If Dracula had been a vegan
In idyllic countryside not far from the castle of Vlad the Impaler, Jane Dunford ﬁnds a gentle route to wellness with ﬁve days of yoga, meditation and delicious plant-based eating
It’s early morning in Transylvania and the sun’s shining on a group of yogis making shapes on the wooden veranda at Akasha Wellness Retreat. With pine and beechcovered hills rolling to the horizon, snow-capped mountain peaks and a soundtrack of cow bells and cockerels, it’s an idyllic spot to salute the sun.
Romania may not be the first place that springs to mind for a yoga holiday: it doesn’t have the huge choice of popular destinations like Goa, Thailand, Ibiza or Portugal. But this new centre in the sleepy village of Pestera – in Piatra Craiului national park, a 2½-hour drive north of Bucharest – offers something a little different. Fields of conical haystacks and wonky wooden houses dot the landscape, horse-drawn carts wander the lanes and it feels as if the clock’s been rewound a few decades.
Akasha is the phonetic spelling of acaša, which means “at home” in Romanian, and this is a true family affair: a venture between daughter Irina, who runs the yoga, her mother Daniela and aunt Elena (a UK-based doctor who advises on nutrition). After years of living and working in London, they felt their homeland calling them back and are clearly passionate about providing memorable retreats, as well as showing people their country.
The nine-bedroom house has the warm vibe of a family home, and from the first night our diverse group (all women apart from one couple, with nationalities from American to German) falls into easy camaraderie. Digital detox is encouraged, so no one is on their phone. People chat instead (imagine!) or find a quiet corner in which to read.
I’ve joined a nutrition and yoga retreat – other options include a funsounding yoga and local wine tasting retreat – and besides twice-daily yoga and meditation, there are talks on plantbased eating and wellbeing, and cookery demonstrations. Nutritional therapist Daniela Exley (a Romanian who grew up in the UK, lives in Hastings and blogs at beetspulseandthyme.co.uk) shows us
Vinyasa vista Great scenery adds to the sense of wellbeing