Holidays that touch the soul
High-pressure lifestyles sometimes need a low-key antidote. looks at alternative ways of getting away from it all
Sunday 09 February 1997
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
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.
23 January 2015 08:00 PM
While the health of the economy is not insignificant, Mark Dampier finds it incredibly unpredictable in terms of its impact on the stock market
21 January 2015 12:32 PM
A new free app is aimed at the three-fifths of Brits who have never switched supplier
20 January 2015 09:34 AM
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
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
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
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
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.
17 January 2015 12:00 AM
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.
15 January 2015 12:23 PM
The minimum amount for which you can be forced into bankruptcy is being raised from £750 to £5,000
14 January 2015 08:55 AM
A shock report reveals that fuel poverty is affecting desperate families – and their children
14 January 2015 08:59 AM
Most people are too confused to know how to use their pensions for a secure income
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
Simon Read: Inflation is riding the slow train. So why have we been given a one-way ticket to travel on the fares express?
10 January 2015 12:00 AM
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.
26 December 2014 02:31 PM
Poor service from banks and energy companies has sadly been a theme this year
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 19-23 January
Bargain Hunter: From The Outsider to 1984, catch a cut-price classic, read it in the rye
Donald MacInnes: My wasted hours in the retail deserts of Dixons-Carphone
Money Insider: Smart alternatives to the pensioner bond
- 1 Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
- 2 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 3 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
British Muslim leaders outraged after Eric Pickles says followers of Islam should 'prove their identity'
UK terror fears: My jihadist son returned from Syria mentally scarred – now he is being ignored
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
Billy Crystal: 'Stop shoving gay sex scenes in my face'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
iJobs Money & Business
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£45000 - £47000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / ...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village