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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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.