In Sabi’s ongoing quest to find great hotels and hidden gems for you to try, she heads to Greece to sample the delights on offer at the Skiathos Princess Hotel
Doing a “downward dog “on dry land is hard enough, but try doing it at sea, and it’s doubly challenging. Yet this is exactly the position I found myself in as I tried my hand at Stand Up Paddle board yoga for the first time at the luxurious Skiathos Princess Hotel in Greece, as part of its first ever Yoga Festival.
My trainer, no other than YOGAqua Ambassador, Sarah Tiefenthaler, who counts Lady Gaga, James Priven and an army of pro athletes as her pupils, had more faith in me than I had in myself. But it was her uplifting words of encouragement as well as her gentle teaching style that had me doing a number of poses that I would never even dream of doing in a studio, let alone in the water with the risk of falling in. The sea really did turn into my mat.
The launch of the festival which runs all the way through to October is very much to encourage people to focus and take time out for themselves. SUP is very much about focusing on the here and now. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to concentrate on anything else other than the poses you are trying to master. And you really don’t have to be a fitness pro to have a go. The classes are suited to anyone who has an open mind to try something new. Sarah’s LA based classes attracts people of all abilities, regardless of age and sex. Yes, it’s hugely popular with men, including surfers.
Naturally, you will get a good workout on the board. The core is strengthened as you try to balance on the board, and all other parts of the body are challenged by the sheer fact that you’re working muscles in a different way than you would in a studio. And for a real good arm workout, a sunset paddle in the calm waters just before dinner is a must. It will soothe and leave you in a meditative state.
We all know the huge benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and you can easily plough through plates and plates of good food at the hotel’s many restaurants including zucchini chips, hummus, aubergine dip, fresh fish and meats at the beach restaurant ‘PR Amos’. Depending on where the mood takes you, you can feast on a buffet style lunch or dinner, or have a lavish dining experience at Churrasco where I can highly recommend the prawns.
Sipping a cocktail by the pool in the afternoon has never been easier when you have a juice and smoothie bar option. The juices, which come courtesy of the London-based Imbibery, are prepared on site and use all natural ingredients. The clue is in the word. The definition of imbibe is ‘to drink and absorb’ and ‘to receive and absorb in the mind’. And you can send any guilt packing because even the Cashew Mylk – which tastes like a liquid dessert – is good for you. We were even lucky to meet the founders Lily and Meryl. Not only did we have lunch with the friends from the US, but we grilled them on all things healthy eating so we could walk away from our five-star resort armed with the knowledge of staying fit long after the flight home.
If you can tear yourself away from the blue sea views and abundance of food on tap, then a trip to the local dog sanctuary is a must. Not only is this a great way of getting some exercise whilst walking with a pooch around the beautiful island, but it’s also an effective method of giving something back to the community. The Greek Animal Rescue is a UK-based registered charity which aims to help the abused, neglected, stray and injured animals of Greece. Founded in 1989, it works to re-home the animals. But locals and tourists alike can come up and walk the dogs at set hours of the day. The look from some of those dogs was enough to want to take one home with you right there and then.
Life is about balance, and so my arms were twisted (easily) at the chance to sample some wine tasting offered at the main restaurant of The Skiathos Princess Hotel. I’m terrible at sticking to the same New Zealand Marlborough, so it was great to venture out of my own comfort zone. I even liked some of the red wines on offer and picked one to go with the dinner. The sommelier was pleased he’d done his job.
Staying at The Skiathos Princess Hotel is bliss, but for the ultimate R&R, head over to the private island of Tsougra by taking a boat from the marina. We hopped over there on our last day to do some Yin-Yoga, where stretches are held for some 20-30 seconds. Yes, you may feel some aches and pains, but the sound of the waves lapping at the shore somehow help to soothe them away.
Further information on the Skiathos Princess Hotel
Classic Collection Holidays (0800 294 9318 / classic-collection.co.uk) offers 7 nights at The Skiathos Princess for £1169/£1341/£1160 per person in June/July/September. Price based upon 2 adults sharing a club double room on a bed and breakfast basis, and includes return flights from London Gatwick to Skiathos Airport and private transfers. Fitness Packages: 5 group YOGAqua classes: 100€ 10 group YOGAqua classes: 180€ // 5 Private YOGAqua classes: 260€ 10 Private YOGAqua classes: 480€ // 5 Private Mat Yoga classes: 180€ 10 Private Mat Yoga Classes: 320€.