I’d never pictured myself going on a yoga retreat before, but when I saw a family friendly retreat in Sri Lanka advertised it sounded too good to be true. A chance to visit Sri Lanka, practice some yoga, activities for the kids AND nannies on hand to help out with the kids throughout the day?! It sounded amazing, and the perfect chance for a real holiday where we actually get to relax for a change!
Mr. Arabian Notes was a bit dubious at first, not knowing whether he’d want to throw himself into the yoga, but once I told him he didn’t even have to do the yoga if he chose, and that there was surfing on offer too, he was sold on the idea and off we went to Talalla Retreat, right down in the very south of Sri Lanka.
The retreat is pretty much in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest town, Matara a 15 minute drive away. It is set in lush green gardens with everything you could possibly need though, with a swimming pool, several yoga pavilions, a main restaurant and reception area and a small shop. The accommodation is quite basic, and if I’m honest I was worried it might be a bit ‘rustic’ compared to our usual taste, but it was clean and simple and very comfortable. It is worth noting though that many of the rooms are completely open in style (though have plenty of privacy with shutters and blinds etc), but depending on what time of year you want to go and how open you are to natures beasts wandering in to your room you might prefer to opt for one of the more enclosed air-con rooms. We started out in an open room but after a bit of a health scare from the toddler taking ill due to overheating during the first night we quickly decided to move to an air-con room for the rest of our stay (and luckily there was one available!).
As well as a pool within the grounds, the hotel is also set just a few steps back from the beach. Talalla is often referred to as ‘arguably Sri Lanka’s most beautiful beach’, so you can be sure you’re onto a good thing! The beach is also still a working beach with locals from the nearby village going out fishing every morning which is an interesting sight to see, with them also tending to their nets and boats and so on.
Part of the package included yoga twice a day, once first thing in the morning, then also late afternoon before dinner. I actually thought I might tire of practising daily, but I really didn’t – I loved it, and even the toddler was keen to join in some parts!
Since Mr. Arabian Notes had decided he was keen to give the yoga a try, it was great to have a nanny on hand to be able to keep the toddler out of mischief during the class and to allow us to focus on it properly. They never ventured far from us in the class, mostly staying at the back of the room stacking yoga blocks or playing with some other toys but we laid out a yoga mat for him next to us so he was able to join in with our poses as he chose which was super cute!
Next up was the chance to have a go at surfing, and we hopped into tuk-tuks for a short drive to the learners beach for a lesson which was great fun too!
Aside from the activities, we spent quite a lot of time just enjoying the beach and pool as a family…
…And even making a few new friends along the way!
There was also a lovely little spa on the site (and you know I love a spa!), so of course we made use of this and tried the body wrap, a full body massage and a facial. All of the treatments were very relaxing, though perhaps a little unusually I found the facial the most relaxing and actually fell sound asleep during the treatment!
We did have a couple of afternoons early on in the week where the heavens opened and we experienced a couple of quite big rainstorms, but it didn’t really affect us. By the morning the water had all but disappeared and the sun came out again!
Later on in the week one afternoon we also managed to get a bit of beach yoga in, it was amazing to have nothing but the sound of the ocean (oh, and the kids running around 😀 !) to accompany the practice.
On the very last full day of the trip we visited Galle for a wander around and a spot of souvenir shopping. Galle is only about an hours drive from Talalla if you go the express road, or around four hours if you want to go the route that takes you past the tea plantation! Needless to say with kids in tow, we opted for the express road route!
It was an incredibly hot and humid day in Galle but we just ambled around happily, mooching through a few shops and of course stopping for lunch (in air-con!) at the Pedlar’s Inn that included an excellent whopping great ice cream milkshake, yum!
Galle is absolutely beautiful and has some incredible colonial architecture as well as many other surprises round each corner. We even stumbled across a very Islamic street during our wanders complete with Mosque and cafes.
I also loved the laid-back vibe of the place and the chance to see traditional everyday life going on everywhere around us.
On our way back from Galle we stopped off at a Turtle Sanctuary. In Sri Lanka it’s common for the locals to collect turtle eggs from the beach and drink them as a delicacy or to sell them, so the payable entrance fee is used to buy up turtle eggs from these people and leave them to hatch in a protected and fenced environment just off the beach.
We were able to see many turtles that had been rescued, including ones that have to be cared for on an ongoing basis due to injuries or disabilities. And for another small fee the kids were able to release some of the newly hatched turtles into the ocean and wish them well on their journey.
All in all we had a fabulous break and I’d love to do something similar to this again! We were lucky to meet some great people on the trip, we ate some great local food and really felt amazing after having practised yoga every single day.
Colombo is only a four-hour flight from Abu Dhabi so it’s a great choice for a pretty easy short-haul break from here.
Talalla Retreat is about a two and a half to three-hour drive from Colombo airport so it can be a bit of trek depending on the traffic, but it’s definitely worth it.
The food at the hotel is excellent, and has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options and although it’s mainly of the local style, there are also plainer options for kids including soup and pasta (but bring plenty of familiar snacks from home for little ones for throughout the day). There is only one restaurant but it’s a lovely open and communal environment where you can choose to sit on your own or make new friends! Breakfast is buffet style and has a wide selection including fruits, rice, eggs, pancakes and more. There is a small lunch menu available every day (the fish and chips was excellent!), with snacks available most of the day up until 10pm. The evening dinner is a buffet style and you can eat as much as you like. Chicken and fish is also available for meat eaters – and I don’t think you’ll find much fresher fish in the world!
The hotel can also provide cots and extra beds for kids complete with mosquito nets although it’s worth noting that whilst families are welcomed, kids are not permitted at the hotel during the months of December and January.
Finally, remember to take plenty of sunscreen and mosquito spray – you’ll need it!