Travel inspiration: Experience a wellness retreat in Sri Lanka

Get ready to push yourself in paradise…

Ever flown home from a holiday feeling more depleted than you did when you left? Consider booking a sunshine escape to Sri Lanka’s Makahiya – a retreat that will actually rejuvenate you, physically as well as mentally.

Think of Sri Lanka and you probably imagine yourself lounging on a beach. Not 7am wake-up calls, sweaty bootcamp sessions and ice baths. But if you’re looking for a break – and a holiday that leaves you feeling much better – Makahiya Fitness is for you.

The gorgeous purpose-built fitness centre in Unawatuna has been a labour of love for British couple – and all-round wonderful humans – Lizzy Chitty and James Jones, who moved to Sri Lanka in 2016 to start a new life among palm trees and paddy fields on Lanka’s lush south coast.

The hilltop haven that they’ve built has everything needed for the ultimate fitness getaway. With top-spec workout facilities, including a rooftop yoga shala, stunning infinity pool overlooking Lanka’s lush forests and a full menu of nourishing meals at their wonderful poolside restaurant, Makahiya is the perfect place to push yourself in paradise, and the workouts, setting, ethos and nutritious food are all designed to leave you feeling rejuvenated.

The tropical facility hosts a maximum of 16 guests in a range of eight deluxe digs. Each air-conditioned room is bright, spacious and contemporary, with a private balcony and modern ensuite bathroom. There’s A/C to keep you cool, hot water to wash off the day and ample Wi-Fi by the pool for when the boss wants a word.

Body positive

Makahiya is not a weight-loss retreat. In fact, there isn’t even a set of scales on site. Instead, ex-rugby player James, and fitness coach Soph work with you to reframe your attitude to your body, helping you to make positive changes, both physically and mentally. The sessions are designed for all abilities, and the biggest surprise is that it’s fun. From team-based bootcamps that may feature wall balls, box jumps, (less fun) hill runs and sled pulls, to strength and mobility training, the jungle workouts are all sweat fest parties with a full schedule of daily classes, all of which are included in every retreat package.

Away from the bootcamps, Makahiya also has its own bespoke gym with an arsenal of Watson Gym Equipment, custom-made and shipped from the UK, that James reckons rivals any of Dubai’s best gyms. Unlimited access is part of every package, so you can step up whenever the squat rack calls. Plus, everyone receives a complimentary coaching session where the team work with you to set a fitness foundation and tailor the shape of your training for when you’re back home. You can add on more private sessions for just Dhs90 a class.

The daily grind

Those familiar with restriction-based retreats will find Makahiya’s bon-vivant approach refreshing. Unlike other fitness camps that have hectic programming, Makahiya’s exercise regime is relatively loose. Each morning a class begins at 8am and ends around 9.30am. Then there’s another session at 4pm. You’re welcome to fill the gap in between as you please, either by sunbathing by the pool, swimming laps, hitting up a solo workout in the gym, going for a walk or, if you like, heading out to the nearby beach. It’s a perfectly balanced programme that’s rewarding, challenging and still leaves you feeling like you’re on holiday.

Food for fitness

It might sound unusual for a health break, but you’ll never go hungry at Makahiya. The philosophy is to eat fresh and well, and the on-site restaurant is beloved not just by the owners and those on the retreat, but by Lanka’s gym bunny expat crew, who not only join in on the daily boot camp sessions but refuel here too. If you’re on the retreat, breakfast, lunch and dinner is served here every day of your stay where you’ll find a curated menu of nutritious dishes and nourishing drinks. Everyone talks about the protein pancakes as the ultimate breakfast of champions, and don’t be surprised if you order the grilled barramundi with sweet potato mash multiple times for dinner – it’s sublime.

Book it

Makahiya reopens from June 17 with week-long retreats starting and finishing on Saturdays. A one-week retreat starts at Dhs5,027 (or Dhs7,299 based on two people sharing). Prices are all-inclusive. Book now. You won’t regret it.

Getting there

Flydubai operates daily services between Dubai to Colombo from Dhs1,693 return.


Images: Supplied