Last updated March 25, 2023
Meditation, breathwork, retreats and other practices that encourage mindfulness are being praised for their benefits more and more often in Western culture. And with good reason.
Rituals that bring an expanded awareness of self through an increased sense of moment-to-moment presence have been explored as a means to bring about positive personal change for centuries—and we are only just touching the surface.
Modern science is catching up and showing what many practitioners have known for years. Meditation and mindfulness make a difference in the quality of life for everyone, young and old.
The mental and emotional effects, including decreased levels of stress, anxiety and depression are cited frequently as benefits. These are indeed impressive and alone worth cultivating a practice.
Studies have shown that meditation reduces the size of the amygdala—the brain’s fear center—while strengthening the prefrontal cortex. Research reveals that having extra brain cells in this region can boost our ability to make rational decisions.
Meditation Benefits: Known and Lesser-So
However, by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” branch of our autonomous nervous system through conscious relaxation of the mind and the body, we also invite in a host of lesser-known mental and physical benefits.
These include increased resilience to pain, an increased sense of social connection and a stronger immune system, just to start.
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It is a way of entering into the quiet that is already there.”Deepak Chopra
And though most of us are aware of at least a few of these benefits, it’s sometimes still a struggle to find the time for regular meditation practice.
It can be hard to find the space-—be it a physical space away from others, the mental space or the emotional distance from our challenges—to cultivate these practices in our day-to-day lives with consistency.
The best time to adopt a new habit is when we consciously create the space to do so. As many travelers know, getting out of your routine on a wellness vacation can provide just the space you need.
Embark on a Meditation Retreat
Taking a vacation that incorporates exercises in mindfulness—whether they be formal meditation techniques or simply unplugging from technology and becoming consciously immersed in your reality—can help set in motion changes you can incorporate into your life when you return home.
Many meditation retreat destinations worldwide offer the perfect setting to explore mindfulness through both long and short meditation breaks.
Some offer meditation instruction, yoga and martial arts classes-—excellent forms of moving meditation-—while others simply provide a nurturing atmosphere and the freedom of unstructured time to allow you to explore the practice on your own.
“Meditation will not carry you to another world, but it will reveal the most profound and awesome dimensions of the world in which you already live. Calmly contemplating these dimensions and bringing them into the service of compassion and kindness is the right way to make rapid gains in meditation as well as in life.”Zen Master Hsing Yun
Here, our top picks for meditation retreats to find your inner balance and cultivate your lifelong practice.
1. Suncadia Resort — Washington, U.S.
Go off the grid in this Pacific Northwest resort just 80 miles east of Seattle. Let your mind settle as you count the stars on a crisp, clear night outdoors in the fresh, pine-scented air.
Nature reigns supreme here with hiking one of the main attractions in this area. With over 40 miles of exploratory trails, guests can practice forest bathing along the lush Cascades through meadows and rivers.
This all-season mountain resort also boasts biking trails, championship golf courses and world-class spa treatments.
Join the wellness team for daily sessions that inspire you to integrate nature into your experience. Outdoor activities include breathwork walks, a tea ceremony with yoga and meditation, and guided wilderness meditation.
2. YO1 Health Resort — New York, U.S.
The magic of the mountain air. The promise of a healthier and happier self. YO1 is a luxurious wellness resort promoting holistic Indian healing practices through Ayurveda, naturopathy and yoga.
Through traditional healing therapies, YO1 connects mind and body with life-changing results through a custom blend of therapies coupled with inner reflection.
No matter where you are on your wellness journey, you will embark on a new path toward lasting health—incorporating meditation into your wellness journey with naturopathy, yoga, acupuncture and nutrition counseling.
Facilities include a state-of-the-art fitness center, an indoor pool, a health museum, educational wellness speakers and lectures, scenic nature trails and bikes for guest use on the property.
3. The Resort at Longboat Key Club — Florida, U.S.
For those seeking a beach experience, this full-service resort on exclusive Longboat Key provides the perfect spot to soak up some sun. Plus it doubles as a meditation destination.
Offering moonlit meditation classes and sunrise yoga on the beach, you’re sure to leave feeling centered. Stay nourished with farm-to-table meals, and spend your days on the water kayaking or paddleboarding.
The Longboat spa offers an oasis of relaxation with a full menu of island-inspired wellness services. While the 9.5-mile island walking path is the perfect starting point to help build healthy, mindful habits into your day.
4. Le Monastère Des Augustines — Quebec City, Canada
For nearly four centuries, the Augustinian Sisters devoted themselves to caring for body and soul. Today, Le Monastère des Augustines still honors their mission as a healing sanctuary of renewal and transformation.
The 17th-century monastery-turned-hotel is located in the heart of Old Québec and is a unique refuge for serenity and self-discovery. After a morning meditative walk, breakfast is in silence as a contemplative practice of nourishment and gratitude.
With contemporary wellness programming that focuses on balancing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, Le Monastère invites guests of all faiths to connect in their own personal and private way.
Le Monastère offers packages designed to promote rest and slowing down for self-discovery. Guests also get the opportunity to learn about the rich heritage of the Augustinian Sisters.
Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak.”Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati
5. Honor’s Haven Retreat — New York, U.S.
This beautiful property in the Hudson Valley is nestled amongst 200 acres of lush gardens and rolling hills, surrounding a freshwater lake.
Honor’s Haven seeks to offer an environment for holistic wellness with a mission of being a place for an authentic human connection and integrative personal development.
Take time for mindful reflection while you cleanse your body of toxins, awaken your natural healing power and gain enhanced self-awareness in the backdrop of the luscious Catskill Mountains.
Whichever retreat you choose, you’ll have access to daily wellness activities and classes. Bonus: rooms offer exceptional views of the mountainside, lake or formal gardens.
6. Sol y Luna Lodge and Spa — Peru
Peru is a country steeped in spirituality, and many travelers visit in the hopes of cultivating a deeper connection to themselves and the world in the land of the ancient Incans.
The Sol y Luna (Sun and Moon), a sustainable lodge situated on more than 32 pristine acres in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is the perfect retreat to practice mindfulness.
With yoga and Tai Chi on offer, both excellent forms of moving meditation, fresh organic food from their garden, spa treatments and tour options to visit the sacred site of Machu Picchu, there is no limit to the ways you can connect with yourself mindfully.
You’ll stay in one of forty-three private and cozy “casitas” made of local stone surrounded by gardens filled with native flora. All casitas face the Andes Mountains where the Incas believed their gods dwelled.
Sol y Luna profits finance the Sol y Luna Association which pursues inclusion and equality through education for the children of the Sacred Valley along with sustainable work opportunities for local families.
7. Casa Palopo — Guatemala
A long winding journey up the mountains will bring you to Lake Atitlán in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Casa Palopó is a private home-turned-boutique hotel that offers the lake and its magnificent volcanoes as the perfect backdrop to inspire your meditative state. Palopó is tiny, so if it’s solitude you enjoy, this spot will suit.
Seven spacious rooms are uniquely decorated with contemporary and indigenous Guatemalan artwork with cool Italian linens draping across the beds. The private terraces are furnished with wooden lounges, creating the perfect nook to absorb the views.
They also offer boat tours to visit the other small villages. These are worth the trip to see the different characteristics of each village.
This retreat, a destination in and of itself, combines the luxe lake life with abundant opportunities for connecting inward.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”Jon Kabat-Zinn
8. Lapazul Retreat Center — Costa Rica
Imagine a vacation that leaves you transformed while also enriching your mind and igniting your passion for life.
From the moment you step into your room your wellness journey begins at this luxe retreat center. Awake each morning to the smells of locally sourced coffee and make each day your own.
Connect with your body on the open-air yoga shala overlooking the central Pacific Coast. Recharge with a massage using your own personalized blend of essential oils. Or try your hand at preparing the local Costa Rican cuisine.
Whether you prefer active movement or quiet reflection, Lapazul cultivates fascinating activities that awaken the senses and stimulate the mind to the chorus of jungle sounds while you recharge, rejuvenate and renew in Costa Rican luxury.
9. The Legian — Bali
The “Island of the Gods” is the perfect place to explore a mindful approach. A warm Balinese welcome awaits guests at The Legian, as well as morning yoga and the shores of Seminyak Beach.
The beachfront Studio Suite offers stylish, spacious accommodation opening up onto a beautiful terrace with a large daybed—ideal for contemplation.
Let yourself be lulled into a state of relaxation and observe how your thoughts melt away and bring space for new ideas.
A visit to Ubud, the hill town made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love is a worthy day trip. It will almost certainly live up to your expectations and offers countless opportunities to experience yoga and meditation.
This is the authentic heart of captivating Bali. Attractions range from the natural to the divine with black- and white-sand beaches, holy volcanic mountains and emerald green paddy fields.
10. The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa — South Africa
If you are searching for luxury, this South African retreat with its choice of elegant suites in the main house or private garden villas will not disappoint.
At the heart of Johannesburg lies the enchanting Saxon Hotel. A unique blend of history and five-star service, the Saxon sits on ten acres of indigenous gardens, providing a peaceful retreat like no other.
Let go of your to-do list and let the friendly staff take care of all your needs.
Enjoy South African meals made with handpicked ingredients from their rooftop organic garden. Guests can also find respite at the Saxon Spa and Studio.
This secluded haven offers ancient and modern healing techniques and aromatherapy to promote a holistic sense of vitality, energy and balance.
11. Alta Mare by Andronis — Greece
The Santorini seaside lifestyle offers you a chance to unwind and explore your body, mind and spirit.
Lulled by the light breeze of the Aegean Sea, Alta Mare by Andronis is discreet luxury, with traditional architecture and breathtaking views of the crescent island of Santorini. The perfect haven to relax and read, contemplate and daydream.
The open-plan “retreat suite” offers guests privacy, beautifully and simply furnished. The large private patio with hot tub has unrivaled views of the dramatic volcanic cliffside making it the ideal hideaway.
A short sail from the hotel takes you to small villages, Venetian lighthouses and the volcanic isles of Palaia and Nea Kameni. These islands are where you can swim in the healing sulfurous waters of the hot springs.
12. The Gangtey Lodge — Bhutan
Bhutan remains one of the world’s most mysterious countries. Known for its monks and temples, this country provides the perfect respite from day-to-day stressors.
The Gangtey Lodge, in a remote glaciated valley of the same name, delivers an authentic meditation retreat experience in one of the world’s most undiscovered meditation destinations.
A must-try mindful treatment is a Bhutanese ritual in their hot stone bathhouse. In a specially prepared Bhutanese Dotsho, or hot stone bath, fresh spring water is used and river stones are collected and heated to warm the bath.
The experience combines ancient Bhutanese medicinal practices with unobstructed views of the magnificent Gangtey Valley. Follow it up with a massage, foot scrub and a cozy robe. You may just notice your thoughts slowing to match the quiet way of life.
Whether it’s a weekend staycation or a longer vacation in an exotic locale, meditation retreats offer the time and literal space to unplug, bring it all in and let it all go. You’ll return home with a better grasp of your inner wisdom and feel more rejuvenated than ever before.