Sunday, July 28, 2019

Affordable Hiking and Yoga Retreat in Sri Lanka's Best Eco-Lodge

Budget Hiking and Yoga Retreat in Sri Lanka

If you are into yoga, hiking and eco-tourism then you'll love Polwaththa Yoga and Meditation Retreat.  This is a new budget-friendly yoga retreat/eco-lodge right in the middle of the Sri Lankan jungle, near Kandy. I've been here since the beginning of July, as a yoga teacher, and I've been really enjoying my stay. Let me tell you all about it.

By the way, this is not a sponsored post. I simply enjoy sharing my journey and I'm happy to help spread the word about this yoga retreat.

I do use however affiliate links. If you book a retreat through these links you'll be supporting me to continue sharing free content like this, via a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

You can also find visit my blog 7 Unique Yoga Retreats in Sri Lanka for Every Budget to discover other truly authentic yoga retreats.


Polwaththa


Polwaththa Eco-Lodges Jungle

Polwaththa Yoga and Meditation Retreat is about 15 Km (50 min drive) from Kandy. The yoga retreat is part of Polwaththa Eco-Lodges, a Sri Lankan-Dutch family business formed by Nihal from Sri Lanka, Nel from Holland, and their son Remon.

Polwaththa owners

Polwaththa Eco-Lodges, considered one of the best eco-lodges in Sri Lanka, was launched in 2010. Right from the beginning, the mission of this eco-resort has always been to protect the environment and to support the local community.

Forest Healing Foundation


One of the ways in which they live this mission is through their reforestation program. In October 2016, in cooperation with a Dutch partner, they started an NGO called the Forest Healing Foundation.

The aim of the foundation is to plant trees in their land, to buy more land for protection and reforestation, and to educate the local community about the importance of the forest to avoid the cutting of trees.

Reforestation by Forest Healing Foundation

While showing me some of the trees they have planted in a land they bought for reforestation, Remon said to me, “This is my mom’s baby.”

That's because Nel is fully committed to this project. She is truly concerned about the environment and the protection of trees. At 6 am you can already find her watering the trees whenever there is not enough rain.

Up till today, they have planted about four hundred trees!

Another way in which they help protect the environment is by using solar energy for hot water. They also like to encourage the guests, via many signs around, to use water, electricity and toilet paper consciously.

Community Shop


One of their initiatives to support the local community is with their Community Shop. The shop is managed by Nel, who is also passionate about the community.

Community Shop

The handicrafts made by the local villagers are sold to the guests without any mark-up, and the profit made from the clothing goes towards the Forestation Healing Foundation.

Community Shop

Besides these initiatives, they also offer once or twice a week free English classes to the staff and the villagers.

The staff


The staff is incredibly friendly and warm. They are always smiling and always ready to help you with anything you might need. Even though I am not a regular guest I've been treated like one since the moment I arrived.

Polwaththa Staff

Polwaththa Yoga and Meditation Retreat


The yoga retreat is a very new concept developed by Remon. His intention is to combine eco-tourism with yoga to provide a unique experience for those who are interested in nature, cultural and sustainable tourism, and spirituality.

Remon used to live in London, but since December 2018 he decided to move to Sri Lanka to work on his vision.

He writes on the Polwaththa yoga retreat packages:

“Polwaththa is Kandy’s new and hidden yoga retreat which is perfect for anyone looking to immerse themselves in nature and have a positive impact on the environment and its people”

“You will get involved in the Forest Healing Project by planting trees, visiting local homes, trekking, wild swimming, and having a local cooking lesson - making your yoga retreat a mindful experience throughout.”

”Your yoga sessions will also likely be accompanied by wildlife such as monkeys and deers which come by daily.”

So a typical Polwaththa yoga retreat package includes hikes or treks through nature, local villages visit, planting a tree, Sri Lankan cooking classes, and of course the yoga classes.

The program includes a yoga session in the morning and another yoga session or meditation session in the evening. The style of yoga will depend on the yoga teacher but it will usually be vinyasa, hatha or yin yoga.

At the moment they are offering 4 days, 8 days and 15 days packages starting at US$187.  This price includes a 10% discount valid only till November.

I'm the residential teacher till the end of August, so if you book a retreat during this time you'll be practicing hatha yoga with me in the mornings and meditation in the evenings.

Don't expect to see deers often though. They are very shy. You can hear them frequently, but so far I've seen them only a few times.

You can also take advantage of your stay at this yoga retreat to discover a bit more of Sri Lanka. They can organize for you a trek to the famous Knuckles mountains, or day tours to Kandy, Dambulla, Sigiriya, and Wasgamuwa.

If you are a solo traveler this could be fun to do with other retreat guests.


The yoga hall


Like I said before, the yoga retreat is a very new concept. The yoga hall was built only in mid-June and the first yoga retreat packages have been promoted since July.

Polwaththa Yoga Hall


The yoga hall is located in a beautiful and quiet area of their land. In the evenings though, sometimes you can hear from far the prayers from the local temples.

Polwaththa Yoga Hall

The hall is spacious, I think it can fit comfortably more than fifteen people, and it is completely surrounded by trees. You actually need to do a ten-minute hike through the forest to reach the yoga hall.

So if you are into hiking and yoga you will love this place for sure.


Retreat location and facilities


The place is absolutely fantastic.

Before arriving I was a bit nervous. I had no idea what to expect. It is hard to predict how you'll feel in a new destination by watching a few pictures online, and I was planning to stay here for a couple of months.

But as soon as I arrived I felt very welcome and comfortable, although I arrived in the night. You know, sometimes you feel lost when you arrive at a new place when it is dark.

The next morning, when I got to see the property, I realized how beautiful this place is. In whichever direction you look you see nothing but trees. How wonderful is that?

They have fifteen lodges or cabanas spread around the property. They are made of wood, clay bricks or a combination of both.

Polwaththa Wood Cabanas

Polwaththa Clay Bricks Cabanas

The cabanas are not luxurious, they are rather basic but comfortable.  This is a rustic environment where the emphasis is on enjoying the beauty in nature.

There is plenty of space between each cabana. You can pretty much see one or two cabanas at a time. You need to walk all around the property to see them all, so they are very private.

All the cabanas have a balcony which you could use to practice meditation and yoga on your own if you wish.

In the main area of the eco-lodge, they have the dining hall, the kitchen, an open kitchen for the cooking classes, the community shop, and a nice place to chill, read a book or play games.

Dining hall

Kitchen for cooking classes

chilling area

games corner

My cabana


I love the cabana I was given. It is absolutely perfect. It's simple but it has everything that I might need.

What I love the most about it is the little terrace outside. I've been using it every single day to do my yoga practice.

clay brick cabana

The room is a bit dark, but that's not a problem since I spent most of my time at the terrace doing long practices.

Inside cabana

Oh, I can't describe how good it feels to practice yoga and meditation with this amazing view.

View from my cabana

Imagine listening to the birds, to the wind blowing through the trees or observing monkeys and giant squirrels jumping from tree to tree, while at the same time you are practicing yoga...

Priceless!

And what a luxury to practice pranayama in this environment. The air must be so pure and full of prana.

One thing that I like about these cabanas (at least the brick ones) is that they seem to be almost perfectly sealed. Nothing really gets inside, although there are not that many bugs anyway.

The roof in all the cabanas is made of metal sheets. This means that there is not much space for bugs to hide or to build their nests inside your room.

Well, I do have a gecko in my room, but he is more than welcome.

The only problem with this kind of roof is that when it rains it can get very loud, but I choose that ten times instead of bugs in my room, lol.

No bugs, really?


To be honest, I was a bit worried about living in the jungle. That was mainly because Remon asked emphatically, "Do you have experience living and working in the jungle?"

That sounded a bit scary. I thought, "What am I getting into?" I imagined snakes and spiders everywhere.

To my surprise, I've hardly seen bugs here, not even mosquitoes. Ants are inevitable though.

I asked Remon before arriving about the mosquito situation in the evenings. He said, "We don’t have many mosquitoes despite being in the jungle."

Not many mosquitoes? I have heard that countless times during my travels around Asia. I usually roll my eyes and think, "Yeah, right!"

But to my surprise, this was true.

The first couple of days while I was practicing yoga early in the morning in my veranda, I saw no mosquitoes at all. I was like, "Where the heck are they?!" Lol.

The third day though, they appeared. A couple of mosquitoes visited me during my practice. Then I thought, "Aha, now they have found me!"

I imagined that from that moment on they would come in hundreds like they usually do. I'm like nectar for mosquitos. Lol.

But you know what, they didn't.

It has usually been one or two mosquitoes and somedays no mosquitoes at all. And I've been doing my meditation in that terrace very early, around 5:30 am, and also in the evenings around 6pm, with no problem at all.

I've also not had to use the mosquito net over my bed to sleep at night!

Remon told me that usually there are more bugs when it rains.

He was right.

During my first two weeks it was very dry, but then one day it started raining heavily.

After the rain passed, as I was walking from my cabana towards the restaurant, I noticed a massive scorpion on my path. The largest scorpion I've ever seen. It was as big as my hand!

Giant Sri Lankan Scorpion!

Then I saw another one, and another one. In total, I saw four giant scorpions in one day!

But the next day they all disappeared. I never saw them again. They just came out with the first rain.

The staff also told me that leeches normally come the next day after the first rain. So far I haven't seen any. I'm checking my legs all the time. Lol.

Now, of course, this doesn't mean that you'll never find bugs or small animals around, or in your cabana. Remember, you are still living in the jungle.

Some guests told me they had frogs in their bathroom, and I heard a group found a snake in their cabana. But that was a very rare case.

The weather


I have been really surprised to see almost no mosquitos and very few bugs. I know they spray in the cabanas something against the ants, but I think it mainly has to do with the climate.

Like Remon mentioned in his mail, "Temperatures drop to about 23 C which is a little too cold for these pests."

In their retreat page it says:

“Polwaththa offers a pristine environment with average day temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius and night temperatures of 22 degrees Celsius with hardly any mosquitoes”

I was in Arugam Bay, on the east coast of Sri Lanka, for a couple of weeks before coming to Polwaththa. The heat there during the season is almost unbearable.

I had trouble sleeping at night, but once I arrived at this yoga retreat I felt so much better. The weather here is very pleasant.

At least this has been my experience during the month of July. I don't know about the rest of the year.


The food


OMG, the food... it's so good. Best Sri Lankan food ever!

The chef is really amazing. It seems that he knows an infinite variety of dishes. Even after more than three weeks, I'm still being surprised with new delicious dishes that I've never seen before.

Best Rice and Curry Ever

They offer veg and non-veg Sri Lankan food which all the guests love, but now that they are starting the yoga retreats I would suggest them to also offer more western friendly vegetarian food.

Usually, guests that come to the Eco-Lodge stay only for a couple nights, so having local food during this time is not a problem.

But the guests that come for the yoga retreats will stay for longer periods of time, around a week or so.

I know some foreigners might start struggling with local food after several days, regardless of how good it is.

I think the best would be to offer a western-style dinner, to have more variety and to go easy on people's belly.

They do have some options but they are a bit limited, like pasta, fish chips and salad, fried rice or fried noodles. I think that might not be enough for a yoga retreat.

A difficult year for Sri Lanka


Unfortunately, because of the terrorist attacks in April, tourism has been severely affected in Sri Lanka.

Although the situation has been perfectly fine even since May (I arrived in Sri Lanka mid of June and everything looked absolutely normal to me) many tourists decided to cancel their trips.

A lot of hotels and local businesses have been struggling this year because of this. I've seen it with my own eyes.

Now, imagine trying to promote a brand new yoga retreat under these circumstances.

So we haven't had any bookings so far but I am sure people will start to discover this yoga retreat soon. It has great potential, that's for sure.


My daily routine


This means that so far I have only been teaching yoga to the guests that come for the Polwaththa Eco-Lodge experience, but that doesn't happen every day.

Somedays I've been teaching twice a day, somedays once and somedays no classes at all.

Remon and his parents have been worrying about me. They think that I might be getting bored.

They often tell me, "Feel free to go out. Go for a hike or visit Kandy whenever you want." Lol. They don't know me. I always have so much to do.

I've been surely taking advantage of that terrace, especially considering that there are not that many mosquitoes.

I've been practicing meditation, asanas, and pranayama for hours each day, sometimes even twice a day if I had no classes that day.

Meditation in nature

And let me tell you, nothing beats practicing meditation out in the open without worrying so much about annoying insects.

So living here has been like doing my own yoga retreat. I can't complain.

The rest of the time I've continued doing what I love: working on my blog and studying yoga philosophy.

Of course, it would be far better though if we had some yoga retreat guests. I can't wait to share my experience with them. That would make my days truly complete.


Polwaththa Contact Details


For more information about the yoga retreat packages, or to send them any inquiries, you can contact them directly via their bookyogaretreats page (affiliate link).

If you find this information helpful please feel free to use this link to make your booking.  You'll be supporting me in creating more free content like this.  It's a win-win situation.

Address
Polwaththa Yoga & Meditation Retreat
69/1 Wepathana, Gomagoda
20184 Digana
SRI LANKA

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Hiking and Yoga Retreat Kandy

Before you go


So there you go, this has been my experience so far living in this yoga retreat in the Sri Lankan jungle.

If you love yoga, nature, trekking or hiking, and immersing yourself in the local culture, then I would definitely recommend you to visit this yoga retreat.

Do not forget to bring a good rain jacket, hiking shoes, and a water bottle. You'll be able to refill your bottle as often as you might need. You can find an extensive packing list here.

I wrote that packing list thinking of yoga retreats in India, but it also works for Sri Lanka.

You can also find visit 7 Unique Yoga Retreats in Sri Lanka for Every Budget for other great alternatives around Sri Lanka.

Before you go do not forget to subscribe to my newsletter so you can follow me on my yoga journey.

Once you subscribe you'll be able to download my free meditation e-book. Thanks for your support.

2 comments:

  1. Happened to read your elaborate post about yoga and meditation at a retreat i srilanka. You seem to have enjoyed your time there.How about planning something like that here at Goa too. You may find lot of such retreats happening here at Goa too.Wish you best of luck and times.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vinod, I am still here in this beautiful retreat, and yes, I am enjoying my time here. I hope at some point do something in Goa, that's for sure. Thank you.

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