Shanti-Som – a holistic wellness experience in the mountains of Málaga, Spain

Hidden amongst the Andalucía hills in an intimate setting, this property design has been thoughtfully inspired by Balinese architecture and the peaceful spirit of their people. Shanti-Som aims to bring the ancient healing ways of the East to the West, and allow their guests the time and space to slow down, recharge and refresh mind and body. Mr Hudson speaks to the Hotel Manager, Christine, about the inspirational values of Shanti-Som, the unique experience one can get there, and some of their favourite places around Málaga.

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Tell us a little bit about the history of Shanti-Som?

Shanti-Som opened in 2011 before ‘self-care’ and Wellness Retreats were a thing. The importance of taking time out from everyday life and focusing solely on yourself was becoming apparent with more and more people experiencing burnout and anxiety. The idea behind Shanti-Som evolved from this growing need for people to slow down and just be themselves without the daily stresses, responsibilities and rush of everyday life.

Shanti-Som intends to bring Asia’s essence to Europe without the 12+ hour plane journey to get there. Inspired by a trip to Indonesia, the owner has taken ideas from Bali in both the architecture and the peaceful, relaxed nature of its people. We don’t rush or have busy schedules and our team of staff are warm and welcoming without any pretences.

Rather than building a large, flashy complex, the owner wanted to create an intimate setting where guests don’t feel self-conscious or intimidated in any way. With this in mind, the property was built with just 15 guest rooms, and as the owner has a love of nature, there is an expansive oriental garden with buddha statues, waterfall features and a Balinese Yoga pavilion. This pavilion uses the same principles of Balinese spiritual architecture to create a sacred place that is in line with harmonious and balanced energy. Of importance is the philosophy ‘Tri Hats Karana’- creating harmony and balance with human, nature and gods.

“Shanti means inner peace. A state of mental, physical and spiritual bliss that leads to serenity and calmness, enabling clear perception”

What does Shanti-Som brand stand for? 

‘Shanti’ means inner peace. A state of mental, physical and spiritual bliss that leads to serenity and calmness, enabling clear perception. We aim to inspire and guide our guests towards the path of achieving ‘Shanti’. Regain inner balance with our holistic retreats focused on health and happiness through a natural approach and authentic experiences.

Rather than being an institution or large scale resort, we try to create a cosy sense of ‘home’. Anything clinical is removed, we don’t have BMI scores or ideal body images- we aim for a positive, peaceful and happy mental and physical state.

What are the core values of your establishment? 

Guided and inspired by traditional Balinese Philosophies, we aim to share their inclusive, universal way of life, nurturing harmony with spirit, the environment and one another.

We strive to be approachable, always truthful and sincere, to have dedicated passion for our work, to respect others irrespective of age, race and/or religion, to have courage to embrace change, and to deliver exceptional and exemplary service 24/7 to everyone and anyone who walks through our doors.

“Ultimately what we think makes our Retreat so special is the staff. They are the ones who create an authentic and truly transformative experience”

What makes your resort so inspiring and special? 

Guests tell us they keep coming back because they feel like they are returning ‘home’. It’s more of a spiritual home where it’s their safe space to connect with their inner self and to re-calibrate so that they can approach relationships, work and lifestyle with the best footing. Loyal clients return to us and leave each time with a new perspective and ultimately a deeper understanding of themselves and how to seek happiness in their daily lives.

Daily group meditation sessions are available for all our guests, and when most people arrive, they can be sceptical as they have never tried it before. We gently encourage people to open their minds and not to judge, to embrace the experience whilst they are with us in the present moment. Happiness is within us all, but we have to learn how to unlock this. Thoughts and emotions create a storm inside us. Happiness involves mastering our thoughts and emotions and embracing things just as they are.

Ultimately what we think makes our Retreat so special is the staff. They are the ones who create an authentic and truly transformative experience. Guests often leave hugging each and every one of the staff and keeping in touch as loyal guests and friends.

Why is your property so popular with the gay community? 

We are known to be a very open-minded place. As guests step in, we aim to create a space where absolutely everyone feels welcome and comfortable in their own skin. There is no pretence or agenda. Shanti-Som does not specifically cater to the gay community, nor do we cater to a particular age group, women over men or people who are experienced at Yoga and fitness.

We have noticed over time an increase in the variety of guests, meaning more men and LGBYT community. We are proud and honoured, that through word of mouth people visit us because of our renowned hospitality.

How do you keep up with changing customer needs and expectations? 

At Shanti-Som we spend time getting to know our customers before they arrive to design a program that caters to their specific needs. Whilst everyone is different, from dietary requirements to physical fitness levels and emotional health, we have one universal goal- to help develop a positive mindset by equipping them with sustainable habits that can be incorporated into everyday life with ease.

We continuously review and update our programs to meet changing needs and also offer Bespoke programs so guests can choose from our range of signature services to cater to their specific goals.

Our programs for 2021 have just been updated, which also includes a Post-COVID recovery retreat (Reboost Body & Soul).

“Our retreat programs are designed to give you flexibility and maximum opportunity to enjoy and learn on your pace and at your time”

What experience can guests expect at Shanti-Som? 

As you make the journey up to our hidden driveway, guests enter with a sense of awe, indulgence and peace. Ultimately our guests can experience a private setting that allows them the time and space to slow down, recharge and refresh mind and body.

Our retreat programs are designed to give you flexibility and maximum opportunity to enjoy and learn on your pace and at your time. You may choose a Yoga class in the outdoor pavilion, a vigorous workout with our Fitness Trainers, or a stimulating hike through the Andalucía hills followed by time to write and reflect by the outdoor pool. The opportunities are there so you can choose what matters most to you without any stress on how to fill your days.

Food is an important aspect of our daily lives, and although health is our focus, we don’t compromise on taste or heartiness. So, our restaurant aims to capture robust, honest flavours of the East and West. Guests will be transported to sun-soaked Bali, Vietnam and Thailand with delicious mezze platters, fresh salads, specialities from our Asian Wok and flavourful curries. For those on our Detox or Weight Loss programs, we have special menus created by our Nutritional expert that are perfectly balanced for our daily dietary requirements and delicious to eat.

Shanti-Som-11

Do you have plans for another project in the future? 

With COVID-19 many projects have had to be put on hold, and right now we look forward to opening our doors and welcoming guests back. In the long term, our hope is to offer the Shanti-Som experience to other parts of the world and share our philosophy of health and wellbeing.

“We do not aim to be ‘on trend’ and continue to stick to our core value of providing a genuine experience with personalized care and service”

How has hospitality evolved over the last decade or so? 

We are all so used to consuming, being in a rush to experience everything and having the perfect social media photo. There is so much choice available now, and customers can easily find information online. This has definitely influenced the hospitality industry, and we continuously evolve to ensure we are abreast of these changing demands. However, we do not aim to be ‘on trend’ and continue to stick to our core value of providing a genuine experience with personalized care and service. Ultimately that is what hospitality is all about!

What makes Malaga's mountains such a unique destination? 

Our Retreat is amongst nature in the hills and rural mountains of the Spanish countryside, and we think it helps bring a rustic authenticity to the overall experience. Being amongst nature in the wilderness brings a sense of peace and tranquillity where we can remove our ‘social armour’ and simply just be.

At Shanti-Som we have daily group hikes which is a key feature of our location. Andalusia meets all the requirements and offers the best conditions for hiking. The fantastic climate and stunning natural spaces that host splendidly preserved areas and the greatest diversity of landscapes and ecosystems in Europe together create the best conditions for enjoying nature and hiking.

What are some of your favourite places in Malaga province that people need to know about? 

Around Malaga and the Andalucia region, there is so much stunning beauty and history to soak in. Seville is a popular and must-see destination, but our favourite place is one of Spain’s oldest and most charming towns called Ronda. It’s been inhabited by Romans and Moors, and you can feel history all around you in its cobbled streets, old mansions and stone churches. The town is perched precariously on top of a cliff with views of rolling hills and Andalusia’s white villages. The gorgeous view is one you won’t easily forget.

On the way to our hideaway retreat just off the main road to Marbella, we also suggest guests stop at Monda. Steeped in beautiful history and architecture, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

Ronda, Malaga | Photo: Sergio Rota

Any recommendations for discerning travellers? 

A Wellness Retreat may not be your first thought when planning a holiday, but it is likely the most rewarding gift you will ever give yourself. You don’t have to worry about planning your schedule, reservations, airport transfers, waiting for lines, finding directions etc. A Retreat allows you to focus solely on your wellbeing, and everything is taken care of by our staff. It’s a great alternative to a regular holiday break as you can truly unplug, harmonize your body and mental wellbeing and get your natural rhythm back on track.

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