Best Yoga and Ayurveda Retreats in Sri Lanka

Thanks to their peaceful and serene setting, the forests, mountains and lakes of central Sri Lanka are home to some of the world's best and most peaceful yoga retreats. Read on for our top picks...
Meditating up high. Photo: Ulpotha
Meditating up high. Photo: Ulpotha
For centuries, yoga and Ayurveda have been used for as a means of relaxing and unwinding. In today's fast-paced world, these practices are needed more than ever. Thanks in part to its relaxing natural environment, Sri Lanka has emerged as one of the world's top locations for yoga retreats. Here are 7 of the best...


1. Sri Yoga Shala 

Run by yoga teacher and instructor Eva and her partner, Mahendra, Sri Yoga Shala provides the perfect balance between nature and isolation. Located in western Sri Lanka, just outside the town of Unawatuna, Sri Yoga Shala is set in the middle of dense jungle. Eva, who has been practising yoga and meditation since 2002, trained as a yoga teacher in 2007 and opened the Sri Yoga Shala with Mahendra back in 2015. Since then, they have built the perfect place to learn and practice yoga. Sri Yoga Shala was recently featured in a Vogue article. The peaceful ambience created by its stunning setting is ideal for practicing yoga. Guests can listen to the sounds of nature and running water as the body and mind begins to unwind. The icing on the cake? After a session of yoga, take a refreshing dip in the stunning infinity pool!


Infinity pool at Sri Yoga Shala. Photo: Sri Yoga Shala


2. Ulpotha 

Perhaps the most famous yoga retreat in Sri Lanka, Ulpotha is an isolated eco-village. Located in the very centre of the island, Ulpotha is 4 hours' drive from Colombo and one mile from the closest road. These factors help to create a sense of blissful isolation. The site is beautiful too. 11 mud huts are centred around an ancient reservoir, spread throughout 22 acres of forest. The forest is home to all kinds of fascinating wildlife, which creates a peaceful and a serene atmosphere. Stay at Ulpotha, as part of Insight Guides' Luxury Yoga and Ayurveda: A Blissful Sri Lanka Retreat. Ulpotha was set up in 1994 by two friends, Viren Perera and Giles Scott. Over 20 years later, it is attracting some of the best yoga instructors and teachers in the world, including Geoff Mackenzie. Geoff specialises in Ashtanga Yoga. Ulpotha serves the finest natural and organic food, including Heritage Rice, which is grown by local villagers using age-old methods.   


Lake at Ulpotha. Photo: Ulpotha


3Tri Hotel

Ulpotha may be the most famous yoga retreat in this article. However, Tri Hotel holds the accolade of being the most luxurious. Co-owned by Lara Baumann, Tri is also featured in a recent Vogue article. When you see its setting, its not hard to see why. Tri is compromised of 11 suites on a promontory overlooking Lake Koggala, Sri Lanka's largest lake. The luxury design is both contemporary and sustainable, making Tri completely unqiue. Villas boast sweeping views over the lake, creating a consistently calming feel. Lara is trained a variety of yoga disciplines, including the Quantum Method. She has also had a book published, Quantum Yoga: The Holistic Approach to Creating Your Ideal Practice. Spend a few days unwinding at Tri as part of Insight Guides' Luxury Yoga and Ayurveda: A Blissful Sri Lanka Retreat. Aside from yoga, you may also enjoy expert Ayurvedic treatments and other therapies at Tri Lanka.


Yoga and meditation rooms. Photo: Tri 


4. Santani Wellness Resort

Located up in the green mountains of central Sri Lanka, the Santani Wellness Resort boasts incredible views. The highlands that surround the Santani are actually protected by Unesco. The views from hotel are accentuated by the its unique minimalist style, which incorporates large glass walls. This unique style provides the resort with a modern twist not found at many other yoga resorts in Sri Lanka. The 16 stand-alone chalets, which are all built on stilts, are tastefully furnished. Rooms come with king-sized beds and en-suite bathrooms.They also feature meditation and yoga balconies that afford incredible mountain views. Stay at the Santani on Insight Guides' Luxury Yoga and Ayurveda: A Blissful Sri Lanka Retreat. The resort spa provides luxurious treatments, including a thermal salt bath. The resort also organises walks and hikes through the surrounding mountains and nearby tea plantations.     


Striking at pose. Photo: Santani Wellness Resort and Spa


5. Niyagama House 

Owned and run by husband and wife Chaminda and Elke, the Niyagama House is in a great spot. It is perched high on a hill that is carpeted with tea plantations. The Niyagama is 9km (5 miles) from the coastal city of Galle, home of the famous Galle Fort. Sri Lanka's southern beaches are just 25 minutes' drive too. Elke is an attentive host and a fantastic yoga teacher, who is also trained in architecture. The resort, which fuses traditional and modern Sri Lankan design together, opened in 2012. Since then, it has gone from strength to strength. With just seven rooms, the Niyagama has a distinctively intimate feel to it, which is complemented by Elke's fantastic and personalised hospitality. The Niyagama is one of the only retreats in Sri Lanka to offer aerial yoga. It also has a fantastic roof space, where guests practice yoga to the relaxing chirping of birds, and a beautiful infinity pool. 


Refreshing Swimming pool. Photo: Niyagama House

 

6. The Mudhouse

The Mudhouse is a private yoga retreat that is about as far from the beaten track as it's possible to get in Sri Lanka. The owners have built a stunning yoga pavilion on an a small island in the middle of a lake. Guests stay in a series of individually designed huts on dry land. The yoga pavilion is reachable via boat. Its bare-earth floor is unique and very rare for a yoga shala. The earth is also great for grounding. The pavilion has a conical-shaped roof, which is ideal for generating and transmitting energy. As the Mudhouse is a private retreat, yoga lessons are not provided by the resort. Instead, the space is available for instructors and teachers to rent. This gives guests greater flexibility, allowing them tailor their own yoga schedule. The Mudhouse provide delicious organic food that they have grown themselves. They also organise nature walks and excursions, such as dolphin spotting, in the surrounding areas.

 

Yoga pavilion at the Mudhouse. Photo: The Mudhouse 


7. Samadhi Centre 

One hour from Kandy, the Samadhi Centre is one of the most authentic yoga and Ayurveda centres around. It is very popular with local yogis, who come up to the hills to escape the daily life of Kandy. The centre looks out over rice paddies and features several carp ponds, dotted with lotus flowers. 13 pavilions make up the centre, and jut out of the hill, providing fantastic vistas. The décor is clearly influenced by Hinduism, with spiritual motifs, statues and patterns commonplace. Aside from daily yoga classes, the Samadhi offers exceptional Ayurvedic treatments. These include shirodhara, an ancient practice that involves running medicated oils over the head. Shirodhara helps to relieve stress and anxiety.


Blissful seclusion. Photo: Samadhi Centre 


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