Practitioners of meditation will tell you all about its benefits—how it can help reduce stress and improve overall mental and physical wellbeing.
Researchers agree. Meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response. It can calm your mind and body by quieting the stress-induced thoughts that can cause a state of agitation.
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For some, a quiet room in the house or a peaceful spot in the park can be enough to serve as a place to practice mindful meditation.
But others may need more guidance with yoga classes or workshops, and a calm respite from their bustling cities and busy households with soothing, inspiring views and luxurious amenities.
Meditation retreats offer these—and more. They can help you re-energize, connect with nature, and learn mindfulness techniques that you can bring back home. Here, we’ve rounded up the best meditation retreats in the country.
Back to nature, Devon
In the Dart valley near Totnes, the Sharpham Trust meditation center offers mindfulness retreats of different lengths throughout the year, including walking and singing breaks.
Some are held in the estate’s mansion, others in the Barn Retreat nearby. For full immersion in the natural world, its Nature Connection retreat has accommodation in bell tents in the woods, with guided meditation and mindfulness activities, foraging, and feasting on wild food.
Three-night meditation retreats from £145 full-board. Three-night Nature Connection retreat, 25 July, £335 full-board, sharphamtrust.org
Meditation and singing, UK, various
Wild Voice retreats combine meditation, singing, nature and adventure. The singing includes vocal workshops and outdoor choir sessions – participants don’t need to read music and no one has to sing a solo (phew!).
Works range from classical pieces to pop songs, and everyone takes home a live recording.
Mornings begin with meditation, yoga and tai chi, and outdoor activities might be kayaking, guided nature walks, and campfire singsongs.
There are three locations: a mansion in the Scottish Borders, a castle in Gloucestershire, and a country estate near Stratford-upon-Avon.
The first Wild Voice festival will take place this year in Northamptonshire (from £149, 31 May to 2 June).
Three days full-board £399, four days £499, next retreat 26-29 April, wildvoiceadventures.com
Peace and love, Devon
One of the largest residential meditation centres in Europe, Gaia House, near Denbury, offers silent retreats in the Buddhist tradition (though all faiths and none are welcome).
Group retreats range from two to nine nights – with titles like A Path of Peace and Kindness and Awakening and Liberating the Heart – and are led by different teachers, with accommodation mostly in shared rooms in the lovely old country house.
Three daily vegetarian or vegan meals are included. The grounds and countryside are good for peaceful strolls, with views over Dartmoor.
Practicing Samadhi (meditation) retreat, 2-4 March, from £128 full-board, plus voluntary donation for the teacher, gaiahouse.co.uk
Introduction to meditation, Suffolk
Leave the outside world behind on a retreat at the brand new Vajrasana centre in the Suffolk countryside east of Bury St Edmunds.
Courses are run by the London Buddhist Centre, but you don’t need to be Buddhist to attend.
Besides meditation instruction, there are workshops and talks as well as periods of silence – digital detox is encouraged, with no mobile phones or laptops.
Accommodation is in shared rooms and vegan meals are eaten together. There are also yoga weekends, regulars’ weekends and longer retreats
Two-night weekends run eight times a year, next one 25 January, £195 full-board, return coach transfers from London, £42, lbc.org.uk
Solo summer retreat, Lefkada, Greece
Aimed at the solo traveller, Serenity retreats, held in May, June and September on the Ionian island of Lefkada, offer a proper holiday with time on the beach or pottering in the village alongside meditation.
Self-catering flats (for one) are right on the sea, and daily guided meditation, mindful walks through olive groves and mindful movement sessions are included – led by down-to-earth zen meditation teacher Kim Bennett.
There are various optional well-being courses (such as the art of self-compassion, donation-based) as well as a choice of on-site treatments.
From £509 for a week, with accommodation and instruction, meals and flights extra, serenityretreat.co.uk
A place ‘to be’, Dordogne, France
The Moulin de Chaves riverside meditation centre near the village of Cubjac was once a Zen monastery and makes an idyllic place to retreat from the world.
Guests stay in the beautiful main house or pre-erected tents on the grounds with beds and bedding provided (camping is also sometimes possible).
The programme for 2019 includes a week of mindful yoga and meditation (15-20 July) led by Moulin founders Martin and Gail Aylward and conducted mostly in silence. A new yoga hall built of local oak with hemp walls opens this year.
From €300 full-board in a shared tent or €325 in a room, plus voluntary donation for teaching, moulindechaves.org
Saintly retreat, Assisi, Italy
Based in a family-run hotel in the ancient hilltop town of Assisi in Umbria, the non-profit organization Simply Peace runs retreats combining meditation with daily walks to local sacred sites (many associated with St Francis, who was born here).
No experience is necessary for the heart-centred meditation practised, and one-to-one guidance is included. There’s plenty of free time in the afternoon to explore the town and surrounding countryside too.
Five-night retreat from €995 half-board, assisiretreats.org
Mindful feasting, Wicklow, Ireland
Learn mindful cooking, eating and walking on a five-day silent meditation retreat at the coastal Bobbio Centre, 45 miles south of Dublin, in County Wicklow.
Paola Vais, who trained at the Ballymaloe cookery school, leads vegan and vegetarian cooking classes.
Mindful meditation, walking and eating sessions are run by Marjó Oosterhoff, owner of the Passaddhi Retreat centre in County Cork.
There’s plenty of time for beach strolls and local exploring too. No experience is needed.
19-23 June, €300 for food and accommodation, guidance on a donation basis, passaddhi.com
Silent walking, Northern Spain
Delve deep into the forests and mountains of Somiedo Parque natural in Asturias on a week-long mindfulness and walking retreat led by UK-based therapist and trainer Frankie Sikes.
Accommodation is in rustic self-catering flats in La Pinietsa, a traditional stone farmhouse, and the mindful, silent walks are gentle and slow (practised as a type of meditation), with packed lunches provided (and phones and cameras left behind).
The area is stunningly beautiful and there’s a free day to explore towns such as Oviedo or take a bear-watching trip.
Seven-day retreat £650, including transfers, breakfast and some lunches, various dates, walkinginspirit.co.uk
Tai chi, Canary Islands
This retreat at Villa Azul in northern Fuerteventura combines the ancient movement and meditation arts of meditative tai chi and qi gong, taught by founder Paco Borges, with Taoist yoga.
The setting, with views over the Atlantic, adds to the sense of peace, and some sessions are held on the outdoor deck.
Healthy brunches, smoothies and four evening meals are included, as well as massages and transfers to the beach. Open all year, with retreats starting any day, it’s flexible, too.
From €665 a week, taichifuerteventura.com
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