Yoga & meditation eco resort in Cyprus
The Quick Read: Zening Elia Villa Resort is an eco resort in the peaceful Chrysochous bay of the Mediterranean. Set in Latchi, a small village on the North West coast of Cyprus, its a simple place with a focus on yoga. On our visit we loved it, though it was a little disorganised, so be prepared if you usually need everything perfect. The Yoga Retreat package, which starts on Monday for 6 days and includes full board, is for beginners and intermediate yogis, delving deep into the postures and philosophy. You can also stay half board, dip in and out of classes or attend yoga teacher training sessions if you are advanced and wish to be more challenged.
More on the yoga and meditation: There are lots of group yoga and meditation classes included each day, starting at 7am and finishing around 7pm, with the magical Yoga Nidra experience to promote healthy sleep at 9pm. These take place around the resort in the Aphrodite Hall, on the Terrace, and by the Fontana pool. All the group classes are included, or you can book private classes with your teacher of choice at an extra cost. The majority of classes are catered towards beginners, but if you’re into yoga already there is always something new to be learnt and you can seek out more advanced yoga teaching from the teachers – read a word from the queen on her experience here.
Hatha yoga is the most popular style on offer, with a half hour morning sun salutation session good for beginners, but there are many other yoga styles to choose from if you want to shake things up and experiment. Susannah teaches Chakra yoga, yoga dance and Butoh meditation dance, which is a form of Japanese dance theatre, incorporating many different techniques and dance moves. Mercedes from Portugal teaches aqua yoga and artistic yoga, which involves more elegant, eccentric arm movements and is a part of Namaskar yoga. Andrea and Beata from Hungary focus on Hatha and Vinyasa yoga.
All the experienced teachers contribute their own style of meditation from sound medicine, which incorporates the beautiful sound of Tibetan singing bowls, to liberation breathing, which is an advanced form of meditation but which beginners can gain something from too, as you can simply find your level.
More on the other wellbeing activities: A cardio power training with weights and music is a fun way to hone your body for the beach first thing in the morning. There are also Pilates and art workshops every day if you feel like some variation. Little beats a sunset run along the public beach, though be careful of your Achilles tendon when running recklessly on pebbles; the yacht marina is busy, but it can be fun dodging wayward guys and guy ropes. Hang out in the crystal clear waters and bursting gardens, take day-trips to fountains, gardens and the local village market, or just set out into nature with no plan to return (until supper).
More on the spa: You can dip into an inky and illuminated indoor pool at the Veda Spa, or unwind in the darkly cavernous relaxation room with meditation music, nature scenes projected onto a vast screen and a host of fascinating coffee table books. The tea comes with a side pot of the most delectable honey that might just be the key to all healing.
More on the holistic treatments: The Veda Classic massage is a great place to start, warming up the muscles and unwinding you from city pressures; if you have a back niggle you can trust it will be found and attended to by the professional practitioners, you barely need to speak, just surrender. From there you can explore various other treatments like Niku’s infamous Metta, which provides a unique opportunity to realign your body, though is not to be advised if you don’t like being cricked and cracked.
More on the beauty treatments: Beauty treatments take place in a little bungalow rather than the spa. There is something magical and comforting about the experience, though the treatments never evolve to be quite what is implied on the brochure. For example, the eye treatment to banish dark shadows may sound intriguing, but is just a mini facial with eye cream. The facial, with an engulfing steam, is recommended if you want to clear your pores at the beginning of your stay. The products are varied, but the practitioner’s home-made rose water is the star of the show. If you book a manicure or pedicure, beware of nail varnish over-heating in the sun when drying as it will coagulate if you have too many layers – less is more.
Eco watch: Committed to sustainability and preserving the environment, the resort offers a ‘close-to-nature’ experience. In addition to a fantastic herb garden with aromatic and therapeutic herbs, there are 50 olive trees, which provide the cold-pressed olive oil you will dream about for months and lemon, orange, fig, avocado and guava trees for fruity organic delights.
More on the property: There are plenty of private, whimsical spots to tuck yourself away here, such as the muslin draped beds by the Fontana pool, or under a fig tree outside your bedroom. The apartment blocks are dotted spaciously off the main hill – a calf-burning road you will walk many a time – with the restaurant at the top and the reception and spa clustered at the bottom.
More on the bedrooms: The rooms are basic, but comfortable, with big beds, a dressing table and a well-equipped bathroom; there is nothing fancy here, but you won’t lack for anything. Family apartments are set over two floors with a living area downstairs with sofa-bed, lilac curtains and a few pieces of functional furniture (though somehow not many places to put clothes, as few shelves!); the bedroom might be a little tight if you like space as nights are hot despite the slow-swirling fan that makes you feel romantic and colonial.
Food and drink: Meals are gathered from the buffet and eaten on the Soma restaurant balcony looking out over the sea. Everything is fresh, seasonal and locally sourced, with emphasis on fish, vegetables and chicken. Greek yoghurt is otherworldly when drizzled with rich honey and a smattering of fresh fruit, while lunch and dinner are both a case of piling your plate as high as possible with hummus, tzatziki, olives, salads, stuffed vine leaves, dahl, fish and chicken. The food is mostly Mediterranean and Cypriot though there are some Indian inspired dishes. After five days you may be in need of some variation, and be struggling to remember what you normally eat, but your skin and system will be grateful to be running on olive oil coasters. The fruit and nut based puddings are to die for, or you can just pinch ripe kiwis and bananas from the juice bar for an afternoon snack. If you want a proper detox with no dairy, wheat or alcohol there are enough options for you to still have a varied and delicious diet. There is a small selection of local wines, which wash down like water, and can be corked and carried over from night to night.
Fellow guests: Apart from the odd famous footballer swanning around the pool with his girlfriend, the guests are a mix of mostly English, Greek and French people over 30 from all walks of (normal) life. Although most are bent on a restorative week, some groups frequent the local Insomnia nightclub and sneak back in the early hours; it is how it is meant to be. Come if you are feeling sluggish, tired or disenchanted with life and prepare to be bent and inspired back into shape.
What’s queenly: If you are a nature lover, the gardens here are superb, colourful and fruitful. It’s hard not to feel connected to the greater energy rustling through the leaves and illuminating the divine flowers. Zening is simply done, but when the sun melts into the distant mountains, turning everything into crème brulee, you realise you are emanating an inner glow too.
What’s lowly: The disorganisation can gripe if you are used to being well-pampered, as there are moments when you feel unsure if anyone knows you are there, but slipping through the slats does prove beneficial, as our writer found. While the Fontana pool is ensconced in beautiful gardens, you cannot get drinks or snacks there, so everyone flocks to the Eden pool and it is sometimes hard to find a bed. It is frustrating having dodgy internet in the rooms – perhaps it would be better to just leave roaming to the reception area and keep the device detox pure in the rooms.
Getting there: Zening is a forty minute taxi ride from Paphos Airport in Western Cyprus – transfers cost €50 in the day, and €55 by night.
Costs: Prices vary from €111 (£89) per person per night for a Yogi Studio Village View room to €201 (£160) per person per night for the Amanda Maizonette, complete with outdoors Jacuzzi. This includes bed and breakfast, but there is a €19 (£13) daily supplement for half board, and a €28 (£22) daily supplement for full board. Treatments are additional, unless you have bought a special package, which will vary according to the deal.
Reviewed by Connie Allfrey
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