An escape for the soul: Eco retreats in Europe

India is the yoga capital of the world while Bali maybe perceived as the wellness abode globally. As Asia inherits its culture and heritage to join the bandwagon of wellness travel, Europe is not too far behind either.

Balance Holidays has launched a collection of eco-friendly and sustainable retreats in Europe, each offering a range of activities from yoga and mindfulness for stress reduction, to hiking and healthy eating for wellbeing. Not all sustainable retreats require sleeping on straw mats and live in the absence of luxury facilities.

Restoring the balance in sustainability and luxury, Balance Holidays takes the natural environment into consideration when planning retreats, ensuring their partner properties take measures such as using water efficient shower heads, having insulated glass windows, using non-chemical household products and fertilisers, reducing plastic waste and always serving locally sourced ingredients at all mealtimes.

A Treehouse Retreat

If you imagine wellness to be waking up in a lush forest, to the sound of the birds singing and the leaves whispering in the breeze each morning; then it is just that. This weekend yoga retreat offers a stay in tree houses furnished with all the comforts of a luxury hotel, including eco-friendly ozone treated Nordic hot tub on the private terrace. Built with the red cedar wood to guarantee it endures through time, the water is treated with UBO technology (bringing the use of chemicals down by 90% and ensuring efficient energy usage – a unique concept, respectful of the environment) for a rejuvenating bath.

The Tree Houses are conceptualised in total harmony with nature, respecting its flora and fauna. The trees that host the tree houses are always respected and the health of the oaks is furthermore monitored by an expert forest keeper so the dwelling can be adapted little by little as the tree grows.

The retreat uses ayurvedic recipes and healing herbs to provide high energy food at every meal in the dining rooms surrounded by vast oak trees, which once provided the impressive backdrop for the first original film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau.

Guests will be invited to experience the ancient ritual of forest bathing (often known as silvotherapy) for an entire afternoon, led by a dedicated nature healer, discovering the power of the trees and their magical properties, following shamanic rituals and ancient meditation techniques as well as some yogic practices (should weather conditions be unfavourable, an indoor workshop in basic reflexology and auto-massage techniques using the powerful essential oils from the local area will be held).

Yoga classes will be held at sunrise and sunset, within the castle, with views of the forest and green fields all around. The morning Ashtanga Vinyasa ritual, hosted by Ilaria Sgaravato (Happy Healthy Ila), will revitalise you through a dynamic flow, with focus on core and muscular strength. The evening practice will be deeper and slower with yin and nidra yoga elements and visualisation techniques to release emotional and physical pain, through the repetition of mantras and positive affirmations. A meditation class is offered at noon each day, integrating dancing meditation, music therapy, colour-chakra meditation and mantra singing.

Re-energise in Tuscany

Surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, and cypress trees in a historical eco-sustainable sanctuary in il Borro, dates back to 1254. Once the retreat of the Duke Amedeo of Savoy-Aosta, it is now owned by the Ferragamo family. Ferruccio Ferragamo restored it in 1993 preserving its traditions and history, whilst retaining ethical principles, using local labour and respecting the environment by making eco-sustainable choices.

This sustainable property respects the environment and uses renewable energy, natural fertilisers and no pesticides for its vineyards, olive grove, and gardens and also practises beekeeping. Everything produced on the estate is Certified Organic since 2015, including wine, olive oil, eggs, honey and all vegetables and fruits of the garden. The land is cultivated following the principles of the biologic and biodynamic agriculture. The soil of the vineyard is ploughed traditionally, with horses, to help the soil to regenerate itself preserving fertility.

Another objective of il Borro is to reduce the use of household chemical products, hence the kitchen utilises a unique ozone treatment system – a cleaning technique never before used in restaurant hospitality. Electric cars are used throughout the property and the aim is that the estate will be completely powered by its own renewable energy. Il Borro produces more energy than it consumes and the property is net zero-carbon emission. This is achieved through photovoltaic panels that contribute saving 930 tons of Co2 per year or 225 times the tour of the world or the amount of Co2 that 77.500 trees would absorb in one year.

Trek and bike through the surrounding countryside amidst the medieval village that was completely restored respecting the soul of the place. Take time to go riding through the beautiful Tuscan countryside around the property, exploring the vineyards and olive groves, with a delicious light picnic in the fields to follow. You will enjoy wholesome, healthy, flavourful dishes using ingredients from the Il Borro certified organic vegetable garden.

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