Take a few pointers from Lonely Planet’s latest and begin your year on a quiet note in 10 meditation-friendly zones
Kartause Ittingen, Switzerland
In a former Carthusian monastery in Switzerland’s hilly orchard country, this hotel and farm complex combines monastic peacefulness and modern comforts. While Carthusian monks take strict vows of silence and solitude, visitors to the Kartause enjoy a more relaxed and luxurious existence. Spend an afternoon lost in thought in the ‘silent room’, quietly stroll the garden’s thyme maze, wander the ancient cloisters, or join in group meditation.Afterwards, feel free to exercise your vocal chords while enjoying a meal of fresh-baked bread, raw-milk brie and salads of local herbs and flowers. Kartause Ittingen is 40 km from Zurich. Rooms start at Sfr169 per night. Details: email@example.com
Esalen Institute, USA
Founded in 1962 by a pair of expanded consciousness-seeking Stanford grads, this retreat centre in Big Sur, California, is the mother ship of the New Age movement. Well-heeled bohemians flock here for massages, encounter groups, ‘vision quests’ and soaks in the world-renowned nude hot tubs. While most of Esalen’s workshops are decidedly un-silent – think Gestalt sex therapy, ‘shamanic dream healing’ and so forth – the institute is famed for its occasional, highly sought-after silent retreats. Spend five days watching the sun rise over the crashing Pacific, eating local organic meals, meditating and receiving patented ‘Esalen massages’, all in total silence. Esalen is a three-hour drive from San Francisco. Workshops start at about US$405. Details: www.esalen.org
MOVE over London. So long, Ibiza. The destinations of 2016, according to travel giant, Lonely Planet’s annual survey that features top countries, regions and cities, has Botswana, Transylvania and Kotor in Montenegro leading the lists respectively. Mumbai comes in at the sixth spot as one of the cities to visit this year and Sesh Seshadri, Director, Lonely Planet India, points out that this Mumbai is all about food, shopping and movie tours. ‘‘We have 226 authors in 46 countries and followers on social media that run into a few million. Travellers are beginning to understand the difference between content and curated content,’’ he says. Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2016 also has themed lists – in keeping with the quest for serenity in today’s world, and to recover from all that partying, we highlight its silent retreats. Here are five of the 10 places, the others being Nyepi Day in Bali, Hridaya Yoga in Mexico, Kielder Forest in the UK, Kyoto International Zendo in Japan and the Franciscan Monastery in America.
This dot of an island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides has been a spirituaol centre for at least a millennium and a half. Colonised by Irish monks in the early Middle Ages, its scriptorium produced some of the most important illuminated manuscripts of the period. Today, Iona is dotted with monasatic ruins and enormous stone crosses. It attracts thousands of pilgrims each year,many of whom attend retreats in and around ancient Iona Abbey.
The Bishop’s House offers week-long contemplative retreats throughout the year. Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
Open to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, Emoyeni in the Magaliesberg range offers a variety of silent and semi-silent retreats. A weekend ‘encounter with enlightenment’ requires only one day of quiet, while traditional nine-day Vipassana meditation retreats mean no speaking for more than a week. If that’s not your bag, just visit on a ‘self retreat’ – eat vegetarian meals, hike in the bushveld,
explore the library or walk the garden labyrinth. Talking is permitted except during daily post-dinner ‘Noble Silence’.
Emoyeni is about 100 km northwest of Johannesburg. Retreats start at about US$100. Details: email@example.com
The ancient pre-Buddhist meditation technique of vipassana has been gaining popularity among stressed-out 21st century dwellers. Vipassana, which means ‘to see things as they really are’, involves silence, stillness,and observing your breath. Practitioners learn the technique at 10-day silent meditation retreats, held at some 160 centres wordwide. Dhamma Giri, in Maharashtra, is one of the biggest. Meditate beneath cyan skies in a golden pagoda with over 400 separate meditation cells, and share vegetarian meals with everyone from cleaners to CEOs. Adherents claim benefits ranging from tranquillity to psychedelic hallucinations to full-body orgasms!Three-hour drive from Mumbai. Courses twice a month. Details: (02553) 244076
Blast from the past
Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen did it 15 months ago, in Costa Rica, and so has Oprah Winfrey and other A-listers – it’s no wonder New Age travellers want to sign up for a silent retreat as well. With a forest, a coast and an alternative lifestyle to reconnect with serenity, Pacha Mama in Costa Rica has been popular for a few years now. Choose from body cleanse programmes, yoga workshops and work exchange offers. Pachamama.comThe Simple Peace Retreat Hermitage in Assisi, Italy, is another hub for alternative peace seekers. Choose from one to three-week programmes in the 25-acre farmland in the ancient town of Assisi. Assisiretreats.org