Silver Island Yoga, Greece
Unplug on a private Greek island with beautifully hosted yoga retreats
Yoga hit with digital detox
The other kind of detox (there is wine)
Silver Island Yoga is a truly authentic, peaceful yoga retreat run by Greek South African sisters Claire and Lissa Christie, whose family has owned the 60-acre island for over 60 years. Come for week-long yoga holidays with hand-picked teachers from around the world and stay in white-washed, gorgeously styled houses packed with creative touches. It feels remote, yet it’s only 15 minutes by boat from Evia. There’s something incredibly soothing about it, and everyday worries swiftly become mere dots on the beautiful Aegean horizon.
This is a true stop the world retreat with no wifi and a creative, artistic vibe you can’t help but be inspired by. There is a real feeling of care and attention to detail that makes it worth every penny.
The journey feels quite involved for a week-long retreat – from Athens airport it usually takes four hours via public transport or taxi. It’s totally do-able, but we’d factor in an extra day or two in Athens or on Evia so you can take things nice and easy.
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Come here for daily yoga and meditation, massage, island chilling and access to a wondrous creative cupboard.
Yoga holidays on Silver Island are led by teachers from various schools of yoga who share yoga and mindfulness in a down to earth, light hearted way. There’s something for most yogic tastes throughout the season, and each teacher can cater for beginners.
Go for a strengthening vinyasa week with celebrated yoga teacher Liz Lark, try a dynamic Hatha retreat with Fela Adebiyi, or vinyasa flow led by Rebecca Halls who includes hula hooping and Gyrotonic, a set of carefully crafted movement sequences to help balance, efficiency, strength and flexibility. Silver Island’s website has a decent description of each teacher, to help you select the retreat that’s right for you.
Each retreat offers twice-daily yoga classes, usually two hours each in length, in a lovely covered outdoor yoga shala and situated between the two houses where you sleep with spectacular sea views. It’s fully equipped with mats, belts, blocks, cushions and blankets.
You can also enjoy group meditation on the retreats, early in the morning or in the afternoon yoga session. This usually takes place on the lovely meditation platform, which sits at the top of the island and is perfect for a spot of sunrise or sunset mindfulness. One to one yoga sessions are offered by most teachers.
Most yoga teachers offer treatments on their retreats, but if not, local therapist Katerina is on hand to offer shiatsu. Depending on the yoga teacher, you might be able to book an ayurvedic massage and facial, aromatherapy, Indian head massage, traditional Thai massage and lesser known treatments such as Osteopathic Manual Therapy. One week here is devoted to yoga and ayurveda, during which you can have ayurvedic health consultations and learn about your dosha (body type) and self care techniques.
The calm waters around the island are perfect for swimming, and they stay relatively warm right to the end of the season in October. Go looking for dolphins or seals on the kayaks or the reclaimed 1970s pedallo, or take the snorkels, masks and rock shoes and explore the coves. If that all that sounds like too much activity, wander down to sunbathe on a colourful lounger on one of the two cute little pebbly beaches, or simply walk out to the jetty, adopt the goddess pose and breathe in great big lungfuls of the clean, crisp marine air.
For walkers, there are 60 acres to explore and over 2500 olive trees (whose silvery branches are said to have inspired the island’s name) to rest under. Tracks criss-cross the island with signs in elegant lettering made out of blue thread nailed to wooden posts showing the way to favourite spots – Jetty Beach, Pebble Beach, Sunset Rock, the Lighthouse.
Take a look inside the ancient little church, amble up to the romantic lighthouse, or find a spot to write or take in the view for a while. Do let yourself get lost – it’s rare that you can genuinely wander around and not worry at all about where you are or how you’ll get home. Eventually, a road will bring you back to the main house.
Between yoga classes and treatments, take that stack of books you’ve been meaning to read or embrace your creativity. Lissa is an artist and her home is a colourful and creative place to be, strewn with wildflowers, giant travel photographs and interesting arty installations, from a renovated wooden donkey saddle to a wall of unusual hats made by Lizzie Lock Millinery. If this inspires you, then feel free to delve into the art cupboard, which is packed with paints and crafty bits for your use.
There is no wi-fi connection anywhere on the island, so it’s a perfect time to switch off all devices and rest your busy head, and the hosts encourage this. You’re asked not to use your phones or computers in public spaces, but are welcome to use then in the privacy of their rooms. On the welcome pack and final email, Lissa’s contact details are shared with the clients in the event of an emergency, but if you have roaming on your phone, you can get 3g/4g access on the island.
Bedrooms include three ensuite rooms in what’s called the Villa, and two rooms with shared bathrooms in the main house, all named after Greek goddesses. Rhea (great mother and queen of the mountain wilds) and Panacea (goddess of healing) are next to each other with a shared balcony. Above that is the marvellous master suite Hemera – primeval goddess of daylight and the sun – a twin room with ensuite bathroom and a large balcony. If you are a couple or friends or just a solo traveller wanting to splash out, take this.
All rooms are simple yet welcoming, and feature Lissa’s stylish interiors touch. The walls are white painted, lifted by a green and brown jute rug made in India and bought in Athens, a colourful Madagascan throw, an egg yellow rug or a gigantic photo of Victoria Falls taken by Lissa.
Beds have one hard and one soft pillow, feather duvets and quilts for the cooler months. Each room has thick curtains with blackout lining to ensure a good night’s sleep. There are mosquito nets that hang above each bed – which look as soft and romantic as they are practical – as well as plug in mosquito repellent and natural organic insect repellent. The rooms are lovingly serviced daily and your drinking water is replaced every morning and refilled in the evenings. There are drying racks and complimentary reusable cotton slippers and water bottle too.
The bathrooms are naturally light and super simple with white painted walls, floor tiles and round stand alone wash basins, complimented by glass bottles with colourful bathing liquids and aquamarine coloured towels. The copper piping is left exposed, giving a funky rustic edge and there are plenty of hooks for towels.
Other spaces to be: There are lots of places to hang out or hideaway on Silver Island, from hammocks with a view to sun loungers decked out in blue and white stripes beside the main house, where you’ll also find a small living room stacked with books if you want to keep cool indoors.
No need to take a beach or bath towel – you’ll have a Turkish hammam towel in pretty sorbet colours for the beach which you can also buy at the end of the week. No need to bring hairdryers or any other large electrical equipment as the island runs on limited Solar Power.
The hosts ask that guests don’t pack self-tan or P20 sunblock. Bring any prescription medication – it’s not easy to get anything once you’re here. Bring extra cash for the market day on Friday and for your treatments.
When to Go
For wild flowers and cooler temperatures, April and May are the best months; for heat and lots of swimming time, choose July and August; for beautiful sunsets and tranquility, September or October are the months to go.
Healthy, locally-sourced mediterranean meals at their Grecian best are preceded by drinks around the firepit and eaten outside around a long white table with amazing views out to sea. The food arrives in decorative bowls, some of which have been in Lissa’s family for years, and the table is laid with flowers and a different tablecloth each mealtime, picked up from one corner or another of the globe from Lissa and Claire’s travels.
The attitude to food at Silver Island is, like most things, artistic. Rather than test her dishes by taste, Lissa creates by colour, just as if she’s working on one of her pieces of art. Breakfast comprises granola, fresh yoghurt, nuts, chunks of seasonal fruit, local honey and bananas. Sometimes there’s eggs and pancakes too. Lunch and supper dishes might include: carrot and pumpkin fritters with Greek parmesan and sage; tomato, beetroot and Greek ricotta salad with crushed seeds and herbs and lemon dressing; tart tatin with honey and toasted nuts, pears or figs; or red lentils with tomatoes, garlic, crushed cumin seeds and wilted beetroot leaves served with cheese stuffed peppers.
Meals are vegetarian, and vegans can be catered for, but aside from the no fish and meat policy, the only thing Lissa is conscious of when it comes to diet is ‘everything in moderation’. Light, table wine is served with the evening meal and herbal teas, coffee and water are available throughout the day.
Silver Island Yoga is completely off grid, and as it’s private with no access to mains water or electricity, they use solar power to light up the island and heat water, and collect rainwater in Winter which is then saved in huge covered tanks and filtered for use.
During the week the towels and sheets are not changed (unless you want them to be) to save on water consumption, and water from the bathroom, kitchen and laundry is used to water the garden.
On arrival you receive cotton slippers made with coconut fibre cut-offs and a reusable water bottle with the Silver Island Yoga logo subtly inscribed on it which is yours to take home. All waste is recycled, wet waste composted and cleaning products are natural and made with essential oils.
Lissa and Claire are committed to supporting local businesses too. The 100% natural and biodegradable bathroom products and insect repellent are made by a local mum and daughter team. They smell delicious, and take inspiration from the surroundings with scents of honey, geranium, mint and other herbs.
All the food and drink is sourced locally, and mealtimes are peppered with stories about the local producers, from the wine maker whose main source of income is the Island and who can now afford to stick labels on their wine bottles to the family in Oreoi who’ve been making the yogurt for three generations and deliver it in terracotta pots.
Silver Island is also a working organic olive farm and they pick and produce their own table olives and olive oil. Olives only come into season every second year, so the olive oil produced is very special and limited to a few bottles a year. You can buy this on the island if there is still stock.
Silver Island, Greece
Transfer time: 4 hours