Holidays with Soul: Indian Wellness Getaways for Every Budget

Laid-back yoga holidays from Rishikesh to Kerala.  
Yoga asana
Take a yoga holiday to unwind, connect with a new culture, and reconnect with yourself. Photo: CSP_KimPin/FotosearchLBRF/Dinodia Photo Library

A wellness vacation doesn’t have to be austere. And it doesn’t have to cost the earth. India’s sunny coastlines and breezy riversides are sprinkled with comfortable stays that offer nutritious food, yoga, massage, and detox therapies. At these tranquil retreats, travellers are encouraged to connect with local cultures—through surfing, art, and cooking classes—as well as reconnect with themselves. It’s holidaying at a gentler pace.

Yab Yum Resort in Ashvem, Goa

Both kids and parents will love the family-friendly Yab Yum Resort. Sleep in a dome made of volcanic rock, or swing in a hammock under palm trees. Photo courtesy Yab Yum Resort

Both kids and parents will love the family-friendly Yab Yum Resort. Sleep in a dome made of volcanic rock, or swing in a hammock under palm trees. Photo courtesy Yab Yum Resort

The family-friendly Yab Yum Resort shares its name with a tantric position in which a woman straddles a seated man, symbolising the union of wisdom and compassion. And the resort is compassionate with parents—there’s babysitting, a paddling pool and toys on hand. Set in a two-acre palm grove in Ashvem beach, Yab Yum has cottages and quirky domes made of volcanic rock, palm leaves, mango wood, grass and clay. The resort has a full bar, and serves meals with ingredients that are freshly bought or sourced from their nearby plantation. Guests can unwind with massages and yoga classes, or use the laid-back resort as a base for exploring the beaches of north Goa—Anjuna and Arambol are less than a half-hour drive away. The French fusion restaurant La Plage restaurant is, in fact, a five-minute walk away.

Getting There Ashvem Beach is 52km/1.5hr from Goa airport, and 22km/45min from Thivim railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹4,600, including breakfast. Prices vary by season. Yoga session, ₹800.

SwaSwara in Gokarna, Karnataka

swaswara Gokarna

SwaSwara looks out on serene Gokarna beach, where dolphins are sometimes sighted. Photo courtesy SwaSwara

Named from the Sanskrit words for “self” and “sound”, SwaSwara aims for guests to tune in to their inner voice—firstly, by providing a 26-acre property where all one hears is the hush of the ocean. Guests begin their day at the Ayurvedic wellness retreat with sunrise yoga classes, and follow up with massages as part of the treatment prescribed by an Ayurvedic doctor. Hit deep, relaxing states of mind with meditation sessions and walks on nearby Om beach, or find your zen with pottery and art classes. SwaSwara also arranges hiking, boating, and kayaking excursions. Catch sunset views of the ocean from the yoga deck atop each of the 24 villas, made of local laterite stone and thatch. The focus on “local” translates into meals comprised of freshly caught seafood, and vegetables and fruits from the organic garden. And if it all seems a bit too clean, the resort serves Indian wines.

Getting There SwaSwara is 3.5km/159km from Dabolim airport, and 14km/22min from Gokarna road railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹25,000 including breakfast and dinner, nature activities, sessions in yoga and meditation, and art and cooking classes. Three-night Destress Retreat for ₹90,000, which includes consultations with an Ayurvedic doctor and prescribed therapies. Bookings are not open for kids below the age of 15. No meat. Alcohol is available for short stays.

Kaivalyam Retreat in Munnar, Kerala

Kaivalyam Retreat Munnar Kerala

Kaivalyam Retreat’s lush surrounds are favoured by travellers looking for a quiet holiday, and honeymooners. Photo courtesy Kaivalyam Retreat

Mornings at Kaivalyam Retreat in Kerala begin with yoga with misty views of spice plantations; days wind down with meditation and sunset yoga. The 11-acre property hosts eight stone cottages, with large, simple but comfy rooms that open out to refreshing views of Kaivalyam’s spice plantations. Guests can go birdwatching, walk through the tea garden to a waterfall, and hike through the plantations of cardamom, pepper, and coffee to the riverside.

Getting There Kaivalyam Retreat is 104km/2.45hr from Cochin airport, and 105km/3hr from Aluva railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹5,000, including breakfast, high tea, yoga, and nature trails. Prices vary by season. Seven-night beginner’s yoga course for ₹25,000, which includes classes in yoga, theory and meditation. No meat, alcohol, or smoking.

High Bank Peasant’s Cottage in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Situated 4km upstream from Rishikesh, High Bank Peasant’s Cottage offers the peace and quiet of Tapovan village. The owners also run Yogada—in the Himalayas for travellers who want an ashram-style yoga and wellness break. High Bank has a small Ayurvedic centre for massages and treatments. Guests can practice yoga and meditation in the Satya yoga style, and also take forest walks around the property. Rooms are simple and spacious, and vegetarian meals are served at the rooftop restaurant. The hotel can also arrange for rafting and trekking.

Getting There High Bank Peasant’s Cottage is 22km/40min from Dehradun airport, and 18km/20min from Rishikesh railway station.

Price From ₹3,500, including breakfast, yoga and meditation sessions.

Bhakti Kutir in Palolem, Goa

Bhakti Kutir Goa

Bhakti Kutir’s stripped-down aesthetic and laid-back atmosphere make for a relaxed holiday. Photos courtesy Bhakti Kutir

Simple is beautiful at Bhakti Kutir, located on a hillock 200m above Palolem beach in south Goa. The two-acre coconut grove has 22 cabanas, each made of rice straw, bamboo, and coconut wood, and designed to let in the sea breeze and glimpses of the starry skies. Meals have a vegetarian focus, with vegan options; fish and meat are also served. Dial down with hatha yoga classes during high season, and massages at the property’s Ayurvedic and naturopathy clinic.

Getting There Palolem Beach is 61km/1/5hr from Dabolim airport, and 36km/1hr from Madgaon, the nearest railway station.

Price Yoga class from Nov-Mar, when doubles start from ₹1,800. Approx ₹400 per yoga session.

Soul and Surf in Varkala, Kerala

Soul and Surf Varkala Kerala

With classes in both surfing and yoga, Soul and Surf is kitted out to help travellers ride any kind of wave. Photo courtesy Soul and Surf

For a chilled out wellness break, check into Soul and Surf, a mellow surf school and yoga retreat in the beach town of Varkala. Most head for the waves in the morning, return to bond over long brunches, and wind down with vinyasa yoga at sunset. Soul and Surf is truly a break from routine—there are no weird looks if you skip yoga and surf for, say, a boozy evening. Guests can join in on pranayama and meditation classes or have a massage, and the resort can arrange for a visit with an Ayurvedic doctor. Soul and Surf adds its warm, quirky touch even to naming its cliff-top accommodation, which ranges from “quite nice rooms” to “really nice rooms” with sea-facing views. If the surf and yoga doesn’t entice, maybe the music will—sample their all-day playlists on their website; they host the occasional bonfire gig, and hold pizza and film nights twice a week.

Getting There Soul and Surf is 40km/1.12hr from Trivandrum airport, and 3km/6min from the Varkala railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹3,150 per night for a minimum stay of 3 nights, including breakfast. Yoga session, ₹500. Meditation session, ₹400. Surf lesson, ₹2,000. Open from mid-Oct to mid-May.

Shreyas Retreat in Bengaluru, Karnataka

Shreyas Retreat Bengaluru

Detoxing can be calming, like this Ayurvedic shirodhara oil treatment for the forehead at Shreyas Retreat. Photo courtesy Shreyas Retreat

This plush, serene 25-acre property on the outskirts of Bengaluru is truly far from the madding crowd—it takes in only up to 20 guests at a time. Shreyas has cottages with tented canopies in the garden and beside the infinity pool (the latter is wheelchair-accessible). The aesthetic is of quiet elegance, with antique doorways, stone pillars, and earth-toned furnishing. Meals are vegetarian, with ingredients from the organic vegetable garden. De-stress with ashtanga and hatha yoga classes, meditation, chanting and massages, but also at the gym, cricket nets, swimming pool, and heated outdoor Jacuzzi.

Getting There Shreyas Retreat is 33km/1hr from Bengaluru airport, and 35km/1hr from Bengaluru City Junction railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹28,000 , including all meals, yoga, meditation, and access to sport facilities and home theatre. Prices vary by season. Stays between Dec 15 and Jan 10 have to be a minimum of 5 nights. No alcohol or meat.

Little Cove Yoga Retreat in Cola, Goa

Little Cove Yoga Retreat Goa

Limber up with asanas on the beach with Mahesh Pardeshi, owner and yoga instructor at Little Cove Yoga Retreat. Photo courtesy Little Cove Yoga Retreat

A popular retreat, Little Cove offers cottage accommodation for up to 22 guests on Cola beach in south Goa. It’s not a break for the indulgent: Little Cove has a no-alcohol, no-smoking policy, and serves organic vegetarian meals (with vegan and gluten-free options) twice daily. Guests can take a complimentary cooking class, sign up for an Ayurvedic treatment or massage, and cool off with a swim at the secluded beach. Or break out with a dolphin-watching trip, or fishing, which Little Cove can arrange. There are more intense yoga programmes on offer.

Getting There Cola Beach is 38km/1.5hr from Goa airport and 12km/25min from Canacona railway station.

Price Doubles ₹4,200, including lunch and dinner, and yoga and pranayam classes. Open from mid-Oct to mid-May. No meat, alcohol or smoking.

Isha Yoga Centre near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu

Isha Yoga Centre Coimbatore

The pillar-less meditation dome of the Dhyanalinga Yogic Shrine is one example of the unusual architecture at the Isha Yoga Centre. Photo courtesy Isha Yoga Centre

Travellers looking for an ashram retreat without religious overtones may find refuge at this well-designed centre in Tamil Nadu. Set in the foothills of the Velliangiri Hills, the Isha Yoga Centre offers yoga and meditation in a variety of packages geared to inner transformation. Guests can also book a room and try on-off sessions. Accommodation is in cottages and guestrooms, with vegetarian meals served twice daily in a hall (there’s an eatery for when hunger pangs strike). Isha Yoga Centre is known for its unusual architectural features—there are gender-specific teerthakunds or cleansing pools, and a gorgeous, pillar-less meditative dome called the Dhyanalinga. Cultural buffs can time their visit with the annual music and dance festival Yaksha that falls around Mahashivratri, between February and March. Read more here.

Getting There Isha Yoga Centre is 38km/1.5 hr from Coimbatore airport, and 30km/1hr from Coimbatore railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹1,400 for AC room; programme fees vary, the popular four-day Inner Engineering is for ₹16,000. No alcohol, no meat, no smoking.

The Dharmalaya Institute near Bir, Himachal Pradesh

The Dharmalaya Institute is an ashram-style campus, deep within a forest near Bir, 65km/2hr from Dharamsala.  The no-frills accommodation has a sincere focus on the environment—residents are asked to abstain from meat, smoking and intoxicating substances, and encouraged to take part in the local community activities. The ever-changing programmes may just be worth the spartan living. Upcoming events include a yoga and meditation mindfulness retreat in end-November, and workshops on creativity and sustainable living. For a higher view, take a morning off to soar through the skies at Bir, one of the best places in India for paragliding.

Getting There Bir is 68km/2hr from Dharamshala airport and 142km/3.5hr from Pathankot railway station.

Price Varies according to the programme. The fee for the yoga retreat includes stay, three meals and snacks, yoga, meditation, and a visit to a pilgrimage spot in Kangra Valley; email for details. No meat, alcohol or smoking.

Karuna Farm near Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu

Karuna Farm Kodaikanal

Stunning views and a minimal carbon footprint at the eco-conscious Karuna Farm is reason enough to be jubilant. Photo courtesy Karuna Farm

Karuna Farm is best-known for its self-sufficient bio-homes constructed of tyres and tin cans rammed with earth. The property near Kodaikanal is situated between two rivers and runs off the national power grid, drawing on solar energy, hydroelectricity and rainwater harvesting for its needs. Karuna Farm harvests its own honey, engages in organic cultivation of coffee and avocado, and recycles its waste. For travellers with simple needs, they offer a chance to get back to nature and thrive. Accommodation is spare, but the valley views are panoramic. Bring your own food, or pop by the local vegetarian eatery. The on-site Kodaikanal Yoga Centre offers complimentary yoga in the morning, and there are plenty of forest trails to take.

Getting There Karuna Farm is 136km/3hr from Madurai airport and 79km/2.10hr from Kodaikanal Road railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹1,300, including dinner and morning yoga. Alcohol and meat are discouraged.

Ananda in the Himalayas near Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Ananda in the Himalayas

Ananda in the Himalayas is for cushy wellness holidays, punctuated with blissful therapies that are manna for the city-weary. Photo courtesy Ananda in the Himalayas

Situated on a forested hillside that sweeps to the River Ganga below, Ananda in the Himalayas is the former palace estate of the Maharaja of Tehri-Gahrwal. Today, the 100-acre luxury resort is a sumptuous refuge from the cacophony of everyday life. Guests don’t even have to think of what to wear during their stay—white kurta pyjamas come with the room. Wake up to yoga classes based on the principles of the Bihar School of Yoga, snooze under the trees on the tranquil lawns, and tuck into healthy meals ranging from bountiful salads to beetroot risotto. Guests can even take a complimentary cooking class. The pièce de résistance is the award-winning 24,000 sq. ft. spa, with over 80 body and treatments that blend Indian and Western traditions. Sessions in alternative healing like reiki, chakra balancing and crystals are also available. For those who do want to leave the resort’s cocoon for Rishikesh, Ananda can arrange for white-water rafting, nature trails and wildlife safaris, and a view of the Ganga aarti.

Getting There Ananda in the Himalayas is 32km/1hr from Dehradun airport, and 18km/33min from Rishikesh railway station.

Price Getaway packages for two start from a minimum of 3 nights from ₹31,000 per night, including breakfast, dinner, spa experiences, a trek, and daily yoga and meditation sessions. Prices vary by season.

The Mandala in Mandrem, Goa

Mandala Goa

The Mandala’s quirky art aesthetic makes for charming details in its rooms, from psychedelic murals to handcarved wooden balcony rails. Photo courtesy The Mandala

A few minutes away from Mandrem beach in north Goa, The Mandala offers artistically designed rooms overlooking palm groves, and a tidal lagoon. The bamboo-and-wood design of its villas is inspired by the arched domes and airiness of a Kerala houseboat. The aesthetic detail extends to yoga class, which is held by the river, or in a geodesic dome, which is known for being energy-efficient and looking pretty cool. Break pattern with a kayaking or birdwatching trip organised by The Mandala.

Getting There Mandrem is 50km/1hr from Goa airport, and 15km/25min from Pernem railway station.

Price Doubles from ₹4,000, including breakfast.

Ganga Kinare in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand

Ganga Kinare might look like a business hotel, but it’s hosted the annual International Yoga Week in Rishikesh nine times—so it’s got cred. Stretch out daily kinks at the rooftop yoga and meditation hall, which has views of river and mountain. The large, four-storey hotel opens out to a private ghat where it holds its own Ganga aarti. There’s a multi-cuisine restaurant with terrace seating, complimentary bicycles to explore the neighbourhood, and an array of excursions including white-water rafting, a trip to the Beatles Ashram, and a safari in the nearby Rajaji National Park, home to elephants, tigers, and bears.

Getting There Ganga Kinare is 19km/35min from Dehradun airport, and 2km/7min from Rishikesh railway station.

Price From ₹4,300, including sunrise yoga, evening meditation, nature walk, breakfast, bicycles, and the use of robes and life-jackets for a dip in the private ghat. Prices vary by season. No alcohol, no meat.


    Saumya Ancheri is Assistant Web Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves places by the sea, and travels to shift her own boundaries. She tweets as @Saumya_Ancheri.

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