Picture this: boarding a boat before first light, speeding over to a spit of snowy white sand in the middle of the Indian Ocean occupied only by translucent crabs and dive-bombing birds looking for breakfast, and laying down your yoga mat next to aquamarine water gently rolling onto shore.
It’s just you, a Manila-bred instructor, and a steady breeze blowing through your hair. The air is a perfect temperature, and the sun begins bleeding shades of coral and pink behind delicate gray cloud puffs. You’re in the moment—so present it doesn’t seem like you’re still on earth. And then the sun salutations begin, seemingly choreographed with the rising ball of fire at the horizon.
No, this isn’t the opening sequence of Eat, Pray, Love: Part 2. It’s actually possible to have this—and six other equally awe-inspiring yogic experiences…if you know where to look (or, rather, book). Feeling the FOMO setting in? Scroll down to see the seven yogic wonders of the world.
1. Silver Island, Greece
It’s hard to imagine a place dreamier than a private, eco-friendly Greek island surrounded by the cerulean seas that’s dedicated to one thing: yoga.
“There’s such a feeling of expansiveness and seclusion like nothing can get to you,”says Tampa-based instructor Marley Vigdorth, who’s taught in Colorado, Cape Town, and led summer retreats on Silver Island for five years.
Each week, from April through October, 10 yogis make the pilgrimage to the remote locale for twice-daily classes with a visiting teacher and delectable organic vegetarian meals. (“The food is so amazing they had to make a cookbook because so many people asked for recipes,” says Vigdorth.)
Eating and yoga are punctuated with swimming (at night the bioluminescence makes the ocean appear to reflect the starry sky, NBD), snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, arts and crafts, and lazing in hammocks dotted around the 60-acre island. But you better book your spot soon—Vigdorth says it may even be invite-only in coming years due to demand.
2. Pemuteran, Bali
Bali is filled with must-visit destinations for yogis (hello, Ubud), but if it’s dreamy ‘Grams you’re after, you might want to head straight to Pemuteran.
The small fishing village on the northwest coast of the island is home to some of the country’s best snorkeling and diving spots—as well as a collection of chic beach resorts with more than a few mats to unfurl.
“It’s gorgeous at Jeda Villa, and they have a beautiful room equipped with heaters for hot yoga, too,” says Beirut-based teacher Tracy Estefane.
3. North Malé Atoll, Maldives
This vast collection of flawless islands is a stunning landscape in which to practice. On North Malé Atoll island, Joanne Ignacio teaches yoga and meditation in an overwater shala, as well as on a private sandbank—which she says reminds her of impermanence, since it’s constantly changing size and shape.
“Every experience here is different, and you become extra aware of what ‘being here now’ means,” she says.
4. Tofo, Mozambique
Should you find yourself in Tofu, a bucolic beach town (that happens to be quite affordable) with a stunning array of corals, manta rays, dolphins, and humpback whales, it’s totally fine to pinch yourself. But trust, the ridiculously gorgeous environs are real.
Some of the magic is in the location: “Mozambique is beautiful, the people are incredible, and it’s somewhat rustic,” notes Vigdorth. At Turtle Cove Resort, retreats (from rebirthing Kundalini to Ashtanga), teacher training, and daily classes happen year-round, hosted by world-class teachers from every corner of the planet, making for an intimate and exotic community spirit.
5. Khajuraho, India
As the birthplace of yoga, serious practitioners should consider a visit to experience India’s singular magic—and if you’re not sure where to start, globe-trotting yogis recommend Khajuraho in central India.
Yogi and wellness guru Rainbeau Mars calls it “an incredible place with sacred temples that teaches us the practices of devotion, service, and sacred sexuality.” She adds that the high, year-round temperatures lend a hand in warming the muscles and relaxing the mind.
6. Santa Teresa, Costa Rica
As much as Santa Teresa, Costa Rica—at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula—is a surfing destination, it also continues to be a significant place for yogis from all over to practice in harmony.
“I’ve explored a lot of different countries in this beautiful world,” says Stefano Allegri, an Italian-born teacher working in Costa Rica, “but always when I unroll my mat in the shala of Florblanca some magic emerges—my words can’t explain the experience.”
The oceanfront hotel venue and Pranamar down the beach (a paradisiacal retreat property with popular daily classes open to the public) are like melting pots of cultures and influences.
7. Big Sur, California
For decades Big Sur has drawn the yogi set to practice, especially at the legendary and picturesque Esalen Institute (currently closed due to landslides, but reopening to its many devotees in late July).
“You need to go,” insists Vigdorth, adding that the coastal destination offers not just yoga, but also massage, healing arts and creative arts, plus dreamy sulfur hot spring baths that are like a “giant shower, out in the open and right on a cliff with waves pounding against it.” (Warning: “You don’t have to be naked but pretty much everyone is.”)
The history and soul of the place shine through in every interaction. “People are just so tuned in there,” says the veteran. “There’s no expectation for you to have any type of experience, they just let you be how you are.”
This story was originally published on July 3, 2017; it was updated on August 14, 2018.
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