Mandala de Masca is a yoga retreat space perched up in the mighty mountains of the Masca Valley. I was lucky enough to join the Yoga Chakras Retreat for 8 days and 7 nights in August of 2023. Alongside 10 other travelers, we embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime experience of wellness and reconnection through workshops, yoga, and a few day trips. I paid $1,350 USD for a room with a shared bathroom. This is my review of the retreat experience. You can book the retreat here.
Table of Contents
I. About Masca Valley
Compared to the rest of Tenerife, Masca is another world. This region was historically a place of refuge for the indigenous people of this Canarian Island: The Guanches. To escape the brutal Spanish invasion, they hid in one of the most impregnable mountainous regions of the island. Surrounded by rough rocky peaks and steep hills, I can see why. It’s hard to access, even today, you need to take windy narrow roads around mountain cliffsides. Sometimes, two cars can’t pass and one needs to wait for the other (or worse, it needs to back up). One of my taxi drivers would honk at every sharp turn because it was impossible to see who could be zooming up until turning.
The climate is also as rough as the landscape, with fierce sunshine during the day and a drastic drop in temperature at night. Like the desert. With the exception of the sporadic thick clouds that sometimes pass through. And just behind the mountains, you can see the ocean, La Gomera island, and black sand coastlines. Bring sunscreen and a UV umbrella for your walks into town.
II. Don’t Have Expectations
Our 8 day/7 night, chakra yoga retreat was co-led by Diana, who during our introduction meet-and-greet, promptly instructed us to release expectations. Which set the tone: go with the flow. Don’t ask too many questions about the program beyond today’s schedule. From a tourism/hospitality perspective, I totally understood. Things change, the weather can affect schedules, sometimes things go over and we have to adjust, oftentimes you want to feel the vibe to tweak things, etc. Especially since every retreat they host is totally different with various themes and seasons.
This releases so much pressure on each other. Putting so much weight on things can feel like work instead of going with the present. Because in life, you often have to feel the current space out and tweak things as you go. Something I struggle with, as I want clarity, control of situations, risk mitigation, and preparation… and those gifts have brought me much success and abundance. But sometimes, it’s important to reel that in and balance it with some flow. Bringing in some yin to that yang (a topic we discussed a lot on the retreat).
And with that mindset, we were able to fit in an extra hike one morning! But more on that later.
III. Daily Retreat Schedule
We were given an idea of what to expect when booking the retreat but we didn’t full week’s schedule. Instead, every morning, our board would have the schedule of the day upon awakening. It would look something like this:
- 7:15 AM: Fruits and tea time
- 8:00 AM: Yoga
- 9:30 AM: Breakfast
- Free time
- 11:00 AM: Group workshops
- 1:30 PM: Lunch
- Free time
- 4:00 PM: Yoga or breathing exercise
- Free time
- 6:00 PM: Dinner
- Free time
- 8:00 PM: Yoga or other practice
- 10:00 PM: Silent time
The activities are all optional. And if you want to eat at another time, you can tell them. So while the schedule is pretty packed, you can opt to skip a few things for downtime. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with FOMO since there are so many cool activities and you’ll want to hang out with everyone. But don’t overdo it. Rest. Take you-time. Being around 10+ other people for 8 days requires a lot energy from anyone, even if you’re the most energetic extrovert.
IV. The Retreat Workshops
The workshops will vary by retreat type, time of the year, co-leader, and many other factors. But these were my activities.
1. Beach & El Teide Day Trip
This was unsurprisingly, one of my favorite days. We were given lunch and breakfast to go and left for the highest point in the Atlantic Ocean: El Teide Volcano & National Park (and UNESCO World Heritage Site). Immediately, I felt this was a special and nurturing natural wonder. It’s hard to put into words how nourishing and serene the nature around us felt. It was quiet in a filling way. Pine trees growing between lava rocks surrounding the main road. There are several points where you can hike, explore, and enjoy the vastness of this national park atop a dormant volcano. You can continue your journey on a tour to the towns of Icod de los Vinos and Garachico, then see the volcanic peaks and ravines of Masca.
Fun fact: This is the third tallest volcano in the world. Should you decide to go back, you can ride the teleferico (cable car) up to the very top for about $45. I would have gladly switched the beach time for a full day here, but I’m a mountain girl.
Beach: Other girls were eager for the beach, so after doing some yoga and light walking at El Teide, off we went for the second half of our day to the coast. We we taken to the beaches in Alcala. Here, you could see a natural pool, resorts, and various beaches. We were given about an hour of free time. So me and Milla, my retreat bestie, decided to stay at the popular one because they had chairs with shade. We swam in the ocean and it was actually a lot of fun (even though I’m not a dark-water-beach person).
2. The Art Workshop
We were given blank canvases to draw our feelings using pastels.
I thought carefully “Which colors should I choose… the bright reds and oranges for my hopes and dreams and fire… The purples for my sadness and shadows… and what else… and how can I piece it together?” That’s when my roommate, sitting to my immediate right, began to aggressively draw expansive geometric lines across her entire sheet. Intensely and quickly filling the canvas. Whoa, I thought. She just went straight in. OK, let me try incorporating some of that flow.
I had maybe 10% of my paper filled when Diana said “Stop. Now pass the paper to the person on your right” We all gasped in unison. “But my vision!” I said in semi-joking dismay. That’s when my roommate began drawing massive geometric lines all across my art “Noooooo!” I clasped my hands to my head. We laughed.
I decided the theme for this workshop would be practicing non-attachment, something I struggled with in pottery.
This experience also taught me so much about each person on the retreat, seeing what they created on paper. Suzi, in front of me, started with cute butterflies and then smudged every page with feminine colors. Milla added lotus flowers to everyone’s piece. I added little details like circles, eyes, intricate squiggles, and boxes. Diana would add poster-like vivid imagery. Anouk would draw stunning cartoon figures. And, my roommate (Suzi 2), would rampage through it all, like Drax the Destroyer. I was a little scared of her after that.
3. The Sound Bath
This one honestly, drove me to the brink of breaking. It seemed about half of us found it way too intense and the other half found it life-changing amaaaazing. I didn’t know what to expect so I went into the experience going with the flow.
But there came a point, where I wanted to stomp out of there because the sound for me was almost violently loud and I was worried about my hearing. But I didn’t know how long it would last that intensely. One minute? Twenty? So I waited and eventually somehow, despite it being the loudest thing I’ve ever experienced vibrating inside my skull, I fell asleep. Maybe I was so stressed I passed out. Or maybe the noise simmered, I don’t know. But I woke up so grumpy, that I left immediately when it was over. And Anouk, my retreat mate noticed and asked me if I was OK. “No” I immediately realized, I wasn’t OK. And I started crying. I think it was:
- I’m neurodivergent and I am a highly sensitive person as defined by Dr. Elaine Aron. We have extra strong senses, are deeply attuned to things, and thus can more easily get sensory overload. So blaring loud sounds, strong stinging smells, and blindingly bright lights can be overkill for us.
- It was a childhood trigger of feeling stuck somewhere while feeling tortured and unable to leave because “what if I disrupt the class?” Putting other needs in front of mine. This has been an ongoing healing journey for me through adulthood. Once, I found myself stuck in a toxic corporate job and couldn’t file for disability despite my therapist’s advice, because I was too scared. I’ve had to work through therapy to remember that I always have an option now to get up and leave bad situations. And I think at that moment, I was so confused with the lack of information on how long that sound bath would last, that I didn’t know whether to get up and go or wait it out or not. And then when I passed out, I woke up angry at the instructor, wondering who in their right mind subjects people to something like that? Maybe she has lost her hearing and didn’t notice? That’s when some of the girls began to remark about how amazing the experience was. Oh.
- But there were others who also had a rough time with it. One girl even got a headache.
- As I discussed with my other sensitive retreat mate, Bianca, we should have just gotten up and left. So I was also mad at myself for that. But again, I didn’t know what to expect. No expectations, remember?
We were also warned that with sound baths, traumas can resurface and/or emotional blocks can shift. So mission accomplished there. And a massive reminder to myself: when things suck, leave. When not 100% into something, it’s OK to say no. Plus the art of practicing discernment. And so from this torturous sound bath, I will derive that massive reminder and life lesson.
So if at any point, you ever feel super uncomfortable with any workshop or experience, JUST GET UP AND GO. Even if you don’t know how long it will last (one more minute or thirty), get up and go!
4. Hiking in Masca Valley
The retreat space is situated perfectly between hiking trails and the village. So you can check out the nearby Masca Valley hiking trails ranging from 45 minutes to a full day. All of them include steep ascending and descending so bring hiking boots, and be mindful of your joint stability going down and cardio endurance going up. You can do these on your own, with the people on the retreat, or maybe they’ll organize a hike with your retreat leader! Don’t miss out on exploring the Masca ravine and canyoning at the natural pools and waterfalls nearby!
Some of the girls did a hike on their own and said it was totally worth it. And on one morning we did a 7-kilometre hike together. However, it was a steep hike and the group was going too fast for my comfort. I was out of breath, didn’t want to get hurt rushing, and I didn’t like people always waiting for me to catch up. So after about a mile, I decided to head back down on my own while the rest continued marching up like it was a race. LOL. On the way down, I put on some good Billie Eilish music, took photos, and enjoyed me-time in nature at my own pace. It was perfect.
5. The Japa Mala Beads Workshop
A Japa Mala, or just “Mala,” is are a string of 108 beads, used in Buddhism and Hinduism, usually made from stuff like wood, gemstones, or seeds. People use it for meditation and chanting mantras.
This workshop at first sounded boring but was actually super interesting and a lot of fun. It was also a special bonding experience for us all. Another way our personalities showed through our designs of the beads. And we all became super attached to our necklaces, often wearing them. We’d also use them later for a meditation workship.
We found this one SO helpful as many of us realized we’re not breathing properly. Today, many people are shallow breathers or mouth breathers. The techniques we were taught were so incredible. And we tried a few teachings and types. Best of all? It provides clarity, balance, and calms the nervous system.
7. Other Workshops We Did
- Meditation: Sadly, I skipped two of these, but the girls told me it was amazing and incorporated a lot of mindfulness. I did a few other types, like the japa mala mantras which was interesting.
- Full Moon: Full moons are a time we can reflect monthly on the things that we want to release or let go of. We did a special full moon workshop related to this.
- Handstand: I skipped this one, but it was a beginner’s workshop to learn how to do a handstand. It looked like a lot of fun! But me-time > FOMO!
- Henna: For free!
- Cooking Lesson: On how to make vegan bites and dips.
- And so much more!
8. Massages On-Site
A local Spaniard lady does excellent massages. She offers different types from holistic to more spiritual types. She was super lovely and attentive to everyone’s needs. Ours cost about 65 euros each. And you can do more than one!
V. The Yoga at Mandala de Masca
Every morning we tried different types of yoga practices ranging from yin yoga, to 180 salutations to the sun, to yoga nidra. I loved that we had movements for all types of levels which helped make it accessible for everyone. And I discovered new types of yoga that I hope to incorporate into my future practices! We also had easier yoga on some evenings as well.
VI. About Masca Village Center
Masca village is small and kind of dispersed, but there is a center area perched along cliff edges and steep cobblestone hills that you can visit. From Mandala de Masca retreat center, you can walk about 10 minutes along a newly constructed boardwalk alongside the highway. The village center is small but worth the visit. It’s got a church, a uniquely sized tree that provides shading, some cafes and restaurants, one or two market stands, and a tourist shop.
On the walk, wear sunscreen and bring a UV umbrella because that sun is no joke. The steep hills in the town also had me taking breaks going up and holding on for dear life on the way down so I would fall. Bring your camera, as there are epic photo opportunities all around.
Please note – a Masca fire in 2007 devastated the area and destroyed many of the houses. No lives were lost as they were evacuated in time, but many of the structures were lost and/or are now newer due to that.
VII. The Retreat Space
The space is absolutely stunning. I couldn’t believe my eyes upon arrival. It’s also quite expansive.
- Entrance: You drive up a steep hill and then take stairs up a few flights to reach your room. If you have accessibility issues, make this known so that you can get one of the lower rooms.
- Pool: The beautiful pool has no chlorine!
- Indoor patio: Perfect space to hang out indoors with lots of natural light.
- The outdoor dining area: Outside under bougainvillea tree shade.
- Outdoor patios: Different outdoor areas. One of them was used for morning yoga and nighttime activities.
- The cats: I was so in love with the cute kittens.
VIII. The Rooms at Mandala de Masca Retreat
There are about 10 different rooms for retreat-goers here. Some of them can be used as single rooms, doubles, or even triples.
My Room: By the time I booked (two weeks before the retreat), there was only a room with a shared bathroom. However, I don’t recommend this on a retreat because you never know what kind of total stranger you may end up. It’s not worth the risk. Invest the $200 extra to upgrade to a single! You don’t know a stranger’s bathroom or morning/night habits. But if you do get a roommate, be sure to communicate bathroom times and expectations. Yoga starts at 8:00 a.m., so coordinate your routines accordingly.
Other rooms: The girls on the retreat had totally different rooms. Some looked like little apartments. Others like little igloos. Some had grand bathrooms and others had tiny ones. Some had their own little patios. And others had massive windows. Since all the rooms cost the same, we speculated that the assigning of rooms was either random or on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Temperature: Since Masca has desert-like weather, the temperature drops at night which is perfect. I would recommend that you ask for a room with big windows so you can control the temperature and have night natural lighting like I did.
Sleeping: Bring a white noise machine and ear plugs, if you are sensitive to sound, just in case there are chickens or windy noises. As a New Yorker, I didn’t hear any of that. But others commented on little sounds like that.
IX. The Food at Mandala de Masca
The food is all-natural, gluten-free, plant-based, and locally sourced. Nothing is fried. And there are no added sugars, except natural sweeteners like honey or dates. This is great for cleansing. However, I found the food a bit too carb-heavy for me and I wish they had included more plant protein. I normally eat 1/3 carbs, 1/3 protein, and 1/3 fiber or veggies. But the plates here were more like 3/5 carbs, 1/5 fiber and 1/5 protein. So if you struggle with blood sugar or other food-related needs, bring this up to them ahead of time and explain that you will need modifications.
I wanted to keep an open mind so I decided to go with the flow, but I soon realized that I could no longer eat carb-heavy meals. Even if it’s all plant-based. I don’t sleep well, I get bloated, and I feel sluggish from the sugar spikes and crashes. But now I know for sure, so this was a great lesson for me. Next time I do a retreat with them, I will make sure to either bring forms of protein or ask them to cater to that need with eggs or something like that. They are very accommodating, so I’m sure it would not be an issue if you need to ask for this.
X. Getting There & Airport Transfer
Marcello, the co-founder, picked us up in two groups at the Tenerife SOUTH airport. An early afternoon and evening group. The drive there was a bit scary due to the curves but we got used to it by the end. And the extra steep hill up to the retreat center requires a car with healthy brakes!
XI. Conclusion: Final Review
This was an unforgettable and life-changing experience. I was blown away. It’s been 2 weeks since the experience, and I’m still unpacking so many impactful takeaways. I strongly recommend a retreat here, the workshops, the space, and the location were gifts that kept on giving.
XII. My Other Spain Blog Posts
- 24 Beautiful Places to Visit in Spain
- 23 Most Stunning Parador Hotels in Spain
- 13 Amazing Northern Spain Road Trip Stops with Itinerary Ideas
- Experience Summer in Seville