Amazing Wellness Retreats for the Culturally Adventurous Traveler
Cultural Wellness Retreats
What comes to mind when you hear "wellness retreat"? If it's a bunch of women in expensive workout gear doing yoga or drinking green juices on a beach, well, we don't blame you. After all, these trendy escapes have tended to isolate participants in a bougie bubble. That's why we're so into the latest breed of high-end active retreats: They offer cultural immersion coupled with wellness-based and active travel—along with all the creature comforts you crave during those hard-earned vacation days, please and thank you. If you've got your eye on a wellness retreat this year, consider these options, which don't just leave you with a tighter butt and a new açaí bowl recipe; they actually remind you how awesomely diverse and wondrous the world is, too.
Yoga and Horses Retreat, Clark, Colorado
Colorado has a long wellness history: About a third of the state's early settlers moved there for health reasons, historians say, thanks to the fresh mountain air and hot springs. Of course, that region's also steeped in rootin' tootin' cowgirl history, and this retreat, held at the 14-room Relais & Chateaux Home Ranch, takes the age-old Western horseback-riding tradition and combines it with the Eastern trends of yoga and mindfulness. The weeklong, female-only course (led by an expert horsewoman and a yogini) covers horsemanship instruction, gentle yoga, massage, deep relaxation techniques, clean eating, and, of course, rides through the mountains and valleys of the 150-acre ranch.
Next trip: September 30–October 6
NAKU Healing Retreat, Ecuador
Amazonian tribes have a long history with plant medicine. And Ayahuasca retreats—trips that send Westerners out to the jungle for ceremonies using the powerful indigenous plant—aren't new. But this wellness retreat, which involves a customized itinerary for your availability and needs, gets it right with immersion in the local Sapara culture and personalized support during medicinal plant rituals and shamanic ceremonies. We also dig that there's an on-site American retreat staff (including an M.D.) working in tandem with the Sapara healers. Part of NAKU's mission is to inspire a passion for saving the rainforest, so you can expect to be connected with the jungle and with Mother Earth through this immersive retreat.
Next trip: Ongoing
Inner Paradise Yoga and Meditation Retreat, Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
This brand-new retreat, a collab from NYC's Blue Sky Yoga and Travel Colombia Direct, is set in a staffed private property in Cartagena de Indias (a UNESCO world heritage city) and comes with more than just daily yoga classes and local, healthy food: There's a side trip to the Rosario Islands and lots of free time for perusing the markets and exploring the streets of this quaint, culture-soaked city.
Next trip: February 28–March 5
Desert Dreaming Yoga Retreat, Ayers Rock, Australia
The Northern Territory, aka Australia's Outback, is one of those naturally spiritual places, with harsh, beautiful landscapes of super-saturated blues, browns, and reds. Uluru and Kata Tjuta are like the region's two beating hearts: enormous sandstone rocks stretching thousands of feet, sacred to the indigenous tribes there. In other words, the region is a perfect spot for a spiritually focused yoga retreat, and this one (organized by Ayers Rock Resort) delivers with dancing, meditation, and yoga. You'll also experience plenty of the area's culture with "bush tucker" food focused on local plants, a dot painting workshop with indigenous artists, and a visit to the immersive Tjungu Indigenous Cultural Festival.
Next trip: April 27–May 4
Mountains & Mystics, India
This 13-day journey (organized by Intrepid Travel) bills itself as more of a tour than a retreat, but with its yoga sessions, scenic hikes to caves and waterfalls, and strolls through Old Delhi and alongside the Ganges River, you certainly won't spend the whole trip sitting on a bus listening to a tour guide cracking dad jokes. Instead, you'll get to explore charming Shimla, hit the mat in Rishikesh (the "yoga capital of the world"), learn about Sikhism during a visit to the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and get a crash course in Tibetan spirituality and culture in Dharamsala (the home of the Dalai Lama).
Next trip: Multiple dates
Divine Goddess Culture, Malta
If aura readings, Reiki treatments, and crystal healing sessions are your jam, this might be the retreat for you. Organized by Perillo's Learning Journey, the nine-day wellness itinerary drops you right into Maltese culture with tastings at a local bakery and a farm-to-table eatery, a hands-on visit to a local horse farm, sunset hikes, and exploration through medieval cities, churches, and museums showcasing Malta's art and history. Hosted by "spiritual advisors" Sally Schwager and Therese Bimka, the trip takes place over the equinox and blends movement-based, devotional, and art practices—along with meetings with local experts—to help you connect to the energy of Malta's 7,000-year-old goddess temples.
Next trip: September 16–24
If an African safari is on your bucket list, and you love staying active while you travel, consider this 13-day adventure from Intrepid Travel the best of both worlds. While typical game drives have you sitting on your butt inside a jeep for most of the day, this biking trip keep participants pedaling off the beaten path onto trails where cars can't go. You'll get to check out the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Arusha National Park on two wheels (keeping an eye out for wild game, including the black rhino), as well as farm villages, coffee plantations, and other experiences with the Maasai people.
Next trip: Multiple dates
Yoga, Arts & Earth Day Escape, Montego Bay, Jamaica
This retreat offers up a cool combo of self-care and giving back to the Jamaican community—a trend we can totally get behind. For wellness seekers, there's yoga, healing meditations, and acupressure treatments, as well as Reggaelates, a local reggae/dancehall fusion laced with yoga and Pilates moves. Spa treatments are based on historic healing rituals of Jamaican culture, and they employ local, handpicked herbs like moringa, lemongrass, and gingerroot. For do-gooders, there's a local beach cleanup at the Montego Bay Marine Park, in collaboration with the Jamaica Environment Trust, whose "Nah Dutty Up Jamaica" program works with communities on the island to increase waste management awareness.
Next trip: April 19–22
Manifesting Peace and Joy Retreat, Sedona, Arizona
The Red Rocks region of Arizona, a reputed site of spiritual energy, will serve as the backdrop of this healing retreat. Members of local Native American tribes will partner with therapists from Mii amo Spa to lead rituals, meditation, and lectures. You'll follow the Native American medicine wheel, focusing on a new direction each day: the east for new beginnings, south for learning, west for connecting, and north for wisdom.
Next trip: April 15–21