Creative retreats – NotInTheGuideBooksfeature in Australian Financial Review

Creative holidays spain (12)“Discover your inner artist whilst relaxing in far flung corners of the world” writes Ute Junker in her article on creative retreats – and that’s exactly the idea behind our courses set off the beaten track in the mountains of Andalucia, Spain.

This eco-retreat is a NotInTheGuideBooksfavourite with so much variety and the ideal place to switch off and get away from it all. Even our manager who claims to not have a creative bone in her body came back from a visit inspired and brimming with artisitc ideas.

Here’s what Ute Junker has to say in her article for The Australian Financial Review:

“Welcome to the new world of holidays, where just relaxing is no longer enough. Or rather, where travellers are looking for ways to relax that go beyond the old fly-and-flop vacation.

A decade ago, holidaymakers were content to spice up their chill-out time with a cooking class or some yoga lessons. These days, they’re increasingly signing up for a holiday that’s not just about learning a new skill, but that allows them to unleash their creativity.

Learning holidays have been pegged as a growth area by research documents such as the 2009 Mintel consumer report and a report in the same year by Britain’s Centre for Future Studies. Demand has grown to the point where a company such as the UK-based NotInTheGuideBookscan now offer more than 1400 courses in 35 different countries.

According to GoLearnTo’s general manager, Katy Howe, one of the appeals of a creative holiday is that it lets you slip instantly into holiday mode. “You’re practising a new activity straight away, so you leave that busy work routine behind straight away,” she says.

Where once the industry was dominated by writing and photography courses, the current move is towards creative retreats, combining specialist skills, experienced tutors and an inspiring environment. GoLearnTo’s fine arts roster, for instance, includes botanical illustration, making your own paint, rubbings from rocks and nature, and a Food of Art course held in Andalusia, Spain, that covers food presentation, illustration and photography.

Artist and ecologist Simon Beckmann hosts the Food of Art courses with his wife, Donna, in a carbon-neutral guesthouse they created by converting five local farms. His aim is to boost the creativity of participants, whether they are design professionals or beginners. An important element is the artist-in-residence program, which gives guests access to a working practitioner.

“Creative professionals love that they have a week of total creative freedom, rather than catering to client demands,” he says.

“For other people, it’s about exploring their creative inner soul. It’s invigorating; it’s engaging.”

Like Lorant, Beckmann talks about the sense of creative community that develops during a course, and the animated conversations that spill over into meals – around the Andalusian dining table or, in Greece, over dinner at the local taverna. Beckmann also emphasises that his course is not just about teaching, but about inspiring – on the food side of the equation as well as on the artistic side.

Beckmann takes his students to the local markets to meet small food producers, “to taste things grown in this area, not trucked in from elsewhere – to taste a carrot that really tastes like a carrot”.

Beckmann also encourages participants to explore the area’s desert landscapes, the superb stargazing, and local attractions such as caves with UNESCO-listed prehistoric cave paintings”

To read Ute’s full article, click here: Whittle away your holiday

Simon’s next retreat takes place 25 August – 1st September and is called Las Ramblas focusing on painting, drawing or photography of ‘Las Ramblas’ within the surroindings. Here’s what Simon has to say about the course:

Meandering across this alpine desert, cutting pathways through the mountains, are beautiful and geographically dramatic fluvial systems called ‘Rambla’. These are dry ephemeral streams whose morphological changes are caused by very infrequent high energy events when a rain threshold is exceeded and the dry river flows again. Such environments in an arid landscape are inevitably teaming with life forms and geological formations. Bee Eaters, Golden Oriole, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Shrikes, Hoopoes and many more. Plant life is abundant too and the nature of the water course’s character creates dramatic and beautiful geological form.

It is a place to spend a day or more, to creatively drink from this ‘invisible’ river. This is a weeks multi media course formatted to explore this environment in whatever manner you choose. It’s an opportunity to research, catalogue and celebrate the abundance and quiet drama of one of Andalucia’s special places.

To book: call us on 0845 625 0445 or +44 (0)208 144 5990 or visit