Huzur Vadisi

»Peaceful valley«

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Huzur Vadisi is Turkish for ‘peaceful valley’ and this dedicated retreat space certainly lives up to its name, cradled within the mountains that slope gently into the Mediterranean. The three acres of rambling green are home to art, trees, wildlife and yurts (not an exotic animal, but instead a kind of luxury tent that is the mainstay of accommodation here). Famous and infamous teachers bring their students here to soak up the sun, the clean air and the almost-tangible tranquility that Huzur Vadisi radiates.

We normally shy away from including venue-only retreats on our site. It’s not easy to guarantee that every course and every teacher that books time in a venue is worthy of recommendation. In Huzur Vadisi’s case, despite the fact that it does not have its own teachers - or perhaps because of it - that recommendation can be given with surety. The owners have focused on creating a space that is open only to yoga retreat-leaders of the highest caliber, while dedicated staff work efficiently behind the scenes to prepare gourmet meals, tend the rambling gardens, and maintain the elegant and luxurious accommodations. From the Yin and Yang Yoga of high-profile teacher Simon Low to the fluid and graceful Scaravelli-based style of former dancer Catherine Annis, there is a retreat to suit all tastes.

All retreats run for a single week and begin on a Tuesday. This makes the total stay Monday to Monday, easing the transition for guests who are predominantly from the UK and catch the chartered flights that run between Britain and the nearest airport to Huzur Vadisi. Yoga for all retreats is held in the large, open shala with a cool tile floor and shady vines that provide the perfect level of comfort in the hotter months.

The yoga style varies according to the strengths of the teacher taking the retreat. Huzur Vadisi is a frequent residence of yoga leaders in styles ranging from classical Hatha to the physically intense Bikram. Retreat leaders tend to return here with their groups, and full details of each course are always kept updated on the center’s site. The common factor of all retreats is the extended experience of the teachers and the world-class level of yoga taught. Almost all retreats are adaptable to varying skill levels and some guests have reported that a visit here was their first experience of yoga of any type. The first of many experiences, as it’s hard not to develop a love for the craft when it is introduced in an environment like this one.

As well as pure yoga retreats, there are also some interesting combinations. A good example is the Yoga and Creative Writing Retreat, designed to unlock creativity and inspire the Muse to visit established and aspiring writers. Like all the other retreats, this runs for a full week and includes meals and accommodation.

Arriving on the property is an experience that produces an immediate sense of welcome and happiness. The cool green shadows mix easily with the artistry and sunlight of the property that has been lovingly created as a purely-yoga space. Although there is a small studio cottage available to stay in, and a summerhouse that is open to the elements, the chances are that guests will be unpacking their bags in one of the twelve yurts. Yurt is the Turkish word for home, although the native Mongolians (who invented these wooden-framed circular structures centuries ago) call them Gers. Despite often being characterized as tents, these are far from the flimsy nylon shelters that most of us think of. These are solid and elegant structures, complete with large soft beds and electrical outlets. There is an opening in the top, which is traditionally used to let smoke from the open fires escape. There are no fires to be found in the yurts of Huzur Vadisi though, and the top opening (sometimes called The Eye of Heaven) is now used for ventilation on warm summer nights and stargazing, which is easy in a location that has zero light pollution. Yurts can be booked privately but are more often reserved in a twin-share arrangement.

There are no private bathrooms at Huzur Vadisi, so showering and toilet arrangements are handled in ablution blocks. There are a few of these around the property, and they’re all clean and easy to access; but this does mean that the retreat experience is not a five-star one - more like a holiday campground for yogis. This doesn’t seem to detract from the overall experience as it is almost impossible to find a negative review of Huzur Vadisi. This is notable as being extremely rare - even the best centers have at least one unhappy guest. This phenomenal record may be a large part of the reason for the high number of returning guests, many of whom sample different retreats from the ‘menu’ each year.

The other kind of menu, the foodie kind, is a colorful and deeply nutritious array of tasty vegetarian treats. It is unlikely that a guest will eat the same dish twice during any stay here, and although meat options are available for group bookings, it’s normal even for omnivores to not miss meat at any point in the week. The head chef Sevgi combines classical Turkish fare with rustic ‘village recipes’ to produce delicious food using entirely local produce. Three meals a day are included in all retreat prices, but alcoholic drinks - available on the honor system from the bar - are extra and can be paid for just before departure.

Down time between sessions of yoga, meditation, silent forest walks or the occasional Tai Chi class can be spent in one of the areas of the property that call out to be lounged in. The pool is 40 feet long, certainly big enough for a few cooling laps or just a paddle. There are plenty of hammocks around the retreat, and the Kösk is something of a gazebo, filled with low-lying, well-padded benches and cushions. As a small aside, two new venues have been opened by Huzur Vadisi - the beautifully named Suleyman’s Garden (ask about the history of that one, it’s a lovely story!) and The Pomegranate. Great news for anyone who has been disappointed by how quickly retreats become fully booked.

Huzur Vadisi really has it all: World-class yoga for all skill levels, perfect facilities, gourmet food and welcoming hosts, all packaged up in the lush green of the Turkish mountains and within a short drive of the azure Mediterranean. The word idyllic was invented for places like this.

About the area: Gocek

Gocek is a small town of around 4,500 people. Nestled on the south-west of Turkey, its ideal Mediterranean positioning makes it a major port for Blue Cruises. The influx of day-tripping tourists in summer, as well as the individual yachties, boosts the local numbers to well over 7,000 at any given time during the height of the season. Winters are mild in Gocek, dropping to 14 degrees C (57F), and the summers are hot, often reaching 38 degrees C (100F). The sea breezes are welcome on summer evenings, cooling the many visitors that can be found sipping cold drinks on the terraces of the cafes and bars that line the shore.

Image credit: Huzur Vadisi

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