Located a few steps into the hillside, and with panoramic views across the sea, nature really is the playground at F Zeen Wellness Retreat.
If you’ve been to Kefalonia, you’ll know it’s one of the greenest of the Greek islands; Cyprus and Olive Trees saturate the landscape at almost every turn. If it’s your first time to the Ionian island, you’ll quickly note the shrubbery as you transfer the 20 minutes from the airport towards F Zeen Retreat, cutting across mountainous landscapes and small villages, the glittering Ionian sea coming into view towards the end of your journey. F Zeen Retreat stands somewhere in between the two.
THE PACKING EDIT
A stay at F Zeen is a stay in nature, it just so happens to have five star facilities built in. Everything here – from the organic, island-sourced ingredients used to prepare meals, to the wellness facilities, the majority of which take place in the great outdoors – is not only built around nature, but into the very heart of it.
In ancient Greek, F Zeen means ‘the good life’, and this is a wellness retreat where you’re in control. On arrival you’ll notice a large blackboard placed prominently outside the reception area. Daily activities are scribbled onto it, ranging from sound bath meditations to an extraordinary 24 types of yoga, as well as sunrise hikes, treks to the highest mountain peak in the Ionians, bicycle rides, paddle-boarding, snorkelling, and much more. Your stay is yours to design and – unlike at many other wellness resorts – there’s a carefree attitude and a lack of pressure. The holistic approach to wellness extends from body to mind, and you’re free to partake – or not – in as many activities as you wish.
Spa facilities here extend well beyond your treatment room, and a perfect day may include a mountain hike, followed by a massage, then a sound bath meditation; the latter of which bathes you not only in the audio frequencies from traditional gongs and singing bowls, but also in the sounds of the sea lapping at the shore nearby, and birds chirping deep within the surrounding forest. Aerial yoga is another must-do, it takes place in an open air shala and you’re guided through flows, with the ultimate aim of ending in the upside down pose (which is believed to relieve pressure on the spine and lower body). We arrived as sceptical first-timers but found ourselves hanging upside down – along with six others also new to the practice – within the hour.
There are two outdoor gyms with sea views, three freshwater swimming pools, a tennis court, and a golf simulation room. An hour or two of treatments in the Idor Spa is also a must after all that exertion, and not only for the relaxation time it provides. Ask for Anastasia: an F Zeen masseuse and former physiotherapist to professional athletes, she’ll work away at your activity-heavy body, easing any tightness formed during all the exercise, making sure you’re ready for whatever is next on the agenda. We opted for the one hour, thirty minutes Ionian Ritual which combines a body scrub using olive kernels, red grape, and rose petals with a body mask using Greek yoghurt and honey, and culminates in a top-to-toe massage using the oils from a lit candle.
Aside from the Classic Garden Retreat, every room in the 13 categories at F Zeen overlooks the sea, offering dramatic vistas by day and a soothing backing-track by night (seriously, is there anything more relaxing than falling asleep to the sound of the waves?). The decor – neutral, sand-like creams and beige – is an extension of the outdoors, and each room opens up to anything from a balcony to a private pool, depending on which room category you book.
Our room, a Superior Raw Retreat, centred around the larger-than-king-size bed, and was fitted with a walk-in rainforest shower, a Nespresso machine (vital before those early morning hikes), ample closet and desk space, and an iPad to make restaurant or class reservations. The villas are self-inclusive with fully-functioning kitchens and barbecues for days when you want to dine in private, rather than at the hotel’s restaurant.
This is an early to bed and early to rise kind of place, evident at dinner when by 9.30PM, we were the last at our table – though we did still find a few guests hovering around the blackboard classes menu, deciding which to take the following day. While good-food is very much on the agenda at both of the hotel’s restaurants, it comes with a surprisingly refreshing attitude. Yes, the menu is healthy and you can dine on F Zeen garden-grown fruit, veg and herbs, olives from nearby groves, and seafood bought directly from local fishermen – but the portion sizes are large, and dessert is encouraged.
Breakfast is both buffet-style and made-to-order, including staples such as eggs benedict alongside creative dishes such as the baked avocado fries, served with tahini. Come afternoon, lunch on mezzes, grills, and salads (don’t miss the lamb gyro) at pool-side Gaia, and by night head to Selini for: starters including grilled vegetables, beef carpaccio, and saganaki; mains such as tuna steak, vegetable burgers and mushroom risotto; and an extensive dessert menu featuring tiramisu, baked cheesecake, baklava, and dark chocolate truffles. All courses are made using ingredients grown in the on-site garden, and the breakfast marmalade is home-made by the property’s owner.
All group classes are included in your stay here, and as such can’t be considered extras though, for those who want privacy, any of the activities are offered as private classes. You can also book personal training sessions with on-site PT instructors. There’s a library in the basement, ideal for picking up some pool-side reading, an outdoor cinema showing feel-good movies in the evening, a boutique store on-site selling pieces from Greek designers, and Lourdas Beach is just minutes from the property. It’s a quiet beach, the kind where you’ll see couples with a fishing rod, hook-ready to catch tonight’s dinner, and people piling freshly-fallen fruit into their moped to take home. F Zeen provides sun-beds at the beach, too, perfect to laze around on during some well-earned downtime.