1. Feathered Pipe Ranch, Helena, Montana
Teacher and Yoga Journal cofounder Judith Hanson Lasater has been hosting yoga retreats at this spacious ranch since 1975. “It’s like summer camp for yogis,” she says: “Jaw-dropping scenery in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, magnificent food, fresh spring water, twice-daily yoga classes, and a week steeped in the silence of nature.” To pay respect to the sacred Native American land the retreat rests on, founder India Supera created the Feathered Pipe Foundation to help preserve ceremonial traditions of the Cree people. Feathered Pipe continues to foster humanitarian efforts that give life to new nonprofits while maintaining missions such as the Veterans Yoga Project and the Tibetan Children’s Education Foundation.
2. Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Stockbridge, Massachusetts
With an international network of 2,000 instructors teaching more than 700 programs to 30,000 guests a year, education is front and center at this verdant campus in the Berkshires. For the past decade, Kripalu has led the way in groundbreaking research on yoga and trauma in collaboration with experts from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
See also Style Profile: Kripalu Yoga
3. Sedona, Arizona
Sedona is known for spiritual vortexes—powerful energy centers where visitors can allegedly pick up on sacred frequencies. Healers and enlightenment seekers worldwide travel to its towering red-rock spires hoping to tap into higher consciousness. Each March, the three-day Sedona Yoga Festival draws thousands of practitioners with its lineup of 200 classes and performances by kirtan artists such as Johanna Beekman. Regulars tout an intimate setting where you’re likely to run into presenters (think ISHTA Yoga founder Alan Finger) in the halls, as well as dedicated workshops on trauma-informed yoga.
4. Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California
This cliff-side retreat opened in 1962 with a series of workshops on yoga and personal growth. Key counter-cultural figures such as Joan Baez and Joseph Campbell were among its early guests and lecturers. Today, renowned wellness leaders and yoga teachers like Andrew Weil, Dean Ornish, and Janet Stone share expertise on trending topics, including the energetics of consciousness and meditation as medicine.
5. Maui, Hawaii
A strong contemplative community and the island’s healthy lifestyle are among the draws that have led Ashtangis such as Nancy Gilgoff, David Williams, and Ram Dass to make their homes here. The Kahanu Garden in Hana is home to the Pi’ilanihale Heiau, the largest Heiau (shrines) in Polynesia and a place of worship dating back to the 13th century. Hawaii’s spiritual emphasis on nature makes it a destination for those seeking to feel the mana (spiritual energy) of the land.
6. Boulder, Colorado
Boulder’s vibrant mindfulness community has been growing since the 1970s when Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche—the 11th incarnation of the Trungpa Tulku—established Naropa University, a Buddhist liberal arts college, and Shambhala Mountain Center in a valley above town. While Rinpoche’s legacy has been rocked by scandal, Naropa and Shambhala remain pillars of Buddhist values and mindful practices. Senior yoga teachers Richard Freeman and Amy Ippoliti call Boulder home. Bonus: The Hanuman Festival, held each June, attracts top yoga educators and teachers such as Sreedevi Bringi and Seane Corn.
7. Los Angeles
Paramahansa Yogananda, one of the first Indian spiritual teachers to make his home in the West, called Los Angeles “the Benares of America” (Benares is another name for the Indian city of Varanasi) when he arrived in the 1920s. After setting up the Self-Realization Fellowship’s international headquarters atop Mount Washington, he opened a clifftop compound in Encinitas and a waterfall and shrine-studded campus on Sunset Boulevard where a portion of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi are laid to rest. Today, the Lake Shrine—with its waterfront meditation garden and gold lotus–topped temple where resident monks hold services and give lectures—remains an oasis for contemplation. LA’s robust Kundalini scene (Golden Bridge Yoga Studio, RAMA Institute in Venice) traces its roots back to 1969, when Yogi Bhajan started teaching the distinctive style on Melrose Avenue. Wanderlust headquarters in Hollywood is LA’s latest yoga hub, hosting fusion classes and workshops by wellness gurus such as Taryn Toomey and senior yoga teacher Annie Carpenter.
8. Salt Spring Centre of Yoga, British Columbia
In 1981, members of the Dharma Sara Satsang Society, a yoga community inspired by the teachings of Indian Ashtangi master and silent monk Baba Hari Dass, purchased a 69-acre patch of cedar forest and meadows on Salt Spring Island. Today, the property’s restored turn-of-the-century farmhouse is the longest-running yoga retreat center on Canada’s West Coast. Public offerings include monthly full-moon pujas (spiritual cleansings), while 10-week residential programs combine service (tending the on-site farm, preparing vegetarian meals) with asana and theory classes covering classic yoga texts.
9. Ojai, California
A bustling hub of ashrams, yoga centers, and spiritual retreats— and dubbed Shangri-La by locals (a nod to the surrounding valley’s cameo as the fictional utopia in the classic film Lost Horizon)—Ojai’s surrounding Topatopa and Sulphur mountains are what attracted Indian philosopher J. Krishnamurti in the 1920s. Today, his teachings continue via programs at the Krishnamurti Educational Center.
10. Chopra Center, Carlsbad, California
The palm-shaded Omni La Costa Resort & Spa may seem like an unlikely setting for the cutting-edge work of the Chopra Center’s Mind-Body Medical Group, but here, experts in hypnotherapy, integrative oncology, and pranic healing (a form of no-touch energy healing) combine holistic practices and Western medicine. Try one of their Perfect Health retreats where itineraries feature daily yoga and meditation, Ayurvedic meals, spa treatments, and medical consultations from Vedic educators and integrative-medicine experts.
11. New York City
New York City is home to some of Western yoga’s most notable teachers, including Eddie Stern, Genevieve Kapuler, Elena Brower, Dharma Mittra, Alison West, and Lauren Ash. “HealHaus in Brooklyn is my go-to haven for spiritual support,” says Ash, founder of mindful lifestyle brand Black Girl in Om. “The studio’s mission—to promote healing as a lifestyle—is a beautiful example of what it means to hold sustainable space and intentional presence for diverse people.” New York’s got everything from trendy new Y7 yoga—which utilizes heat, hip-hop music, and dark candle-lit rooms—to traditional Iyengar Yoga at the Iyengar Yoga Institute. And if you need a break from the city, head north 90 miles to the iconic Omega Institute—a wooded, 42-year-old health and wellness campus that sees more than 23,000 students a year.
See topic United States Yoga Travel
12. Elysia Yoga Convention, Aegiali, Amorgos
Located on the island of Amorgos in Greece, the Elysia Yoga Convention is a conglomeration of yoga practitioners, enthusiasts, and wellness coaches. In ancient literature, Elysia was a divine final resting place for the souls of heroes, setting the tone for a complete mind-body yoga retreat.
13. Mountain Yoga Festival, St. Anton, Austria
This event, held in the birthplace of modern skiing, offers a heavy dose of outdoor wellness. Intimacy is part of the draw: Fewer than 300 attendees and teachers from around the world gather to fill their souls with music and movement. Alpine hikes and lectures by Jivamukti teacher Karl Straub and nutritional biochemist Florian Überall roundout the lineup.
14. Schloss Elmau, Bavaria, Germany
Since opening in 1916, this wellness and culture sanctuary in the Bavarian Alps has welcomed luminaries (author Ian McEwan, jazz musician Paolo Fresu) to its concert hall and lecture library. Here, you’ll find an annual yoga summit where Europe’s top teachers, such as Barbra Noh and Timo Wahl, lead lectures, asana, and meditation sessions against the backdrop of the snow-capped Wetterstein mountains.
London’s yoga scene stands apart from other cities’ with its emphasis on inclusivity and accessibility: Ourmala offers classes to asylum-seekers, women refugees, and survivors of trafficking; Stillpoint Yoga London (try one of their daily Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga classes held at London Bridge) helps bring the practice into local prisons; and Michael James Wong’s Boys of Yoga platform cultivates stories, videos, and tutorials to break down gender stereo-types in yoga. In addition, popular teachers like Stewart Gilchrist and Claire Missingham call London home, teaching at Triyoga and East London School of Yoga.
16. Barcelona Yoga Conference
This five-day event is one of Europe’s largest yoga festivals, attracting more than 1,200 attendees from across the globe to flow with master yogis such as Shiva Rea and Krishna Das, indulge in Thai massage, enjoy music from international performers, try acroyoga with a partner, and lose themselves in ecstatic dance.
17. Bornholm Yoga & Retreat Center, Denmark
Off the southern coast of Sweden, Bornholm is an ideal setting for three-day silent meditation retreats hosted by resident yogi Solveig Egebjerg (who studied with Sharat Aurora, the head of the Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Center) and American Diane Long (a disciple of Iyengar-focused Vanda Scaravelli). Disconnect and unwind with walking meditations along the rocky Baltic coast or workshops aimed at weaving mindfulness into your daily grind.
18. Suryalila Yoga Retreat Centre, Cadiz, Spain
The Om Dome (an igloo-shaped yoga hall) at this Andalusian retreat might be the most magnificent place to practice in all of Europe, says yoga teacher Tiffany Cruikshank. The geometric studio was designed to resemble a Nepalese temple topped with a golden stupa. Wholesome farm-to-table organic meals are another reason Cruikshank enjoys leading retreats here. Regular teacher trainings by Vidya Jacqueline Heisel, founder of vinyasa-focused Frog Lotus Yoga, and Carol Murphy, founder of Green Lotus Yoga, are other highlights.
See topic Europe Yoga Travel
Deborah Calmeyer, the Zimbabwe-born founder of travel company Roar Africa, last year launched a new series of self-discovery retreats called Roar & Restore, incorporating TED Talk–worthy speakers (conservationist Laura Turner Seydel and world-renowned South African artist Dylan Lewis) with yoga, meditation, and safari drives. The conservation-minded Segera Retreat Center, set within 50,000 acres of protected land on the Laikipia Plateau, offers a raw-food menu and garden-shaded yoga decks developed with yogis in mind.
See topic Africa Yoga Travel
20. Taghazout, Morocco
Over the past two decades, a booming surf-and-yoga scene has sprung up in this sleepy fishing village five hours south of Casablanca. Take holiday with Surf Maroc (one of the area’s first surf-yoga retreat companies) for daily “creative vinyasa, powerful pranayama, laughter yoga, restorative, yin, yoga nidra, and meditation.” Between yoga sessions, surf instructors provide hands-on coaching whether you’re a first-timer or a seasoned rider. For a taste of the locale, the property’s neighboring rooftop yoga studio offers public classes and a chance to mingle with the local yoga community.
The country’s sublime scenery—red-sand dunes and a desolate coast riddled with shipwrecks—and commitment to conservation have made it Africa’s new safari superstar. It’s no wonder zeitgeisty yoga companies Escape to Shape and Namaste Yoga Safari are already offering retreats here. Escape to Shape founder Erica Gragg boasts “one epic experience after another: Rhinos at a drinking hole may serve as our drishti in Virabhadrasana II while waves lull us into Savasana after class on the beach.”
Central + South America
22. The Sacred Valley, Peru
Traditionally, travelers here head straight to historic sanctuary Machu Picchu—but culturally immersive retreats nestled in the heart of the Sacred Valley offer a new draw of their own. Splurge on a stay at Sol y Luna boutique hotel knowing a portion of the hotel’s profits fund an adjacent school that provides education, art, and sports for the valley’s youth—and take advantage of outdoor yoga classes. Travelers seeking a more immersive experience should consider eco-retreat Willka T’ika, which incorporates Andean traditions and Q’ero healers. Portions of retreat proceeds support childhood education in remote villages. Organic gardening, sustainable living, and acts of generosity are all woven into the fabric of Willka T’ika. For a more holistic experience in Peru, consider volunteering at Eco Truly Park in Lima. Volunteers participate in teaching yoga classes, organic gardening, and cooking.
23. El Salvador
In the early 1970s, El Salvador was a top surf destination, but the civil war took a heavy toll on residents and tourism. “Now, you see hermanos lejanos [El Salvadorans who moved to the United States and Canada] and tourism returning,” says yoga teacher Lindsay Gonzalez, who operates Balancé Yoga Studio and wellness retreats in the surf town El Tunco. An open-air yoga shala catches the ocean breeze from Balancé’s beachfront setting. “In El Trunco, days revolve around the tides, the wind, and the best surfing conditions,” Gonzalez says. Now that it has a dedicated yoga hub, this surf town just might be the next Nosara.
Travelers looking to escape the growing yogi crowds in Mexico have set their sights on the emerging yoga scene in Guatemala, where, in the Mayan village of San Marcos la Laguna, the Yoga Forest Conscious Living Retreat Center is setting the stage for responsible tourism, funding community projects such as shoreline restoration via reed planting and midwife education. Drop in for a class or embark on a personal or group retreat to study Jnana, Ashtanga, Bhakti, and Karma Yoga with their pros.
See topic Latin America Yoga Travel
Cuba’s dynamism reminds us that yoga is really about community. Eduardo de Jesus Pimentel Vázquez—the godfather of Cuban yoga—has trained more than 12,000 yoga practitioners through the Cuban Yoga Association, which he founded in 1990. His humble Havana studio Vidya offers a glimpse of the city’s tight-knit yoga scene. For the past three years, instructor April Puciata has hosted culturally immersive retreats at the beach-side center Mhai Yoga. Eduardo guest-teaches up to five classes during the week, and Puciata arranges visits with local artists and entrepreneurs, plus side trips to the town of Trinidad.
26. Nosara, Costa Rica
Universally considered a yoga mecca, Nosara is home to 32 retreats with serious yoga cred. Both Don Stapleton, longtime director of Kripalu, and Stephan Rechtschaffen, co-founder of the Omega Institute, set up yoga and wellness retreat centers here in the 1990s. More than 6,000 people visit Stapleton’s Nosara Yoga Institute (now Kindness Yoga) annually, known for its mile-long meditation trail and intensive teacher trainings (more than 3,500 graduates over 21 years). At Rechtschaffen’s Blue Spirit, five studios host learning vacations with the Omega Institute that include workshops on unlocking your purpose and Rechtschaffer-led lectures on finding the path to longevity. Located in a blue zone (where a large percentage of the population lives longer than average), the vivacity of Nosara is intimately intertwined with its people and practices.
27. Jungle Bay Resort & Spa, Dominica
Since opening their rain forest retreat center in 2005, yoga teacher Glenda Raphael and her husband, Sam, have been pioneers of sustainable tourism, stocking up on goods from island farmers, local fishermen, and artisans. Yoga teacher Chrissy Carter has held nine retreats here. Don’t miss Victoria Falls, Champagne Beach, and the Boiling Lake, the name given to one of the world’s few lakes that actually boils, says Carter. The resort, along with many others throughout the island, suffered damages after last year’s hurricane, making now a better time than ever to support the local Dominican economy.
See topic Caribbean Yoga Travel
While Bali is full of celebrated sites and crawling with soul-seekers, Ayurvedic teacher Sahara Rose prefers the lesser-known OmUnityBali, tucked away from tourist traffic in the northern village of Sudaji. At this super-sustainable eco-homestay founded by Indonesian yogi Zanzan, healing journeys and yoga packages incorporate local experiences such as temple ceremonies and visits to artisan workshops. In the jungles of Ubud, musician Michael Franti invites guest performers to enliven the asana practices at his Soulshine Bali Hotel & Yoga Retreat Oasis. Of course, the island’s biggest party happens during BaliSpirit Festival, a week-long celebration that draws big names like Shiva Rea and Tymi Howard, plus local Indonesian presenters such as Aikikdo, Made Janur, and musician Krisna Floop.
29. Dwarika’s Resort, Nepal
If replenishment is what you’re after, then Dwarika’s Resort—tucked into the hillside just 30 miles from the Tibetan border—should top your short list. After a consultation with an Ayurvedic health care provider, you will be prescribed soothing appointments on your custom itinerary: time in the respiratory-cleansing salt house, a visit with the retreat’s resident naturopath, a walk through the meditation maze, sessions in sound- and color-therapy chambers, and stargazing with an astrology master. Yoga classes offer the ultimate view—distant snow-capped mountains of the Himalayan range.
30. Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary, Bhutan
Enjoy daily yoga and acupuncture sessions at this all-inclusive retreat center in Paro, Bhutan—a historic valley town surrounded by sacred Buddhist sites. Each room has views of the Eutok Samdrupcholing goenpa monastery, where resident monks welcome guests for morning meditation. Bhutan is known for its medicinal herbs, and guests are encouraged to join spa therapists on foraging excursions in nearby hillsides.
See also Happy Land
31. Rishikesh, India
nestled along the sacred Ganges River in northern India, is a preferred jumping-off point for many teachers and travelers making the pilgrim-age to the birthplace of yoga. Hindus believe that a saint came to the river to offer penance and was forgiven by the god Vishnu. The spiritual town has an ashram for every sensibility, from super-traditional (and affordable) Phool Chatti to pricey Ananda, a luxe resort known for its Ayurvedic treatments. Each March, the city’s largest ashram, Parmarth Niketan, plays host to some of India’s most respected spiritual leaders (Pujya Swami Ramdevji and Acharya Balkrishna) during the week-long, world-famous annual International Yoga Festival. Meanwhile, the Yoga Institute in Santacruz, Mumbai, is the oldest organized yoga center in the world. The nonprofit recently celebrated its 100th birthday, and has certified more than 50,000 teachers in the past century. Today, roughly 2,000 people visit the institute daily for training, wellness services, and to pay homage to the historic site.
32. Ulpotha, Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka has no shortage of stylish beachside yoga retreats, but world-class therapists and teachers—such as Parisian Alexandre Onfroy and Californian Rob Hess—make the trek inland to immerse themselves in local culture at Ulpotha. Located in a working rice village, a committee of locals take part in all decision-making, and guest fees fund a free area clinic. Eleven simple mud huts are sprinkled across 22 acres of dense forests, and monks still live in remote temples in the mountains above. There’s a dedicated yoga shala, but classes also take place beneath the branches of an ancient banyan tree.
33. Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand
Teachers Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman Yee, Richard Freeman, and Mary Taylor are regular hosts at this retreat founded by John Stewart, a former monk who lived in the Himalayas for 18 years, and his wife, Karina, a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, who built the seaside sanctuary around a jungle-shrouded cave that was once a spiritual retreat for Buddhist monks. Guests can book à la carte therapies and classes such as detoxification, Chi Nei Tsang, and Hatha Yoga, or multi-day packages meant to remedy modern ailments such as technology addiction.
Teacher Puravi Joshi calls Cambodia one of the most peaceful places to practice. Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Siem Reap at the Hariharalaya Yoga & Meditation Retreat, named after the Vedic capital of Cambodia. Temples dating to 800 CE surround the two-acre campus. A team of international yoga and meditation instructors lead six-day retreats with Integral Yoga, silent meditation, Dharma talks, and nourishing vegan cuisine.
See topic Asia Yoga Travel
Australia + New Zealand
35. Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Gold Coast, Australia
It’s not uncommon to see wallabies and ’roos hopping across the 500-acre grounds set high up in the ancient gum trees of the Tallebudgera Valley. Mornings focus on yin-inspired movements such as qi gong and restorative yoga, while afternoons are devoted to yang-type activities such as boxing and hiking. Three-day Life in Balance programs integrate equine healing sessions with lectures from holistic psychiatrists, and new Journey to Inner Freedom programs include workshops with emotional healing authority Brandon Bays.
36. Aro HA, New Zealand
Five-, six-, and seven-day retreats, many led by yogi and founder Damian Chaparro, focus on rejuvenating mind and body against some of New Zealand’s most breathtaking landscapes. Think sunrise yoga, kayaking excursions, and strenuous hikes on the trails of New Zealand’s Southern Alps and along the shores of sapphire-blue Lake Wakatipu. Days end with restorative yoga and nourishing, paleo-friendly cuisine.
37. Byron Bay, Australia
The quintessential beach town, Byron Bay overflows with juice bars, organic cafés, and boutique yoga studios. Byron Yoga Centre, founded in 1988 by John Ogilvie, is one of Australia’s longest-running yoga schools. Ogilvie’s signature style of Purna Yoga focuses on integrating physical postures and philosophy. Meanwhile, Byron Bay newcomer Bamboo Yoga School has already amassed a strong community thanks to its open-air bamboo “tentple” (a cross between a tent and temple) and variety of classes including yoga nidra, hatha, vinyasa, and yin.
About our authors
Jen Murphy travels the globe reporting on adventure travel, wellness, food, and conservation. She writes the Wall Street Journal’s What’s Your Workout column and is the author of The Yoga (Man)ual.
Additional reporting by Kyle Houseworth.