On the edge of the Sierra de Grazalema national park, just over an hour from Seville, is Spanish yoga retreat Suryalila. It’s the perfect place for a winter yoga holiday, with an open fire to relax and read books around, an outdoor sauna, and plenty of Andalusian sunshine. A former olive farm, surrounded by rolling hills and fields, there’s plenty to keep you occupied – twice-daily yoga classes, home-made organic vegetarian food, and, if you’re brave enough, an unheated saltwater swimming pool.
Headed up by yoga teacher trainer, Vidya Heisel, the word Suryalila means ‘cosmic play of the sun’, and you can come here as an independent guest and stay as long as you like, or do what I did and join an organised retreat. These range in theme from horse-riding and Spanish lessons to yoga teacher training and a three-month permaculture design and eco-building course, the next of which starts this month.
I joined ‘Vino & Vinyasa’ – a combination of yoga and wine-tasting, lead by Suryalila’s resident wine expert, German-born Esther Mercedes Jürgens, who has a WSET diploma in wines and spirits, and runs her own wine tour business, Vino Vistas.
Over the course of five days, we delve into all aspects of viticulture, from the history of vines to the appreciation of the various notes and flavours of Andalusian wines and sherries. Thankfully, the most energetic ‘Vinyasa-style’ yoga takes place in the morning, before the wine-tasting begins, and the afternoon sessions are of the restorative, ‘yin’ kind. So there’s no danger of falling over mid-mountain-pose.
On the third day, we take a scenic drive through the mountains to Ronda, and join an Andalusian cooking class at El Golimbreo cookery school. ‘Golimbrear’ means to use all the senses to get to know something, and it seems a fitting description of our time there. Alongside chef Miguel Ángel Herrera, we whip up Spanish tortilla with targaninas (a green, leafy vegetable) and raisins, a hearty chickpea and vegetable stew and a loaf of cinnamon bread, all polished off with buckwheat muffins and raspberry coulis made by Miguel’s grandmother.
The retreat also includes a visit to two different bodegas – the modern La Melonera near Ronda, an organic vineyard that’s reviving traditional Andalusian grape varietals; and Bodega Rivero, the oldest working winery in Sierra de Cadiz, where owner, Salvadore, pours us glasses of delicious rosé and demonstrates the workings of his antique grape press.
As well as being a Spanish yoga retreat and teacher training centre, Suryalila is also very much a working farm. The olive trees are still going strong, and the surrounding land is being regenerated and ‘rewilded’ to help reverse desertification, which is a growing problem in Spain. In this region, where temperatures can exceed 40 degrees, the land is often extremely parched, and intensive farming practices and soil exploitation only serve to deplete it further. The centre’s Danyadara permaculture project works to combat this by reintroducing vegetation – trees, plants, vegetables, shrubs and flowers – essentially letting nature get back to, well, nature.
Last but not least, I have to talk about the food. This was such a highlight for me, I think I’d go back there just for the amazing vegetarian dishes. Many of the ingredients that are served each day come from the garden and ‘food forest’, and if it can’t be found there, it’s bought from one of the surrounding villages, to keep things as local and sustainable as possible. Mealtimes are a veritable feast lovingly prepared by Head Chef, Gemma Russell, with gluten-free and vegan options also available.
Accommodation is in either traditional yurts and cob ‘eco casas’ or three-bedroom houses and traditional rooms with open fires. My room was so cosy, and I managed to light the fire on the day we had a rain storm. Also, my bed was ultra comfy.
If you have time at the end of your stay, I highly recommend a trip to Jerez, just over an hour away by car. A tour of the sherry bodegas and a session in the Hammam Andalusi is the ultimate way to end your Spanish yoga retreat. I’ll drink to that!
The Vino & Vinyasa retreat costs from €725 per person all-inclusive in a shared room. Flights and transfers are extra. The nearest airports are Seville, Jerez de la Frontera and Malaga. The next retreat runs from 8th-13th February 2020.
The retreat includes:
- Vinyasa Flow and Restorative Yoga Classes
- Wine Classes, including a Sensory Tasting and a Wine and Food Pairing Class
- Winery Tours
- Cooking Class: Andalusian Cuisine
- Delicious vegetarian and vegan cuisine
- Sauna and saltwater pool
- A choice of various massages, on request (extra cost)
All images by Katie Monk © Copyright 2020
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to take a look at my review of the new Bless Hotel in Madrid, read my story on wine-tasting in Portugal’s Alentejo region, and check out this wine-tasting trip to Slovenia.