As a yoga enthusiast, I crave solo wellbeing holidays to get away from everything and everybody. I need to realign my mind, body and spirit and focus purely on my yoga practice and deepening my connection with myself. Back in October 2014, this led me to book a five-day yoga retreat at the Zening Resort in Latchi, in northwest Cyprus.
I landed in Paphos in the early afternoon with the gentle October sun caressing my skin. I was picked up along with some other people who were also staying at the resort by the driver who was sent from the hotel. We spent an hour driving to the hotel and listening to all the myths which northwest Cyprus holds, including the legendary Baths of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, passion, fertility and eternal beauty. Aphrodite used to bathe in the grotto and when a handsome hunter stopped off to drink some water, he instantly fell in love with her. The rumour says that if you splash your face with the water from the pool, you will have eternal beauty (we tourists are so easily convinced!) He also recommended the numerous delicious local restaurants, as the resort was in a fishing village by a harbour, so it would be a shame not to try some of the local food.
What makes it Eco-friendly.
Located in the peaceful Chrysochous Bay and bordered by the Akamas nature reserve and Latchi harbour, the Zening Resort is a 100-hectare nature oasis, where wellbeing, relaxation and sustainability is the ethos. I chose this hotel as it’s vegetarian and the hotel seemed pretty responsible in their design and approach to tourism. They have a great selection of bikes, which you can rent for free and explore the island, making a perfect addition to a wellness break. Ajay, one of the owners, takes great pride in the resort by making sure thousands of fresh flowers are planted every two weeks, and that no pesticides are used in treating any possible infestations such as ant breakouts in the hotter months of the summer.
I settled into my Karma Apartment, which had a shabby chic décor with a huge bed, a small open-plan kitchen and a tiny bathroom. It felt spacious and homely and as I opened the thick wooden blinds, there was a beautiful pink Bougainvillea tree climbing up the arched white verandah walls overlooking the resort, the sun-heated boilers and the sea.
No phones allowed!
I felt the need to switch off from the world completely, and as many people who know me believe that I actually can’t live without my phone, I wanted to prove them wrong and switch it off for the duration of my holiday, and I did just that. Not only did I not use my phone, but I intentionally brought no heels or makeup with me either, which I felt was a little confrontational at times. When you have a bare face, there is no mask to hide behind. The resort actually encourages the ‘no phones’ policy with signs everywhere. They are committed to guests having a digital detox as well as a mental one. Switching my phone off and not checking it was so liberating. No more pictures of my food when I am at dinner.. by myself. No more scrolling through feeds when nobody is talking to me. A truly wonderful thing happened because of that.. I connected with the present moment.
As I ate every spoonful of food consciously and tasted the flavours, I became aware of my breathing. I smelled the sweet scents around me, and took in the gorgeous views of the sun setting over the sea when having my dinner, instead of trying to capture every moment on camera. When I wanted company, I asked if I could join people at dinner and I engaged in conversations, connecting with like-minded people. However, actually it was so nice just to spend some quality time with myself and catch up with my own feelings. We are so caught up in the ‘doings’ of life, we forget to just…be. Right here and now.
Yoga, meditate, sleep, repeat.
As the hotel is so different from other hotels, after an early dinner there is not much happening, so everybody retired to their rooms and most likely had an early night, as I did. Early mornings were welcome as there was the early morning yoga class. There is something sacred about doing a yoga first thing in the morning. As you inhale the crisp morning air and watch the sun rise over the mountains, symbolising new beginnings, you feel at one with nature and the natural rhythm of life. Being able to do this in such a way made me feel grounded and balanced, even before I had eaten my healthy breakfast. Most late mornings were spent in a bikini getting my daily dosage of vitamin D by the pool and reading ‘The New Earth‘ by Eckhart Tolle; a book everybody should read as it is life changing…really.
In the afternoons, I would go for another yoga class or a group meditation. Weekly schedules were provided to see what’s on and guests can choose how much or how little they want to participate in the activities that are happening all around the resort. There were different teachers with different teaching styles, which was great as sometimes you might not like somebody’s style of delivery or the type of yoga or meditation they teach. Having choice is always good and I tried out all the different teachers that were there. I would highly recommend you to do this, too. That way you discover a new style of yoga or a class that might challenge you more, as it is more advanced and it can possibly broaden your abilities.
An opened bar is replaced by a juice bar.
One of my favourite things was the juice bar by the pool. Ivo, the loveliest man you’ll ever meet, makes nothing but freshly-made juice or detox water infused with lemon, cucumber and strawberries. This was great for me as I don’t like being surrounded by people drinking alcohol by the pool before it even gets to midday. Instead, everybody was drinking a green juice – how refreshing! The juices did come at an additional cost, but a cost I was more than happy to pay. There was also plenty of local, organic free fruit, which you could just take and enjoy. It makes all the difference.
Baths of Aphrodite.
Taking the driver’s advice, after just gone midday, I decided to get a bike from the hotel and cycle to the Baths of Aphrodite. That wasn’t the best idea as it is a four-mile cycle uphill along the road with no map and no phone, only that heat accompanying me! After having flashes of being roadkill, I finally got there, relieved to bits! There is a beautiful botanical garden, which has many shrubs, which I could rub and sniff. I familiarised myself with the names before I got to the seductive, shimmering, emerald-coloured, natural grotto. I reached down to the water in order to wash my face and get that magical external beauty spell, but unfortunately I couldn’t reach it, so I had to settle for the water which ran out of the pool into a stream, hoping that it still had the magical powers.
Nearby, visitors can go on hikes for beautiful views and discover the local habitat of some of the animals, that live near the baths. I was wearing flip-flops, which I was praying wouldn’t break on me as I was cycling, so this unfortunately wasn’t an option this time. Instead, I cycled back to the hotel, which was much more pleasant as the route was mostly downhill with the refreshing afternoon wind blowing me kisses.
Quality time to enjoy your own company.
Along with my daily yoga and meditation regime, I wanted to up the ante of relaxation and pampering by getting a full body massage with a very special masseuse who was actually a healer and didn’t normally do massages there. I knew I would be in great hands and wouldn’t be manhandled (as I don’t like that very much!) She was gentle, but had a great way of getting all the knocks out and before I knew it, I fell asleep. Needless to say, I had a wonderfully relaxing massage which I didn’t Tweet or Instagram about, and that was okay – nobody died!
I enjoyed my own company so much so that one chilly evening, I decided to go and watch “My Best Friend’s Wedding” at their open-air cinema, which they held every evening. I took my hot cup of tea and, with barely anybody else there, I made sure I picked the best sofa and politely asked the receptionist to magically find me a fleecy blanket to keep me warm before I got lost in tears, inappropriate laughs, and unbearable smiles that the movie gave me. I was then chauffeured to my door, as it was late and cold, by the uber nice receptionist – the one who had also found me a blanket. That’s what you call service!
Needless to say, I had a wonderful experience and felt truly looked after by the Zening staff. From the reception team, Nicholas, who rustled up special, vegan, gluten-free meals especially for me and to Ivo, who was my friend when I needed one.
Cyprus will always be a great memory of grounding, relaxation, self-love and the reason why I will be eternally beautiful!