Whether it’s an affordable thermal spa, a yoga break in Ibiza, or something more ambitious, such as a 10-day silent retreat in India, our readers have found wonderful ways to relax
Hariharalaya Yoga Retreat, Cambodia
Winning tip: Hariharalaya Yoga Retreat, Cambodia
In the countryside 30 minutes outside Siem Reap is the idyllic Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat, run by an amazing team of local and international yogis. What sets it apart, for me, is the sense of community: all guests arrive and leave at the same time and are encouraged to participate in all the available activities as a collective, creating a bond with fellow guests.
There are two yoga sessions a day: morning practice consists of 90 minutes of yoga asana and 30 minutes’ sitting meditation and an evening practice consists of 20 minutes of yoga and pranayama and 30 minutes’ sitting meditation. Free time is time to relax, integrate and explore. It is also possible to take out bikes, explore the village, sit by the lounge pool, play games, read a book or just lie in a hammock. The best bit is the homemade vegan food, with breakfast, lunch and dinner daily: the cinnamon porridge with coconut shavings, palm sugar and dried fruits is particularly good. All the activities, meals and other refreshments are covered in the weekly price of £200 for a dorm room or £240 for a private room.
Zurich Thermal Baths and Spa
One of the best-value day spas I’ve encountered, these baths (which used to be a brewery) feel like a step back in time, offering a series of hot- and cold-water experiences, to be enjoyed individually or in the communal baths. On the upper floors are treatment rooms and a bistro serving healthy food and juices, and the pinnacle of the experience is the hot and bubbling infinity pool, which takes up the entire rooftop, offering panoramic views of the cit.
• Day admission £27, thermalbad-zuerich.ch
Steam and a bit of chocolate sauce, Slovenia
When I first met my husband I didn’t know where his home country, Slovenia, was on the map. Somewhere in eastern Europe? Wrong; slap bang in central Europe and cuddled by Austria, Italy, Hungary and Croatia. From the breathtaking lakes and mountains (Bohinj is more tranquil than touristy Bled) to the quaint Venetian-feeling coast, it is such a small yet varied country and I come away from each visit feeling healthy, refreshed and full of life.
One of the biggest surprises I had was a day at a thermal spa in Podčetrtek, eastern Slovenia. As a wedding gift, we spent a day exploring the saunas, pools and relaxation rooms at Terme Olimia. I was stunned by the fact that all guests were naked, but soon I just went with the flow. The huge outdoor hot tub was a wonderful way to enjoy the surroundings of the spa, which is nestled in the countryside. One of the highlights was the chocolate steam room where, amid much giggling from us all, we eight strangers poured melted chocolate on to our naked partners and … proceeded to sweat it out in the steam room.
• One-day package from €22pp, terme-olimia.com
Health and wellbeing festival, Gloucestershire
Last year I won tickets to Soul Circus in the Cotswolds, a three-day yoga, mindfulness and wellness festival. It was something I had never considered trying before: the meditation side of it, yes, but not the yoga. My friend and I tried everything and it was fun, though the yoga made me feel like my limbs were about to break off. The music was great but the most important thing was that we tried something new and had an interesting experience.
• Tickets from £79pp, soulcircus.yoga
Monk chat in Chiang Mai, Thailand
After two hours at the meditation centre outside Chiang Mai, my mind was screaming for me to get back to the buzz of the city. At the monk chat two-day meditation course, you learn methods of meditation from real monks (who have an unexpectedly wicked sense of humour). You’ll learn about their lives and how best to apply the practice of Buddhism to everyday life. It felt like incredibly hard work: simple food, no talking and only white clothes, but a year on I still feel the benefit. What’s best is that the course is affordable for those on a budget, at a minimum suggested donation of £5.
Hiking and horse riding, Galicia, Spain
Wanting a break from the daily grind but not daily classes of yoga and the like, we opted for peace and seclusion in northern Spain on the Galicia Retreat. On a hill surrounded by forests and near the beautiful Morouzos beach, we stayed in a 15th-century stone cabaña. We spent time hiking, foraging for mushrooms and took a day horse riding in the countryside. The highlight was the tranquillity of the setting in what I think is an overlooked part of Spain.
Yoga, meditation and more in Ibiza
If you need a break from the pace of modern life, this cliff-face hideaway with its private beach in Ibiza is the place. The Soulshine Family provides a six-day experience that nourishes mind, body and soul. Every day you can expect yoga, meditation, wellness talks and healing workshops, plus pamper and healing remedial treatments. The hosts are always ready to assist, so if you don’t want to lift a finger you don’t have to.
• Retreats from £1,185pp, ibiza.soulshineretreats.com
Bathe in Budapest
People soaking in the waters of the Gellert Baths. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Unlike may spas, the Gellért Baths in Budapest has the big plus of being affordable and easily accessible. From £15 a day you can get a private cabin and relax or swim in a variety of thermal pools – indoors and outdoors. Walk or take a taxi there from anywhere in the city. The grassy banks are great – no need to book, just turn up. A dusk swim in mid-summer, with views over the elegant Budapest skyline, will lift anyone’s spirit and the fading rays highlighting the blue-tiled art nouveau architecture are a great sight.
• Adult from £15, gellertfurdo.hu