Ready for some Rejuvenation?
After some hectic and stressful period I was longing for some relaxation and a place where I can energize again and at the same time come back to my inner peace. Nowadays you can find so many offers for Ayurvedic and/or Yoga retreats. So to find the right place is a challenge as that will be the key to your whole wellbeing experience.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is a system of medicine with historical roots in India. It is actually one of the world´s oldest holistic (“whole body”) healing system. Ayurveda is basically an alternative medicine that is improving the body health and a person’s wellbeing and life balance (balance between mind and body) in general. The therapies and various kind of treatment plans are using special diets (mainly vegetarian, some add occasionally fish dishes), herbal massages and yogic breathing.
Who should do Ayurveda?
In general everybody can go for an Ayurvedic treatment. Depending on the package that you have booked, you will get a certain number of treatments and a special diet plan. Before you start your program an Ayurvedic doctor will do a full check-up and consultation for you and depending on your body and mind constitution an individual treatment program will be set up for you.
What can I expect?
After your individual treatment program is set-up a detoxification of your body will start. If you really want to have a full detox with all benefits you should go for the full 21-days Panchakarma treatment. A 14-days program can only give you a glance into that and everything below won´t have any proper benefits on you at all.
However don´t expect an Ayurveda package to be a Spa holiday – I think that a lot of people are going into an Ayurveda holiday with the wrong expectations and insufficient background knowledge.
Your body will get a deep detoxification, so depending on how much toxicated your are, the first days won´t be easy – for some even miserable. You will get a lot of detoxifying massages, steam bathes and you will have to drink a lot of warm ghee (clarified butter). Yeap, that all doesn´t sound like your dream holiday for sure and also the special diet might not be everybody’s taste – especially for westerners all the used spices and ingredients are unknown terrain.
However once you went through the tough days – you will feel so much lighter, healthier and balanced and you can really enjoy the rest of the program. A warning for all with long hair: the massages are wonderful, but you will be bathed in oil with each treatment – so expect to have that oil in your hair over your whole stay and beyond that.
Where can I book?
The most authentic places for a proper Ayurveda program you will find in India or Sri Lanka. You can do your own web research for that – but as mentioned be aware that not all what is sold under the Ayurveda flag is a real Ayurveda experience. Your chosen property should have a proper Ayurveda centre inclusive of well-experienced doctors and treatment staff. If you don´t bother about a nice Resort surrounding and you really only focus on the Ayurveda Treatment itself you can also opt for a proper Ayurvedic clinic – but especially for Ayurveda beginners that might be a too strong experience.
Rather than getting lost in all the different offers on the web, you might also choose to give the planning of your trip in the hands of a professional travel agent. In most of the countries you can find nowadays specialized Wellness/Ayurveda travel agencies.
I have booked my stay with Sugarcane Elephants – a Dubai based agent, owned by a lovely Indian lady, Josephine – who was very helpful in finding the right property and package. All her hotel partners (not only for Ayurveda, but also for Wellness, Yoga or just Relax Holidays in general) are handpicked and you can expect a very personalized service www.sugarcaneelephants.com
Our Hotel- The Swaswara
As I didn´t want to do a full Ayurveda program this time, but was more into relaxation and yoga we opted for the amazing Swaswara Hotel (www.cghearth.com/SwaSwara) – however this hotel would be also a perfect choice for a full Panchakarma package with its excellent Ayurveda centre.
Swaswara is offering many different packages from the full Ayurveda programs to easy-going Wellness options. In our SwaWellbeing Package (we stayed 8 nights, but this package is already available from 3 nights onwards) we had all meals included plus airport transfers, doctor consultation, Ayurvedic massages and other Wellness treatments, activity program and the choice of a variety of daily yoga and meditation classes.
The Swaswara Hotel is located in a peaceful and natural surrounding. Closest international airport would be GOA – from where it is around 3 hours drive towards the south. As roads are bumpy and it takes a while to reach, it might be a good idea to stay one night in Goa if you come from a long international flight.
Once we left the main road after the 3 hours drive we entered the small city of Gokarna and found ourselves in a rural environment surrounded by vast salt fields.
The Swaswara is then a further 10 minutes drive away from the main village, right at the side of the picturesque Om Beach. You won´t find any other hotel resort here, but only small backpacker hostels and B&B’s.
The arrival into the hotel
The Resort is stretched over a huge area and all houses and public areas are built in the typical low-rise architecture covered with wooden roofs. The reception area is lofty and you will experience a warm welcome from the reception team. They will briefly introduce you to the Resort and all its facilities. As we arrived early our room was not ready, but they did their best to speed up the check-in for us.
During the time of our stay (which was shortly before the low season) there was some maintenance work going on as they were renovating the wooden roofs. We were hardly disturb by this work, but we found the work rather impressive as this has to be done every year! as otherwise the roofs would be leaking during the raining season.
Here you can see the workers removing the old roof leaves from the reception hall.
Will be one of the highlights of your stay – as you will be accommodated in a rustic bungalow with an open patio. Or better to say the whole bungalow is mainly open-air including your bathroom. During the day you can sit in your in-room garden and enjoy a cup of tea with your freshly harvested in-room lemon grass.
What a wonderful experience to have a shower in the moon light or during sunrise.
The only area that is completely covered and with AC is the sleeping room.
With all that open-air features you will for sure ask now – and what about the animals and creepy crawlies that have open access to the room as well???? I must say – surprisingly we didn’t have much visitors around except a cute little frog that showed up every night in our bath room and a funky group of monkeys that invaded our rooftop one day and had a peep-show on my mum while she had a shower. Unfortunately I was in the pool that time and my mum not quick enough for a picture 😊
Ah and for all the digital addicts among you – also in that aspect you will get detoxed as there will be no wifi (and also no TV) in your room. This is done by purpose to give you time for your personal reflection and inner peace. But also the management of course knows that you can´t do a complete social media suicide – so they have mercy with their guests and provide free wifi in the reception area.
The pool and garden area
As already mentioned the Resort area is huge and you will be surrounded with a lush tropical vegetation. Around the reception area you will find the different bungalow sections, the Ayurveda centre, the Yoga Shala and Meditation Hut plus the lovely pool area.
As the area is huge and hotel guests are engaged with their different treatments, the public areas felt peaceful and often we were on our own (however not sure how this will be during high season).
The garden area is beautiful with all kind of different flowers and trees.
You can also find a huge variety of bird species here and the hotel offers one time per week a guided bird watching walk through the hotel premises.
My favourite place was however the Meditation Hill with its beautiful view over Om Beach. Although I am usually not an early bird I scrawled out of bed every morning to experience the daily Pranayama Breathing meditation in this magic spot.
Another magic spot was the huge Bodhi Tree – which spent lots of shadow for energizing yoga sessions.
A garden like this needs of course lots of grooming and attention – here you can see two of the gardeners of the friendly Swaswara team.
In terms of the fauna you will mainly spot different kind of birds and the already mentioned naughty monkeys. This one doesn’t want to get his picture taken.
The Ayurveda Centre
As mentioned earlier the hotel has an integrated Ayurveda centre, which is super professional and in a relaxed ambiance. Regardless of your package you will always get a doctor consultation after arrival and then your treatment schedule is set afterwards. The centre was always super clean and we enjoyed every single treatment we got. The massages were divine and you felt like in heaven.
On my second day I developed unfortunately some allergy, but also that was treated professionally by the doctor and with some herbal pills the rush was gone in a few days and the proceeding treatments were adjusted accordingly.
The Yoga sessions were another highlight for me as they were conducted from super professional and kind yoga teachers in peaceful surroundings.
My favourite as mentioned were the Morning Meditation sessions on the Meditation Hill. They were so peaceful with the sound of the ocean in the background and the salty sea breeze playing with my hair. I really loved it!
Afterwards I usually joined the Morning Yoga class which was open for all levels and a mix of breathing and traditional Yoga exercises. They were all held in the Yoga Shala – a lofty practise room with lots of light and the sounds of the nature around. In the afternoon some more advanced Yoga sessions took place here as well.
Further you had the choice of a couple of other Meditation and Yoga Nidra classes all held in the Meditation Hut by the pool.
The hotel has one restaurant at the main building where the majority of all meals are held plus a beach restaurant which is used on some days during the week for specific lunches and candle light dinners with live music entertainment.
Food I must say was excellent!!!! They used the freshest ingredients and combined the local cuisine with some international cross-over features. Here are some tasty examples:
However I must say that we were the lucky ones as we were booked on the Wellbeing Package – so we could choose an a-la carte breakfast (fruits and then a choice of eggs/pancakes/porridge) and always had a three-course lunch and dinner with further options. All meals were either vegetarian or fish dishes. When you are on the full Ayurvedic programs your diet will be much more restricted and we therefore earned some jealous looks from our fellow diners when our feast was served.
In terms of drinks you mainly get warm water or herbal tea during all meals – which is a basic of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. But in our case we also could order fruit juices and coconut water plus coffee.
If you want to learn about the Ayurvedic food and diet plan in more details, you can also join one of the free cooking classes of the hotel. A great opportunity to bring some knowledge home with you and integrate some Ayurveda in your daily life back home. Classes are held in the main hotel kitchen.
Through a small security gate you can access Om Beach directly from the hotel, however the hotel is not providing any sunbeds or umbrellas on the beach. But within the hotel beach garden (before the gate) they do. The beach is ideal for sunset or sunrise walks and a dip in the Ocean.
During weekends and in the later afternoon the beach is popular with locals as well – all of them very friendly, but if you are a woman on your own some might get too friendly with you and also some of the beach vendors might chase you. So be straight with them from the beginning and tell them that you are not interested and they should leave you in peace – I know for some of you that might sound harsh, but otherwise you really will have a hard time.
Along the beach you can find a couple of small restaurants and cheap hostels. If you wanna cheat and zip in a beer that’s your place as well 😊
If you wanna explore some other beaches around, you can also hire one of the boats waiting in the Bay for costumers – but bargain well on your price!
Some of the beaches can be reached also by foot, but you should wear proper sport shoes as you will have to climb along some rocks. The hotel will provide you with a map of different trails and if you are by your own and some hotel employee is available they don’t mind coming with you.
The beach is also popular with some four-legged locals.
Anyone for volleyball?
The Activity Program
For all the guests who like to be a bit active and explore the surroundings there is also an activity program that is included in the price. Activities include bird watching walk, cooking classes, painting and pottery classes and one time per week a half-day excursion to the nearby village of Gokarna – which is home to a famous Hindu Temple.
The tour starts with a boat ride from the hotel to see the nearby beaches. Like Paradise Beach below.
They will then drop you at the village and your guide will take you on a walk from the beach to the main temple.
Yes below is India too – unfortunately pollution and poverty are still a big issue in this huge country and when writing about a trip to India you should not ignore these facts – even in the most beautiful places.
On the village walk you will be guided through three different temples (ladies should have their knees, shoulders and head covered). One of them is the mystic snake temple, however you won’t see any live snakes there.
What you will see a lot in India are cows. As they are considered as holy, you will see them everywhere and nobody will do any harm to them. Sometimes they give quite funny picture opportunities, but you also have to mind where you are walking as you will find their “droppings” everywhere.
From the city pond......
.......we then took a Tuk-Tuk taxi to the Farmers Market, which is held one time per week in the village. It is quite an interesting visit there to see the colourful offerings of the local farmers.
Salads and herbs sold literally from the roadside.
Freshly made sugarcane juice is a lovely refreshment on hot summer days. The juice has many health benefits as well and can be even consumed from diabetics.
Afterwards we returned back to the hotel, right on time for our next Ayurvedic treatments.
The Relaxed End
So we had a real fantastic stay at the Swaswara Hotel – we left more energized and relaxed than we have arrived. We enjoyed great food, professional treatments and real hospitality. Thumbs up for the Swaswara Team and for sure we will be coming again soon! We just need to get a little bit more stressed before 😊
bit more stressed before 😊