I have a yogi friend and colleague, Beth, who has been to over thirty yoga retreats around the world. Beth loves her yoga and her retreats. I love Google, but Beth actually has it beat *just this once*. When I want guidance on an amazing retreat, I don’t Google it, I ask Beth!
I asked Beth for a retreat in Europe offering yoga suitable for a beginner to intermediate level yogi along with gluten free food, a lovely environment and plenty of activity and treatment options. Beth recommended Kaliyoga.
Kaliyoga is a small organisation offering retreats in several locations including Spain, Italy and the UK. Some of the retreats are combined with other activities such as horse riding, hill walking, cycling and detox. In 2016 I visited Kaliyoga Italy, adored it, and in 2017 ‘returned’ to go to Kaliyoga Spain for a Yoga and Hill Walking retreat.
I will attempt at some objectivity as I write but disclose right now that my experience of Kaliyoga Spain matched that of Kaliyoga Italy. Pretty much everything is amazing, the yoga, the retreat setting, the food, the people, the treatments, the food again. All together simply magical.
Kaliyoga Spain: The Retreat Centre
The retreat centre is located about 90 minutes from Malaga, just west of a small market town named Orgiva. This places it within day-trip reach of Granada, Malaga, several market towns and but also within a very quiet, secluded little hideaway.
The visual beauty of the grounds is matched by lovely wafting aromas from the flowers and orange blossom. Varied avian life deliver enlivening dawn choruses. Cicadas take the evening shift.
There are sole and dual occupancy rooms of which I had a sole occupancy ‘casita’. These are cosy and comfortable but there is so much to enjoy outside of the rooms that they are merely a place to rest after the delights of each day.
A long communal table set adjacent to a sparkling swimming pool and sun loungers is the setting for daytime meals. There is also a cooler indoor area with a small library, soft chair area and dining table used for the 3 course evening meals.
The Yoga shala has *the* most amazing view up towards the Sierra Nevadas. It is quite something to gaze upon many thousands of trees whilst practicing tree pose. Just once was tranquil view interrupted, to everyone’s delight, by a passing herd of playful, froliking goats.
Kaliyoga Spain: The Glorious Food
My first and non-negotiable criteria when choosing a vacation is confirming that I can eat safely. Only with this requirement satisfied may I start considering other factors.
Kaliyoga make it easy to be confident by explicitly stating on their own site that they are willing and able to cater for coeliacs and people with food allergies. Based on my experience at both Kaliyoga Italy and Spain I absolutely endorse this. The chefs and managers are highly motivated and capable of providing a safe, enjoyable experience for guests with dietary restrictions.
Everything at Kaliyoga Spain is gluten free. Other allergies, including milk, soy and nuts, and other diets such as vegan diets, can be catered for on request. If you have one or multiple foods to avoid I absolutely encourage you to consider Kaliyoga as a safe destination.
With safety satisfied, let me tell you, the food is simply tremendous. The meals are an enormous highlight. If you are even slightly ‘foodie’ the food will be a major highlight of the retreat, maybe even *the* highlight. Why? It is fresh, varied, flavoursome, wholesome, and prepared with love. The plating (presentation) is comparable to that at upscale London restaurants, enabling even my moderate camera skills to capture some of the magic.
Both breakfast and lunch are served buffet style and effectively as much as you can eat, all the better for hill walking. Evening meal is a three course affair served at a communal table. Every meal is also a delightful social occasion with flowing conversation interrupted only occasionally as everyone savours a particularly delightful dish. It is extremely hard for me to call out any favourite dishes but . . . . okay here goes.
For sheer indulgent pleasure – there was an Key Lime Avocado Pie with a coconut, date, nuts and seeds base.
For ‘rainbow on a plate’ – there is a tie between a buffet breakfast rice porridge topped with berries, seeds, coconut, cacao nibs and bee pollen and a veggie cake lunch with a chunky hummus and vibrant salad.
And for an entree that had our friendly group begin to eye each other and calculate opportunities and angles, there were the most ridiculously juice, spicy filled mushrooms and padron peppers.
For the rest, enjoy the slideshow!
Kaliyoga Spain: Hill Walking
I have turned my two previous retreats to Kaliyoga Italy and Yoga Rocks into Yoga plus walking retreats so the choice of an actual Yoga + Hill Walking retreat *seemed* like a great idea. Despite a determined attempt my some newly purchased walking shoes to murder one of my big toes, it really was a pleasure.
There were two arranged walks. The first was led by Sue of Nevada Naturales Lanjaron. Sue is also an experienced forager and organic farmer, offering courses and workshops and also now AirBnB accomodation at her amazing little organic farm. The walk was combined with welcome education about the many edibles growing along the way!
The second had the destination of a Buddhist retreat centre located at 1600 meters altitude. The walk proceeded alongside delightful bubbling channels of flowing melt-water flowing down from peaks. The flora was alpine in nature, in contrast to the mediterranean at low altitudes and the sub-tropical nearer the southern coast.
On each other day I also set out walking. There are several very enjoyable walks available starting right from the retreat itself. I made two trips into different parts of a ‘silent’ valley south and west of the retreat. The valley is so named for its peaceful nature and I found myself enriched by the company of tranquility, a sturdy walking stick, and plenty of steps ahead and behind me. If only the figs and almonds growing wild along the way had been in season too!
Kaliyoga Spain: Activities and Treatments
I relish the combination of yoga plus lots of daily activity but a very different retreat could be enjoyed in the form of yoga, relaxation by the pool and taking advantage of the many and varied treatments and therapies.
Massages of many types are on offer, including Swedish, Thai and Deep Tissue Release. There are also more, and I love that our yoga teacher *also* playfully described them this way, more ‘woo’ therapies based on things like magnets and energy flows.
There is also a terrific attending nutritionist who during my stay offered two talk sessions that had people raptured. There is opportunity to take a consult. Several of my fellow guests did and came away happy with what they learned.
I had a two hour long Swedish and Lymphatic drainage massage that left me in a state of complete selflessness and bliss. I believe I floated back to my hut afterwards. I surely did not do anything so mundane as walk. I also enjoyed a fantastically energetic Thai massage that left my body feeling *alive* and grateful. You could spot when a fellow guest had just returned from such a massage. They seemed to glow, to radiant energy and peace.
The local area offers many opportunities for easy and challenging walks, riding, foraging, visiting market towns, even beaches, and day-trips to Granada and Malaga are well within reach.
Kaliyoga Spain: Recommendations
Have I sold it yet? Let me recap.
The Kaliyoga people do everything and anything to make your retreat as amazing as can be. The social occasions with fellow guests and some of the staff provide camaraderie and togetherness for even the solo traveler. Yoga is sensitive to the needs and energy of the group and advanced options are provided for those with more confidence. Find the right treatment for you, and you just might feel completely new and rejuvenated. The retreat centre itself is fairytale beautiful and comfortable.
The retreats are particularly solo traveller friendly. On both my retreats the group of a dozen or so has been comprised of at least half solo travellers, together with some couples and friends. Bonding over the social meals happens quickly and easily.
Then the fantastic food, for me the hardest part to leave! There is hope. Hope of sorts. Rumour has it that there will be a Kaliyoga recipe book incoming. Until then, I will just need to keep heading back.
The one caveat I mention is that given the suitability for beginner and intermediate yogis, advanced yogis may find the group sessions less than ideal for them. Some of the teachers could surely help develop further the practice of an advanced yogi but their attention would need to be shared.
I emphasise the variety on offer. You can fashion Kaliyoga Spain to be just to your liking. I went hiking every day. One guest travelled out to three beaches and took coffee and ice cream in local cafes. Another little group enjoyed trips out to local tavernas. Some just lounged by the pool, relaxed and sunbathed and took treatments. Time it right and arrange it in advance and you could do any of these and more, or different. Make it want you want.
Have you also enjoyed Kaliyoga? Will you? Have a recommendation for where I should go next? Do tell.