Responsible tourism: Yoga & mindfulness vacation in Greece
During our yoga retreats we enjoy a slow pace and we have minimal impact on the environment. The Pelion peninsula is a protected area by law. In recent years a local initiative (of which our guides are members) “Friends of the Kalderini” have cleaned and restored many of the ancient donkey paths that have been used for centuries to convey goods up and down Mt Pelion. By using these now well marked restored stone paths we lessen the scarring so often seen in fragile mountain areas. We leave nothing on the mountain and beaches, taking away only memories and snapshots of our brief stay.
At the venues themselves, our vegetable garden and fruit orchards are 100% organic. We buy as much organic produce as possible, and buy in bulk from the weekly Friday organic market in Larissa city through a local organic farmer. We compost all kitchen waste and recycle glass, paper-cardboard, metal and plastic. We endeavor to avoid needless waste. We eschew the use of plastic bags when shopping, instead carrying and re-using our own cotton cloth bags. We only use biologically friendly detergents and soaps. More and more of our gardens are being converted to permaculture.
These yoga vacations take place amidst the spectacular beauty of the lush green mountain ecosystem of Mt Pelion. This area is still off the beaten tourist track and therefore has retained its authentic Greek character. Mt Pelion is fully protected and guests on a day trip will inevitably encounter local shepherds with their goats and sheep, or farmers growing vegetables and fruits on a patch of cultivated land. In the course of every day you will meet and chat with local people in shops, on the beach and in cafés.
Please observe their customs. In our area it is forbidden to take from the beach any large smooth stones that you might see. Admire them in place; along with the white sand and crystal clear water, they are part of the natural beauty of the Aegean beaches.
Even if you don't speak a word of Greek before you come, it's worth learning how to make a friendly greeting. To a child you would say "Yassou" (Hallo); to an adult you say "Yassas" (Hello). You may well be offered a few plums, cherries or figs (depending on the season), so best to know how to say "Thank you!" (Efaristo!) Perhaps you would like to ask a passing farmer on his donkey or a shepherd herding his goats "What time is it?" = T Ora Eenay? During the yoga trips we eat out on Tuesday evenings at a local taverna (restaurant). Local cafés and mini-markets benefit from our patronage as do the farms and local veg vans which supply most of our organic ingredients. At our nearby resort village on the Aegean of Ag Ioannis you will get many opportunities to interact with local Greeks and also Greek tourists from the cities. Many of them will speak a bit of English and they will be delighted to practice their English with you.
You may also get a chance to meet the Greek owners of the venues where you will be accommodated. Don't be surprised if they invite you for a glass of wine or a Greek coffee. Be sure to clink your glass with theirs and give the traditional Greek toast: "Steen ee Yassou!"