Let’s face it, there are more inspiring places to toil over your debut novel or hone your brushstrokes than your spare room. Heading off to an art retreat or writing workshop somewhere new can give you a fresh perspective and boost creativity, plus filter out irritating distractions like work, bills and close family members.

An artist paints a scene of Paris, including the Cathédrale Notre Dame, while standing on a bridge over the River Seine.
A change of scenery can do wonders for your creativity © leezsnow / Getty Images

From literary workshops in Paris to kado courses in Kyoto, here are seven writing and art retreats that are certain to get your creative juices flowing.

An aerial view of Hoshinoya hotel in Kyoto. The hotel is hidden amongst the trees and located on the banks of a river.
Creatives come to Hoshinoya in Kyoto to escape modern life © John Su / 500px

1. Hoshinoya, Kyoto, Japan

Type: Art retreat

Tucked away on a hillside among cypress, maple and cherry-blossom trees, Hoshinoya is an elegant, modern take on a classic Japanese inn in the temple-filled town of Arashiyama – one of Kyoto’s most popular sightseeing areas.

Guests, who reach the retreat via a tranquil 10-minute boat ride from the town’s main dock, come here to escape the routine of everyday life. As such, there are no TVs or mod cons in rooms, and instead guests are taught the contemplative practice of kado (also known as ikebana), the Japanese art of flower arrangement. Hoshinoya offers lessons in this ancient art by a kado master, accompanied by views of the Hozu-gawa river and surrounding mountains.

A woman sits on a wall in Paris reading a book. In the background the Eiffel Tower is visible.
There is surely no better city to hone your writing skills than France's literary capital © Ekaterina Pokrovsky / Shutterstock

2. Paris Writers’ Retreat, Paris, France

Type: Writing retreat

Run by New York Times best-selling author and literary agent Wendy Goldman Rohm, this week-long workshop, held in a beautiful Parisian loft, ticks all the ‘dream writing retreat’ boxes: an inspiring setting (tick), led by some of the finest contemporary literary talent (tick), and attended by a cosmopolitan crowd of serious wannabe writers (tick) – some of whom have crossed continents to learn here.

For five intense days, participants workshop structure, setting, style and narration in genres ranging from memoir to romance and psychological thrillers. The sessions are supportive, insightful and challenging, and are followed by guided meditations. Working lunches in Paris’ bakeries and bistros – former haunts of literary giants such as Hemingway and Oscar Wilde – and long, contemplative walks by the Seine add to the fun, and are sure to spark fresh ideas.

A rickety wooden harbour splinters out into the calm blue waters of Lake Atitlán. It's sunset, and a small, solitary boat glides through the water. In the background, on the opposite bank of the lake, a volcano is visible, silhouetted against the sunset.
The Storyteller Within writing retreat is held on the banks of Lake Atitlán © rwilks / Budget Travel

3. The Storyteller Within, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Type: Writing retreat

Set in various scenically sited guesthouses on the shores of Lake Atitlán in Guatemala, this women-only writing retreat is hosted by writer and yoga teacher Aimee Hansen, who uses writing as a means of self-exploration, teasing out damaging old narratives and awakening more inspiring voices that can help shape a more fruitful, creative and positive life.

Certainly the setting, in the lush forest overlooking Lake Atitlán and its impressive volcanoes, is both inspiring and rejuvenating, and the chance to speak to a group of sympathetic and open-minded listeners leaves participants feeling lighter, stronger and emboldened; ready to pen the world’s next great paperback.

A scenic view of Dartmoor National Park in England. The park is filled with forests and has a river running through it.
Perfect your skills with a paintbrush in Dartmoor National Park © Matt Gibson / Shutterstock

4. Brambles Art Retreat, Dartmoor, England

Type: Art retreat

Held in their 17th-century cottage near the picturesque moors of Dartmoor, Peter Davies and Janet Brady lead Brambles Art Retreat, for those working in oil, watercolour, pencil and mixed media – with the talented duo tailoring each retreat to suit guests’ abilities and tastes.

There’s plenty of one-on-one tuition, encouragement and demonstrations, with the aim being to grow participants’ creative muscles. Learning to really see things, compose a scene and mix the precise shade of amber found at the centre of an English countryside sunset has a therapeutic effect. Like any meditative practice, it requires you to slow right down, immerse yourself in the moment and see the world with fresh and attentive eyes. The pair also host retreats in other countries around the globe.

A large, square building made of brick is set in green surrounds dotted with trees.
Amanyangyun was built to safeguard traditional Chinese crafts as well as the natural environment © Sui Sicong / Amanyangyun

5. Amanyangyun, Shanghai, China

Type: Art retreat

Located on the outskirts of Shanghai, Amanyangyun is one of the most extraordinary wellness retreats in the world. Meaning ‘nourishing cloud’, yangyun is a reference to expanding the ‘cloud’ of the mind with knowledge. It speaks to the resort’s mission to safeguard China’s priceless cultural treasures, some of which you can seek out at Nan Shufang, an ornate pavilion that serves as the cultural and spiritual heart of the complex.

A recreation of the scholars’ studios of 17th-century China, the pavilion is a place to learn, contemplate and practise traditional crafts such as calligraphy, music and painting. Kūnqŭ opera is also performed here, which is made even more soothing by the calming scent of the ethereal camphor forest that surrounds the complex.

An aerial view of Positano in Italy, with colourful villas built on a sloping hillside that goes right down to the blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Sirenland Writers’ Conference takes place at the renowned Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano © lukaszimilena / Shutterstock

6. Sirenland Writers’ Conference, Positano, Italy

Type: Writing retreat

This serious writing retreat (application required) is held in what is surely one of the most beautiful hotels in the world: Positano’s cliff-hugging Le Sirenuse.

Mornings are spent workshopping manuscripts with impressive faculty members, such as Dani Shapiro (author and professor of creative writing) and Hannah Tinti (author and editor of One Story magazine), while afternoons are dedicated to sightseeing, yoga or spa treatments in the luxurious spa designed by Gae Aulenti. Cocktail evenings and gourmet Campanian dinners lift this literary retreat above the fray and ensure participants come away with lasting friendships as well as new skill sets.

A view of a small circular clearing, surrounded by shrubbery. Above it looms the mighty Pedernal Peak, a large rock formation which stands out against the blue sky.
Ghost Ranch boasts great views of Pedernal Peak, which artist Georgia O’Keeffe loved to paint © Adam Springer / Shutterstock

7. Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, USA

Type: Art retreat

Abiquiú is best known as the longtime home of painter Georgia O’Keeffe and, in addition to her house in the village, she owned a small cabin on the 21,000 acres (8500 hectares) of Ghost Ranch. From here she had a prime view of flat-topped Pedernal Peak – about which she once said, "God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it."

Many ranch visitors today are following in O’Keeffe’s footsteps, but the Presbyterian Church–owned retreat centre has an amazingly broad course catalogue, with a strong core of creative classes and yoga, as well as get-togethers for bluegrass musicians, eco-activists and spiritual seekers. Multiple workshops are often taking place at the same time, but everyone convenes in the large communal, cafeteria-style dining room, which leads to interesting discussions and cross-pollination of ideas.

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