Feeling frazzled and horrified to discover it’s only February? Who could blame you, given all that 2021 has already thrown at us? The good news is that South Africa has no shortage of quiet spaces to rest, recharge, and reboot. Whether you plan to meditate in silence or soak up the healing power of the great outdoors, these spots will bolster your soul for the year ahead.
CEDERBERG: BLISS AND STARS
What’s on offer at this chic, eco-minded escape a few hours north of Cape Town? The clue’s in the name.
Daria and Heine Rasmussen swopped fast-paced urban life in Denmark for 1,350ha of rugged Cederberg wilderness with their brand-new escape (it only opened in December 2020), combining their respective passions: mindfulness and meditation, and astronomy. But this is certainly no lentils-at-dawn ascetic endurance test, with a contemporary comfort approach to this rat-race escape.
Experiences range from couple-minded getaways to silent retreats. Each experience is guided by Daria, with twice-daily meditation sessions focused on doing away with stress and anxiety, and a daily relaxation session. Come evening, Heine leads the astronomy sessions — there’s a permanent observatory on the property, with four telescopes — with a focus on exploring both inner and outer space.
Accommodation is in glorious Afro-Nordic chalets, all sleek lines and chic décor contrasting neatly with the otherworldly rock formations of the surrounding mountain wilderness. While each chalet provides perfect privacy, much of the Bliss and Stars experience is collective, with gourmet plant-based meals served at a communal family-style table.
“This is not a lodge, and it’s not a retreat. It’s our home that we want to share with people,” explains Daria. “We wanted to create a place where people really slow down, so we guide people in how to do nothing. Rest is a real act of rebellion in this world!”
KWAZULU-NATAL: BUDDHIST RETREAT CENTRE
Alan Paton was perhaps the first to wax lyrical about the grass-covered hills of Ixopo, a landscape “lovely beyond any singing of it”. It’s the same lush landscape that cradles the Buddhist Retreat Centre, a restorative space that has become a sought-after escape for souls in need of recalibrating.
Set on a 120ha property overlooking the Umkomaas valley, the centre pairs quiet pathways through lush forests with an array of meditative spaces, both indoors and out. Structured weekend retreats encompass everything from yoga to Vipassana meditation, from reiki to mindfulness. On weekdays, independent “self retreats” are available for those preferring to reboot on their own.
Accommodation at the centre ranges from simple single rooms with communal bathrooms to comfortable two-bedroomed lodges with en-suite facilities. The centre’s acclaimed restaurant serves an impressive menu of vegetarian cuisine, including organic vegetables and farm-baked bread.
WINELANDS: TEMENOS RETREAT
When Billy Kennedy first had a vision for a spiritual garden in the heart of the Cape Winelands village of McGregor, he was confronted with little more than a dusty hectare of bare veld.
That was in 1996 and, my, how things have changed since then. Today, the garden at Temenos Retreat is an oasis in the truest sense of the word — a lush refuge of green against the summer heat that settles like a blanket in the Breede River valley.
It’s equally an oasis for the soul, says Kennedy. “I wanted to create a place where people could come that was completely open and tolerant. It’s a place where people come to connect with themselves, and perhaps with their own sense of the sacred. It’s truly an open space with lots of beautiful sections to be still in.”
Stillness is a word he uses often, but he’s aware it doesn’t come easily to stressed-out city-folk.
“Some people are not sure how to be in stillness, so we recommend that they have a meditation session or yoga session,” says Kennedy. Structured retreats are offered regularly, with an array of spiritual and wellness practitioners available on request to guide guests with everything from reiki to personal counselling.
Each of the 14 cottages, set privately within the garden, is geared for self-catering, or guests can book a table at the on-site restaurant, Tebaldi’s. A vegan and vegetarian menu is served daily, alongside a regular à la carte offering of country cuisine.
From spiritual journeys to dealing with grief, a stay at Temenos is all about finding your own path — often literally, through the remarkable gardens where you’ll stumble on hidden libraries and labyrinths, swimming pools, and quiet corners for reflection.
• From the February edition of Wanted, 2021.