Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India?

I receive several emails a week about doing yoga retreats abroad. The most common question is, “Should I do a yoga retreat in Bali or India?”

For background, in 2013 I did a three-week DIY budget yoga retreat in Ubud, Bali, and in 2014 I completed a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh, India. While I enjoyed both Bali and India, they’re very different destinations, so I wanted to underline the pros and cons in order to help you decide which will be a better fit for you.

Cost – Winner, India

Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India?

India is undoubtedly cheaper than Bali. My month-long Yoga Teacher Training cost only $1,250 USD, which included instruction, three vegetarian meals a day, hotel accommodation, and a weekly field trip.

On the other hand, a Yoga Teacher Training in Bali will cost you $2500 – $4500 USD. And that doesn’t usually include accommodation or food.

Comfort – Winner, Bali

Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India?
My room at the Alaya, a luxury hotel where I treated myself. Bonus – it’s a stone’s throw from the Yoga Barn!

Bali is definitely more developed than most parts of India. Amenities like air conditioning are easier to come by, and overall the men are much less aggressive. However, it is a more expensive destination but luckily not by much – Bali is still very affordable.

Instruction Level – Tie

Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India?

I loved both my instructors in both India and Bali. My instructors at my Vinyasa Yoga School in India were incredible – my primary vinyasa instructor is an award-winning yogi, who had competed in the Lakulish World Yogasan Championship. Also, I liked having all Indian instructors – they taught us a ton about Indian culture and history.

I also loved my instructors in Bali at the Yoga Barn. While most of my yoga teachers were western, I did have a few Balinese teachers. Les Leventhal in particular was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.

Overall the yoga instruction in both Bali and India was top-notch.

 

What is Rishikesh, India, like?

Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India?

Rishikesh is a holy city on the Ganges. It became famous in the 60’s when the Beatles visited, and is sometimes called the “Yoga Capital of the World.” (Yoga centers are seriously everywhere).

Rishikesh isn’t exactly undeveloped, but it’s not luxurious by any means. The power goes out every couple of hours and only few buildings in town have AC, which is especially troubling when temperatures soar above 110 degrees.

Like most places I visited in Northern India, cows and monkeys abound. (And due to the cows, tons of cow pies and flies). Another thing to note is that Rishikesh is a meat- and alcohol-free city, so no post-yoga happy hours while in Rishikesh.

To be honest, I didn’t love Rishikesh. It felt like the worst of both worlds – remote enough to lack amenities, but not remote enough to actually enjoy fresh air or mountain scenery. Also most of the food was god-awful. If you’re interested in going to India for yoga, I’ve heard great things about both Goa and Northern India for yoga retreats.

What is Ubud, Bali, like?

Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India?
A beautiful temple near Ubud.

Ubud is the landlocked cultural hub of Bali. A small city, Ubud is chock-full of art galleries, yoga studios, and healthy cafés. It has become much more touristy since the Eat Pray Love phenomenon, but I still found it easy to meet locals and get around without too many touts.

If you’re on a budget, stay at either Jangkrik and Latugu House – those were my favorite guest houses.

If you’re looking to indulge yourself, stay at the Alaya – it’s a luxury hotel located right next to the Yoga Barn. Plus, it has the sweetest staff and gorgeous views of the rice terraces.

Where did you do your yoga teacher training in India?

Rishikesh_Yoga_School_vinyasa

I did my Yoga Teacher Training at Vinyasa Yoga School in Rishikesh. I loved the instructors but was not fond of the management- every time we voiced a concern, it fell upon deaf ears. Also the owner tried to get us to pay under the table which was shady, needless to say. The hotel where we stayed was passably nice but the power went out 10-15 times a day (no joke) and there was no AC.

Where did you do your budget yoga retreat in Bali?

Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India

I did yoga at the The Yoga Barn in Ubud for three weeks. I absolutely loved it – the grounds are beautiful and lush, the food is delicious and healthy and the instructors are world-class. I also really enjoyed the spa – I mean, duh.

Why did you ultimately chose to your yoga teacher training in India over Bali?

Despite absolutely loving my budget yoga retreat in Bali, I ultimately chose to do my yoga teacher training in India because of two factors: one, yoga originated in India, and two, it’s much, much cheaper. Ultimately I was happy with my experience because I got to discover a new country and trek the Himalayas.

Overall Comparison

I would highly recommend doing yoga in India and Bali – however, they offer very different experiences.

If you want to relax and unwind, go to Bali. I loved doing yoga in landlocked Ubud, but if you’re more into the beach check out Canggu or nearby Gili Air.

If you want to rough it, and immerse yourself in a fascinating but often frustrating culture, go to India.

As I wrote when I visited, “Out of all the countries I’ve visited, India is by far the dirtiest and poorest, but also the most colorful, spiritual and fascinating.”

Other posts that may help you decide whether to do yoga in India or Bali:

What is a Yoga Teacher Training in India Like?

What I Learned from Giving Up Meat, Alcohol and Complaining in India

What I Loved (And Didn’t Love) About India

The Craziest Things That Happened in India

What to Pack for a Yoga Teacher Training in India

How to DIY a Budget Yoga Retreat in Bali

What I Miss About Bali

Chasing Eat Pray Love in Bali

What about you? Would you rather do yoga in India or Bali, or somewhere else entirely?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

17 thoughts on “Should I Do a Yoga Retreat in Bali or India?”

  1. The choice is simple. Bali. Offset the extra cost by providing AW Bali Yoga lessons to trip supporters near you upon your return. For instance, $100 for 4 one hour classes upon your return. $200 gets 10. Good for 1 year. Be sure to make & provide refreshing iced tea from Bali after each class to your students. If you are in New York, I would get it.

  2. Very interesting post. I didn’t realise that there could be major differences between having a yoga centred experience in Bali and a yoga centred experience in India. But I guess that makes sense because they’re both different cultures and obviously that affects the experience. I think I would go with Bali personally.. I’d want as much of a relaxing experience as possible if I was travelling to learn yoga :)

  3. I’m here in Bali now and am hopelessly in love with life here. I was in India before for nearly three months and everything you say is on point. Goa would probably be better, albeit not as spiritual of an experience. For me, Bali is the hands down winner for DIY retreats whereas India would ultimately win for TTC because of price and culture. That being said, there’s a new studio in Canggu called The Practice and (I’m sorry to say) it makes Yoga Barn look shabby. The rice paddy view in their little bamboo shala cocoon is a spiritual experience.

  4. Lovely post Ashley!

    I’m not really into yoga I’m afraid (gasp!), I’m more the climb-every-mountain-type of girl lol! However, I’ve been to both India & Bali, and if I were to choose, Bali would win hands down!

    Ubud is peaceful, serene and knowledgable, and you feel as if you’re part of the scenery and rice paddies too. Plus the food is adorable. Whereas, just thinking about India already has me in a sweat, and I’m drinking a glass of red wine as I write, so I ought to be relaxed lol!

    India sadly, isn’t all that pretty, what with the dirt and the poo all over the place, and the constant hassle everytime you set foot “outdoors.” India is a great adventure and a place of spiritual inspiration, just not a relaxing one!

    • I agree that it’s not relaxing! However I really loved the spiritual aspect, which is why I’m recommending it. Though if I could spend a week anywhere, Bali would 100% win!

  5. Good post, but this comparison is a bit apples and oranges. India has Yoga courses that range from inexpensive to very expensive, and while the Yoga you learn there is all good generally, it is location, scenery, accommodation, decor, food and other luxuries that make up the higher cost at the expensive ones. We get what we pay for, and there is no dearth of options in India, which is good, because people like me who cannot afford to spend much can still go there and learn Yoga. I think a better way to compare would be to pick schools that cost the same in US dollars, both in India and Bali, and see what you get for that.

  6. I agreed India is intense but you know when you don’t have an adventure while traveling then as per me there is no fun…
    I really like India for it’s Culture, Colorful Market and Unexpected things just happen, make your journey more memorable..

  7. I have an amazing experience in rishikesh, yoga is really essential to relax your soul. Although I had some classes in kerala too but not in Bali, so surely Bali would be on my list now.. and finally get an opportunity to experience the beauty of Taj Mahal in Agra too..

  8. Thanks for sharing this, I really liked hearing about your experience in Rishikesh! I had a somewhat similar experience in Rishikesh, actually. I signed up for a yoga retreat there craving a ‘spiritual connection’. Knowing it was in the Himalayas and on the Ganges I envisioned a peaceful environment. Needless to say, I was shocked at what it turned out to be! But I came around to love it. Experienced Delhi Belly. And was actually pretty happy to return home. Then the craziest thing happened. The more that time passes the more fondly I look back on my Rishikesh yoga experience as a magical time. India has that effect though, doesn’t it? Kinda like an abusive relationship.

  9. “Another thing to note is that Rishikesh is a meat- and alcohol-free city, so no post-yoga happy hours while in Rishikesh.” I find that extremely weird… If you are on a Yoga Retreat or Teacher Training you are there for a spiritual experience, that is hopefull not only motivated by a low price and india as the birthplace of yoga… And a con is you can’t have happy hours after yoga? Oh. My. God.

    What exactly motivated you to become a teacher, if I may ask you?

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