Creative healthy holidays all over the world
The Quick Read: Set up by American psychologist Dr Dina Glouberman and Greek journalist Dr Yannis Andricopoulos, these holistic holidays inspired Jimmy Carr to give up his job with Shell and get into comedy, and continue to be mighty popular with people from all walks of life. Run in the UK, Greece, and in other hand-picked locations all over the world, they give you the chance to create the kind of holiday you really need, whether that be something creative, healing or fun, and are organised by experienced, talented and often well-known coaches, teachers and facilitators. At its most profound, your experience can be an incredible journey of personal discovery that can change your life. In its simplest form, it’s a deeply relaxing break with good food, new friends and (often) a spot of sunbathing on the beach.
More on Skyros in Greece: The holistic retreats take the idea of looking after yourself back to its roots, using the Ancient Greek approach to health, where mind and body were seen as one and physical exercise was complimented with mental stimulation in the form of philosophical readings and debates. Transported to the modern age, this translates to a mix of work and play. Holidays are usually booked in two week blocks, and you choose to stay at one of two locations – The Skyros Centre, in Skyros Town, or Atsitsa, which is by the beach and where families tend to stay during the child-friendly month of August.
More on the venue: This is set on a hillside at the edge of the main town with its cobbled streets, jewellery shops and tavernas, and focuses on three in-depth programmes – the Writers’ Lab, for novices and published authors alike, the Life Choices Programme, a range of courses themed around personal development, and the Art Studio.
The 5-day courses are taught by hugely experienced tutors, which have included Steven Berkoff, various excellent novelists including Sam North and Sophie Hannah as well as Dina Glouberman, Skyros co-founder and author of The Joy of Burnout, psychotherapist Kate Daniels, who runs ‘Transform Your Life’, and Skyros facilitator Ari Badaines, whose course focuses on relationships. You can read a word from the queen on her writing retreat in Greece.
If you take any of these, you stay in town houses and the half-board accommodation includes two tasty meals a day (usually breakfast and lunch) eaten al fresco. Expect healthy, freshly-prepared vegetarian dishes including loads of colourful salads, fruit and locally-sourced produce. Special diets are catered for too, with advance notice. For dinner, there’s a choice of great restaurants in town or along the beach so you can have wine or a cocktail or two.
More on Atsitsa Bay: Atsitsa is a larger base, by the beach and surrounded by pine forests, where most of the accommodation is in huts around the main stone villa and all courses take place outside in an open-air pavilion with sea views. It’s where families tend to stay during the family-month of August, and tends to attract a younger age group too.
Expect healthy, freshly-prepared vegetarian dishes including loads of colourful salads, fruit and locally-sourced produce. All meals are on site, and there is also a café-bar.
The emphasis here is on physical activities such as abseiling, windsurfing, pilates, dance and yoga to suit all ages and levels of ability, as well as creative stuff such as performance, music, singing and even comedy improvisation. The centre is a lively friendly community where many participants have come away with life-long friends. Courses are optional and can be chosen on the spot, so you can shape your holiday to exactly how you want it. You can explore health and fitness as well as work on your creativity with courses such as drawing and painting, photography and even stand up comedy.
For each week-long holiday you arrive on a Saturday, then choose 3 courses a day from Sunday to Thursday, have Friday off for relaxing or site-seeing, and return on the Saturday.
More on Skyros in the UK: Their relaxed HQ is The Grange by the Sea, a converted Georgian B&B where you can stay for short break or join a Skyros signature retreat, designed to restore both mental and physical health. Courses range from writing and painting, comedy and photography to a weekend of yoga or salsa, and you can pre-book massages and beauty treatments. Contemporary rooms have sea or garden views, and common areas include a high ceilinged, wooden-floored sitting room with plenty of books and squishy sofas. Food and drink is as locally sourced as possible, and caters to every diet. There’s also an honesty bar: drink what you like, and pay when you leave.
More on their other locations: There’s an autumnal creative adventure in Venice and a range of wonderful winter sun breaks – a salsa holiday in Cuba, wellbeing adventure holidays in Thailand and Cambodia, a cultural tour with trekking in Kathmandu and the Langtang Valley of Nepal and a yoga, meditation and journal making holiday in Marrakech and Essaouira in Morocco.
Fellow guests: People of all backgrounds go on these holidays, and for many different reasons – some simply for the locations, but most because they want to try new things and get creative. Others are exploring their spirituality or seeking personal transformation and inspiration for the next stage of their life journey. Age tends to be fairly immaterial; new friends may find they have a 20-year age gap. The average is thirty and upwards, but everyone is welcome, and most people come alone.
What’s queenly: Whether you’re a seasoned self-improver or new to holistic retreats, Skyros makes it fun and safe to explore and go deeper, physically, creatively or emotionally. They’re also brilliant for people travelling alone.
What’s lowly: Sometimes there are so many things to do that it’s easy to overbook yourself and then find that you don’t have enough time just to ‘be’ – be sure to leave enough of that precious, nourishing, regenerating time just to yourself so you can digest your experiences and chill.
Costs: A 6 night break in Atsitsa Bay on Skyros island in Greece costs £545 per person in a shared room with all meals, courses and activities. Single occupancy in a hut is available for an additional £125.
A weekend retreat at the Grange costs from £90 per person. B&B accommodation is available from £50 per person, per night. Single supplements and treatments are extra.