Upon arriving at Euphoria Retreat, I felt an immediate sense of calm and relief. Idyllically located above the picturesque medieval village of Mystras, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and just beneath the snow-capped Mt Taygetyos, the resort is surrounded by a dreamily pastoral landscape and a pine and cypress forest.
And then there’s the heart of Euphoria, it’s incredible four-story spa, like a magical tower of healing lit by natural light.
Euphoria Retreat is the result of a magnificent vision experienced by its creator, Marina Efraimoglou, who left the stress-ridden world of banking when she faced and battled cancer, consequently entering her own fascinating journey into the holistic wellness world. Awards received by Euphoria Retreat since it opened include the Conde Nast Traveller Spa and Reader’s Choice Awards, a World Luxury Spa Award and a National Geographic Traveller Big Sleep Award.
Known as the ‘wonder of the Morea’, Mystras in the southeastern Peloponnese is a fortified town that was amphitheatrically built around a Frankish castle. Mystras was under the rule of the Franks, Byzantines, Ottomans and Venetians and was abandoned in 1834. The mystical medieval ruins of Mystras are situated on the slopes of Taygetos Mountain, above the modern village of Mystras and Sparta.
Euphoria Retreat is not a Spa Hotel, it is a healing resort where one can go to rebalance, connect with or re-activate the source of wellbeing and discover new, even life-changing ways to experience personalised mind-body-soul health. Apart from its spectacular spa, which is based on the Five Elements, a combination of ancient Greek and Chinese ‘iatrosophy’ principles, other communal areas are Euphoria’s restaurant and sprawling lush grounds. A tailor-made contemporarily scientific as well as ancient spiritual wellness approach extends to the resort’s Signature Retreats designed for guests according to their personal needs. Whether guests book a customized retreat or not they can enjoy everything from outdoor exercise in the newly constructed Forest Gym and a daily schedule including yoga, Pilates and other classes, to sophisticated spa treatments that include assisted floatation and a fantastic array of luxury therapies.
Style and Character
The overall style is rural-modern, with touches of Byzantine culture and design, and circular objects, representing eternity, femininity and wholeness are noticeably present. The spa experience here is exquisite. With a spiraling staircase topped by a skylight and with a well in its centre, the spa’s tranquilising ambience, intoxicating aromas of essential oils and sounds of running water make it easy to relish hours of healing. Designed by DECA Architecture together with Natalia Efraimoglou & Partners, the 3000 m2 building is carved into the base of a mountain between Mystras town and a lush forest that leads to a river. Designed according to the principles of the Five Elements, the four-storey spa experience starts at the ground floor with the element of water (birth), next of water combined with fire (action), then wood (earth) and finally metal (release, or letting go of things that weigh us down). On the ground floor there is a water-well with warm water that one walks in before then walking into a strip of cold water and experiencing Kneipp Therapy. On the water-fire level is the beautiful Tepidarium, a large steam area with two double and one single mosaic beds; this is surrounded by an Ottoman-style Hammam, sauna, steam room, ice cold water plunge pool, an aroma shower and an ice fountain.
Euphoria is an ideal place to visit alone, with a partner or a few friends when you truly want to unwind and experience what the resort describes as ‘a unique cleansing process’. Its location is unique for not being the usual seafront spa type – indeed, being nestled under a mountain and next to Mystras archaeological site it is imbued with a special alpine charge. Visitors ideally come here to experience a Signature Retreat for a week or more, yet even a weekend offers a curative boost.
Euphoria has modern, unique, yet traditionally-inspired facilities and treatments on its every level, but its unparalleled ‘magic spot’ is the exemplary sphere-like pool, envisioned by Marina Efraimoglou and co-designed by the acclaimed and awarded DECA Architecture, who perfectly describe as such: “At the center of the interior pool is a sphere. Floating in the center of this dark orb there is a sense of being suspended in the void of a platonic volume but also a sense of womb-like calmness. Around this sphere are several coves with water jet treatments.”
Decked out with luxurious contemporary amenities, including a large screen, the rooms have a cosy, soothing and minimal feel. The warm yellows, beiges, browns, golds and reds of the region’s Byzantine iconography inspired the colours and lavish textiles in furnishings and décor, offering a sense of plush comfort and warmth. A Zen minimal-style design is combined with modern comforts like bio-climatization and a home automation system, as well as a luxurious pillow and bedding menu, with mattresses and fabrics that are produced using olive oil for extra softness. Guests who prefer to retreat from the world can also enjoy breakfast and other meals in-room. For a family or group of friends there is also the artfully renovated Leoncini Mansion, built in 1830, which has six rooms and a private dining room.
Food & drinks
Gaia restaurant, with monastic-style benches designed to bring guests together, serves highly nutritious, meticulously prepared and appetizing cuisine based on seasonal,
organic and local ingredients. When it comes to food, Euphoria takes a science-based and expertly designed approach, offering custom-made programmes that address physical as much as emotional/mental needs; these involve specially-designed menus that address particular conditions and requirements, which are designed upon after the guest taking various forms of tests carried out using innovative and sophisticated methods. Guests are treated to herb and fruit-infused water but can also enjoy quality organic wines to accompany meals that are simple yet creative, traditional (using Greek and Mediterranean concepts and ingredients) as well as modern.