Yoga retreats and wellness travel are becoming all the more popular, not only for yoga aficionados but also for those who want to remain active during their holidays or to try a different model for escaping the everyday. Meeting new people, the travel experience itself, as well as the programme offered at a yoga retreat creates an interesting experience. Whether you spend a weekend or an entire week, you will definitely feel part of a community.
Even if you are not a regular yogi, spending time at a retreat will allow you to go deeper with this type of exercise or even discover whether it works for you. The most important is to be open and to listen: to the instructor, to your body, to your surroundings, leaving any momentary awkwardness aside. Since many of the participants are also solo travelers, it is a great opportunity to engage with the hobbies, thoughts, convictions, places and cultures of different people.
What will I do at a yoga retreat?
These retreats combine holidays with yoga, meditation, healthy nutrition, as well as specialized experiences that promote wellness (arts, sports, nature-loving activities, life coaching, gastronomy, reading, writing, etc.).
A classic yoga retreat includes at least two yoga sessions a day – a general vinyasa session in the morning (60-75 minutes) and a more invigorating or thematic session in the evening (50-60 minutes). Meditation is also an everyday practice, while at some resorts you will also have the opportunity to try wellness treatments and techniques from the East, such as reiki, ayurveda, acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, etc.
Whether you incorporate other experiences such as hiking, tours, or creative workshops is entirely up to you, though you may also choose to only focus on yourself. In any case, most retreats organize activities that encourage creative expression and help guests explore their potential and become stronger. These activities are available for novices as well as the more advanced, and participation is optional.
Evia boasts a plethora of guest houses in exceptional locations that host yoga seminars or small independent groups composed of yoga instructors and students in search of new experiences. It also offers at least five yoga retreats, in the form of small boutique hospitality options with 5 – 12 rooms, that have managed to earn the trust of international yoga travelers who come here from all over the world.
We visited three of them, in the north and south of Evia. Each one represents a different approach to the experience (slow living, hotel holidays, detox), which also shows the range of experiences out there. The owners’ vision is to attract sophisticated and also well-informed guests to add a balanced and holistic holiday experience to the island.
Asmini Anandamaya Retreats
As the sun rises and the seagulls complete their morning reconnaissance flights over the sea, a group of students lay out their yoga mats in the courtyard of Anandamaya Retreats in northern Evia, beginning the morning rituals with a sun salutation. The mind and body embark on their own journey under the guidance of yoga instructor Penelope Ziri. One and a half hours later, invigorated and relaxed, we get ready to enjoy the breakfast spread on the veranda, which includes fruits and vegetables from the garden, homemade jams, honey from local producers, fresh bread and juices, cakes and pancakes.
We stayed at Anandamaya Retreats for two days and met interesting travelers that we shared more than just yoga sessions with: we discussed, hiked, and enjoyed the beautiful garden that exudes the charm of a Tuscan villa. “We created a holistic wellness experience in a setting that feels familiar and where guests feel taken care of. We focus on good sleep, relaxation, healthy eating and connecting to oneself, promoting the idea of slow living with experiences adapted to each person’s needs”, owner Konstantinos Letonis tells us, who organizes several off-retreat events as well.
We turned to the sea – not the Aegean because the winds were strong that day, but to the more protected Euboic Gulf.
Passing the village of Vigla, we turned off the main road and drove along a dirt road for about 10 kilometers. We continued on foot for another 2 kilometers until we saw Pandermos ahead of us, a bay with two beaches where thousands of shells were scattered in the fine sand – every step on the beach was another surprise…
The next day the weather was ideal for kitesurfing. Konstantinos set up on the beach below Anandamaya, enjoying the waves and the air, and we then drove to Loutra Edipsou for a walk on the beach of this charming spa resort town. On the way back we stopped at the family olive grove for our afternoon yoga classes and meditation al fresco. In the grove, an olive tree aged 2500 years old stood loftily, defying all sense of time.
Anandamaya Retreats is located 26 kilometers from Loutra Edipsou. Seek out the waterfall with thermal waters that flows into the sea, somewhere between the Thermae Sylla hotel and the Kastalia building, to enjoy the wonderful interchange between hot and cold that helps tighten and tone the skin. Alternatively, book a rejuvenating session at the Thermae Sylla hotel spa.
There are also important monasteries located in the area such as the Monastery of Hosios David, while there are also opportunities to engage in sporting activities such as horse riding or sailing.
Info: Approximate cost, 640 euros per person for three nights. Includes half board, tea, juices and snacks, as well as tours in the area and activities that do not require equipment (eg: hiking).
Rovies Sky Hut Retreats
Wellness holidays are not only about yoga. With this in mind, the Sky Hut Retreats in Rovies puts nutrition in the center, designing comprehensive detox programs for harmful habits, such as smoking, junk food, caffeine, screen time. Here guests do yoga daily, while all meals are served in liquid form – juices, smoothies and soups. However, activities are not mandatory so everyone is free to choose whether they want to participate in the training programs, the hiking activities or the workshops, or whether they would like to design their own schedule.
Following the Sky Hut Juice & Detox retreats for a weekend, the recommendation was to have eaten our last meal early on Friday morning, so that by Sunday evening we could have completed a mini detox program. The day begins with yoga, followed by a nutritious snack packed with vitamins such as fresh juice with apple, carrot, beetroot, ginger and lemon, ideal for hydrating the body before taking a morning nature walk.
Back at the retreat, and it is time for a strengthening smoothie. We continue with seminars, afternoon exercise, rest and yoga at sunset. The day closes with dinner in the dining room and relaxed conversation in the lounge. When the team is feeling up to it, dance lessons are organized while juices for hydration and energy are offered in between meals, depending on the demands of the day.
In addition to yoga and endurance training with established instructors such as Vicky Papasideri and Christina Exarchou, our program also included a lovely hike to the Dafnokouki waterfalls. The trail traverses a dense oak tree forest and reaches Gymno peak, where the waterfall flows powerfully into the canyon.
Throughout the entire duration of the retreat, specialized nutritionists are available to answer your questions at informational seminars: from how to purchase and prepare food with eco-friendly consciousness, to how to use the juicer properly when preparing juices. Our mini detox came to a close with fresh fish – the ideal choice for transitioning back to eating solid foods.
The season demands a swim in the nearby beaches and excursions to surrounding destinations, such as Limni, the Drymonas waterfalls and Aghia Anna, as well as hiking to the monastery of Hosios David before visiting the waterfalls. Despite the wildfires last year, nature is being reborn and teaches us not to abandon it.
All activities beyond the package can be organized by the retreat at additional cost, if specific equipment is needed (for instance, hiring a boat).
Info: Approximate cost, 1500 euros per person for six nights. The cost includes all meals and snacks, yoga sessions and other types of exercise on offer, the hiking experiences and the seminars.
Porto Buffalo Evia Silence
“If you are not accustomed to new experiences, visit a retreat for a few days at a nearby destination”. This is the advice Simona gives her customers, a travel agent from the Canary Islands who specializes in thematic tourism and whom we met at Evia Silence in south Evia. Most retreats have regular yoga instructors. But Haris Tsortzakis of Evia Silence selected an approach closer to the idea of regular hospitality. The hotel includes a yoga room and collaborates with platforms used by instructors who want to bring their own groups.
Due to the visitors from abroad who had booked the retreat, our presence here was much more discreet as we did not want to disturb them. However, it is common experiences that connect those who travel. And so, when they learned that we were doing a feature on the yoga retreats in Evia, almost everyone was willing to help by speaking to us and sharing their experiences. “Here you can learn more about yourself than you have learned your entire life, as you focus on yourself without distractions”, says yoga instructor Mona Godfrey, who has visited several retreats for work. And that is true. There is no greater adventure than retiring for a few days in order to embark on your personal journey of self-discovery.
The quiet port of Porto Buffalo is located about 70 kilometers from Halkida and 23 kilometers from Nea Stira. The retreat does not organize activities, but you can safely hike and cycle around the premises as well as do rowing in the small bay. The Thalassa Diving Academy (Tel. (+30) 22210.771.66) organizes dives at the Purple Cave in Zarakes, while Dystos Lake is also nearby, one of the most important wetland areas of Greece. However due to systematic lack of protection, the area is fairly downgraded. Should you feel like driving, it is worth heading to the beautiful beaches overlooking the Aegean: Giannitsi, Kallianous, Aghios Dimitrios (about one hour by car). The same distance separates Porto Buffalo from Karystos and Marmari, also options for day trips.
Info: Approximate cost, 130 euros per person in a double room. Yoga sessions can be booked online via platforms such as bookyogaretreats.com