Legend has it that Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty, was born in the foam of the sea on the shores of the island of Cyprus. What better place, therefore, to go in order to seek a little love and beauty of your own? The recently-opened Antara Destination Spa, on the Cyprus shore, offers the perfect opportunity to do just that. The Good Spa Guide travelled with a group of journalists on the first press visit to discover all that Antara; we were impressed by both the opulence of the resort and the holistic nature of the offering.
What's on offer?
The name Antara comes from the Sanskrit and means "within" or "from the heart". This philosophy runs throughout the spa's approach, as their personalised retreats are designed to help you achieve happiness and wellbeing from within, by listening to what your own body wants and needs, and helping it to heal itself. Your stay begins with a wellness consultation with the resident naturopath -- and you can talk with the team before you book, online or by phone, to outline your wishes and goals. Your treatment journey is then tailored to you with recommended therapies, exercise, activities and food as medicine.
The six luxuriously decorated suites - think mother-of-pearl Murano mosaics, 24-carat gold-leaf tiles, damask armchairs, and Persian carpets - have air-conditioning, an iPad, complimentary minibar, 42" plasma TV, organic teas and a private terrace. The electrical system takes UK plugs, which is handy for us Brits, and there is free wi-fi in your room. Antara makes travelling easy: everything you could need is provided, from toothbrush and toothpaste, to shampoo and conditioner, combs, shaving kits and more (you don't even need to pack your 100ml bottles in a clear plastic bags to take through security).
The spa area is just along from the bedrooms and has a small traditional sauna, infra-red sauna, and a Jacuzzi in the relaxation room. There are just four treatment rooms, one with a shower, one with a bath, one for manicures and pedicures as well as treatments for couples, and one set up for ayurvedic treatments. Infused water is on offer, along with small snacks of nuts and dried fruits, and hibiscus tea with honey.
Fitness activities, alongside the daily yoga, include Pilates, stretching, and the delightful notion of a jogging companion. The small but serviceable gym, open from 7am to 7pm, has a cross-trainer, cycle, running machine, resistance machine and free weights, along with a yoga area. This kept me happy, as a 30-minute workout is an ideal start to my day.
To help you maintain a healthy lifestyle once you return home, you can sign up for Mediterranean cooking classes, tuition for making juices for health and longevity, or accompany the chef on a tour of the organic garden.
The beach at the resort itself offers golden sunset views, but is kept natural and undeveloped, without lighting, as baby turtles hatch in the sand of the beach and, for their first journey, make their way to the strongest source of light - usually the moon reflecting off the sea. You don't want to distract a baby turtle on its way to the waves.
What were the treatments like?
Treatments on offer include a range of wraps and massages - such as Thai, hot stone and lymphatic drainage - facials, hand and foot treatments and ayurvedic therapies, which, again, are very personalised to you. You could also explore homeopathic treatments, flower essences, reiki, and crystal healing. Specific retreat programmes are designed to help you achieve balance in your blood pressure, adrenal system, and weight, for example, or to detoxify, prepare yourself for pregnancy or manage stress. "We all need some stress," says resident naturopath Cheryl Davison. "Sometimes it is good (kisses) and sometimes it is harmful (kicks). You have to learn how to re-balance when you have too much of the latter." All the retreats are designed to help you achieve what you want both physically and emotionally, and your regime may draw on herbal supplements, meditation, antioxidant-rich foods, and daily yoga.
Many treatments use Amala products, a brand that focuses on organic, healing plant essences. Try products that promote hydration with jasmine, rejuvenation with the cocoa bean, purification with blue lotus, and detoxification with Mediterranean myrtle. To give you a flavour of the treatments at Antara, we have written more on our blog. It can only be a flavour as the treatments will be tailored to you.
Taking a little time out of the resort. We sailed from Latchi Marina to the Blue Lagoon, a sheltered bay of the island, where the turquoise water is warm and clear. The sea in this part of the Mediterranean has a high salt content, which makes floating on your back and gazing up at the cobalt sky so much easier. And salt-water bathing has healing and nurturing properties all of its own.
The concierge can also arrange, in their own words, "any experience or activity that you can imagine", so imagine away... Try marine activities such as windsurfing, canoeing, paddleboarding, jet-skiing or diving, visit historic sites and temples, taste wines in local vineyards, drive on a jeep safari, or swoosh around in a helicopter. Cyprus is a beautiful island, so don't miss seeing some of that outer beauty as you pursue your inner loveliness.
What, as well as the luxury, the sunshine and the holistic treatments? The food - everything we ate was fantastic. Whether it was a detoxifying broth, wild mushroom risotto, black cod with miso, tropical fruit plates or a raw, organic spinach salad, the taste was divine and the presentation impeccable. The menu is varied enough to keep you happy over the several days of your retreat, and there are more indulgent options, too, such as roast salmon or venison. You could choose to start your day with eggs and bacon, for example, or end with a crème brulee. It's about balance and the right nutrients, not deprivation. Some days we ate by the outdoor pool - Cyprus has around 340 days of sunshine a year, so we wanted to make the most of the blue skies and sea view in the colourful gardens -- and at other times in the spa. I will also long remember the truffle-oil and parmesan popcorn we enjoyed on movie night in the spa's tiny private cinema.
Who would like it?
Anyone who wants to take care of themselves and achieve their best, using only the best. As well as the specific wellness retreats, bridal parties and couples have their own retreats, too.
Want to go?
The Good Spa Guide travelled to Antara Spa Cyprus courtesy of the spa. Room rates start at 2,485 Euros (around £2,000) a night for bed and breakfast, butler services, VIP concierge, unlimited use of fitness facilities and yoga room, unlimited use of spa facilities, unlimited participation in classes and workshops, and a spa treatment. If you're after complete luxury and privacy, hire the Presidential Suite, with panoramic views of the Mediterranean, your own lavish dining room for ten, and take a dip in your private pool, or just hire the whole villa instead.
The resort is a pleasant 50-minute drive from Paphos airport, and there are frequent flights to Cyprus with several airlines (we travelled with EasyJet). Such was the enjoyment and tranquillity we experienced at Antara that our group was very reluctant to leave. We were returning on the day of a great storm in the UK, and it was hard to tear ourselves away from the sun, sea and serenity to return to rain and winds. As an autumn retreat to recharge and re-balance, and a chance to relax and unwind, we agreed we had found a pretty perfect destination in Antara.