While researching her book on the multi-trillion dollar wellness industry (Wellmania, Greystone Books, March 2018), Australia-based writer Brigid Delaney tried out quite a few retreats—from the downright wacky (shamanic trance dancing in Thailand) to the grueling but super-effective (a raw food and colonic holiday in the Philippines). But above all, there was one place she felt embodied her idea of a holistic wellness destination—Bali, the island in the Indonesian archipelago. According to Delaney, part of Bali’s appeal is that spirituality—specifically Hinduism—is woven into everything. Its draw is that it has something for everyone—whether you’re after a high-end resort that blends a healthy meal plan and spa treatments with in-depth sessions or a create-your-own itinerary that lets you experiment with new trends. Here, her top three picks.
For the Spiritual Seeker: ONEWORLD Retreats
Located amidst rice terraces and jungles just 10 minutes from the center of Ubud, ONEWORLD Retreats is perfect for those who are traveling solo, want an intro to meditation, or feel in need of a comprehensive—but contained—reset. While the 14-room center offers different retreats every week, year-round, I recommend Escape the World, which takes place one week of every month, for its range of experiences. It includes two sessions a day of hatha yoga, a practice that focuses on holding postures and breathing techniques. It also offers meditation sessions including pranayama, asanas, relaxation techniques and rituals, and an organic meal plan that is healthy but in no ways strict (I was quite pleased to see wine on the table and bottles of the local beer Bintang in my room’s mini-fridge).
The seven-day itinerary includes a mix of activities at the retreat center and, as the week went on, excursions further afield—including a Balinese cleansing ceremony at a nearby temple, afternoon cycling through rice fields and rural villages, and a pre-dawn excursion to a volcano. At the latter, we did yoga on the edge of the crater as the sun rose. In between sessions, attendees can choose among a range of on-site spa treatments like Shirodhara, a form of Ayurveda therapy that involved gently pouring warm herbal oil over the forehead (or as yogi’s call it, the third eye) that’s believed to enhance self-awareness. From $1650; oneworldretreats.com.
For the Social Adventurist: The Yoga Barn
A 2.5-acre property in the center of Ubud, Yoga Barn is less a yoga studio and more a sprawling wellness village with seven yoga studios, a healing center, café, juice bar, ayurvedic spa, and an amphitheater areal for presentations and lectures. I was most struck by the range of instructors, who traveled from far-flung places and incorporated their personal techniques into their practice, from guitar meditation to yoga with free weights. It’s also ideal for those looking to create their own itinerary and try new things in a relaxed setting. Classes take place in the bamboo and wood shala—open to the elements and a gentle cross-breeze—with soaring cathedral-like ceilings and views of the jungle. It’s possible to spend a whole day here; around the town-like center are hammocks and beanbags where visitors can sit and mingle, while the garden café serves up vegan, vegetarian, and raw options like gado-gado, an Indonesian dish of seasonal vegetables in peanut sauce.
Travelers can stay onsite at one of its two houses, including the recently opened Nest, which offers a higher-end alternative with two private rooms and a shared room in a lush garden. Or, for another luxe option, a nearby hotel like the 56-room Alila Ubud, a 30-minute drive north. Rooms from $85; theyogabarn.com.
For the Intensive Healer: Spa Village Resort, Tembok
In the northeast of Bali, the area of Tembok has all the spa and wellness facilities that you find down south but without the crowds that can plague Ubud. From the international airport, it’s around a three-hour drive through rainforests, volcanic fields, and unique black sand beaches to get to the Spa Village Resort. At the seaside property, the focus is on rebooting: three-day retreats include Return to Yourself, designed for solo women travelers looking to connect with like-minded yogis, and the School of Life, a more in-depth itinerary that seeks to readjust daily practices.
During the latter, guests can choose between cultural activities like pencak silat (a Thai martial art) and Balinese dancing, traditional spa treatments that incorporate local ingredients like volcanic clay, and in-room amenities like detoxifying baths. Of the 31 rooms, all of which are spacious and decorated in traditional Balinese wood, two of the villas, Buruna and Samudra, have plunge pools and unobstructed views of the ocean. Retreats from $168; spavillageresort.com.
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