Spiritual travel has become an important part of my mix when I’m out on the move. Being on the road and sightseeing is awesome, and dancing the night away is wonderful too, but it’s those places that leave a lasting impression, change you a little bit for the better, and open your mind that can be the ones to make the benefits of a vacation last a lifetime.
If my experiences around the world have taught me anything, it’s that spiritual travel occurs in many forms, from meditation retreats, to festivals, to experiences within nature, often in places you never even expected. Here are some of the best women’s spiritual retreats from around the world:
1. Vipassana Meditation Retreat – Wat Suan Mokkh in Chaiya, Thailand
This type of meditation retreat is rooted in Buddhism and is centered around silent meditation. It lasts for 10 days, includes basic accommodation, and requires silence, a digital detox, and often sleeping for 6 hours per night. You’re basically doing some sort of meditation almost around the clock. Vipassana meditation retreats are always donation-based and are often first come, first served.
In the case of Wat Suan Mokkh in Thailand, retreats begin on the first of every month and are quite traditional. Participants sleep on a concrete bed with a mosquito net, are given 1-2 vegetarian meals per day, and do combinations of sitting and walking meditation in addition to yoga and some chanting for a donation of 1000 Thai baht (about $33). The meditation mainly takes place in the open-air sand meditation hall and in the coconut forest around the retreat grounds.
When I went on New Year’s Eve several years ago, I found that it was an amazing way to ring in a new year. I won’t sugarcoat it, this type of retreat is tough. It shows you all of the things you need to work on and how to deal with the things that come up in your own mind. It’s also an incredibly effective exercise in learning how to deal with negative thoughts and emotions. Ready for a challenge? Go in with an open mind and an open heart and you may be amazed at the results. Though these retreats are coed, women and men were kept separate for most of the retreat at Wat Suan Mokkh, and some Vipassana centers offer women-only retreats as well.
2. Sofia Sundari’s Priestess School – Worldwide
The first time I experienced any kind of Tantric practice was when I blindly followed a friend into a workshop held by Sofia Sundari at Burning Man. What I came to learn is that no, Tantra isn’t all about sex, and that it can be profoundly healing.
Tantra is all about balancing our masculine and feminine energies, and as women, it means a lot of letting go of shame and negative self image and embracing our female power. Sofia’s Priestess School provides a safe, female-only space in which to grow and explore this through ritual and practices drawn from multiple worldwide cultures. I’ve attended Modules 1 and 2 now and have experienced incredible growth from both.
Retreats last for one week and take place all around the world, with Module 1 often held in Bali, Spain and The Netherlands.
3. BMTM Adventures – Worldwide
In 2017, I decided to create women’s adventures that would be different from what already existed in the world. These would be opportunities for women to experience the most beautiful places on mother Earth, taking backpacking and adventure trips all over the world with one central theme – building bravery, perseverance, and immersing ourselves in nature.
These trips have taken us along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, backpacking in the Alaskan backcountry where we saw tons of elk and moose and no other people, hiking for 9 days in Patagonia, with some incredible stargazing, climbing sand dunes and seeing wild elephants up close in Namibia and Botswana, and backpacking the magical highlands in Iceland. The women who come on these trips truly are amazing power women who come to try something new, to grow with each other, to learn how to navigate with a map and compass, become better at photography, and learn how to backpack anywhere in the world.
4. Camille Willemain’s Feminine Awakening Retreats – Mexico and Greece
Camille’s retreats, ranging from the Jungle Goddess to Medicine Women are an invitation to awaken your wild, expressive, playful, joyful inner child. Camille created these unconventional retreats from the belief that yoga and meditation are only part of the transformation journey. Through her own experiences traveling the world, she feels that connecting with foreign places can be the most profoundly healing thing of all.
In her own words, “Our retreats create a loving, safe, and profound container where we can each re-awaken the depth and light within ourselves, to remember who we really are and why we really came here.
Turning to the wisdom of ancient mythology, receiving the stories of goddesses and women throughout the ages, and diving deeply into our own stories within this lifetime and beyond, we open a powerful gateway to understanding, fully understanding, our purpose at this time in evolution. Rather than attempting to transcend the body and our pain and our dramas, we breathe them open into life, and fully embrace the messy, juicy, and at times dark aspects of our whole selves. Our journey on retreat is inspired by the land we gather upon, turning to the spirits and the ancestors for guidance. We directly connect with our own inner source through unique embodiment practices and ceremonies that weave together transcendental dance meditation, rebirthing breathwork, womb healing, feminine intuitive yoga flow, compassionate listening, priestess arts, and so much more. It is an honor and a gift to share this sacred heart-womb work with one another and spread that light out into the world through our radiance.”
In the words of an attendee, “I felt before I came it would be a life changing experience. But….omg …. I had no idea the depth of what I would experience and how much it would empower, inspire and take me to another level within myself. I have tapped into the best part of me! It’s just beginning and I’m so excited to go from here and see where it leads me.” Sandi W, Entrepreneur.
5. Alex Baackes’ Wander Women Retreats – Worldwide
Launched in 2018, Alex’s Wander Women Retreats were born from founder Alexandra Baackes’s desire to create a supportive environment where women could scuba dive and explore together. Their offerings have expanded to include signature annual dive + yoga retreats in Thailand and Egypt, as well as retreats focused on other activities, like aerial arts + yoga, and photography + yoga.
I’d recommend her retreats for people who prefer a laidback, fun, girlfriend getaway experience to a full-on spiritual retreat. I also like that her retreat schedules are totally flexible, as you can choose to opt in or out of all activities.
Founder Alexandra Baackes says, “I looked around at my life and felt an incredible sense of gratitude for the travel and adventure I’d experienced, joy and strength that movement like yoga had brought me, and awe at the sisterhood and the community of incredible women I’d been blessed with in my life. I realized how lucky I was — and I wanted to create spaces where other women could experience that as well.”
Alex’s retreats have taken place in Thailand, Massachusetts, Florida, and Indonesia. Her next retreat in 2020 will be held in Koh Tao, Thailand. Get more info here.
6. Kekaikialealea Women’s Tropical Hawaiian Retreat – Hawaii
In this retreat home, which is situated deep in a powerful vortex in a sacred triangle of healing temples right along the Kealakekua Bay, Dr. Anna “Noe” Bonas shares her wisdom with participants on a one-on-one basis. This retreat aims to help women “unravel the mental and emotional habitual patterns”, “experience an expanded awareness and find an inner joy”, and connect with their “inner wisdom, insight and awareness”. Dr. Bonas, as mentioned on her site, “teaches Lomi lomi massage, La’ua Kahea the “calling medicine,” training courses, and Ho’oponopono”, which is an ancient practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, rooted in the Hawaiian culture.
Participating in this retreat allows you to spend 7 days in a cozy home, where you get to relax, enjoy the white sand beach, and swim with spinner dolphins. The Women’s Tropical Hawaiian Retreat is also affordable at $800 per person for a week, if you don’t mind sharing a dorm with others. 7. Spirit Weavers Gathering – The USA
Women from all over the world have participated in Spirit Weavers to “uncover the roots of who we truly are and explore ways of walking in the world that are in alignment with both our deepest truth and our highest potential.” The retreat is a five-day celebration of cultures past and present, where the participants can learn farming, weaving, creating ceremony, making plant medicines, and other knowledge that is in balance and harmony with nature.
What sets Spirit Weavers apart from other retreats is its loving support for all women. The payment structure is broken into 3 categories – sister support, general admission, and abundance support. The abundance support fee helps donate to the sister support fee, which allows Spirit Weavers to offer a discount to those with limited income. There’s even a Mama Bear Lodge (how cute is that?!) specifically curated for mothers who’d like to participate in the retreat.
According to the founders of the retreat, “We believe that this remembering comes through our connection with our great planetary Mother. We recognize our symbiotic relationship to the earth, and that it is to our direct benefit that we take good care of her, but more than being connected to her, we seek to understand that we in fact ARE her. We are not separate from her, and small actions on our part have a great impact on her.”
8. Soul Seed Gathering – Central America
When women come together and share their wisdom, powerful healing unfolds. This is the idea behind Soul Seed Gathering, a collective festival for women at various locations around the world. Soul Seed Gathering is far from your typical festival. Consider it a gathering point for women from around the world to participate in sacred ceremonies, practice yoga, eat nourishing food, be immersed in nature, learn from powerful native traditions, and weave together their unique individual gifts.
Retreats have taken place at the stunning Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, and there is currently a residency program every last Sunday of the month, which includes a cacao ceremony and conference talk, in Costa Rica.
9. Goddess Retreats – Bali
Bali is a mecca of yoga and spiritual retreats, which can make it overwhelming to pick one. Goddess Retreats have been established for over 15 years, focusing on yoga, health and wellness for women. For their retreats in Bali, there are 4 types of week-long retreats to choose from – Bali, Yoga, Surf, and Fit. They also have a Snow option in Japan.
The team behind Goddess Retreats says, “We don’t believe in deprivation or having to ‘rough it’ to have a healthy, transformational holiday that awakens your body, mind and spirit. We’re not the retreat where you have to take a vow of silence or only eat raw vegetables only to gain enlightenment.” Everything is taken care of as soon as you land in Bali, and except for the Yoga retreat, you get unlimited spa treatments! Want to take it up a notch? You can even personalize your retreats with them. So if you have a week in Bali and just want to have everything nicely planned out for you, you may want to look into Goddess Retreats.
10. Namaste Retreats India
India has long been the seat of spirituality, whether it’s yoga, Tantra, meditation, and more. In recent years, the Pray of Eat, Pray, Love has popularized the notion of going to an ashram for transformation.
Namaste Retreats India offer this opportunity for women through yoga, meditation, and juice fasting. They aim to provide a safe container for emotional release.
With all of the varied options out there in all corners of the world, plus more and more women traveling solo and looking for immersive and growth-promoting experiences, spiritual retreats catering to women can be found on just about every continent. I can’t wait to keep exploring and finding new avenues for growth and expansion, and I hope this list helps you to find an opportunity to do the same.
Do any of these tempt you? Have you found a retreat abroad that you loved?