Finding Inner Peace at The Mistral Hotel in Crete’s Yoga and Wellbeing Week

Finding Inner Peace at The Mistral Hotel in Crete's Yoga and Wellbeing Week

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned yogi, a yoga retreat offers a unique opportunity to elevate your practice to a new level. It allows you to disconnect from the world and reconnect with the innermost part of you. Feeling the need to do just that, Luxurious Magazine’s Sabi Phagura heads to Crete to experience The Mistral Hotel’s newly launched Yoga and Wellbeing Week.

While some trips are better experienced with friends or loved ones, a yoga retreat, for many, is better done alone. You have the time to focus on yourself and reach a profound state of reflection. But you don’t have to embark on a yoga week to reap the benefits of solo travel at The Mistral Hotel.

Located just outside Chania on the west coast of Crete, the boutique hotel offers single-occupancy rooms only. It’s not a massive surprise that it has opted to do this as the fascination with travelling solo is gaining massive momentum post-Covid, becoming a cultural phenomenon, with videos on Tiktok with the #solotravel generating almost four billion views.

A view of the hotel from the swimming pool

The Mistral Hotel
The Mistral Hotel’s single occupancy rooms are a niche concept and one I believe needs to be explored. Owners Gialamarakis were ahead of the game when they launched it in 1991.

The family’s vision was to offer solo travellers a place where they could go to relax, explore, consume good food and enjoy company when they want without being slapped with a single supplement.

Given the hotel’s 70 per cent return rate, I’m surprised they’ve not opened another one. Guest Steve from Herne Bay, Kent, has been a regular guest at The Mistral Hotel since 1998. He’s not only seen the place grow from its humble beginnings but also the family.

The interior of one of the hotel suites with its views towards the blue sea

There’s no compromise in accommodation at The Mistral Hotel as all its 35 rooms are decent in size with double beds. Guests can take their pick from standard or luxury rooms, with many of the latter having a bathtub, shower, and balconies.

You’ll find all bathrooms are kitted with Olivio bathroom goodies, and the rooms with tea-making facilities and a fridge. The room design is contemporary Cretan style with exposed stone walls, tiled floors and walls adorned with locally produced artwork.

The inviting pool area at the rear of the hotel

The hotel is essentially split into two buildings, with the sea-facing rooms at the front overlooking the main pool and the bar and the quieter rooms, including mine, at the rear, along with the wellness centre—a second pool with a jacuzzi to one end with a courtyard dividing the two buildings. The dining space straddles the two buildings.

While Mistral offers a tranquil place from which to explore and do what you want, when you want, it runs several themed weeks for guests who want that little bit extra from their stay.

Sabi performing a yoga pose on the seafront

The Yoga and Wellbeing Week is the latest addition to these weeks which aims to help guests heal, relax and achieve inner peace. The program, led by yoga instructor Aspasia, who’s certified by the International Yoga Teachers Association and the Hellenic Yoga Association, combines Hatha, Vinyasa and Iyengar Yoga with mudras.

The week began with our first session at Maleme Beach at 6 am to coincide with sunrise. Despite being well rested, peeling myself off the bed with its COCO-MAT Orthosomatic Top Mattress and luxury feather pillows proved difficult.

The weather didn’t help much either, as it was unusually chilly for the beginning of May. Still, our group mustered up enough energy and enthusiasm from our beautiful surroundings and encouraging words from Aspasia.

Yogic tradition teaches that the breath carries a person’s life force. Pranayama (breathing exercises) is believed to clear the emotional and physical obstacles within us. Aspasia emphasised the importance of breathwork, saying it is integral to yoga, even more so than the poses. Bringing your total focus to your breath isn’t just part of the practice but is the practice.

One of the first lessons was in Ujjayi (pronounced oo-jai-y) breath which has been used for thousands of years to synchronise breath with movement to make the practice more rhythmic. It’s practised by gently constricting the opening of the throat to create some resistance to the passage of air.

As we gently moved into physical asanas (poses), Aspasia reminded us to keep going back to our Ujjayi breathing. She pointed out that breathing consciously during yoga would not only keep the body and mind in a relaxed state but also prevent injury.

Although I have been practising yoga for three years, it was just the reminder I needed. We all need to refocus, retune and refocus no matter what our abilities.

Sabi's yoga mat unfurled on the clifftop at sunset

Despite not witnessing a sunrise due to gloomy weather, I felt supercharged after the session. I liked Aspasia’s teaching and philosophy and was eager to learn more. She was 24 when she first discovered yoga in 2004, but it was six years later that Aspasia would cement her practice.

“I was always interested in aerobic-led sports and didn’t have time for yoga,” she told me.

“I didn’t see the point of it until a personal tragedy led me to look deeper into the practice and its benefits. Now I teach others, and it gives me so much pleasure to share the real reasons why we need to do yoga. It’s not about getting into fancy poses. It’s about connecting to your deeper spiritual inner self.”

While connecting to the deeper self is the true meaning of yoga, practising it from beautiful locations allows you to be more mindful and stay in the present moment.

A view of Falassarna beach on a sunny day

We practised in several locations on and around the island’s west coast, including the sandy Falassarna beach with its green-blue sea and wonderful sunset views. Aspasia led us through another breathing technique, ‘Loma’, in which the thumb of the right hand is used to close off one nostril and the ring and little fingers to close off the other.

The sound of the gently crashing waves, and birds overhead, had the whole group focused on the task. Watching the sunset in complete silence, following the poses and meditation, was a beautiful way to end the evening.

Sabi doing a yoga pose on the clifftop at sunset

And as sure as the sun sets, the sun rises, and the next time we practised at dawn, we experienced its glory. The setting of the War Memorial for Greek Cadets in Kolymvari was nothing short of magical.

As I watched the sunrise, not only was I present, but I noticed how aware I was of my breath. Slow and deep, my heart rate came right down. I consciously kept bringing my attention back to my breath during the asanas sequence that followed.

Sabi Phagura getting a firm massage from Michalis

Massage therapy helps release muscle tension, making it easier to get into yoga positions. As part of the yoga and wellness program, each one of us was treated to an hour-long massage. Opting for a firm massage, Michalis worked his hands and forearms to get into the tightest knots all over my body.

I used ujjayi breathwork to relax my muscles when Michalis dealt with the trickier spots. Had I not remembered this technique, I would’ve had to ask Michalis to ease off. I persevered, knowing the short-term discomfort would be beneficial in the long run.

The metal Gong's ready to be struck for the Gong Bath sessionGong bath
Mistral’s approach to wellness is 360 degrees, and the itinerary includes a gong bath. If you haven’t heard of this technique, allow me to explain.

Contrary to its name, there’s no h20 in sight. Instead of water, gong baths used in ancient cultures over centuries profess to offer sensory stimulation through sound vibrations. It’s claimed the sound of the gongs brings relaxation and peace to participants physically and mentally.

Already in zen mode on day five of our experience, the group listened intently to coach Birgit Reimer as she walked us through what to expect during our session before reclining on the sun loungers around the pool.

Closing my eyes, I absorbed the noise, vibration and rhythm around me as I allowed the gongs to send me off in an altered state of consciousness.

The experience was trance-like and left me feeling I had connected to my inner being. I awoke feeling calmer, more balanced and less anxious in just one hour. If just one session left me with this heightened sense of awareness, I wanted to learn more and made a mental note to explore gong baths after leaving Mistral.

Cretan food
Whether you practice yoga or not, good nutrition is integral to improving the mood, raising energy levels and promoting overall wellbeing. And at Mistral, food is very much at the core of the experience. The hotel has a large vegetable garden, and the family also produce olive oil.

The healthy food options at the Hotel's breakfast buffet

All guests at the hotel are booked on a half-board basis but can have lunch at an extra cost. But with a hearty breakfast served between 8 – 10 am and a banquet-style dinner from 8 pm, you’ll be too full to contemplate lunch.

Two photographs of the healthy dishes at the hotel

The daily menu is posted on the digital screen in the afternoons, and I have to say I got rather excited at seeing what was on the menu for dinner. Aside from the meat dishes which I chose not to eat, I can honestly say I didn’t have one single bad meal.

Tzatziki with avocado

The fish and vegetarian dishes were all hearty, filling, full of flavour and incredibly tasty. And as everyone ate together, it felt like we were all sitting around someone’s dining room table, sharing good food and stories from our adventures from the day.

Things to do
There’s plenty of downtime from the yoga and wellness program to chill around the pool. But if you want to ramp up the adventure factor a notch, Mistral offers several excursions around the island. Some are included as part of the itinerary, while others can be added on as extras. But there is no pressure to do any of them.

The Botanical Gardens and Park was my favourite day out. With thousands of fruit trees, herbs, and pharmaceutical and ornamental plants to enjoy was majestic and was an extension of the spiritual tranquillity offered through the yoga practice. The area was reborn from its ashes after the great fire of 2003.

Whether you’re going on a spiritual journey or simply ready to see the world, solo travel can be empowering, rewarding, and a lot of fun. It allows you to step outside your comfort zone and allows you to go within. The Yoga and Wellness Week at Mistral was just the ticket I needed to do that rather than just getting out there.

The hotel's outdoor bar brightly lit at night

The Mistral Hotel – Where and How?

The Mistral Hotel has 35 rooms – all for single occupancy. The Yoga and Wellbeing-themed week is being repeated from October 3-10, with prices starting at 1358 euro (including airport transfers, half-board, and excursions).

Seven nights in a standard room at the Mistral during the season starts from 1036 euro. Other themed weeks for 2023 include Flavours of Crete (Oct 10-17) with a focus on cooking and food, a Walking Week (Oct 17-24), and a Writing Retreat (July 18-25). For more information and to book, visit

Read more travel reviews, industry news, guides and features here.

People enjoying the food at one of the beachfront restaurantsFinding Inner Peace at The Mistral Hotel in Crete's Yoga and Wellbeing Week 2

Sabi Phagura

Deputy Online Editor

Sabi Phagura is a health, fitness, travel and lifestyle journalist with over 14 years experience in both print and broadcasting media. With Luxurious Magazine, Sabi has travelled the world and experienced some of the finest things that it has to offer. Sabi is one of our most eager and enthusiastic journalists regularly finding unique and exciting destinations. She always creates articles that showcase the subject in the best light via her wealth of knowledge in the luxury travel and dining sectors.

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