A Roaming Yogi's Guide To Yoga, Adventure, & Healthy Eats in Dubai

From the world's tallest building to old world architecture and traditional souks, Dubai has it all. 

Dubai is largest and most populated city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is iconic for its massive skyscrapers and high rise buildings. Not only that, it also hosts stunning deserts and beaches, luxurious hotels and malls, and plenty of attractions and adventure to last you for weeks. 

In the 4 days that I spent in Dubai on my way to our retreat in Sri Lanka, I was able to experience a wide-variety of new and old culture, yoga, food, and of course, adventure!

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Yoga

Dubai is filled with yoga, pilates, and fitness so it is a perfect destination to visit if you like to keep up with your healthy routine while traveling. 

Yoga @thepark

On my first morning in Dubai, my friend Amanda took me to a free yoga class overlooking the Dubai Marina. With views of both the water and giant sky scrapers, it was a perfect introduction to Dubai. The instructor was great and her all-levels vinyasa flow felt amazing on my body after being on a plane for 17 hours the day before.  

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Zen Yoga

Zen yoga is the oldest yoga studio in Dubai at 10 years old. They have both yoga and pilates and are known for having the some of the best instructors in the city. 

136.1 Yoga

Overlooking the Dubai Marina, 136.1 Yoga is one of the most popular studios in Dubai and offers up to 20 classes a day! Need I say more?

 

Adventures & Sights To See

Dune Bashing/Desert Safari

So. Much. Fun!

I got super lucky to have locals to be my guides all weekend. My friends Amanda and Brendan took me out to the desert in their SUV and showed me the ropes of dune bashing, which is basically off-roading on the sand dunes. I got to have an adrenaline rush as I took in the stunning views of the vast desert and I even got to see families of roaming camel's on the way there. Absolute perfection. 

There are desert safari excursions that you can book that will also take you dune bashing and on a tour of the desert. I recommend looking for one that does not include camel rides as there is no way to know for sure if they are treated properly. 

Tip: Stop at one of the convenience stores on your way out to desert and pick up a dishdash - or headscarf - to wear on your head. :)

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Big Bus Tour 

The Big Bus Tour is a company that does tours in cities all over the world. I am not usually one for "tours" but I found that this one was pretty awesome. It costs about $40 and you can get off and on at stops all over the city. The best part? You can explore by yourself and while you're on the bus you can plug your headphones in and listen to information about the sights you are passing. If you are someone who likes tours, they also offer scheduled tours as you go. 

While on the Big Bus Tour I visited Deira - aka Dubai Creek. This charming area is one of the oldest in Dubai and was different then anything else I had seen during my trip. While there, I explored the Spice Souk and the Al-Arsa Souk where I bought rose and fruit tea, sandalwood incense, and beautiful embroidered pillowcase. I also took a ride on one of the traditional Abras and visited the charming Juthoor Art Cafe for an americano.

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The Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, and Dubai Fountain 

The Dubai Mall, located in Downtown Dubai, is a sight to see. At most times of the day and night it is packed with tourists, X pats, and Emiratis in their traditional kanduras and abayas .  

Burj Khalifa is on the property of the Dubai Mall and is currently the world's tallest building. I must say, it is pretty insane. 

Right after getting off the plane, I went with Amanda the the Dubai Mall to grab dinner with a view of both the Dubai fountains and the Burj Khalifa. Every night, a light show is played on the Burj Khalifa and lucky for us, the emirate was celebrating a special occasion so they played the same light show that was shown on New Year's Eve. It was spectacular. 

I also took a 2nd visit to the Burj Khalifa to go up the building to the 125th floor for sights of all of Dubai. It was really cool but I recommend going in the evening when there is less of a line. 

The Dubai Fountain is another record breaker of Dubai.  Also situated right next on the outside of the Dubai Mall, this is the world's largest performing fountain. You can watch this captivating spectacle from the railings, from an Abra on the Burj Lake, or from a restaurant like we did. 

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Burj Al Arab & Sunset Beach

The Burj Al Arab is world's only 7-star hotel and the 3rd largest hotel in the world. Not only that, but it is a shaped like a sailboat and is located right on an island of reclaimed land 280 meters offshore. Without shelling out the big bucks to stay here, you can visit the hotel by making a reservation at one of its two restaurants. 

Another way to view the Burj Al Arab and to soak in the sun on one of Dubai's beautiful beaches, is by visiting Sunset Beach

Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Completed in 2007, this giant mosque is the largest in the country and is a key place of worship for Friday gathering and Eid prayers. It is filled with intricate details, ornate columns and archways, sparkling chandeliers of  epic proportions, and it is surrounded by glassy fountains. When visiting you must keep your shoulders and hair covered by wearing an abaya that you can borrow when you check-in. 

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Sky Diving

Sky Dive Dubai has one of the most epic sky diving experiences I've ever seen. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush with a high price (around $600 USD) and insane view of the man made Dubai Palms Island then this experience is for you. 

Scuba Diving

The UAE offers incredible diving where you can view ship wrecks, pristine reefs, and an abundance of marine life. Make sure to find a reputable company like PADI when diving in new places. 

 

Healthy Eats

Dubai is filled with restaurants of all price ranges and cuisines. You can find something healthy to eat at most restaurants which was a huge relief for me. 

Social House

After having to eat plane food for the last day, I was craving something fresh and got lucky by coming to Social House to watch the Dubai Fountain show. They have a large variety on their menu including fresh juices and many healthy food options. I chose a fresh green juice and spinach salad. 

Brunch

Brunch in Dubai is not your typical brunch. In fact, brunch here actually takes place at night. Mind. Blown. 

Restaurants all over the city host brunch and it is a popular way that the locals get together and socialize. Like your typical brunch, there is bottomless flowing champagne and other cocktails and a set menu. We paid $40 a pop to spend the whole night eating, drinking, and talking away. 

Last Exit Food Truck Park

This place was super cool. Off the highway on our way to and from Abu Dhabi is this street food truck park with a super fun atmosphere and plenty of different types of food to help soothe any type of craving. We chose to get falafels from  truck called Gyros and Doner and my mouth is still watering just thinking about it. 

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Al Hallab Restaurant

Located in the Dubai Mall, I had one of the happiest moments of my life here. Why? Because I had the best hummus I have ever tasted. Seriously, it was so good. If you're a lover of fresh hummus with warm pita then you have got to go here. 

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I'll wrap it up here. If you are a lover of city life, modern culture infused with tradition, and the finer things in life, then Dubai is for you!

Til next time Roaming Yogis, Xoxo

A Yogi's Guide To Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka holds a very special place in our hearts. This island off the southern coast of India is home to many amazing wildlife creatures, a few dreamy boutique retreat centers, and some of our favorite Roaming Yogi memories so far.

We've compiled yogi's guide to this tropical paradise, complete with where to practice, stay, eat, and adventure. If you are traveling to this beautiful country feel free to reach out with questions, happy to help where we can! And if not, enjoy this photoblog of our retreat! 

A Yogi's Guide To Sri Lanka

First things first, let's talk about where to go. Sri Lanka is huge, and traveling to different parts of the island requires some time and research. All international flights arrive into Colombo, the buzzing capital and largest city. Colombo is known for good shopping and performing arts, and has all the classic features of a big city, including the highest crime rates in the country.

Many visitors will choose to go to central Sri Lanka, making their way to Kandy and Ella and the surrounding area. This part of the country is dotted with tea plantations, aesthetically pleasing temples and hikes, and some of the most scenic train routes in the world.

Some will also choose the Eastern part of the country- Arugam Bay in particular, home to arguably the best surf in Sri Lanka, but an area that is still experiencing many visible repercussions from the civil war that spanned from the 1980s to 2009.

A yogi's paradise, however, is the 80km stretch from Galle to Tangalle in the Southern Province. Here you'll find affordable retreat centers, delicious fresh food, empty beaches, and a fun loving mindful community made up of locals and long term visitors from all over the world. 

Best Yoga Retreat Centers in Southern Sri Lanka

There are heaps of retreat centers dotting the Southern coastline, all complete with beautifully adorned yoga shalas and their own dining facilities focused on fresh, local ingredients. Many also have a full spectrum of Ayurveda treatments to choose from or their own surf camp. You can sleep, eat, practice and dwell comfortably either in healing solitude or intermingling with other likeminded guests. Here's our top choices.

Talalla Yoga & Surf

We chose to host our week long yoga & adventure retreat at Talalla Yoga & Surf and it was a truly magical experience. They run their own retreats each week, and they did a great job accommodating our private group as well. In addition to yoga, there's also a weekly surf camp happening at the property, which brings fun energy and people.

We reserved sea view rooms for our group of 11. The rooms are comfortable and have beautiful outdoor showers, and guests are given the choice to have AC or not. In late February / early March we were comfortable without it and just used fans.

We woke up each morning to the monkeys and peacocks saluting the day, and answered their call by watching the sun rise over the ocean. We took advantage of all three of the open-air yoga shalas on site, and enjoyed having the serene ocean and jungle as backdrops to our twice daily practice.

The food at Talalla is talked about along the entire Southern Province, and for good reason! Guests can choose how many meals to include in their experience (full or half board). Breakfast & dinner are buffet style (standard at the inclusive retreat centers) and consisted mostly of creative curry and salad dishes with fresh, local ingredients- think coconut, pumpkin, lentils, potatoes, fresh fish and vegetables, endless tropical fruits, and mouthwatering spice like cinnamon (indigenous to Sri Lanka), chili, curry leaves, tumeric, cardamom and lemongrass. They also have a great lunch menu, rich coffee, and plenty of little snacks and smoothies to stay satiated throughout the day.

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Underneath the Mango Tree

Underneath the Mango Tree (locally known as UTMT) is a high end Ayurveda hotel and spa. They have a daily yoga schedule for guests staying at the property, but what they are known for is their highly regarded Ayurveda specialists. 

Guests stay for anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks at a time, and most begin with a consultation with an Ayurvedic doctor and then spend their time on a personalized wellness retreat. The staff at UTMT also organize excursions from the property an have movie nights on site. 

All meals can be included, and they have tons of information in their dining hall about eating according to dosha type as discovered by the initial Ayurvedic consultation. 

Pop Yoga

Pop Yoga is new on the scene in Southern Sri Lanka, and founded by one of our friends we met on our travels! Geda is a longtime yoga practitioner and teacher, world traveler, and all around good human with many stories and insights to share. Geda has lived in the area since 2016 and has cultivated a world class team of healers and teachers to bring his vision of Pop Yoga to life. Guests can choose from a wide range of yoga classes, Ayurvedic treatments and cultural excursions and the Ayurvedic dining program is second to none. Check out Pop Yoga here.

 

Adventures in Southern Sri Lanka

Udawalawe National Park

You weren't going to visit Sri Lanka and not go on a wildlife safari, were you? That would be a big mistake.

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There are two main park areas to go on a day long safari in the Southern Province. Yala National Park is known for leopard sightings, but also known for heavy crowds and SuperJeep traffic jams.

We recommend checking out Udawalawe National Park. It's closer to the main areas for accommodation in the south, and you'll see elephants in their wild habitat, multiple species of birds, water buffalo, peacocks, mongooses, and deer. There's also the occasional leopard spotting, but it is more rare than at Yala.

A quick google search will return plenty of companies who hire Super Jeeps and a driver for the safari, and will take you to the entrance where you can buy your entry into the national park. A great way to spend a day out in nature! 

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Snorkeling at Polhena Beach

One of our favorite days was snorkeling with giant sea turtles in Polhena Beach near Matara. Matara is located in the center of the action of the Southern coast, and it's super easy to rent equipment. Take a tuk tuk to Polhena Beach, and you'll see several options right off the road as you pull up. Rental should cost around 2,000 Sri Lankan Rupees per person, so don't get tricked into paying more! 

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Surfing at Horsehoe Bay (Hiriketiya)

The best surf and the most fun beach in the area are one and the same. We could have easily spent a whole week (or two) at Horseshoe Bay in Hiriketiya. There's a rock point break for more experienced surfers and a gentle beach break for surfers of all levels to enjoy. 

You can easily get a quick lesson from one of the locals if you'd like (expect to pay about $40 USD), or hire a board from the beach.

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Pro tip: Go get a massage at Beach House after your surf sesh. You won't regret it. 

Whale Watching in Mirissa

We didn't actually go whale watching in Mirissa, but many people recommended it and as such we thought to include it here. Blue whales feed off of the unusual amount of plankton near the small town of Mirissa Beach, and there are regular tours and sightings from November to April. Cost is around $60 US per person. 

Cultural Experiences in Sri Lanka

Mulkirigala Rock Temple

During our retreat, we spent a morning at the Mulkirigala Rock Temple, and it was nice experience to have in our itinerary. It's a 500 step hike up a beautiful rock formation set amidst the jungle. Along the way you'll find temple rooms with many dedications to Buddha carved right into the rocks and painted in caves. At the top there's a beautiful view of the jungle, which makes for a perfect spot for a picnic and meditation. We also received blessings to live a long prosperous life, which was a cool touch. Ladies, it is a temple, so be sure to cover your shoulders and legs to show respect to the culture.

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Virgin White Tea Plantation

Tea is an integral part of the culture in Sri Lanka and about an hour inland from the coast you'll find rolling hills of tea plantations. Take a trip to Virgin White Tea Plantation and learn about how the teas are grown and produced, and create a meditative tea tasting experience for yourself or your group.

Cooking Demonstration

As yogis, we're very passionate about what we are putting into our bodies, and getting a cooking demonstration was a highlight of the trip! We learned how to make dahl curry (a Sri Lankan staple), pumpkin curry, and radish curry, and learned all about the spices and ingredients used in other classic Sri Lankan dishes. Most retreat centers or hotels an organize something like this for you- 10/10 would recommend.

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Eat, Drink, Shop & Be Merry

Galle

Honey Beach Inn

We loved this cute little guest house off the beaten path in Galle. It felt super private and was extremely affordable + they have a workspace and outdoor area right on the beach! 

Salty Swamis Cafe & Surf Shop Hikkaduwa

Delicious coffee, surf rentals, and vegan + gluten free options. If you're in Hikkaduwa, don't miss out on this hip hangout! Open for breakfast and lunch (8am to 3pm).

Coconut Sambol Galle

Super local spot with delicious curries, salads and desserts. Come hungry! Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options available.

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A taste of America right in Sri Lanka. If you're craving the comfort of home, come here for a wrap & superfood smoothie or juice.

Shopping

Galle is the best place you'll find for souvenirs and clothes and jewelry shopping. I'd recommend buying your friends and family an array of spices, and pick up some moonstones (they are native to Sri Lanka!). 

Walk around the area by the fort and lighthouse, and you'll find yourself easily wandering in and out of stores for a whole afternoon.

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Hiriketiya Beach & Dikwella Town

Verse Collective

I could write another whole blog post on how much I loved my time at Verse Collective. A five minute tuk tuk from the hotspot of Hiriketiya, Verse is a newly opened social aesthetic with a private accommodation, a co-working space, cafe and surf shop. 

It's a converted old colonial house that sits right on the beach, nestled faraway from the hustle and bustle of the main street running through Dikwella town.

It's run by a South African couple (Penny & Jeremy) who are just lovely, and the whole staff is super personable. The food and coffee are delicious, and the space is buzzing with raw creative energy. Please do yourself a favor and stay here if you are looking for awesome affordable accommodation in the area!

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Salthouse

Salt is a super chill hangout in Hiriketiya. Come for a cocktail and bite to eat (they have vegan and gluten free options) and be sure to check out the shop at the back- they sell the most amazing hand crafted kimonos and men's shirts. 

Grove

Another great spot right around the corner. The lawn is a beautiful location to have a coffee and enjoy a slow morning, or come for dinner and stay awhile. They also have a small shop selling things like cacao and homemade bug repellent. 

Dots

We did some of our best shopping at Dots in Hiriketiya- think cute local labels, a healthy cafe & delicious local spreads and snacks to take home. We caught a night of live music here. The venue is pretty big and the show was great! 

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The Doctor's House

There's not enough good things to say about Doctor's House. We went on the first Saturday of the month, which meant there was live music all afternoon. They have an awesome bar, great food menu, and the vibes just don't stop. We were devastated when we had to leave the party to go straight to the airport, but what a last day! 

Nomad Cafe & Boutique

A great spot to have breakfast or lunch. Most of the menu is vegan, and they have cozy outdoor seating with shade trees. 

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Southern Sri Lanka was so good to us. A trip here provides a healthy dose of vitamin D and a chance to truly getaway from the world. There's also a really cool creative scene budding here that kept us inspired and stoked on life. We enjoyed getting to know the culture and easy going way of life here, and will welcome many more Roaming Yogi Island Adventures in the future! 

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A Roaming Yogi's Guide To Tulum & Quintana Roo

I spent the first week of 2018 exploring Tulum & Quintana Roo, and I was not disappointed by my first time in this part of Mexico! Tropical climates are definitely my favorite and where I feel most inspired and creative. I love the lush life flourishing everywhere- green jungle, warm(ish) salty Caribbean sea, fresh fruits and veggies; humidity & sweat beads forming while just sitting there in January... bikinis & sarongs & sandals the only real necessity on the packing list. 

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Tulum definitely wins the yogi's choice awards on this part of Mexico. My heart started fluttering as we drove down Highway 15 into the foliage lined streets. Familiarity washed over me. It was my first time there, but the people, the local vibe, the shops, the yoga shalas and the cafes all felt like home. 

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Yoga + Accommodation in Tulum

If it seems like there's a million yoga retreats in Tulum, it's because there are! This town was created for conscious people to get away, feel off the grid and reconnect to source and self. And have a damn good time doing it.

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The peaceful beach town is carved out of the space where the jungle meets the sea and there's an abundance of boutique hotels that offer daily yoga, a health cafe & spa on site.

Check out these four beautiful choices for places to stay in Tulum that offer yoga + accommodation + healthy food all in one! 

Sanará Tulum

Amansala Eco-Chic Resort

Ahau Tulum

The Beach Tulum

Healthy Eats in Tulum

If you follow a plant based, gluten free or otherwise restrictive diet, you know it can be hard to maintain while traveling. I am instantly a big fan of places where this is easily accessible and Tulum offers just that. 

I don't know about you but the beach makes me super hungry. If you've ever thought vegan food isn't indulgent, please prove yourself wrong all over Tulum.

Start your day at Matcha Mama Tulum or Raw Love for all vegan smoothies, bowls & juices. You can also hit them back up later in the day for entrees or dessert! 

For lunch you'll want to check out Charly's vegan tacos for the most bomb.com vegan take on authentic Mexican tacos around. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. 

After lunch I'd recommend renting a bike and popping in all the shops for chic beach outfits, beautiful gems, and traditional Mayan souvenirs. Feel free to cruise with just your bikini, a sarong, & sandals and no one will look twice.

Enjoy a mid day snack like guacamole, plantain chips or vegan ice cream at I Scream Bar or head to Taqueria La Eufemia to lounge on a day bed and watch the waves come in as you enjoy a pina colada or fresh coconut and a siesta. 

For dinner, consider Casa Jaguar for an awesomely jungle themed vibe or Burrito Amor for exactly what it sounds like- loving (vegan) burritos. 

You won't have a hard time stumbling upon your own favorite places to eat. Just wander and don't worry about time at all here. 

Plan in your adventure days, and relax, beach, shop it, and eat when you stay in Tulum.

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Adventure in Quintana Roo & Yucatan

Per usual, I'd recommend renting a car to get around. We got a car from Avis at the Cancun airport (make sure you request local Quintana Roo tags) and explored all the way from Playa Del Carmen to Tulum to Chichen Itza in just 5 days time. We also had plenty of time for lounging and recalibrating mind, body and spirit.

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My can't miss adventures for staying anywhere in the Quintana Roo & Yucatan area are exploring Mayan ruins, swimming in cenotes & an island day trip. 

Chichen Itza is the main attraction for ancient Mayan ruins and the #1 tourist destination in Mexico.

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I went on a Tuesday in the middle of the day in January and it was warm but not hot; busy but not crowded. It's a 2 hour drive from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen, but well worth it in my opinion. You could also visit the less popular + closer Coba which looked cool as well.

Swimming in cenotes are a must when visiting this part of Mexico. Cenotes are sinkholes in limestone that expose freshwater down below the ground and they are super refreshing to jump in after a long day of adventure or for a post yoga morning swim! 

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I went to the Gran Cenote just outside Tulum and Cenote Sagrado right by Chichen Itza. There's tons along the entire coast so check out one you can get to easily or venture off the beaten path, just have about 500 pesos cash just in case for entry fee, towel & locker rental. 

Day trips to either Cozumel or Isla Mujeres are a great way to get away for a day and break up your trip if you are staying for awhile. You can easily get a ferry to Cozumel from Tulum or Playa Del Carmen, or to Isla Mujeres from Cancun. You could also head to Akumal to swim with turtles for the day! 

I must say we are inspired to potentially host a little something in Tulum at some point. Is this a place you'd love to travel with us? Let us know with a like on this and leave a comment if it was helpful to you! 

With love,

Alice

(Side note): For the drive to Chichen Itza from Playa Del Carmen, you will want to have cash for 2 different toll roads. Pesos are better (have up to 500 pesos cash for this day trip). Also, do not be alarmed that there are check points where police officers have machine guns. In my experience, they will wave you right through.