Published January 10, 2014
Take your pick of highlights during a trip itinerary by Amazon Andes Sky, a tour operator that specializes in travel to Ecuador. Guests can hike up one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, Cotopaxi, explore the capital city of Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and stand in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres at the same time.
But it’s even more memorable when you experience those spots while doing a yoga pose like Warrior II or downward dog – even on a horseback ride while wearing chaps made of llama wool.
“Our guests are learning how to use any space, anywhere, to allow their practice to flow into their daily lives,” Nicole Will, a travel specialist and spokeswoman for Amazon Andes Sky, told FoxNews.com. “They want to be active on vacation, to live an adventure, but also deepen their connection to their practice.”
Indeed, the company’s Yoga+Adventure trips demonstrate a growing trend in both travel and yoga circles: Sojourns that feature yoga prominently but stretch far beyond the traditional ashram retreat, spa stay, or beach escape to Bali, Hawaii or the Caribbean. Some tour operators are incorporating both yoga and adrenaline-pumping activities, including horseback riding, ziplining, and paddleboarding, into their itineraries, encouraging guests to venture off the mat and into the local culture and adventure offerings.
“There’s this idea of a yoga retreat, where you spend some time on the beach, you do some yoga, and you go home,” said Jen Hoddevik, also known as The Travel Yogi, who runs yoga-centric trips to destinations that include Santorini, Greece, and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. “And if that’s what you want, it’s great. But the next step for yoga travel is doing things that are outside the yoga retreat box, like the Galapagos, like the Dolomites, like Patagonia. We call those yoga adventures.”
Hoddevik’s company offers both retreat and adventure trips, noting that the original destinations were “more typical Mexico-ish locations” before adding New Zealand, the Galapagos, and Santorini to the mix in her company’s second year of operation. Currently, she offers guided trips to 11 destinations across the world, and the company is scheduled to lead its first trip to Iceland in September. “Travelers crave yoga and yogis want to travel, so why not open the map when looking for a retreat?” Hoddevik said.
At the same time, some tour operators that don’t specifically focus on yoga have expanded their offerings to include wellness-style trips. One of those is Africa Adventure Consultants, an award-winning tour company based in Denver, which will introduce its new “Tanzania Wellness Safari” trips this year, with departures in June and September.
The company’s president, Kent Redding, brought in Boulder-based yoga instructor Shannon Paige to help develop the itinerary, which will include daily yoga practices in Tanzania’s spectacular Serengeti National Park, as well as the exotic spice island of Zanzibar. Other highlights on the 10-day itinerary are workshops with local experts in education, cooking, art and culture, plus meditation and massage/spa treatments.
“An experience like a safari can be so overwhelming, and you come home and wish you had been more reflective,” Paige said.
“That’s what we’re hoping to do with the yoga and the meditation. Being present is so important. When you go [on safari], everyone is snapping, snapping, snapping with their cameras, and yoga really brings you back into the moment.”
While tour operators are finding ways to incorporate yoga and adventure into their trips, some properties in exotic destinations are capitalizing on the yoga trend, as well. One such property is Casa Oniri, in the colonial village of Barichara, Colombia, located in an outdoor adventure mecca about 275 miles northeast of Bogotá. The eight-room house-turned-boutique-hotel will launch its yoga retreats this year, tapping into yoga’s increasing popularity in Colombia as well as the growing demand from foreign travelers for wellness-style trips, according to Audra Clemons, a spokeswoman for the property.
In Dubai, meanwhile, the luxurious Madinat Jumeirah resort has offered Full Moon Yoga classes since 2004, and since then they have exploded in popularity, with a minimum of 150 bookings per session, according to Tanya Ali Scalisi, a spokeswoman for the hotel. And when Australia-based yoga instructor Liz Costigan added Burma, an especially popular country on the adventure travel circuit, as a destination for her Iyengar Yoga Retreats two years ago, her first retreat was booked within weeks after she put it on her website. “It is still one of the most popular retreats,” she told FoxNews.com.
Tour operators in the U.S. have also seen an upsurge in travelers and yoga enthusiasts wanting to blend their practice with a memorable trip. This year, Bend, Ore.-based Call of the Wild Adventures, a women-only adventure travel operator, will add a Yoga & Yosemite trip in July. The five-day retreat will include hikes to some of the most scenic spots in Yosemite National Park, along with daily yoga sessions – at sunset or along the trail – and meditation, while nights are spent at a Yosemite campsite.
Deanna English, an instructor who specializes in therapeutic yoga, has been teaching yoga during women-only yoga and rafting trips to serene locations like Utah’s Green River for more than 20 years. She says part of the appeal of such trips is that “you can be any body size, can have any level of yoga experience, you can practice yoga or be a brand new person who wants to explore it. We’re trying to create not just the adventure travel aspect of it, but knowing that you can go into the wilderness safely with women guides, and with the camaraderie of women.”