover Yoga, Yoga Detox and Yogic Sleep – begin with an initial Ayurvedic lifestyle consultation and programmes run for up to 14 nights, which includes five personalized hatha yoga sessions.
In Short: Shanti-Som is a peaceful, boutique health hotel in a remote location about a 45 minute drive from Malaga airport. Come and enjoy a spot of healthy B&B, or book from a choice of rolling wellbeing packages throughout the year which focus on weight loss, yoga or detoxing. The hotel’s decor and architecture is inspired by the Far East, with landscaped outdoor areas and tasteful Buddhist-inspired artworks. Expect healthy food in the restaurant, and rooms which are comfortable enough to hang out in. The hotel is not overloaded with activities, though there are twice daily yoga classes, personal training and stretching, and the option of adding luxurious health-promoting treatments. A well situated outdoor pool will satisfy those who just want to relax beneath the Spanish sun. Shanti-Som also offers day yoga and spa packages for people not staying at the hotel. For an immersive yogic experience, Destination Yoga runs a few retreats here.
In Short: Literally palatial, this mammoth complex on the foothills of the Himalaya lords over thousands of km of plains below. You are treated like royalty – staff bow when they pass you, and say prayers whilst washing your feet. Everyone floats around in fine white pyjamas but there’s no asceticism here. Instead there’s marble, personalized yoga teaching, a phenomenal array of topnotch treatments in fastidiously comfortable private rooms, and often four hands working on you simultaneously. The restaurant is far too good to obey the ayurvedic doctors’ guidance. Visiting speakers teach non-materialistic Indian spiritual concepts nightly, yet the overall feeling is of a grand, indulgent hotel.
In Short: Mindfulness Journeys was set up by American Tibetan Buddhist Brian Hilliard and his partner Shannon van Staden, a former stylist from South Africa. Aimed at anyone interested in meditation from any walk of life, their holidays seek to make meditation and mindfulness more accessible by removing the jargon and approaching it in a lighthearted way. The date-specific group journeys run twelve times a year at locations chosen for their tranquility, style and comfort: Urania Luxury Villas in Greece, at an agriturismo in Umbria, Italy and at two boutique locations in Morocco. You can expect morning and early evening sessions dedicated to meditation, with afternoons generally free for swimming, sunbathing, reading, exercising or perhaps a cheeky nap. You don’t have to forego good food and wine – there is plenty of both. Evenings tend to be sociable, with founders Shannon and Brian’s relaxed approach setting the tone. From €800 – €1785 per person depending on the location, see retreat dates here.
In Short: HighLives Travel specialises in organised and tailor-made trips to the South American countries of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, with a strong emphasis on the Andes. Their Wellness Holidays are travel adventures with a wellbeing slant – such as spa, yoga, fitness and detox – and they mostly take place at relatively high altitudes, such as heights of 5,000m (16,400ft) in the Bolivian altiplano. The clue’s in the name. Whatever kind of trip you take, HighLives Travel advocates the benefits of being at altitude as a wellness activity in its own right, citing weight loss and increased athleticism as the potential plus points of being up high.
HighLives Travel specialises in organised and tailor-made trips to the South American countries of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, with a strong emphasis on the Andes. Their Wellness Holidays are travel adventures with a wellbeing slant – such as spas, yoga, fitness and detox .