AdventureYogi, Sri Lanka
Relaxing yoga holiday near a tropical beach
AdventureYogi’s annual Sri Lankan retreat is held twice each February at a boutique hotel set in beautifully restored Dutch colonial villas a 15 minute cycle ride from Bentota Beach on the southern coast of the island near Galle. You’ll have daily morning and evening yoga sessions and plenty of down time to relax around the serene jungle villa with its infinity pool, bike to the beach or around town or take part in various excursions, from surf trips and river cruises to visits to local markets and Buddhist temples. A great option for those looking for a winter escape and rejuvenating mind-body experience.
The serene clutch of villas is the former home of an ayurveda doctor and we loved its lush grounds and friendly, attentive staff.
Given the jungle setting, there are lots of mosquitos, so bring plenty of repellant and light long sleeved shirts.
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Aside from the twice-daily yoga, your programme is very much up to you. Lounge by the pool and rest deeply, book treatments or arrange to have sporty or cultural excursions (paid for as extras).
Yoga is taught by acro yoga teacher Chetana Thornton, who has been teaching for 20 years, has spent a lot of time in ashrams and is skilled at adapting her hatha-based classes to suit different levels and individuals. She encourages students to dive inwards and unwind whilst holding core positions, and her classes mix spoken poetry and mantras with asanas. Her husband Will Thornton accompanies her on retreats – he is a composer trained in Indian arts who weaves live music into Chetana’s classes. The couple also offer live kirtan (chanting) for relaxation.
The jungle setting of the villa complete with ayurvedic gardens and the chatter of birds and monkeys is a dream for nature lovers – relax deeply here, or hang out beside the pool.
You can also arrange to have a treatment in your room. Book an energy healing session with therapist and yoga teacher Chetana Thornton, a massage with AdventureYogi founder Michelle King, or an ayurvedic massage with one of the local practitioners.
Culture surrounds you on this holiday, and excursions (paid for as extras) can easily be arranged. Hire a bike and cycle through the country lanes alongside the river or to the quiet local village, a 15 minute bike ride away, book a Sri Lankan cooking workshop, or take a tuk tuk to the local market with your Sri Lankan hosts to learn about local foods and daily life.
Take a river cruise to see rare birds in their natural habitat and end up at a temple to meditate. Walk to one of the Buddhist temples close by, and stop for an ice-cream and a chat with the local Sri Lankan people. (Bentota, the largest temple, saved thousands of people’s lives during the tsunami).
A visit to Lunaganga Gardens is delightful – the beautiful grounds and peaceful lake are the home of architect Geoffrey Bawa, whose stunning designs have inspired many of Sri Lanka’s boutique hotels. There are also daily shuttles to the inspiring nearby town of Galle, which has some great boutiques and colonial buildings to explore.
Bentota beach a 15 minute bike ride or short tuk tuk ride away is great for a swim and a sunbathe. The currents in Sri lanka are very strong, but there are clearly marked safe areas on this one and the beach has a wide and sandy beach with clear, warm water.
Surfing and scuba diving can also be arranged – on this beach, or from somewhere else depending on the best spot for the day. Bentota is especially good for beginner surfers, as it has long and gentle waves that make you feel quickly like a pro! Bentota is situated next to a river which opens up as a lake and makes a good spot for wake boarding or water skiing too.
For this retreat AdventureYogi has exclusive use of a boutique hotel with colonial-styled villas in the grounds, plus use of a villa next door with ensuite bedrooms and a pool area. Choose shared or single ensuite rooms. The Doctor’s House is lovely for a shared accommodation option, while the Coconut rooms are recommended for single stays.
Bedrooms: All rooms have a balcony or verandah and some have outdoor bathrooms so you can see the stars as you bathe. Given the jungle setting, guests should be prepared for visits from occasional insects. There is a mosquito net and air conditioner for the evenings, which make for a comfortable sleep.
Other spaces to be: The grounds are spread over two acres, so there’s plenty of grassy space to take a blanket and relax under the shade of the palm trees. Each room has it’s own veranda with chairs where you can read or snooze.
Other spaces to be: The beautifully restored Dutch colonial villas are in a lush jungle setting with hammocks, grassy areas, an infinity pool with loungers and a comfortable shaded lounge area with sofas. As the previous residence of an Ayurvedic doctor, the space is home to various rare species of plants and wildlife that the staff proudly point out to guests.
You can bring a friend who might not want to do the yoga – ask ahead. This is not an all inclusive holiday, and costs can soon add up, so set a budget for yourself before you go. Wifi at the hotel can be spotty at best, which can be a blessing or a frustration.
If you need to be connected, consider buying a local SIM card at the airport when you arrive and paying to have 3G during your stay. Bring high factor sun cream and mosquito repellent.
When to Go
The AdventureYogi Sri Lankan annual yoga holiday runs in February/March, when the climate is an ideal time to escape the cold and often long European winter. It is peak season, but Bentota is still quiet.
Breakfast and seven evening meals are included at the villas, you eat two meals out, and the last night is a BBQ on the beach with live music and mocktails or cocktails and a fire to celebrate 10 days of connecting, letting go and transforming.
At the villas you eat in a beautiful pavilion beside the pool at the heart of the grounds. Food is prepared by local chefs and delicious. It’s mostly vegetarian, with some locally-caught seafood offered on a few nights for those who want, and the kitchen is happy to accommodate vegans as well as those with food intolerances and allergies.
Fresh fruit and eggs as well as Sri Lankan curries are on offer for breakfast, while tea and snacks such as biscuits or cake are offered in the afternoon about an hour before the evening yoga class. There is a small menu for additional meals and drinks including wine, beer and cocktails – this isn’t a detoxing retreat, but rather one where you can do as you please.
Evening meals are usually traditional and hearty Sri Lankan meals that often include rice, potatoes, curries and bread. You can expect string hoppers with pol sambal, vegetarian or prawn curries, red rice, bean curry and potato curry with mallung, poppadoms, home made mango chutney and lime pickle.
The ingredients are all locally sourced, fresh from the local market each day, and you are welcome to go along and experience this shopping experience with the Sri Lanka hosts. Any fish served is also freshly caught that day, and there is an abundance of herbs, spices and fruit grown in the grounds including cinnamon, lemon, bay leaves and figs.
AdventureYogi works with local Sri Lankans only, and the hotel it uses recycles materials, buys food fresh from the local market and uses herbs, spices and fruits from their own garden. AdventureYogi also recycles everything that is produced on each retreat, and offsets staff flights. It is also working with a Sri Lankan charity and giving them 1% of the Sri Lankan holiday profits.
Transfer time: 2 hours