The 10 best spiritual retreats in the world

The 10 best spiritual retreats in the world

Modern life can grind even the best of us down and so it is little surprise that we seek to escape it whenever vacation time comes around. Outside of the usual sun-bed and Piña Colada destination retreats, however, there is rising popularity for an alternative which aims at resetting both body and mind through mindfulness and meditation in nature. While some may travel to distant lands for a silent meditation retreat, other more flexible offerings can be found closer to home across North America, offering transformation based on Eastern principles. So, put down your phone, pull up your widest harem pants and follow Mr Hudson to any one of the best spiritual retreats in the world.

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Photo: Vana

Photo: Vana

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Down to earth yet with all your creature comforts, Song Saa promotes bespoke spa and wellbeing retreats focused on either detoxifying, blessing or healing over three to five days

1. Vana – Uttarakhand, India

To honour the cultural influence of India within the wellness community, we start our list of top meditation retreats in Uttarakhand where the 21-acre wellness centre Vana lies. Combining Ayurveda, Tibetan healing, yoga and other holistic therapies, Vana is the definitive retreat aimed at re-centring the self, amidst sleek, modern lodges enclosed by tranquil mango and lychee orchards. While away the days in the centre’s meditation cave, shrine room or spiritual study library before coming together with other ‘Vanavasis’ (forest dwellers) at sundown for musical performances and locally-sourced, vegan-friendly (if you wish) meals.

Photo: Mitchell Griest

Photo: Mitchell Griest

Photo: Vana

Photo: Vana

2. Isha – McMinnville, Tennessee

From the birthplace of yoga to the certifiable birthplace of country music, we head to Tennessee. Rural McMinnville is where you’ll find Isha (the Institute of Inner Sciences) a place designed for ultimate wellness, blending organised yoga and meditation programs in serene surroundings. Isha is centred on a giant golden dome where its founder, Indian yogi and author Jaggi Vasudev, runs ‘Inner Engineering’ programs, dedicated to raising human consciousness and promoting global harmony through the ancient science of yoga. On the peripheries meanwhile, guests can enjoy waterfall walking trails and mountain biking to further enhance their chi.

3. Song Saa – Cambodia

Based on a private island in Cambodia, our next Vipassana retreat, Song Saa offers barefoot luxury to a ‘T’. Down to earth yet with all your creature comforts, Song Saa promotes bespoke spa and wellbeing retreats focused on either detoxifying, blessing or healing over three to five days. Hemmed in by jungle, Song Saa brings together meditation, massage, bio-rhythm sessions and bath rituals, all blessed by their resident Buddhist monks.

Photo: Song Saa

Photo: Song Saa

4. Sunrise Springs Integrative Wellness Resort – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Fusing both Eastern and Western lifestyles in the sun-soaked US city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the Sunrise Springs Integrative Wellness Resort. Professionally led with an emphasis on medicinal healing thanks to its staff of doctors, nurses and psychiatrists, Sunrise Springs is a solid choice for those wanting a mental health plan backed by science. As well as access to medical facilities, guests’ time is balanced with softer healing activities, such as animal interaction and free relaxation in a tranquil setting. With benefits lasting long after you have departed, Sunrise Springs aims to improve health, relationships and greater self-awareness through concepts of mindfulness and compassion for others.

Photo: Logan Stone

Photo: Logan Stone

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A 17th-century monastery turned spiritual healing retreat in the old walled city centre, Monastère des Augustines, retains its original features and antique furniture while catering to holistic health

5. Kalani – Hawaii 

Stay in the States for Hawaii-based Kalani, the largest retreat centre on Hilo with an added emphasis on adventure. While there are endless opportunities for guests to immerse themselves in yoga, meditation and Jacuzzi sessions, what’s great about Kalani is its added facilities including a pool, gym and life skills studios for learning the likes of Lauhala weaving, hula, tai chi and dance. You won’t find a phone or television in your room but the centre’s selection of art, preserved heritage and fine 120-acre jungle backdrop will ensure there’s more than enough to feast your eyes on.

Photo: Kalani

Photo: Kalani

6. Esalen Institute – Big Sur, California

Renowned for its epic natural landscapes and mouth-watering Pinot noir, California provides travellers with the perfect setting for wellness. The Big Sur’s Esalen Institute is one worthwhile resting spot, located on 120 acres with ocean and mountain views on all sides. The main lodge at Esalen houses a number of facilities including a dining room, deck, sunroom and kitchen, with premium private suites and shared rooms available. Guests can opt to attend various workshops such as tai chi, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, spiritual awareness and more. The popular all-inclusive weekend package covers both lodging and activities, with starting rates at $405USD for its basic accommodation.

7. Monastère des Augustines – Quebec, Canada

For a feeling of travelling back in time, get yourself to Quebec, Canada, where Monastère des Augustines awaits. A 17th-century monastery turned spiritual healing retreat in the old walled city centre, Monastère des Augustines, retains its original features and antique furniture while now catering to holistic health. Choose between a self-guided meditation retreat, yoga or sleep rejuvenation program or even come as a pilgrim to seek spiritual guidance from the few remaining nuns in residence. Both friendly and authentic, this ex-monastery offers a twist on the usual wellness offerings, blending culture and history together with ultimate zen.

Photo: Ben Kerckx

Photo: Ben Kerckx

Photo: Ian Stauffer

Photo: Ian Stauffer

8. Temenos Retreat Center – McGregor, South Africa

A fusion of ancient Greek healing and South African hospitality is the McGregor-based Temenos Retreat Center which offers a hefty choice of wellness weeks, in addition to silent retreat and Vipassana meditation retreat options. Besides the requisite yoga, Temenos brings its guests aromatherapy, South African flower essence readings and a vegetarian menu to die for (the lemon meringue pie especially so!). The forever-in-bloom grounds at Temenos allow guests to embrace silent reflection in nature with morning walks through the entire reserve before healing sessions with the centre’s trained therapists.

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Photo: Song Saa

Photo: Song Saa

9. Ghost Ranch – Abiquiu, New Mexico

Our second New Mexican offering is the mysteriously named Ghost Ranch, based within the dusty sunburnt landscape of Abiquiu overlooking cliffs and canyons. Formally attended by artist Georgia O’Keefe, Ghost Ranch is a getaway to remember, where guests can join any number of unique retreat programs, including classes dedicated to sacred Tibetan art, women’s leadership and soulful marriage. Presbyterian-run, Ghost Ranch has its own worship centre but ultimately the retreat is about letting go of the daily routine and healing the self through relaxation, surrounded by some of the world’s most spectacular desert views.

10. Shakti 360° Leti – India 

Returning to India for the zenith of spiritual vacations, we take an overnight train journey from the capital of Delhi to Kathgodam. Aside from a hub for Himalayan lumberjacks, Kathgodam is also the meeting point for guests seeking Shakti 360° Leti, a perfectly remote spiritual retreat way up in the Himalayas. From Kathgodam, resort staff travel with guests on an eight-hour car journey followed by a short mountain hike to reach the famed Himalayan lodge elevated at 8,000 feet. Overlooking the peaks that come between north-west India and Nepal, Shakti 360° Leti is a sustainable sanctuary crafted from stone, wood and glass offering various wellness package. Try the Shakti Kumaon Village Walk Experience, a cultural hiking experience through remote Himalayan villages, past Hindu temples and local schools, before recuperating in tip-top luxury at the base. Fill the rest of your days with yoga and guided meditation while filling your belly with fair-trade, locally-grown produce. Namaste indeed.

Photo: Shakti 360

Photo: Shakti 360

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