By Teresa Bergen | Travel & Leisure
No matter your religious leanings, there’s something undeniably therapeutic about breaking away from normal life and looking inward. Here are some of the world’s most rewarding places to do just that.
Lots of people escape the doldrums of everyday life by going on an island vacation, but soaking up vitamin D and sipping on a fruity cocktail on the beach isn’t the only way to de-stress. Here are some of the most noteworthy spiritual retreats across the globe.
1. Galgorm Resort and Spa in Northern Ireland
Galgorm Resort & Spa puts luxury first. The 163-acre estate has 122 bedrooms, many with a view of the River Maine. Families and groups can opt for cottages and log cabins scattered about the grounds, too. The Thermal Spa Village is designed around the four basic natural elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Guests combine physical activity with the spiritual engagement in Celtic sauna rituals, yoga classes, and Ireland’s first “snow paradise,” a Finnish-inspired room cooled to 5 degrees and covered in snow and ice.
2. Vana Malsi Estate in Uttarakhand, India
Mango and lychee orchards shade this 21-acre wellness center that combines Ayurveda, Tibetan healing, yoga, and other therapies. Upon arrival, a doctor designs a personalized retreat for each guest. A meditation cave, shrine room, and spiritual study library serve visitors’ spirits. The sand-colored buildings are sleek, modern, filled with artwork, and are certified LEED Platinum. Food is organic and locally sourced with vegetarian, non-vegetarian, and vegan options.
3. Isha in McMinnville, Tennessee
For an Indian retreat experience closer to home, Americans need look no further than rural Tennessee. The Isha Institute of Inner Sciences offers both personal wellness retreats and organized meditation or yoga programs inside an enormous golden dome. Try their signature “Inner Engineering” program devised by leader Jaggi Vasudev. There are seven waterfalls and beautiful trails on the premises, so you’ll want to bring hiking shoes (mountain bike if you can swing it).
4. Song Saa in Cambodia
If your idea of spiritual development requires a lot of creature comforts, book one of 27 villas on Song Saa Private Island, where one can relish Buddhist teachings and meditations surrounded by rainforest. You can arrange your own wellness program through Song Saa, or through the boutique travel agency Full Circle, which offers a special five-day mindfulness package on the island. Expect massage, bio-rhythms, bath rituals, and blessings from Buddhist monks.
5. Monastere des Augustines in Quebec, Canada
This 17th-century monastery-turned-wellness-center in Quebec’s old walled city once housed 225 nuns. Now people come here to relax, unplug, take yoga and movement classes, and eat wholesome organic meals. The rooms feature original doors and antique furniture from the monastery. Guests can do a self-guided retreat, take a yoga or sleep rejuvenation program, or come as pilgrims to request spiritual guidance from the last nine nuns in residence.
6. MesaStila in Indonesia
Set within a working coffee plantation, MesaStila’s property includes a colonial railway station, tropical gardens, and plenty of fresh mountain air. Guests can experience tabib, Javanese healers who use herbs to treat body and spirit. Start your day with a dose of a local herbal medicine called jamu, and end it tucked into a canopied bed in your sumptuous Javanese villa.
7. Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giravaaru
This resort features 103 thatched bungalows and lots of beach. You can relax in your villa’s private pool or swim with whale sharks and manta rays in the Indian Ocean. Or sign up for Panchakarma, an intensive detox program based on Ayurvedic principles. For 14 or 21 days, Ayurvedic physicians prescribe a combination of purgative therapies. The resort also offers “reconnection rituals” involving sound, massage, chakra healing, essential oils, bathing, and body therapies.
8. Springwater Center in Finger Lakes, New York
Springwater Center in Finger Lakes, New York, offers a silent retreat without a rigid schedule. Plan your own stay, or join one of the four annual Quiet Weeks. Guests can participate in a daily schedule of meditations—if desired. All that is required is to stay silent during silent times, and to contribute an hour of work per day. The rest of the time is open to wander through forests and meadows, eat vegetarian meals, meditate, or meet with the spiritual advisors in residence. The retreat is open to all faith and meditation traditions.
9. The Clearing Folk School in Door County, Wisconsin
Landscape architect Jens Jensen built this retreat for people to clear their minds by reconnecting to nature and each other. A good place for people who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” students revive their spirits through wandering in the forest, gazing out at the Green Bay shoreline, taking classes in yoga, knitting, or bonsai planting, and socializing over family style meals.
10. Etnikas Ayahuasca Retreats in Peru
For those looking to chemically jumpstart their spiritual development, Etnikas offers ayahuasca retreats in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A combination of nature, Peruvian shamanism, and, of course, the hallucinogenic and purgative ayahuasca plant, are sure to make for a memorable stay. Etnikas has hosted ayahuasca ceremonies for 30 years, has medical backup, and a very high Trip Advisor rating.