Pick up a new skill as well as a suntan in Greece or Cyprus, writes Katie McGonagle
As a child school holidays were the only time we could ditch the textbooks and lessons to have fun with friends. In adulthood, however, holidays are often the only free time we have to learn a new skill.
Luckily, Greece and Cyprus offer plenty of chances to learn to tell a shiraz from a chardonnay, pick up a paintbrush, or figure out how to do a downward dog while balancing on a paddleboard (yes, really) – and there’s no need to sacrifice a classic beach break to do it.
If your clients’ culinary repertoire ends at beans on toast, the vibrant, fresh flavours of Greek and Cypriot cuisine could be just what they need to inspire more ambitious fare.
To get back to basics, suggest they play ‘farmer for a day’ at one of Crete’s three Grecotel properties. The hotel group owns a 40-hectare organic farm producing its own olives, olive oil, wine, herbs and honey, so guests can not only muck in with the farm, but they can also learn to bake bread or have a go at making wine (€48 per adult).
Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas in Zagori, Epirus, will likewise lead keen foragers on a mushroom-hunting expedition or take guests fishing in the nearby river, followed by a chance to eat whatever they find (prices from £183 for two nights with breakfast, mushroom-picking excursion and dinner).
Foodie traditions are just as strong in Cyprus, where chefs at Annabelle in Paphos, take Paul Hollywood wannabes through their bread-making paces.
The Let’s Bake course is split across two days, so there’s still time for a session on the sunloungers in between making ciabatta, focaccia, halloumi-and-mint bread or Cypriot cheese and sesame seed rolls called tyropites (€90).
With a growing reputation for their vineyards, these islands offer a surprising amount for those who want to learn their way around the wine world. Thomas Cook’s Sentido hotels in Rhodes, Kos, Crete and Paphos all offer local wine-tasting as part of their Holiday Plus programme.
Thalatta Seaside Hotel on Evia brings it even closer to home by offering wines made on the island itself.
Those who want to take their wine education even more seriously couldn’t ask for better than a session with the secretary-general of the Greek Sommeliers Association.
He’s also sommelier at Domes of Elounda in Crete, where guests can book a one-hour tasting at one of the restaurants or in their own villa, covering colour, taste, after-taste and food pairings.
Painting and Photography
Even your more creative clients might struggle to find the time or inspiration to pursue their hobbies at home, but the seascapes and hilltop villages of Alonissos should reawaken their artistic side.
British artist Chris Hughes, who has a house and studio on the Sporades island, leads painting holidays for Sunvil Holidays. With five four-hour lessons spread over a one or two week period, budding artists have plenty of time to improve their technique. Sessions cost £195 and can be added to any Alonissos holiday.
For a more 21st-century take on the arts, Thomas Cook’s SunConnect hotels help guests return home with more than just a few selfies to remember their holiday.
The technology focused resorts in Kos and Rhodes offer night-time photo-walks, Instagram workshops and sessions on shooting holiday movies, teaching people of any age how to achieve better results from their smartphones.
Learning yoga is about more than twisting into impossible positions. The week-long yoga retreat at wellness resort Zening Elia Village in Latchi, northwest Paphos, focuses on the philosophy as much as the physical side.
With 14 yoga and meditation sessions, plus health-focused food and a fresh juice bar, guests are pretty much guaranteed to feel refreshed.
More experienced yoga students can try Skiathos Princess Hotel’s YOGAqua, where the yoga takes place on stand-up paddleboards, while MarBella Corfu has introduced aerial yoga in hammocks above the ground, so guests feel weightless as they attempt new poses.
This might not sound like the most glamorous of sports, but it’s a great way to encourage out of season visits, especially from more mature clients.
Photis Lambrianides, commercial director at Olympic Holidays, says: “Bowls is enjoyed by huge numbers in the UK, but the sport is restricted to spring and summer. Cyprus offers the chance to learn the game while enjoying a holiday at any time of the year.
“Together, the four-star Athena Beach Hotel and sister Athena Royal Beach Hotel in Paphos offer one of the most popular facilities for bowls outside the UK.”
That includes 18 full-size rinks with MasterGreen carpet surfaces, plus six flat green indoor rinks and 12 rinks for short mat bowls, not forgetting the resident bowls coordinator who arranges lessons and competitions.
Most properties boast a tennis court or two, but some elevate their tennis tuition to Grand Slam levels. They can’t guarantee your clients will be troubling Andy Murray any time soon, but they should at least go home with a better backhand.
At Sensatori Resort Aphrodite Hills in Paphos, the Annabel Croft Tennis Academy makes full use of its nine floodlit courts – four clay and five hard courts – with tennis courses running Monday to Saturday year-round.
Coaching packages include the intensive Adult Grand Slam and the more relaxed Tennis Holiday (from €395 and €240, respectively, for five days. Shorter options are available). Kids can try the Junior Slam or Tennis Camp packages (from €340 or €180 for five days).
Players at Mark Warner’s Greek resorts will also find opportunities to improve their game: group coaching courses comprise four one-hour sessions for £80, while the Academy Course takes it further with four 90-minute lessons, 45 minutes’ private tuition, and faults analysis (£150).
The seriously dedicated should consider visiting during the Intensive Tennis Weeks at Lakitira and Helona Beach Resorts on June 13 and October 3, and Levante Beach from September 19. Priced at £250, these include 20 hours of workshops and coaching, with a 45-minute private lesson, social matches and dinners, and an end-of-week tournament.
We might be an island nation, but that doesn’t make learning to sail in our chilly and often choppy waters much fun. The pleasantly warm Aegean Sea around Sani Resort’s marina in Halkidiki is a different story, though, so it’s no surprise the kids’ sailing academy is such a hit here.
With 10 hours’ tuition over three days, the course will give children aged six to 17 a good grounding in the basics (€250).
The Ionian Sea should be just as pleasant, which is why Neilson’s newest resort, Vounaki Beachclub in Paleros on the west coast of Greece (which re-opens under the operator’s brand this month) offers Stay and Sail packages.
Get plenty of practice in the first week with Royal Yachting Association-accredited tuition at the on-site marina, then take charge of a Neilson yacht for another week’s cruise along the beautiful Greek coastline.
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