Striking a warrior II pose, you ground your left heel into the volcanic rock and extend your right arm towards the azure waters of the Aegean Sea. You gaze over your fingertips at the sunset kissing the rooftops of the charming white villas. Before shifting into humble warrior pose, you flutter your eyelids closed and enjoy the caress of a soft summer breeze on your cheek. Then you pause a moment – after all, you have nowhere else to be, and no one else’s needs to consider but your own. You’re in Santorini, you’re solo – and it’s sensational.
Self-Made Yoga Sanctuary
This picture of serenity takes place just outside the simply stunning town of Oia, Santorini. At Gemela’s Family Suites, your cliff-side “cave house” apartment is called “Earth” – perhaps symbolic of being in tune with your natural environment during your stay.
Even though your cave house is about a ten-minute walk from the heart of Oia – an easy stroll to an array of shops, restaurants and bars – you find yourself spending many happy hours in the comfort of your own terrace. After all, it’s your own private yoga studio and spa, with an incomparable view of the Caldera and the Aegean Sea.
You invite Veronika Karac, a local instructor who leads retreats at Caveland (a former 18th century winery), to teach a private hatha yoga lesson at your cave house. Sporting an elegant brown bob and a sweet smile, she arrives bearing yoga mats and blocks to your front door. Setting up on the terrace, she thoughtfully arranges the mats so that you have the perfect view of the Caldera and the sea. At your request, Veronika incorporates into her lesson several poses that help melt away travel tension, such as “thread the needle” pose and Gomukhasa arms (reaching one hand over your shoulder and the other behind your back to meet in the middle). To seal the practice, she leads you in pranayama – mindful breathing exercises. Your eyes are closed; you can feel the warm glow of the sun and hear the sound of the waves crashing into the cliffs below. With all these natural amenities available at your seaside yoga pavilion, it’s easy to luxuriate in the present moment.
Your Own Private Santorini Sunset
After yoga practice, you take a relaxing dip in your plunge pool, and then unwind your sore muscles by indulging in an al fresco massage. Your masseuse Elpida arrives with a massage table, scented oils and candles, and a CD of relaxing acoustic guitar music.
Basking in a post-massage glow, you gleefully open up the goody basket of nuts, crackers, cookies, cheese, fruits and vegetables and the bottle of Sigalas wine that your hosts have thoughtfully left for you. You decide to make your first authentic Greek salad for dinner, which you eat out on the terrace to watch the sunset.
But yours isn’t like any typical Santorini sunset viewing experience. There’s no jostling with other tourists. No craning your neck to see over the crowds. Notice other travelers coveting your enviable perch, while you relax on your terrace with a glass of wine, gaze at your unobstructed view of the Caldera, and keep your camera poised for that perfect shot of the famous golden sunset.
Top Travel Tips for Sensational Santorini:
When you mention your plans to fly solo to Santorini, you might hear from a well-meaning (but blunt) girlfriend, “You’re going to a honeymoon island without your [boyfriend][husband][partner][fill-in-the-blank]?! What are you going to do there by yourself?”
Needless to say, you shrug off the naysayers and have a simply sensational Santorini experience by enjoying these fabulous solo activities around the island:
1. Browsing at possibly the coolest bookstore in the world.
The charming, winding cobblestone streets of Oia offer hours of retail therapy. There are countless boutiques selling everything from brightly colored gemstone jewelry, to bikinis and sundresses, to antiques and artwork. A standout store amongst them is Atlantis Books. It’s one of an endangered species: a honest-to-goodness indie bookstore. The staff curates the shelves and selects favorites for their visitors. They also have an independent publishing house, and they will help you mail your loved one, family member or friend an original book of fiction or poetry printed in Greece – much better than a plain-old postcard.
2. Exploring castle ruins.
For a taste of tranquility and antiquity, visit Pyrgos, a charming village on a hill that has ruins of a Venetian castle at the top, overlooking the ocean. While ascending the labyrinth streets, you may encounter a wandering donkey or two.
3. Tasting a flight of Greek wine.
For the perfect afternoon getaway from town, visit Domaine Sigalas, an intimate, family-owned winery. It’s a brisk thirty minutes down the road from Oia on foot, (although in the hot Greek sun, perhaps a taxi is in order). Rock a brightly-colored wide-brim sunhat and chic designer sunglasses, and channel your inner-Audrey Hepburn while sampling a tasting flight on their terrace.
4. Enjoying the catch of the day.
Ammoudi is a little seaside village, located at the bottom of the cliff beside Oia, where you can actually watch the fishing boats bringing in their bounty before ordering the catch of the day. To reach it, you must traverse some very steep cliff steps (or, you can ride a donkey – your choice). It’s worth the trip to enjoy some fantastically fresh seafood by the docks – just leave your stilettos behind.
Lusan Chua is a lifestyle & travel writer based in Southern California. While journeying to more than 40 countries, Lusan has cultivated the art of last-minute trips; her family and friends are not surprised when she decides the day before a flight to “just go.” Her favorite adventures include: diving off the coast of Tanzania, elephant riding in Laos, enjoying indie flicks at Sundance, wine tasting near Capetown, photographing street art in Buenos Aires – and, of course, practicing yoga in Santorini.