Lonely Planet Writer

Shhh - why silent retreats are on the rise

Wellness is a trend that looks set to dominate for the near future as people continue to strive to achieve that almost elusive work/life balance.

Silent retreats are growing in popularity. Image by Maya Karkalicheva/Getty Images

According to hospitality customer monitoring platform Local Measure, silent retreats are the newest way that travellers are embracing the wellness movement. Linked to meditation and mindfulness, some of the most popular destinations for those in search of quiet times are the Buddhist Retreat Centre, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, which looks out over valleys, forests and rolling hills and where people of all religions come  in search of peace and tranquillity, as well as Wat Suan Mokkh, Chaiya, Thailand,  where ten-day meditation retreats in a forest monastery are offered, with a wake-up call time of 4am.

Peace in a forest. Image by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Bruce Davis, one of the founders of Silent Stay, based in Vacaville, California, believes that people in all walks of life are feeling too busy with too much noise in their lives. “They want to unplug their gadgets and most of all their minds and be someplace with real peace and quiet without having the temptation to be on email and text alert all the time,” he says. A typical day during a Silent Stay retreat offers meditation at 9am and 7pm, with the rest of the day free for people to take walks, go for swims, nap or just be, with massages and personal consultation also available.

If you’re wondering just how ‘silent’ a silent retreat is, Davis equates it to visiting a library. “Everyone keeps silence letting one another have their own private time to be, to reflect, and enjoy their retreat. The silence is really about being in peace and quiet. Guests enjoy having time just for themselves and not engaging in conversation.” It’s a given that smartphones and computers are kept in the car or at home.  

Scheduled meditation forms only part of the day. Image by Manop Phimsit / EyeEm/Getty Images

According to Davis, first time visitors are worried about what to do without their phone. However, they quickly adjust to the peace and quiet of the retreat, which is located on a mountain top with twenty five acres of farmland producing honey, peaches, lavender and apricots, surrounded by several hundred acres more of land. “I was nervous at first but then settled in the comfort of what felt like a distant home that was my very own. The silence around strangers seems natural but you would be surprised how much you feel the freedom to just be yourself here,” writes Tawny C, who stayed for two nights, in her online review. Prices at the retreat are from US$165 (€137) per night per single room, which includes the retreat programme, and guests regularly report gratitude for having an escape from everyday life where they can experience rest and sanctuary.

“The silence in retreats helps us to find the place of inner silence inside,” says Davis. ““Silence nourishes our nerves opening doors of wellness, creativity, support to make new choices which bring us real joy.”

Words: Claire O’Mahony