Ibiza, the Balearic island known for its wild partying, superstar DJs and 24 hour clubbing culture is not perhaps the first place you’d think of for a relaxing retreat. But, think again. This beautiful, mystical destination has been much-loved by hippies and yogis for decades and Ibiza retreats are the perfect way to discover why, as I found out at the weeklong Magic of Ibiza yoga and walking retreat.
This is a yoga retreat with extra oomph. Based at a secluded villa in the stunning northeast of the island, you are surrounded by nature and the emphasis is on getting out and exploring. The daily hikes are challenging and exhilarating and morning and evening yoga provides the perfect opportunity to stretch out and re-centre.
When it comes to retreating, I’ve learned that the needs of your body and mind at the time will always dictate the experience you have. I wanted exercise, laughter and adventure. And that’s exactly what Kirsty Gallagher and Toby Clarke, the creators of “Magic of Ibiza”, provided for me.
Daily Yoga Practice
A typical day starts with morning Vinyasa flow in the outdoor yoga shala nestled next to the pool to watch the sun as it rises over the ocean beyond. Kirsty, a London-based yoga teacher well-known for her retreats, is a magnificent host and a terrific teacher. She’s fun, caring and immediately puts the group at ease.
We were a diverse group, ranging from first timers to very experienced yogis but the teaching catered effortlessly for this, giving options and alternatives for those who wanted a deeper practice. Extra inspiration for the perfect downward dog is provided by Cosmo, Toby’s trusty hound, who hilariously joined most yoga sessions on his own mat at the front of the class.
Later in the day we practised Yin yoga before our evening meal. Kirsty cleverly tailored these classes to requests from the group for areas that required extra attention, typically shouting hips, tight hamstrings and tired shoulders from hiking hills carrying rucksacks. This pre-dinner ritual was the perfect way to wind down for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Daily Walks Around Ibiza
It’s the daily walks that really make this retreat unique. Ibiza is unbelievably beautiful. Lush pine forests cover the island, making it surprisingly green (I found it oddly reminiscent of Jurassic Park) and the sandy coloured cliffs and azure sea combine to make it absurdly picturesque. I’d often find myself running to catch up with the group during walks, having been side-tracked by photographing yet another killer view.
Over the course of the week we explored much of the island, from the rugged cliff-tops in the north, to watching the sunrise over the salt-flats in the south-west, then watching it set while bobbing in sea kayaks to the strains of hippy drummers on Benirras beach.
Toby has been guiding walking tours on the island for years. He has a wealth of local knowledge and an infectious enthusiasm for all things Ibiza. Through these expeditions we learned the history of the island, its worship of the goddess Tanit (including a visit to her shrine) and the myths and legends that make Ibiza such a special place.
I was fascinated to discover that Es Vedra, the large rock just off the southwest coast is the third most magnetic point on the planet, after the North Pole and the Bermuda Triangle. With such ancient energy and a long history of hedonism, it’s easy to understand how the partying side of the island developed.
The walks are a good length; typically about 2-3 hours. So there’s a decent amount of exercise involved for the active. But I also found a significant mental benefit from this too. Just being away from city life and out walking in nature was strangely meditative. There’s no better way of processing thoughts and feelings than a good walk or of just being mindfully present in the moment. With every sunrise and sunset I witnessed, I felt my perspective shift a little and all those tiny things that seem to matter so much in everyday life just melted away.
Ibiza Villa Life
The villa feels like a comfortable relaxed home, with lots of communal areas and plenty of space outside to get away from it all. Behind it are fragrant pine-cloaked hills and stretched out in front is the view to the ocean – about a 15 minute drive away. There’s a tempting pool, numerous hammocks slung between trees, a picturesque swing and even (for the young at heart) a trampoline. After dark, the fairy lights strewn around the house and garden give it a magical feel.
Accommodation for the retreat is simple and comfortable. I shared a room in the main house with an enormous balcony that enjoyed spectacular sunrises every morning. Depending on budget you can choose a private or shared bathroom, and there’s a separate ‘casita’ in the ground which sleeps four – perfect if you’re coming away as a group.
If you’re missing the spa, local masseuses can be easily arranged as well as Chakra balancing treatments if you want to embrace that island vibe.
Fuel Your Body
Meals at the villa take place at the long communal table outside. Food is vegetarian and plentiful. There’s an emphasis on giving everyone fuel for walking, so don’t expect detox or deprivation. Breakfast includes homemade granola, frittata, and fruit or toast with local marmalade. A typical lunch varies from packed up vegetarian wraps eaten perched on a cliff top or, back at the villa, delicious quinoa and feta salad with beetroot and pistachios. Dinners tend to be hearty; Thai green curry or courgette and feta quiche with tempting puddings of profiteroles or cheesecake. It’s a week to simply enjoy life, to let go and tuck in, and the food certainly reflects that.
One of the things I love about retreating is switching one’s brain off and just going with the flow. But if you want to do your own thing, there are plenty of opportunities to get out and about. The sunrise walk ends with a tour of Ibiza old town – a UNESCO world heritage site full of charming winding medieval streets. There’s great shopping and eating to be had here, so I’d recommend staying here a while to explore. There’s also an optional evening trip to the local hippy market near the villa, which is definitely worth a visit. But be warned, it’s easy to get over-excited, and I have returned with a wardrobe that may raise some eyebrows back in London.
The schedule is not strict, so if you fancy a day exploring you’re welcome to drive to a nearby beach for a relaxed day out. If this appeals it’s worth hiring a car. Ibiza is not a big island (you can drive across it in about an hour) but it can be tricky getting a taxi in the more remote areas.
Kirsty and Toby are extremely knowledgeable about the island, and can recommend nearby beaches, restaurants and beach clubs. If you’ve never visited Ibiza before, it’s worth considering staying on for a couple of days afterwards to explore. It’s a very special place.
Post Retreat Reflection
This is the first time I’d tried a yoga retreat with a twist. The combination of yoga and walking really worked. It felt great to have some aerobic exercise and learn more about the island and my muscles appreciated the balance of this with Kirsty’s excellent yoga classes.
Given how much the week packed in I wasn’t expecting a spiritual tune-up but inevitably taking a step back and being in such a magical place made an impact. Running around the Ibizan forests reconnected me to myself as a child and I realised how far I’d drifted a little from adventurous happy-go-lucky inner self. There were tears and hugs on departure and I came back with a firm decision to live truer to this person and make some changes in my life to do so.
Magic of Ibiza Retreat
Getting there: I flew to Ibiza airport – which is served by major airlines from all over Europe. The villa is a 30-40 minute drive from the airport and it’s easy to pick up a taxi at the airport or hire a car from there.