Silver Island Yoga Retreat, Greece
15 September, 2017
The term "yoga retreat" is bandied about a lot these days and can mean anything from a weekend in Ibiza "on the quiet side of the island", to seven days of raw-vegan silent meditation. I've experienced both in my time, but I think I might have finally found the Goldilocks sweet spot of yoga retreats - it's called Silver Island and it's in Greece.
This 60-acre speck in the Aegean Sea was inherited by two Greek-South African sisters - Claire and Lissa Christie - in 2007. Unsure what to do with their unusual bequest, they eventually set about wrestling the overgrown olive trees and dilapidated villa into a charming and chic yoga retreat, where 10 guests at a time practise for four hours a day, and have the run of the entire island. If "hell is other people", then nothing beats stumbling upon a totally deserted beach, or napping on a swing bed underneath a giant oak tree for the whole afternoon, with only the sounds of trilling birds and grasshoppers for company.
Unlike a lot of places which just pay lip service to their "eco retreat" credentials, Silver Island takes being environmentally sensitive seriously. What you lose in daily fresh sheets and towels you gain in locally sourced biodegradable toiletries in your bathroom. The island is also completely off-grid, which means solar-powered electricity for two hours a night and no wi-fi. This is getting away from it all and then some.
Silver Island Yoga Retreat, Greece
Guests sleep in two villas which are the epitome of a white-washed, blue-shuttered, bougainvillea-draped fantasy. This is low-key luxury - you're more likely to find a gecko in your room than you are a hairdryer, but little touches like COCO-MAT slippers, solar lamps, a personalised welcome letter on your pillow and hammam beach towels more than make up for it. Every room is different, whether it has a Grecian bust in the fireplace or a hand-whittled artwork spelling out "Love". But the best of the bunch has to be Hemera, which has its own private terrace, two day-beds and unbroken views of a sea so blue it should have its own Instagram account.
What's for breakfast?
An ever-changing smorgasbord of Lissa's homemade granola, fresh fruit, wild honey and banana pancakes. Breakfast is served family style after your morning yoga class, on a white wrought-iron table with incredible views over the cypress trees and that show-stealing ocean again.
How about lunch and dinner?
The food is all vegetarian, locally sourced and unbelievably delicious - Lissa and her husband Corne recently published a cookbook due to constant demand from guests for their recipes. Bright salads - such as red quinoa with roasted tomato and beetroot, fig syrup and parmesan shavings - come piled high and beautifully presented in huge ceramic bowls. There's also freshly-baked walnut bread, cauliflower mash with almond milk and honey-roasted pumpkin with feta, and "healthy" desserts including cacao nib truffles and olive oil polenta cake. I embarrassed myself by asking for thirds at every single meal.
Is there a bar?
Not as such, but unlike other abstemious retreats, here everyone enjoys a glass or two around a fire pit in the evening. The red and white wine they serve is made in the mountains of Evia from one of the oldest vineyards in the region.
Yoga classes are held twice daily on a circular outdoor shala and teachers change on a weekly basis but are all invited by recommendation only. There's a meditation platform to watch the sunrise from, as well as kayaks and a restored 1970s pedalo if you fancy cruising around the island. If you're lucky you might spot the resident monk-seal Rob. There's also a rustic but relaxing therapy room where I soothed my yoga-stretched limbs with an aromatherapy massage.
Things you should know
All rooms are shared (worth bearing in mind if you're coming solo and feel weird about bunking up with strangers). Don't forget to bring cash if you want to stock up on Greek produce and items from your room, like the organic shower gel and bottles of the island's own olive oil as the nearest ATM is a speedboat away.
Within a short walk you can find...
Not much, what with it being a deserted island and all. But it's worth hiking up to the abandoned lighthouse which is like a 1970s time warp inside - just make sure you stomp pretty heavily to scare away any of the island's snakes. On the mainland, the pretty fishing town of Oreoi is worth a wander around on your way back to Athens.
Silver Island retreats run from April to October, with different teachers each week. Rates start at £1,150 per week, full board, with two daily yoga classes and return transfers from the mainland silverislandyoga.com.