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Feature photo by kk. Photo above by maurice

You may pay a fortune for a day of pampering, but nail polish chips and seaweed wraps won’t protect you from ongoing stress.

FOR A DURABLE SENSE of well being, you’ll have to dig deeper than your pores. With wellness travel on the rise, retreats are sprouting everywhere.

The following eco-friendly retreats rely on local resources, offer multidimensional treatments for body, mind and soul and cost under $150 a day with accommodation included.

Since “retreat” suggests escape from the crowds, I favor smaller establishments on roads less taken.

Enjoy the scenery.

La Plâtrière, France

Healing seeps from the ground in this region of France. The volcanoes that forged the Auvergne’s valleys and mountains deposited precious minerals in its soil and springs.

The Auvergne region is studded with spa towns, but La Plâtrière hangs back on a quiet country road. A three-hundred-year old stone farmhouse welcomes guests in bright rooms equipped with en suite facilities, electric kettles and fluffy duvets.

Guests can also unwind around the in-ground pool or cycle the gently lilting countryside.

The presence of personable pets, including two pygmy goats who enjoy massages, just adds to the intimate, homey feeling of the center.

Between them, owners Jackie and Andrew Diaper can cater to almost every need.

Jackie, a trained psychotherapist, runs de-stress workshops and life counseling sessions.

Andrew is an experienced builder and fisherman who can help you purchase property in France, choose fish at the market or find your way around the region’s many lakes and streams.

A four-day de-stress “weekend” costs about $540 and includes daily relaxation sessions, an Ayurvedic head massage that loosens all your knots and meals prepared with fresh food from local markets.

Flexibility characterizes the spirit of La Plâtrière, from treatment approaches and scheduling to meal choice. I was even invited to come along to Saint-Amand Montrond and pick some ingredients from the extensive covered market.

The presence of personable pets, including two pygmy goats who enjoy massages, just adds to the intimate, homey feeling of the center.

La Platriere website

Photo by singsing_sky

Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp, Canada

Resting in the palm of Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp offers contemplation and outdoor recreation.

Winter weekend getaways combine yoga and meditation with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing over a forested landscape that rises and falls like a gentle breath.

In the summer, yoga classes are held on an outdoor deck, and guests can go canoeing or swim in the in-ground pool.

The rooms are clean but ascetic, consisting of bunk beds, a desk and a wicker armchair.

Weekend getaways, in shared occupancy with private bathrooms, cost $130.00 and include two daily yoga classes, afternoon sports and workshops, two brunches and one supper.

Workshops vary throughout the year and may include vegetarian cuisine, Indian music or the art of forgiveness.

Meals are buffet-style vegetarian, in keeping with the philosophy to choose things which have a positive effect on the body and have the least negative impact on nature.

Herbs come from the nearby garden and water is drawn from a local artesian well.

You should be aware that guests are urged to respect the atmosphere of the camp and follow the schedule, which includes early morning and evening Satsang, a silent meditation followed by group chanting and readings illustrating yogic principles.

In keeping with Vedanta’s emphasis on harmony among religions, hymn books include Christian and Hebrew prayers as well as Sanskrit verses.

Sivananda Ashram website

Photo by wanhoff

Harmony Dawn Retreat, Canada

What better way to practice mindfulness and gratitude than through the grounded, sensuous art of cooking!

Under the guidance of a professional chef, learn to create nutritious meals based on local and organic ingredients.

The three-day Cooking for Health, Qigong and Meditation workshops (about $350), held during the fall, include three vegetarian meals a day and accommodation in airy rooms.

Visitors may forget that Toronto is about an hour away when they see deer and foxes scampering in the nearby woods.

Space is limited to ten people, so guests receive lots of individual attention and the atmosphere is light-hearted.

Renowned chef Nicola Lawrence also practices Tai Chi and Quigong, which uses breathing, movement and visualization to enhance energy flow, and she applies some of these yin-yang principles to her cooking.

The center is housed in a solar and wind-powered building decorated with wall-length windows overlooking Rice Lake. Visitors may forget that Toronto is about an hour away when they see deer and foxes scampering in the nearby woods.

Similarly priced interpretive dance and detox weekends are held during the spring.

Harmony Dawn website

Photo by kk

Weihrerhof Hotel, Italy

Set in a “Sound of Music” landscape, this compact, four-star hotel is shielded from the noisy outside world by the Dolomite Mountains.

Rooms are equipped with balconies overlooking Lake Wolfsgruben and the sunny, forested plateau of Renon.

The Dolomites have many sides, from rolling meadows to stark, lunar landscapes of limestone peaks and turquoise lakes.

You can explore the region through a guided-hiking week package that includes a visit to the famous earth pyramids, natural clay sculptures carved by erosion.

A Relaxing Week Package (about $798.00) includes seven days of half-board, 2 walking tours, two aqua-gym workouts in an elegant indoor pool and three sessions of yoga and Qi Gong.

Weiderhof website

Kalani Oceanside Retreat, Hawaii

Hawaii’s idyllic setting, rich diversity of plant and animal life and growing expertise in wellness vacations makes it an attractive retreat option.

Kalani, an educational nonprofit organization located on The Big Island, offers a wide array of therapies.

Rooms are equipped with light screens that allow guests to enjoy maximum airflow and stunning views of the tropical jungle and the Pacific Ocean.

A conch calls visitors to the outdoor terrace for meals concocted from exotic combinations of fruits, vegetables and seafood.

A three-day yoga escape package costs about $425 and includes access to the sauna and low-chlorine pool, one private yoga class as well as group classes, meals, double occupancy accommodation and a choice of activities including hula lessons, aromatherapy and meditation.

Hula, in its traditional form, includes chanting and story telling and allows participants to connect with their emotional and physical being.

Guests who can’t bear to go back to the mainland may work as volunteers and earn free accommodation and yoga classes.

Kalani website

Community Connection!

Planning a journey of spiritual awakening? Check out these inspiring articles in the Brave New Traveler archives:

Simple Beach Yoga For Backpackers by BNT editor Ian MacKenzie

How To Choose Your Perfect Yoga Retreat by Cam Karsten

Can You Development Your Spirituality Without Visiting India? by Christine Garvin

About The Author

Linda Handiak

Matador contributor Linda Handiak is a translator and freelance travel writer. She has published a book, 101 Green Travel Tips, based on her volunteer and teaching experiences abroad.

More By This Author

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  • Eva

    Cool post, Linda! I especially loved your descriptions of the Laurentians… Beautiful country.

    @ Tim – I'm probably going to regret this comment later, since my inner kneejerk feminist is in constant conflict with my more practical side (not to mention my sense of humour!) but is there any chance that future spa/wellness/yoga articles could have even one photo that's not of a naked (or nearly naked) woman? Maybe just one itty bitty shot of a serene landscape? Or even (gasp) a pic of one of the locations described? :D

  • Daniel Harbecke

    I dunno, Eva – they look pretty healthy to me… ;) Oink! Oink, I say!

    But seriously, Tim – I side with Eva. More landscape shots, with naked women in 'em.

    What I want to know is, what kinda sadist took that picture with the hands together behind the back? I just tried doing that and got this massive cramp in my shoulder!!! Linda, can you recommend a good spa in the Chicagoland area?

  • Tim Patterson

    Gotta love beautiful forms, but I'm with you guys on the appeal of landscapes and such as well…(ahem I didn't choose the photos ahem)


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  • Tim Patterson

    OK – new photos are in, and I think they do a great job of illustrating the article. I love cows and mountains almost as much as I love beautiful women who do yoga.

    Thanks for the comments and feedback guys, much appreciated!

  • Ross

    Yeah, that was all me btw. Sorry, ladies…and thanks for the feedback. Probably not a coincidence that "most interesting", (most comments) for a search on flickr for 'yoga' will return a bunch of half naked women. I'm already more conscious of it, so I'll watch my picks in the future ;)

  • Patrick

    As a businessman who travels a lot, it's nice to know that there are places I can go to unwind that are not just for girls day out. I'll have to check some of these out!

  • Eva

    Thanks, guys! :D

    "I love cows… almost as much as I love beautiful women who do yoga."

    Too many jokes… can't pick just one… [brain explodes]

  • Daniel Harbecke

    Tim, I wasn't serious! Where'd the punk spa chick go?!

    Cows, Tim? COWS? What were they burning at that bonfire, huh?

    "I like cows." Okay, it's a nice cow picture, I'll give you that. But… damn, Tim! Punk Spa Girl needs a home, too!

    "LadieS"?!? Ross, I'm a boy!!!!


  • Tim Patterson

    The great thing about cows is, you can milk them.

  • Daniel Harbecke

    I think I’ve just lost my mind. Yes, I’m sure of it…

  • Eva

    Ha. Sorry, Daniel. The PC brigade of the feminazi army wins again! :D

  • Daniel Harbecke

    I’m going to have “Democracy’s a fickle b*tch” tattooed somewhere…

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  • Alberto

    I am quite new to detox, just discovered recently and to be honest, didn't think I'd like it, tried it because my girlfriend told me that it'd be good for my back aches and to stop smoking. On my recent holidays, I went to Koh Samui, to Kamalaya spa resort, and did a detox retreat. It was amazing, not only my back aches are much less and feel almost no cravings for cigarrettes (I still would like to smoke now and again) but feel much more inspired to do things, take care of myself and feel more clear in general. I will keep up my detox and healthy living from now on. Haven't felt so great in years. Thank you for all the detox info, it is inspiring Alberto

  • linda

    It's a pity that the pictures on this blog are not representative of the Harmony Dawn Retreat. It is a great place….

  • Alberto

    I had been feeling quite tired and 'flat' lately, and I had put it due ti stress, work… I needed a vacation! So when the time came I searched on the internet and checked out a resorts, I went to Thailand. To a little island on the Gulf called Koh Samui, and from all the spa resorts I choosed Kamalaya Koh Samui. Once there, I saw that they had a wide array of tratments, therapies, programs, retreats… So I decided to do something for me on the holiday. I went for a detox retreat. I cannot stress enough how good that was for me, I feel great in myself. And it's not only the holiday period, normally I feel quite depressed to come back to work. Detoxing is one of the best things I have ever done for myself, I feel too quite inspired to begin new projects and take good care of myself. Thank you for all the detox information and inspiration, it helps me to have more knowledge and living even healthier. Alberto

  • Dr. Maureen

    You wont see any naked women on my website. We are located in the heart of Prince Edward County just 1 1/2 hours from Toronto or 2 1/2 hours from Ottawa. Take a peek. I am sure you will want to visit us. Next year we will be on your top 5 list!!
    Maureen Horne-Paul ND
    Saraswati Wellness Spa
    1280 Fry Road
    Picton ON

    • Hal Amen

      Thanks for adding your info, Maureen. We’ll look for you for the sequel!

  • wildlife art

    Great ideas.

  • Andrew

    The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat is a wellness retreat, hidden away from the frenetic pace of civilization, a sanctuary for the weary and those who seek tranquility.

  • Jael

    Another fabulous retreat is the Retreat Therapy trip to Ak’Bol, Belize by the company Get The Glow. Their website is, and it is extremely reasonable. Their Retreat Therapy is an all-inclusive 7-night, 8-day life-changing excursion where you can transform your body on the beautiful beaches of Ambergris Caye, Belize. You can experience a week of wellness and rejuvenation hosted by popular New York based cleansing and wellness specialist, Rachelle Wintzen, and cleansing food and Celiac specialist, Ashley Vuckovich.

    Check it out!

  • Emerson Stone

    OK – great list! And another to add to it, just because I haven’t ever seen anything quite so holistic and affordable: Wellness Immersion Retreats (Creative Writing and Yoga) at — Their summer retreats in Italy (Tuscany and Umbria) look fantastic, combining everything I’m interested in: yoga, writing, and sustainable agriculture in Italy. They have an application process, so not everyone who applies will necessarily get to join the group. . .

    I’m so happy to see this list, and happy to know that this field seems to be growing, because quality of life is increasingly important in a world that over-prioritizes making money and spending money!

  • inground pool installation

    This is cool! And so interested! Are u have more
    posts like this? Please tell me, thanks

  • Chris Powell

    Another great one is The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu,

  • Hugesa

    Nice list, contact for affordable and amazing retreats and wellness in South Africa. Enjoy Africa while achieving health and balance.

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