As some of you will have seen from my recent Instagram posts, I’ve had the absolute pleasure of spending the past five days at the Azulfit Yoga & Pilates retreat. I often get asked for retreat recommendations, so I’m making it one of my mission this year to bring you reviews of the where I go. First up is my Azul Retreat review…
Before I even arrived at Azulfit in Fuerteventura I knew it was going to be a good experience, not only because of the lovely AzulFit staff I’d been emailing, but because my wonderful friend, travel partner and stand-in photographer has already been to the retreat twice and will be going back again to complete her yoga teacher training with them in a couple of weeks.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION
Azulfit currently has two (and very soon to be three) different retreat locations in Fuerteventura. My base was the Villa Azul, but just a short bus journey away, near the beach is the Lotus Retreat and being finished off at the moment is Azulfit’s brand new Surya retreat, which I hear is going to be pretty special – hopefully I’ll get the chance to visit again later this year to check it out.
Located more inland and surrounded by an amazing volcanic landscape is Villa Azul, which has a homely and warming feel to it. The rooms each have a different theme, taking inspiration from places around the world where the staff have traveled to. We stayed in the India room, which was more like an apartment with a lounge area and mini kitchen – perfect for me, as I needed a little bit of space to get on with work. My favourite thing about this location was the yoga studio, which stays open all day and night, for anyone in need of a little stretch out. Kat and I headed down there on our own a couple of times, just to connect with our mats and breath.
Situated in Corralejo, only a 5 minute walk from the beach, the Lotus Retreat offers guests beach yoga a few mornings each week; something that we made me most of, gatecrashing their classes and breakfast on two occasions. 😉 The Lotus Retreat sleeps less people than Villa Azul, which makes it feel like more of a family home, but with a super luxe, boutique vibe. The villa is beautifully kitted out with modern interior, a basement yoga studio, treatment room and a garden with swimming pool.
The third Azulfit retreat location is the brand new Surya retreat, not far away from Villa Azul and due to open in June 2016. As I didn’t get to see the retreat I can’t give a first hand review, but it promises modern large spaces, with a large pool and gardens, with a schedule that focuses on yoga, pilates and meditation.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
I feel like this section could either be just one word – Epic! – or I could go on writing about it for hours! I’ll try and keep it short though. My first experience of the food was when we arrived late at night and they had saved us some dinner. I don’t even recall being particularly hungry at the time, but I’m pretty sure my plate was empty within about 15 minutes! Both breakfast and dinner at the Azul Villa were buffet style, but not the kind of buffet food you’ve ever experienced. This was homemade vegetarian food, with gluten free and vegan options on offer – all so nutritious & delicious! Even the meat-eaters amongst the group couldn’t get enough of the amazing vegetarian meals that Jo Dombernowsky and her team created for us.
Azulfit isn’t about quick-fixes, detoxes or fad diets, the team there are all about making sure their family (the guests) are eating nourishing and delicious foods that you could imagine cooking in your own home. I came away from the retreat with many new ideas for meals and tips about which foods go together. Jo, the head nutritionist and chef also hosts an optional nutrition workshop each week, where guests can get answers to any questions they have and learn more about cooking.
On our days out and evenings away from the retreat we were able to experience some of the local eateries, both recommended to us by Liz at the Lotus Retreat. First stop, was H2O Chillout Bar for juice, salad and hummus with crudites and then for our final supper of the trip, we dined at Sanus, which was AMAZING. Sanus has four different menus (of which you can mix and match) – vegetarian, vegan, celiac and diabetic. It’s amazing to see a restaurant putting this kind of thought into the diet choices & issues and the food tasted incredible.
WHAT AM I DOING TODAY?
Our Schedule at Villa Azul was an even mix of both pilates and yoga, with a Tai Chi class one morning. I’ve done a bit of pilates in the past, but as a very keen yogi I could have happily switched all of the classes for yoga. The morning classes are 90 minutes and usually start at around 8/8:30am, followed by brunch at 10am. Guests then have free time until the evening class at around 4:30/5pm for two hours. Our free time was mostly spent around the beach and having massages with the incredible Luisa. Dinner is offered on five of the seven evenings, so on the two evenings off guests have the choice of either doing their own thing like we did, or going out for meals with the group. The retreat organises a restaurant booking and transfer on those nights, so if you really want a fuss free break, then you can go along with that.
The schedules of all locations will vary slightly depending on what kind of week it is, as Azulfit sometimes host speciality yoga or nutrition weeks. I believe that during these kind of speciality retreat weeks guests also have lunch as well as brunch and dinner.
The Lotus Retreat schedule was slightly different to the Villa Azul retreat while we were there, having a little bit more yoga than pilates on offer, and having the bonus of doing yoga on the beach a few mornings each week with the lovely Sara.
One afternoon each week is left completely free for guests to do as they wish. There are SO many things to do, which the retreat managers will tell you all about. We couldn’t decided between a SUP excursion on Lobos island, surfing or the sand dunes, but finally decided to see the sand dunes and Flag Beach which was pretty beautiful. One bit of advice would be that if you go to Flag Beach, walk about 15 minutes to the right towards the sand dunes and find a spot set back from the sea. It was so peaceful, making it the perfect end to our trip.
There are so many things to do in the island, so if you’re someone like me who wants to be out and about, seeing new things, then you won’t be disappointed. I can definitely recommend getting up early on morning to hike up Mount Escanfraga to watch the sun rise.
STRANGERS BECOMING FRIENDS & FAMILY
So this is where I get all mushy in my Azul retreat review. The staff. Like I said at the start, I knew this place was special, as my friend Kat has been twice before. The staff at Azulfit really do have a way of making you feel like part of their family. Every single one of them is so kind-heart, helpful and they all had this way about them that just made you want to be in their presence.
The majority of guests (I think everyone bar Kat & myself and another couple) were travelling alone, but the staff make everyone feel so welcome, there wasn’t ever any awkwardness or anyone feeling left out. I can imagine that when travelling alone, especially if it’s for the first time, then it can be a little daunting, but here you’ll find like-minded people and friendly people instantly.
THE STAND OUT POINT
If everything I’ve written above doesn’t tell you how special this place is, then I think the fact that no matter your ability in yoga or pilates, Azulfit has a place for you, is what gives it an edge. The instructors all have a wealth of knowledge and can lead a complete beginner through a journey of understanding movement and breath, but can also take the more experienced guests on a journey of advancing their knowledge, passion and practice.
I think many people assume that going on a yoga retreat means that you have to be a hardcore yogi, who practices numerous times a week, but Azulfit proves that there is very much a place for those amongst us who are curious to learn a little, without it being too over-bearing. Whether you just want an escape from daily life on a sunny island, with a little stretching or whether you want a week to immerse yourself fully into your yoga and/or pilates practice, then Azul could be the next trip for you… all on an affordable budget.
So there you have it, my Azul retreat review. I hope to hear of some of you going out there sometime soon.
Love & light, Cat x
For more information about the dates and prices of the Azulfit retreat, visit the website. EasyJet flies into Fuerteventura on Saturdays for around £170 return throughout the summer. Azul also host retreats in Santorini (my dream destination!) and California.