Unique holidays: Top five retreats

spiritual retreats

Farm holiday? Yoga retreats? Meditation mini break? More and more people are looking to get away from it all, choosing unique holidays that don’t involve the hustle and bustle of a city or the sun, sex and suspicious parents that seem to come part and parcel of any beach resort.

For those skeptics amongst you, a retreat holiday doesn’t necessarily have to entail whole foods, meditation and/or a sudden and total conversion to Buddhism. Here at Just a Platform we have dug out the top five retreat holidays, so select your relaxation retreat of choice, book your flight and discover your inner spiritually, whether you’re the type to find it in a monastery, at a farm or on a yoga mat.

Best for: Out of Africa – Mbuyuni Farm Retreat, Kingolwira Village, Morogoro, Tanzania

Mt_Uluguru_and_Sisal_plantations-300x151

Or rather, best for: into Africa. Even the approach to Mbuyuni Farm Retreat is a healing process in itself as you trundle down a red dirt road bordered by mango trees and fields, with the Uluguru mountains looming on the horizon. Accommodation is in one of the immaculate cottage style rooms, spacious yet intimate, with a little terrace at the front of each cottage to sit and take it all in. Hospitality is next to none with the team providing everything you need without being intrusive and the home-cooked meals are possibly a better discovery than that of your inner peace.

A perfect getaway retreat, the farm is 100% organic and has trails, bike riding routes, a swimming pool, birdwatching, horses and monkeys. The farm retreat is run by the delightful Axmann family, who are happy to give you as much or as little attention as you want, along with linking you up with tour guides and other contacts. Image: Muhammad Mahdi Karim via Wikimedia Commons

Best for: Quiet contemplation – Assisi Retreat Home & Hermitage, Assisi, Italy

 

spiritual retreatsNo, you don’t have to be a die-hard Christian to appreciate the values that the Assisi Retreat upholds. Set on a 50 acre sight, surrounded by 100 more acres of farmland, the Assisi Retreat Home & Hermitage is described as a ‘place of personal renewal.’ The home is dedicated to silence and stillness and provides morning and evening medition sessions, with afternoons free to visit the beautiful town of Asissi or rest. The retreat offers B&B style accommodation in rooms sleeping one to seven with en-suite and welcomes people of any background or faith. Fly directly to Perugia Airport from London Stansted and the retreat is only a twenty minute taxi drive away, meaning it is easier than ever to meditate yourself to inner peace whilst having a holiday in Italy at the same time. Image: © Ruth Davis

Best for: Getting thee to a nunnery – Pluscarden Abbey, Moray, Scotland

Or, indeed, getting thee to a monastery. Monastery stays are becoming increasingly popular, particularly throughout Europe and there are many websites dedicated solely to finding your ideal monastic staycation. A shining example can be found very close to home at Pluscarden Abbey, the only medieval monastery in Britain still inhabited by monks. St. Benedict devotes Chapter 53 of his Rule to the care of guests and at Pluscarden this is put into practice – guests are not charged to stay at the retreat although they are encouraged to make a donation.

This is truly a holiday with a difference and visitors to Pluscarden Abbey are expected to observe silence in most areas and follow the monastic day. Male and female guests sleep and eat in different areas, with the men sharing lunch with the monks and the women making use of the catering facilities in the separate guesthouse. If you don’t feel even faintly spiritual after your stay here then you are probably a lost cause and would probably do best going back to Benidorm.

Pluscarden-Abbey

 Image: www.pluscardenabbey.org

Best for: Worshipping the sun – Sivanda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram, Neyyar Dam, Kerala, South India

Don’t worry too much about pronouncing the name of this retreat; with a strong emphasis on yoga and meditation you wont be expected to talk a lot during your stay. Situated in the foothills of the Western Ghats, a two week holiday at the Sivanda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram will see you fully immersed in yoga from start to finish. During your stay you are expected, or rather, obliged, to participate in all aspects of the ashram life, including going alcohol free, being vegetarian and participating in karma yoga: helping with tasks.

The late founders of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres aimed to promote the practice of yoga for physical and mental well-being, thus creating a more peaceful world. Whilst it is unlikely that you will forge world peace during your stay, you will certainly find inner peace aided by the strict routine and the yoga you learn.

yoga holiday, Neyyar-Dam

Image: Vishnu gs via Wikimedia Commons

Best for: Bucking broncos – The Focus Ranch, Slater, Colorado

 

working ranch holidayNot particularly interested in “finding yourself”? Prefer a bit of activity to quiet contemplation? The Focus Ranch is a working cattle ranch where guests are invited and, indeed, encouraged to lend a helping hand. The team run a herd of 1500 cattle which are moved every five to ten days and guests can choose to help out, riding one of the farm’s quarter horses. Accomodation is in one of the three spacious guest rooms in the recently built lodge or in one of the cabins located alongside the lodge, designed to fit either two private parties or a family. A number of other activities are offered for an extra charge, including yoga, fly fishing and photography. If inner peace is not up your street and relaxation for you is synonymous with adrenalin, then dig out your inner cowboy and head to Colorado. Image:  [D]izkography via Flickr

Not tempted by any of the above? Then take a look at www.retreatfinder.com for finding spiritual retreats, www.americanroundup.com for a vast selection of ranch holidays, or www.yogaholidays.net, a massive directory of hundreds of yoga holiday websites covering destinations worldwide.

Books

Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail
(Theodore Roosevelt)

Finding Sanctuary: Monastic steps for Everyday Life

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