My name is: Anna Martinou.
I’m known for being: Head of programming and co-founder of Fykiada Retreats.
I’m hosting a retreat called: Refresh Island Flow.
It’s happening: August 27-September 1, 2019 on Koufonisia Island in Greece.
I was drawn to this spot because: Koufonisia embodies the meaning of summer in 3km of velvet sand and turquoise waters. It’s not the turquoise of the Maldives or the Caribbean; it’s a kind of deeper, neon-like turquoise—the color of Koufonisia.
This is a place where you can enjoy the essentials of island life with minimal effort or disruption—and without technology. You can repeat the same routine daily (swim, eat, rest) without ever getting bored because you’re escaping manic city-life and experiencing a new level of freedom and ease.
This freedom is accessible on foot: Koufonisia is an island with almost no cars. You can complete a full circle of the whole area, starting from the port and walking shore-to-shore, discovering a new little bay at every turn.
I fell for this place 10 years ago, when it was still hidden from the crowds and only Jackie O. had discovered its otherworldly scenery while yachting in the Aegean. I remember swimming at the port as soon as we arrived after a 10-hour boat ride and two ferries from Athens. Even the port had this heavenly water color that was too hard to resist jumping into.
Back then, there was a campsite (which doesn’t exist anymore) and, every day, we'd do our first swim at 6am, walk to town, have a Greek coffee and then start our day—meaning have another swim, another coffee and eat fresh fish and sea urchins by the sea.
Now, Koufonisia is only a two-hour ferry ride from either Mykonos or Santorini, or a five-hour ferry ride from Athens. There is still only one small town, Chora, with local cafes, two mini-markets, a few tavernas and the best takeout souvlaki. Life is still lived at a slow, simple pace and that's the main reason we returned to run a retreat on this island. It provides the ideal setup for letting go.
This retreat is special because: This retreat is for anyone who dreams of reliving the mood of their childhood summers. Imagine handstand attempts and music at the beach, juicy watermelon, cliff diving, skinny dipping when no one's watching. “Refresh Island Flow” takes place at the heart of Greek summer and has it all: a seaside resort, sun-kissed terraces, an outdoor covered yoga shala surrounded by olive trees, the best beach bar with a marvelous quinoa salad, the most magical beach next door—all within a five-minute walk from our yoga resort.
Most importantly, though, the retreat is run by two very experienced London-based yoga teachers, Anna Karides and Eleni Chatzipavli, who understand the art of holding space for our bodies and souls to find ease and rise stronger. I love the fact that their practices are complementary: Eleni's gentle approach to vinyasa flow supports Anna’s dynamic yoga and acro-inspired style, which then gets re-grounded by Eleni's restorative and meditative practice. The holistic approach to teaching combines with our plant-based menu to raise the whole experience to a new wellness level.
One thing you can’t miss is: Our sea kayak day! It's always everyone's favorite because it’s a fun bonding experience. We start the day with a boat ride to the desert island of Kato Koufonisi, where our kayak experts are waiting. We split into duos, as our kayaks are two-seaters, which makes it even more hilarious—and our Robinson Crusoe trip begins.
We kayak to moon-shaped coves, pass through hidden caves and discover tiny beaches, where we can jump in, swim to the shore and claim it as our own—pirate-style. We snack on energy bars and watermelon and then make our way back to Kato Koufonisi for another swim. Before sunset, we head back to our resort—exhausted, hungry, sun-kissed and ready to reinvigorate with real rest in a yoga nidra class.
My favorite secret detail is: First, a small beach with crystal clear waters and white sand called, “Hawaii,” that you can only reach via boat or with a sea kayak. Second, the Greek yogurt and granola bowl at Sorokos café. If you go before 9am, you can sometimes snag a seat right on the sea and enjoy a swim until your breakfast is served.
Your body will thank you because: It will be naturally toned and energized again, not just thanks to yoga, but also thanks to daily activities like walking, swimming, kayaking, rock climbing, cycling, etc. An active and healthy body makes for a happy and free soul!
I never retreat without bringing: My reusable water bottle and my Greek sandals bought from the Monastiraki area in Athens—the authentic destination for authentic sandals.
Retreating should be part of your process because: There is no better process for taking care of yourself than escaping to a Greek island.