Inside the über-rich’s favourite wellness festival

Written by Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is Stylist’s Deputy Features Editor. You can find her on Twitter at @HannahKeegan.

Harvest is a bi-annual festival for the world’s most well-heeled wellness devotees, but what exactly is it selling? Stylist’s Hannah Keegan takes a peek inside… 

If, in mid-May, you happened to be staying at the Six Senses Kaplankaya, a luxury resort an hour north of Bodrum, Turkey, and not hunched over your WFH desk like most (lucky you), you’d have got more than you bargained for. Past the manicured lawns, on your way to the private beach, you’d have come upon a huddle of people dressed in floaty linen, their backs flat against the grass in a circle, eyes closed, their breathing shallow. “In!” commanded Lisa de Narvaez, the tanned, fedora-wearing breathwork guru leading this session. “Out!”

I was in the far corner of this group, feeling pins and needles climb from my hands to my arms from the self-induced hyperventilation, a side effect we’d been pre-warned about. A woman beside me was quietly weeping. Others let out big, theatrical huffs on their exhale: arrrgh. Some were very still. De Narvaez wandered about, dabbing droplets of essential oil onto our glistening foreheads. 

A yoga session at Harvest festival, guests take part in breathwork

This was day one of Harvest, a five-day wellness ‘experience’ for around 250 of the world’s most well-heeled attendees. Burak Oymen, a Turkish property developer who owns the 500-hectare estate that Six Senses and Harvest operate on, calls the festival the “soul” of the place. I’d call it Wilderness for those who bank with Coutts, if only the content wasn’t so niche. Sitting happily within a burgeoning wellness market estimated to be worth $4.4 trillion (£4tn), the five days are full of conscious manifestation workshops and talks on topics such as ‘the tragic tension between attachment and authenticity’ and ‘navigating the altered states of the mind’. With tickets starting at £4,000, it is arguably the most extensive and expensive wellness festival out there right now. Content-wise, it certainly gives Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop summits a run for their money.

The supermodel turned climate activist Lily Cole is here to talk about her eco-endeavours, as is the anthropologist Wade Davis. There’s Reviv’s Royal Flush IV drips to be booked and green juice on tap. Leisurely beach-side lunches are served by chefs from Camilla Fayed’s London restaurant Farmacy, while one-on-one sessions with David Biddle, a buzzy energy chiropractor, will shift the invisible blockages you’re holding. The real star, though, is Gabor Maté, a quietly intense trauma expert with a cult following. I haven’t been at Harvest long before I begin to notice women shyly approaching him to share how his books (When The Body Says No; The Myth of Normal) have changed their life. “When people tell me that, I think, ‘Hmm, I should go back and read them,’” he later says during his talk. “They sound good!” 

The guests are equally eclectic: CEOs, those ‘big in tech’ or the wellness biz, app founders, children of the rich. The festival’s co-founder, Roman Carel, has referred to them as “global nomads” in previous interviews, which is a fitting moniker for this roaming, wealthy bunch. Exclusivity is all part of the allure: it’s not as simple as purchasing a ticket to gain access to Harvest, you have to apply. This May, some 200 people were turned away. “Many [guests] are people of influence, meaning they have a higher chance of impacting others with what they learn at Harvest,” he told Forbes

A ceremony at Harvest festival

This is where things take a very earnest turn. This festival is not simply about enjoying yourself, guests are told, it’s about taking what you’ve learned with you into the wider world. At the end of each talk, a jovial bearded man (Patrick Walker, the former partnerships chief at Facebook) takes to the stage and quizzes guests on the session’s takeaway points. “Now share what you know,” he says, beaming. “Tell people!” The message is, over and over again, that this is not a vacation – it’s a trip with a point, though I can’t figure out exactly what it is.

Throughout the week, we are taught about introducing intermittent fasting into your wellness regime, supercharging your gut health, unpicking your ancestral trauma, being more discerning about the soil your food is grown in, breathing more deeply, incorporating tantra into your sex life, reducing your impact on the planet and being radically vulnerable. My notebook fills with bizarre scribbles: “Your gut microbiome is probably destroyed.” “Everyone’s personality is a response to trauma!” “Climate crisis = cognitive dissonance.” I have no idea what to do with this on returning home. 

Amber Joy Rava performs at Harvest festival

Among the speakers is Mark Hyman, a 62-year-old medical doctor turned wellness guru, who is a big voice on new innovations in this space. He talks about NAD+ anti-ageing therapy drips (you can watch Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber indulge in these on The Kardashians this season) and boasts his ‘biological age’ is 39, something a variety of companies offer to calculate through blood testing. Between talks, he’s been working away in his room writing his new book, Forever Young. It’s Silicon Valley-style biohacking made glam.

One of the last workshops I attend is a lunchtime sound healing session. The queue is long as we wait to be wafted with sage before entering the dark, cool room. I begin eavesdropping. In front of me is a hippyish guy, probably in his late 20s, and a petite, blonde 50-something woman. He’s telling her how sex, for him, is a deeply intimate and special thing. He needs to feel a real connection. It’s not just physical. There needs to be love there. Real love. Cynically, I wonder if this is a chat-up scenario and feel slightly repulsed by his tactics. How are they even on this topic? But she’s all ears, agreeing. I shrug, go into the room and have a genuinely transformative experience, dipping in and out of consciousness as the music carries us through the session. 

A movement session at Harvest, guests enjoy dinner

On the way out, I notice the two of them have found each other and are discussing how they felt in the room – that time had evaporated, totally at peace. In my newfound calm, I felt differently too: he no longer seemed so sleazy; instead, he was just a guy looking for a genuine conversation. This, I later thought, is really the crux of Harvest: your experience depends entirely on the lens through which you’re looking at it. It can be cringe-worthy. It can be enlightening. It’s probably both.

Like all evenings here, the final night closes with a group meal, but this time it’s on a beach that we travel to by boat. There’s twinkly lights, music by a blazing pit and ceviche served at long dining tables set for a wedding. And then there’s dancing. It goes on until early in the morning, accompanied by a DJ set by French duo Depart. At night, people are talkative – drinking, smoking and telling stories. IV drips and tantric sex aside, it’s this need for connection that props up the whole wellness industry.

It’s something that comes up during Gabor Maté’s talk on authenticity on the final day. Right at the end, there’s a question from a man at the back who wants to know how to cope with the loneliness of going down a different path to his friends. “People who are searching for themselves are never that alone,” he replies, and the audience, after five days of dancing and crying and ego-unravelling, nods in agreement. 

Images: Harvest festival

Tickets for Harvest Kaplankaya’s October edition (12th – 16th) start from £3,398 per person, including your ticket to the festival, 4 nights at 5* Six Senses Kaplankaya and food. 

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