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From camping among oak tree woods to hiking and swimming under waterfalls, Ojai is the perfect relaxation destination for your next holiday. Indulge into spiritual retreats and organic agriculture at the city Native Americans called ‘moon’

Words: Aleksandra Georgieva

Photography: Adrianna Van Groningen, Taylor Simpson

02 April 2020

Organic farmers, spa lovers, spiritual seekers and artists sink into the diversity found in Ojai, California. This destination is found in the Ojai Valley – east of Santa Barbara and northwest of Los Angeles. The area is surrounded my mountain hills and divided into an upper and lower valley, each about 10 miles (16 km) long and 3 miles (5 km) wide.

As a tourist spot, Ojai (‘OH-hi’) is known for hiking and recreation opportunities, spiritual and spa retreats, boutique hotels alongside local organic agriculture and farmers’ markets. The town is kept unique by local and small businesses only – the government has prohibited the opening of chains. The people in Ojai put a strong emphasis on keeping everything local, organic and preserving nature.


Ojai is incredibly spirituality-focused region. The city’s self-styled nickname "Shangri-La" reflects the importance of the natural environment and health sanctuary. The unusual name Ojai was given to the region by the Chumash people – Native Americans who inhabited central and southern coastal areas of California – from Morro Bay in the north to Malibu in the south and the Channel Islands.


Since Chumash Indians were the early settlers in the Ojai Valley they gave the region its name derived from the Ventureño Chumash word ʼawha'y meaning ‘moon’.

DID YOU KNOW: On July 8, 1999, former Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad, one of the twelve men who walked on the moon, died of injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident in Ojai.

CURIOUS FACT: Ojai is one of two cities in California to allow retail sales of marijuana under legalisation of the sale and distribution of cannabis in the county. State laws prohibit companies from selling cannabis, yet allows the personal use for adults.

Ojai is situated situated approximately 15 miles (24 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean, around 745 feet (227 m) above sea level. The mountainous landscape in the area is dominant. North of the Ojai Valley is the Santa Ynez Mountains overlooking Sulphur Mountain and the lower Black Mountain in the south. At the west side of the valley you’ll find the Coyote, Matilija and Santa Ana creeks draining into the Ventura River that reaches the Pacific Ocean at the city of Ventura. The east side of the Upper Ojai Valley is drained by the Sisar and Santa Paula creeks, flowing into the Santa Clara River at Santa Paula.

The Mediterranean climate in Ojai offers hot summers so make sure to pack light. The lovers of the outdoors can indulge into the forests heavily dense with oak trees and well-preserved nature. The culture in Ojai revolves around ecology, organic agriculture and health. Visitors can go hiking, benefit from local art and music as well as visit a classic car and motorcycle weekend exhibit. Matilija Creek offers opportunities for backpacking and swimming under waterfalls. Lake Casitas Recreation Area may prohibit swimming, but it compensates with a variety of activities from visiting a water park, to fishing, hiking, boating, picnicking and camping.

Each year Ojai brings together professional actors and writers from across the country, attending the two-week playwright festival known as the Ojai Playwrights Conference. The Ojai Music Festival is another annual event founded in 1974. This festival of performances sees some of the world’s top composers and musicians, from Aaron Copland to Igor Stravinsky. In early June over 3,000 wine lovers gather at Lake Casitas to sample products of over 30 wineries, as the proceedings of Ojai Wine Festival go to charity.

The city has its own media, kept alive by the community for decades. There is a weekly newspaper the Ojai Valley News, The Ojai Valley Guide and the Ojai Quarterly magazine, published every three months.

If you are a lover of nature, organic food and a truly spiritual holiday, book your visit to Ojai. The tourist destination spoils nature lovers with opportunities to hike, camp, fish and even swim under waterfalls. The valleys are surrounded by oak tree rich mountain hills offering scenic views and the quiet of a place tightly intertwined with nature. Locals preserve the ecological way of coexisting with nature inherited by the Chumash Indians. Ojai is among the tourist places that offer complete detach from the fuss of the big cities and guaranteed spiritual recharge.




NOMADSofORIGIN is an independent annual publication with a focus on sustainable travelling and global cultural values. Each issue features interviews, engaging articles and photo guides, which take our nomadic readers through different destinations and introduce them to local people's perspectives.



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