Pursuing ‘the good life’ is the sole purpose at F Zeen Retreat, a Kefalonian hideaway where you can disconnect, unwind, and in the process rediscover that life can be very good indeed. With sunloungers perched alongside infinity pools that merge seamlessly with the cerulean Ionian Sea, and the promise of idle afternoon cocktails on the beach, F Zeen offers all of the Greek island holiday essentials. But with daily yoga, fitness and meditation classes, an inspiring outdoor gym, an organic garden supplying a pair of restaurants, guided hikes, and spa treatment menu with true depth, the benefits go beyond simple leisure alone.
63 rooms, many with sea views and private pools, including three suites and two secluded three-bedroom villas.
Check-in, 3pm, with check-out by 11am. Guests may check-in early if the room’s ready; if it’s not, they are free to store their luggage at reception and use the resort facilities.
Double rooms from £229.27 (€272), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include a made-to-order breakfast with juices, teas and coffee in either of the two restaurants.
Get up off your sunlounger – a daily schedule of wellbeing classes are offered to guests at no additional cost. The morning begins with either a guided hike to the hilltop Sissia Monastery or a beach run, and then continues with gym sessions, an array of 16 different yoga classes, and meditation sessions teaching guests the principles of mindfulness.
The resort closes annually on 31 October, and reopens on 29 April.
At the hotel
Extensive tropical gardens; boutique; spa; outdoor gym; free fitness, yoga and guided meditation classes; hammam; outdoor cinema; laundry and ironing service; free use of watersports equipment; and concierge. In rooms: Many rooms have sea views, a private garden and pool; all rooms have walk-in showers, bathrobes and slippers, pool towels, air-conditioning, minibar, 32-inch satellite TV, free WiFi, workspace, tea- and coffee-making facilities, and daily turndown service.
Our favourite rooms
When you’re nodding off on the London Tube or stuck parked in peak-hour traffic, it’s F Zeen Retreat’s Suite 100 that you’ll be daydreaming of. Immense glass doors open onto your large private patio, with both ocean and mountain views in full panorama. There’s a choice of sunloungers in full sun or shade, and your own private lap pool from where you’ll soak up the views and warmth.
Perched amid the foothills of Mount Aenos, F Zeen Retreat boasts a trio of pools, all with sunloungers and sweeping outlooks over Lourdas Beach and to the Ionian Sea beyond. The main pools adjoin to the Selini and Gaia restaurants and bars, so a kalamaraki mezze or signature F Zeen Spritz is never far away. The Superior Raw Retreats class of hideouts can be had with a private pool, and the suites and villas have them too, should you long for a little more seclusion.
F Zeen’s sprawling subterranean Īdor Spa exudes the same cool serenity and quiet minimalism that your mind will feel after one of its treatments, or during a quiet moment in its hammam. The therapies are based around natural Greek herbs from Ariadne, and hand-harvested, organic seaweed from Voya. The menu begins with a ‘bee facial’ (a hydration treatment using locally-sourced bee pollen), runs through pre-sun prep and post-sun repair (you’re at the beach, don’t forget), skin detoxes, massage, and includes a range of prenatal treatments for mums-to-be. To get you off your sunlounger, Idor Spa and the well-equipped outdoor gym offer an array of 16 different yoga classes, and meditation sessions teaching guests the principles of mindfulness, for the cleansing of your mind, as well as your body. All wellness classes are at no additional cost.
Here’s what not to pack – a swimsuit. Perhaps for the naughtiness of indulging in your suite’s private pool, or for the opportunity to shop in F Zeen’s boutique, which is filled with carefully selected collections from Greek designers and artisans.
F Zeen Retreat was chosen as one of the 101 best hotels in the world by Tatler Travel Guide.
F Zeen is an adult’s only retreat, so parents will need to call in a favour with the grandparents.
The resort has a large organic garden which supplies many of the ingredients used in its bars and restaurants. All of the condiments are handmade on site from local ingredients, as are the baked goods.
Reserve a table at the restaurant's edge for the best views across Lourdas Beach at sunset.
Loose-fitting linen, supplied by the on-site boutique if your wardrobe is caught short.
There are two restaurants, both poolside, and both basking in that remarkable coastal panorama – you’ll be spoiled for choice at F Zeen, and that’s before you even consider the beach menu. ‘Gaia’ means ‘earth’ in ancient Greek and ‘Selīni’ means ‘moon’, and when you dine at either named restaurant, you’ll be blessed with the offerings of both. Earth, because one of F Zeen Resort’s jewels is its organic garden which supplies both kitchens – guests can visit the garden and learn about the farming practises employed. Various varieties of fruit trees are also planted ornamentally throughout the resort, and used to produce products like homemade marmalades and smoothies. In fact, all of the sauces and preserves are handmade on site, as are the baked goods, and there’s nothing quite like warm sourdough straight from the oven. Moon, because it controls the tides, and on a Greek island, the freshest possible seafood is central to everything that matters in life. Breakfast, lunch, and poolside snacks are served at both restaurants throughout the day, but dinner is always at Selīni, and the menu offers such showstoppers as a full kilogram lobster cooked with garlic butter and parsley, and the slow-cooked lamb kotsi. There are international and vegan options available, and there’s a menu of mezze plates and cocktails that can be served direct to your sunlounger on Lourdas Beach. For the evening wind down, there’s a three-page organic herbal tea menu.
Both restaurants run a bar with a heady list of signature cocktails, mocktails, spirits, iced coffees and an extensive wine list. But after Mr Smith’s taxing workout in the gym, a cold pint of Mythos Draught as the sun dips over the horizon will be most satisfying.
At both Gaia and Selini, breakfast runs from 8am to 11am, lunch from 12 noon to 5pm and dinner until 10.30pm. Only Selini serves dinner, from 5pm to 10.30pm. Drinks run dry at 5pm at Gaia and 11pm at Selini.
Enjoy a spread of Grecian dips, cheeses and mezze or more substantial fare (grilled octopus, calamari, loukoumades) and a range of smoothies, cocktails and herbal teas in your room from 12 noon to 10.30pm.
F Zeen retreat sits on the southern shore of Kefalonia, the largest of Greece’s Ionian islands.
Kefalonia International Airport Anna Pollatou is located in Argostoli, the island’s capital. It is well connected to central and Eastern Europe, and is a 25-minute drive from the resort.
While a train-ferry combo via Brindisi or Bari may seem adventurous, neither are remotely practical.
Kefalonian public transport is patchy at best, making a set of rental-car keys indispensable – the major outlets are located at the airport and free parking is available at the resort.
There are three ferry routes between Kefalonia and mainland Greece with 42 sailings a week in the summer season, and a host of smaller routes enabling island-hopping about the Ionian Islands.
Worth getting out of bed for
There are numerous perfectly justifiable reasons why you could be excused for never leaving the luxurious serenity of your private pool, but should you steal yourself away for a day, one of the most naturally beautiful and untouched of the Ionian islands awaits your exploration.
At the resort, each morning begins with either a guided hike to the hilltop Sissia Monastery or a beach run, and continues with a programme of heart-pumping sessions in the outdoor gym. To take in the island with a lower heart rate, you’ll need a car, and the most convenient option is to hire one at the airport when you arrive. Alternatively, the F Zeen concierge can arrange a private car with driver for island day trips, and can even plan an itinerary for you.
Start by making your way to the island’s north, following the narrow twisting roads through ancient olive groves and sun-scorched rural villages that seem to have escaped the march of time. Myrtos Beach is one of the most famous in all of Greece, and for good reason. An arching cove of rock births a narrow belt of pristine sand at sea level – before descending the narrow road for a swim, stop at one of the lookouts to take a photograph fit for the cover of any tourism brochure.
The Venetians ruled the Ionians for centuries, and the small village of Assos is one of the few places where their influence can still be felt. Vivid pastel colours adorn the rambling buildings, where you can park the car and continue on foot to the historic walls, dramatic rock formations and natural wilderness of Assos Castle. The view from the castle back across the transparent bay lagoon is one to savour.
An unmissable sight is the remarkable underground Melissani Lake, where you can take a boat tour and marvel at the shafts of gilded light streaming in through a collapsed section of the cave roof. With lush vegetation reaching ever skywards along its walls, the juxtaposition of bright summer sunshine piercing into the dark, inky depths creates scarcely believable colours in the pristine water. Float around its many piercing stalactites in a small rowing boat.
On your way to the central region and the island’s capital Argostoli, stop for an ecclesial winery tour and tasting at the Monastery of Saint Gerasimos. You can also summit the tallest mountain in the Ionians, Mount Ainos. The energetic may prefer to hike, but there is a road to drive along, too.
The local Greek Taverna is an icon around these parts, and no visit to Kefalonia would be complete without a bowl of olives, a plate of freshly caught grilled fish, and a carafe of wine, enjoyed on a crumbling stone deck as the waves gently wash over a smooth pebble beach at sunset. Lourdas has several good options for exactly this experience – Lovidis Taverna (on Lourdas Beach) may look like a snack bar from the outside, but its Mediterranean menu places fresh seafood above all else. The family run Lorraines Magic Hill is widely credited as one of the best restaurants on Kefalonia, and perched a little higher up the hill, its stone patio is perhaps one of the most pleasant places in all of Greece to dine. Dionysus Taverna is inland, but its idyllic courtyard opens onto an olive grove and the vegetable garden where its ingredients are sourced – and any taverna named after the Greek god of wine must surely know its stuff.
Any of Lourdas’ beachside bars serve Greek coffee, but for a true café experience you may need to head a little further afield. Cubic the Coffee Bar is a 20-minute drive through the mountains in nearby Spartia, but for coffee (and interior design) fiends, it’s Kafepoleion where you’ll find your ideal caffeine fix.
There are no shortages of bars on Lourdas Beach, and with all of them jostling for a prime seafront view, it’s hard to go wrong so long as you have a cold beer in your hand. For a more authentic experience, head to Platonos in the village square. So named for the shady plane tree which keeps it cool in the summer, the bar doubles as a general store and café – while away an afternoon sipping cold glasses of Mythos with the local retirees. For a saltier cocktail experience with a bright umbrella in your glass, it’s got to be Sunset Beach Bar – the name says it all.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this rejuvenating resort in Kefalonia and unpacked their yoga tights and gym trainers, a full account of their inspiring break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside F Zeen Retreat on Kefalonia…
It’s not that I’ve been disinterested by the prospect of yoga classes, quite the opposite. But in our busy lives it’s so difficult to carve out time on a regular basis, so I checked-in to F Zeen with the intention of building a new habit.
Walking through the lush tropical gardens to our suite, it struck me that everybody from the guests to the staff looked so happy, healthy and content. I mean, it’s hard not to be with a resort so carefully arranged to take full advantage of an ocean view like that, but the mantra of wellness seems to be at the core here.
Our days at F Zeen were simple. A sleep in, perhaps a morning dip in our own pool before breakfast. A walk on the beach and then my daily yoga class, on a special deck amid the trees and wildlife. An afternoon spent reading by the pool, perhaps with a little nap, then sunset cocktails before another meal of local seafood in the restaurant. Some nights we’d go to the outdoor cinema to catch a film, and others we’d spend at the restaurant, just talking at length for what felt like the first time in years.
We wished it would continue forever but it can’t, although there’s always a souvenir to take home. Mine is a commitment to a weekly yoga class in the city, and I’m making good on that new habit so far.