Caroline Philips and her daughter review this popular yoga and walking holiday in the Atlas Mountains and rejuvenate with calm yoga, brilliant walks and super food
You’d be hard pushed to find a more serene and beautiful spot than Satavada Retreat’s venue in the Atlas mountains – with its Moroccan-mint-clear air, outlook over verdant gardens with cypress, almond and olive trees and the mountainscape, and true silence. I arrive here with my daughter and instantly love the serene setting and still, clear air which reverberates with the call to prayer from distant mosques.
Lucia Cockcroft, a Brit, runs the retreat with passion, with assistance from her (business and romantic) partner Darren Cooper. Lucia gets top points for her calm aura, mellifluous voice (especially when reading mystical poems at the end of sessions) and her ability to vary the yoga practice and step up its intensity day by day.
The morning yoga practice each day is blissful – overlooking the rising sun and snow-peaked mountains. The practice is slow and gentle and Lucia focuses on making us listen to our bodies. She teaches in a mindful way, taking care of the breath and alignment. My head is full of interference, so I find the mindfulness practice in the evenings challenging – but it is very relaxing and helps my monkey brain.
Mornings start early – yoga is at 7:30am. But I find myself bouncing out of bed. Overall I feel relaxed and nourished spiritually and physically. My 20 -year old daughter, Anya, joins me on the trip and enjoys the yoga when SHE isn’t sleeping – though she finds her mind too buzzy to really settle properly into the meditations. We spend free time (plenty of it) reading and lolling happily in the sun.
‘Lucia Cockcroft gets top points for her calm aura, mellifluous voice and ability to vary the yoga practice day by day’
We both particularly adore the guided walks through pine forests, olive groves and up red mountains with cacti and purple mountain flowers. These hikes are particularly enjoyable when the group drops to seven people, as I’m not a fan of walking en masse. Our guide, Abdul, points out scorpion holes, tortoises and Berber villages new to electricity and water. He shows us where to find quartz – I bring home a beautiful piece – and even takes us for tea in a village house with goats and sheep.
The Berber staff in the kasbah are delightfully friendly and attentive and the food good, though on our trip the resident owner-cum-manager is prone to Victor Meldrew moments. No matter – our group is a lovely one of interesting and open-minded women, ranging from a novelist to nurse.
I’d go back faster than a Moroccan flamingo flying across a sun-dappled lake, but if I returned in winter I’d want the hammam to be good enough to be a pivotal part of the experience, and for there to be a wide range of spa treatments.
On return home I felt more supple, restored in body and soul after just five days, and ready to continue my (previously intermittent) yoga practice at home