The phrase ‘back-to-basics’ gets banded around a lot these days, and can mean anything from ‘minimalist modern design’ to ‘we don’t have wifi’. However, Ulpotha’s rural yoga retreat truly embodies the phrase. Stripping back living to its bare essentials, Ulpotha lets the beauty of the natural landscape do the talking at their all-inclusive yoga and Ayurvedic retreat. So if you fancy getting away from it all – and by all, we mean the clutter of modern living – this might be the hideaway for you.
Ulpotha is a three-hour car ride from Colombo Airport. Hiding at the foothills of the Galgiriyawa Mountains deep in Sri Lanka’s rural hinterland, the retreat (which is an ancient pilgrimage site) sprawls across 20 lush acres of tangled jungle and organic rice paddy fields, alongside a sacred mountain and lotus-ringed lake.
It sits in the middle of Sri Lanka’s ‘cultural triangle‘, which is full of ancient sites like the ruins of Polonnaruwa and the rock citadel of Sigiriya. It’s the perfect location for those wanting to explore the sites of Sri Lanka before, after or during their retreat stay.
As stated on its website, ‘Ulpotha is first and foremost an oasis of nature’. This back-to-basics concept is reflected in the retreat’s rudimentary, yet charming, eco-friendly accommodation options. Ulpotha has 11 rustic wattles and daub, open-air huts, designed for sharing. Accommodation is allocated on a twin-share basis, so single rooms aren’t an option.
The grassroots infrastructure and back-to-nature setting is Ulpotha’s most striking quality, but if you’re not keen to sleep on a mattress in an alfresco-style shack in the middle of the jungle, this isn’t the retreat for you. The property has no electricity (or wifi) so when night falls it is illuminated by flares, lamps and oil lanterns, adding to the retreat’s mystical ambience.
Ulpotha supports yogic lifestyle practices so serves traditional Ayurvedic vegetarian cuisine. Deliciously wholesome and nourishing, most of the ingredients of Ulpotha’s healthy menu are harvested from the retreat’s bio-diverse organic farm. Much of their produce is sourced here, including organic tropical fruits, vegetables and red rice.
The menu is wheat-free and vegan-friendly, although special diets cannot be catered for. Since there is no electricity at Ulpotha, all food is cooked fresh on open fires. Breakfast generally consists of herbal teas, fresh fruit, fresh coconut water and Sri Lankan herbal rice porridge, while lunch and dinner include a wide selection of vegetarian dishes, salads, curd, fresh juices and fruits. Ulpotha also has a cookbook, A Kitchen in Paradise, so guests can replicate retreat recipes at home.
Ulpotha is primarily a yoga retreat so its ‘spa’ is quite simple. That said, the wellness menu has a range of traditional Ayurvedic therapies and native Sri Lankan treatments that support holistic healing, health and vitality. Personalised detoxification and rejuvenation treatment packages (ranging from five to 28 days) are also on offer, which is overseen by the retreat’s in-house Ayurvedic doctor. All of the Ayurvedic medicine and products used in the treatment centre are made locally, using organic ingredients.
The retreat offers daily yoga classes in a variety of styles. The selection includes Hatha, Ashtanga, Iyengar and Yin, which are all available in Ulpotha’s 14-day ‘Holiday Programme’ yoga retreats. These are hosted by a rotating roster of international teachers from all over the globe. All retreats have a seven-day minimum stay policy.
Expect to feel… deeply in tune with your natural surroundings and enamoured by the beauty of simplicity. It’s a midrange retreat for those who are really looking to escape the frantic pace of modern living. Take time out and reconnect to what really matters.