Holidays that touch the soul

High-pressure lifestyles sometimes need a low-key antidote. looks at alternative ways of getting away from it all

In need of a spiritual lift? Or a spot of inner development? In these days of job insecurity and fractured families, getting away for a couple of weeks in the sun is not always enough to soothe our injured souls.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to the traditional holiday that make a positive contribution to your inner self. The growing list of options includes staying in a monastery or holy place, taking a specially tailored "community and learning" trip or spending a few days in a New Age Retreat or Meditation Centre. And forget the hippy image, nowadays upmarket options with expert "facilitators" to guide you to spiritual sanity are a booming part of the holiday market.

Skyros, Greece

The Skyros Centre and Atsitsa are two alternative holiday resorts designed to change your attitudes and promote a holistic approach to life. Participants can choose from the mundane (windsurfing, dance) to the cerebral (writing, music, theatre) to the spiritual (yoga, health and healing, dreamwork). You can also enjoy the regular delights of a sunny, scented Greek Island in your spare time. Two-week holidays cost from pounds 450 to pounds 750 (excluding flights).

Mount Athos, Greece

A beautiful peninsula dotted with historic Greek Orthodox monasteries. Males only (with permits) can trek from place to place, staying in the monasteries free of charge in Spartan dormitories. Two simple, vegetarian meals are served daily and on Sunday you get wine and fish.

Athos still uses the Julian calender which means they are 13 days behind the outside world. Strict decorum is observed, with no smoking or loud voices and modest attire. For a permit to enter, obtain a Letter of Recommendation from your embassy in Greece, then take it to the Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace in Thessaloniki.

Goa, India

The kind of people who made Goa famous as a hippy hangout are still drawn to the area, though they have been pushed out of their original haunts by mass tourism. These days the holy Hindu places attracting the mellow crowd include Hampi, a riverside settlement 200km inland, and Gokarn, on the coast to the south. Gokarn, blessed with holy connotations, white sand and palm trees, is a great place to spend a low-budget and very alternative winter.

Pondicherry, India

The Ashram (holy site) of local hero Sri Aurobindo Ghose, in Tamil Nadu, attracts spiritual tourists who can stay in special Ashram guesthouses. The most "New Age" place in India, though, is probably Auroville, just 10km north of Pondicherry, which was founded in 1968 by "The Mother", a disciple of Sri Aurobindo. With a communal existence, experimental architecture and a rural landscape, the place is a magnet for long-stay westerners.

Daramsala, India

A big Buddhist pilgrimage centre, famous as the home of the Dalai Lama for the last 30 years. A great place for hanging around with Tibetan exiles, and sitting and chatting in restaurants surrounded by vast mountain panoramas. It's 12 hours bus ride north of Delhi.

Cortigo Romero, Spain

A centre offering a range of spiritually therapeutic activities in a rural setting in the Alpujarras mountains south of Granada. They offer all-inclusive packages (not courses, they insist, but holidays), led by experienced facilitators in music and writing therapy as well as yoga and meditation. A week costs pounds 345.

Ibiza, Spain

This may not be the first place to spring to mind for a spiritual retreat, but there is some very serious, energetic yoga going on in the interior of the island courtesy of Windfire Yoga. In a marvellous old Spanish farmhouse between Sant Miquel and Sant Mateu, you can exert yourself on a macrobiotic diet with one of the leading British yoga teachers, Godfrey Devereux. After dark you drink in the scent of surrounding orange groves.

Mallorca, Spain

The Monastery of Lluc, close to Pollenca, is the largest monastic complex on the island. Accommodation is very organised, with self-contained apartment- cells including kitchen and dining room. In summer you may need to book in advance and you'll pay around pounds 15 a night. There is also excellent scenery and Gaud architecture.

Findhorn, UK

The Findhorn Foundation, about 10 miles west of Elgin, is a former caravan site converted into a community with homes and facilities, including a flashy arts centre, for hundreds of people. The emphasis is on sustainable living, spiritual therapies and holistic healing arts. Thousands of people visit each year. You can camp or bring your caravan, and B&B accommodation is available.

Gaia House, UK

This non-profit-making meditation centre requires complete silence for the duration of your stay (there is no talking even in the corridors and dining halls, and reading and writing are discouraged). Teacher- led retreats range from a weekend to 10 days. The diet is simple and vegetarian. Fees are pounds 15 a day (plus one hour of housework).

The US

New Mexico is the most popular area for those wishing to detoxify the system and find natural harmonies to the rhythm of the native American. Taos in particular is a centre for artists and writers and there are several retreats dotted around.

However, one of the most famous retreats is Esalen, near Santa Cruz in California. It's hard to imagine finding greater expertise on personal development, yoga or alternative therapies. Weekends, including housing, food and tuition cost $425; five-day sessions cost $795 If you are in the States, check out the listings in Transformative Adventures, Vacations and Retreats, published by New Millennium.

FACT FILE

lThe Skyros Centre and Atsitsa: 0171-2674424. lThe Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace, Plata Dhikitirou, Room 218, Thessaloniki (Mon- Fri 11am-1.45pm). lCortigo Romero: 01494 782720. lWindfire Yoga: fax 003471 333254. lThe Monastery of Lluc: 003471 517025. lFindhorn: 01309 690203/690311. lGaia House: 01626 333613. lEsalen: 001408 667 3000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal

I had dinner with the pensions minister Steve Webb this week. There was a wide-ranging discussion about the new pensions freedoms starting in April, and changes to the state pension. Crucially, I also got to ask Mr Webb whether he had any plans to have another look at the injustice that is frozen pensions.

Mark Dampier: We always bring down Britain. But there's plenty in the tank

While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market

If you haven’t switched supplier or tariff in the last 12 months then you could almost certainly save money by doing so

There are easier ways to save hundreds on your energy bills

A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier

Worse hit are loyal customers with long-standing accounts – their loyalty is rewarded with lower interest rates than more recently-launched accounts

Savers are being let down by banks and building societies, says Financial Conduct Authority

Regulator’s investigation into the market found that around £160bn was held in easy access savings accounts that pay interest lower or equal to BoE base rate

What to do if you're facing repossession: However far you fall, you're not on your own

Helen Fisher had to become a 24-hour carer, and then she faced repossession. But going to the right places for help changed everything, writes Simon Read

Simon Read: Information is power. And it's in the wrong hands when people are cold-called by companies that know they're in debt

In debt? You're likely to be targeted by unscrupulous companies that hope to profit from your misfortune. They may try to pretend to be your friend by offering what they call "help" – but almost certainly that help will come with a cost and leave you worse off than you were before they got in touch.

Mark Dampier: So you've got pension freedom... will it end up as a cold shower?

In less than three months' time radical changes to pensions will take effect, providing investors with more freedom. Yet for those who prefer to make their own investment decisions, the choice of funds available is overwhelming. And an income drawdown account is also not particularly easy to manage.

The move marks the culmination of a long campaign by debt charities and insolvency firms and follows a call for evidence launched by the Minister last August

Bankruptcy rules to change, Business Minister announces

The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000

Three-quarters of parents say being unable to afford to heat their home adequately is hitting the health of their children

Family well-being and health hit by heating costs

A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children

Many people have no understanding of pensions

Are you ready for pensions reforms?

Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income

At a rate of 7.5 per cent, the wind is blowing behind ethical investors

A new initiative has financial and ethical virtues, says Simon Read
Ticket to cry: many passengers have been penalised with exorbitant and unnecessary rises

Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?

I struck a chord with many of you when I wrote a piece earlier this week about rising train fares. It seems there is an army of travellers who feel they've been ripped off by increased transport costs.

Your money: Let’s hope for a fairer, more honest 2015

Poor service from banks and energy companies has sadly been a theme this year

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - OTE £25,000

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Developer - Watford - £45,000 - £47,000

    £45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Product Manager - (Financial Services) - SW London

    £35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
    Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

    Diana Krall interview

    The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
    Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

    Pinstriped for action

    A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

    Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

    'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

    Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

    Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
    Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us