Four Seasons Astir Palace, Athens
The glamour of the Athenian Riviera
The Astir Palace is located in Lemos, Vouliagmeni, the most iconic spot along the whole of the Athenian Riviera. The resort’s history spans over 50 years, during which time it has hosted many world leaders and A-list celebrities. Its acquisition by AGC Equity Partners for €444 million in 2013 marked the first foreign investment of such a large scale in the Greek tourism market and paved the way for Four Seasons to make its debut appearance in Greece. What followed was a complete renovation of the hotel’s facilities and infrastructure. In the spring of 2019, the hotel complex began operating as a single unit under the management of the international luxury group and has since recaptured the glamour and prestige that characterized this corner of the Athenian Riviera in the 1960s and 1970s.
Ikos Aria, Kos
The case for holistic all-inclusive
Comfort in space and time, a luxury not imposed on guests, but one that the environment itself creates in the background; this is what Ikos Resorts call the “infinite lifestyle.” A holistic approach to the all-inclusive concept, it is directly linked to how luxury family vacations are shaped and formed. Chefs with Michelin-star experience put together the menus; some 300 wine labels are on offer; leading mixologists create the cocktails; there are activities, supervision and entertainment for children; and visitors receive suggestions that help them explore the local area. Ikos Resorts were named the best all-inclusive resorts in the world in the 2019 TripAdvisor Annual Travelers’ Choice Awards. The Ikos Aria on Kos is the latest addition to the portfolio, created following the wholesale reconstruction of the facilities of the island’s Club Med, which had been closed for years.
Costa Navarino, Messinia
A model for sustainable development
As far back as the 1980s, the shipping magnate Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos had envisioned a luxury destination that would also be a model of sustainability, one that would operate to the benefit of the local community and the environment, showcase the history, civilization and culture of Messinia, and promote its agricultural wealth and gastronomic heritage. Today, Costa Navarino remains dedicated to this vision; this unique vacation and golfing destination has received more than 100 awards and distinctions for its environmental policies, its hospitality and its Navarino Icons series of select gourmet products. Its two signature golf courses, The Dunes Course, designed by Bernhard Langer, and the Bay Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. were the first of their kind in Greece, and will soon be complemented by two additional 18-hole courses, designed by José María Olazábal. Two new resorts – Navarino Bay and Navarino Waterfront – are also slated for completion in 2021. What’s more, Costa Navarino has launched a residential project, Navarino Residences, and is offering luxury villas and apartments for sale.
Petra Hotel & Suites, Patmos
Personal pampering in an intimate setting
Nestled in Grikos Bay, Petra may have just 11 rooms and suites, but it is a full-fledged member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World network. One of Greece’s leading small luxury hotels, it has received notable mentions and reviews in international publications for successfully combining personalized care with the provision of services of the highest standard. Petra Hotel & Suites resembles a small village, constructed according to the traditional architecture of Patmos, and is under the constant care and supervision of the couple who own it and who ensure that guests experience authentic, traditional island hospitality.
Kyrimai Hotel, Mani
Splendor in stone
This impressive building, dating to 1870, is located on Gerolimenas Bay. It has been transformed into a top-level hotel complex, one that combines traditional architecture with contemporary amenities. The Kyrimis family have converted the old wine cellar into a reception space, while onetime firewood storage areas now contain display items that trace the history of Mani. The rooms are decorated with period furniture pieces, bringing earlier eras to mind. The restaurant resembles a Maniot kitchen, and the menu is focused on locally sourced ingredients. The Kyrimai Hotel gained the distinction of “Most Romantic Historic Hotel of Europe” in the 2017 Historic Hotels of Europe Awards.
Hotel Grande Bretagne, Athens
The Grande Dame of Athens
The Hotel Grande Bretagne, a landmark located in the center of the Greek capital, first opened its doors in the latter half of the 19th century, when the Dimitriou family mansion, built according to plans by the Danish architect Theophil Hansen, was acquired by Stathis Lampsas, a chef who had received his training at the Royal Palace and in Paris. Today, the hotel belongs to Lampsa Hellenic Hotels SA, which completely renovated it in 2003-2004. It has consistently been the hotel of choice for royals, heads of state and celebrities, and has even served as government headquarters in the past. Highlights include afternoon tea at the Winter Garden, award-winning cuisine at the GB Roof Garden and the most luxurious hotel spa in Athens.
Electra Metropolis, Athens
The new urban hotel
The building, designed by renowned Greek architect Patroklos Karantinos, housed the Greek Ministry of Education for decades. In 2016, it was transformed into one of the city center’s leading hotels in a move that helped revitalize the image of urban hospitality. The hotel pays homage to the retro-chic aesthetic that forms part of the history of modern Athens, and offers 216 modern, well-equipped rooms and suites, and a Roof Garden with a view of the Parthenon and all of Athens. Aghia Dynami, a small church dating to the 16th century, is situated on the ground floor just outside the hotel’s entrance, while remnants of the famous Themistoclean Wall, which once surrounded Ancient Athens, are still visible in the hotel basement.
Ekies All Senses Resort, Halkidiki
The philosophy of barefoot luxury
Renovated in 2008, this small, environmentally responsible hotel on Vourvourou Beach offers a wide range of experiences. Despite its elegant modern design, it elicits a feeling of familiarity, and offers discreet privacy combined with a laid-back approach to gastronomy and outdoor activities. Here the natural surroundings have the first (and final) word, as all the manmade elements have been respectfully adapted to the environment, without pretentiousness or artifice. The entire project reflects a natural, outdoor way of life on a human scale. In 2017, Ekies was awarded a prize at the AHEAD Europe Awards for “Landscaping & Outdoor Spaces.” It earned another in 2019 at the German Design Awards, in the “Special” category.
Emelisse Nature Resort, Fiskardo Kefalonia
Soothing seclusion at a family getaway
The Emelisse Nature Resort is located on Emplysi Bay, a short distance from the town of Fiskardo. Once known as an “art hotel,” it has since evolved into a nature resort. Everything in the resort has been designed as an extension of the natural environment. The two-story ochre-colored residences share the land with shrubs and cypresses. The furniture is made from teak wood and has a nautical theme. The facilities also include two pools and a spa. The hospitality concept revolves around the idea of family vacation fun in tandem with ample opportunities for relaxation; the resort has been designed with the aim of offering guests a sense of privacy and peace.
Imaret Hotel, Kavala
Ottoman opulence and modern comfort
The Imaret is housed in the historical monument of the same name, in a prominent position within the walls surrounding Kavala’s old town. Regarded as a masterpiece of late Ottoman architecture, the Imaret was built in 1817 and was designated a heritage monument in 1954. At the start of this century, it underwent a restoration to combine its authentic Ottoman architecture with contemporary luxury. Interior courtyards, dome-topped arcades, a series of arches and an outdoor stone-built cistern are among its main features. Its rooms and suites are richly decorated, and visitors can also enjoy the experience of an authentic Turkish hammam, or steam bath. The Imaret also offers organized tours of the property and of other Ottoman monuments in the city, such as the Halil Bey Mosque and the Residence of Muhammad Ali Pasha, widely regarded as the founder of modern Egypt.
Belvedere Hotel, Mykonos
The Belvedere is situated in the heart of Mykonos Town, just opposite the School of Fine Arts and inside verdant gardens filled with cypresses, bougainvilleas and wild laurels. This distinguished boutique hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, has preserved authentic elements of Mykonian architecture. It was constructed around the Stoupa Mansion, which dates to 1850 and is one of the oldest and most attractive residences in Mykonos Town. Today, it also houses the Six Senses Spa. The outdoor sushi restaurant Matsuhisa Mykonos, a creation of the world-famous chef and restaurateur Nobu Matsuhisa, opened in 2003 and has become an important focal point in its own right.
Coco-Mat Eco Residences, Serifos
Sweet dreams are made of this
The Coco-Mat Eco Residences are located on the coast of Serifos, overlooking Vagia Beach. They are, in fact, the former residences of miners who once worked on the island. Originally constructed in 1910, the complex has recently been completely rebuilt, but in keeping with the traditional architecture of the island and in accordance with contemporary environmental practices. The two-story buildings with their stone walls are a perfect fit for Coco-Mat’s “organic philosophy;” together they create an alternative experience in the Cyclades. Of course, the company’s signature beds and mattresses play a starring role, as sound, restful sleep is a prerequisite for an ideal vacation. Enjoying one’s sleep, the owners of this hotel maintain, is the “ultimate experience in relaxation and invigoration when one does so in an environment that harmoniously combines such slumber with the provision of high-quality services.”
Olea All Suite Hotel, Zakynthos
Designed to soothe
Constructed on a hill at Tsilivi, the Olea All Suite Hotel is an exception to the package tourism typical of Zakynthos. The hotel, which features some outstanding design elements, exudes a sense of tranquility that lends it a “mature” feeling, despite the fact that it just opened this year. Olea All Suite Hotel features 93 suites and boasts three restaurants which offer Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. It has been named one of the top five best hotels in the country for 2019, and also holds the distinction of being the first Greek hotel to receive an award from Interior Design Magazine – specifically in its 2018 Best of the Year Awards, in the “Large Resort” category.
Euphoria Retreat, Mystras
A healing place
Can you become your own therapist? The idea of creating a holistic wellness complex near the archaeological site of Mystras – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – belongs to Marina Efraimoglou, an economist with a career in finance and investments. In the midst of an intense and stressful work schedule, she had gone on her first alternative vacation to a destination outside of Greece, and this experience would prove to be a decisive one. The Euphoria Retreat draws inspiration from ancient Greek philosophers, Hippocratic medicine, Taoist philosophy and Chinese medicine. “We look forward to guiding you to meaningful life changes,” notes the introductory message on the resort’s website. An emotional and physical transformation is the goal, to be achieved through a program that encompasses personal healing, nutrition and relaxation.
Poseidonion Grand Hotel, Spetses
A hundred-year pedigree
The Poseidonion Grand Hotel has been in operation for over a century, having welcomed its first guests in the summer of 1914. This landmark, and symbol of the island of Spetses, was the vision of national benefactor Sotirios Anargyros, who contributed greatly to the development of the island. The hotel was a favorite among members of high society, the royal family and wealthy Athenians. It reopened in the summer of 2009, following the completion of a five-year renovation project that imbued it with an atmosphere similar to that of the best hotels on the French Riviera. Two buildings comprise the hotel and offer guests a choice of luxurious rooms and suites, while the veranda affords wonderful views of the sea and the port of Dapia.
Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas, Zagori
The Aristi Mountain Resort & Villas is a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, and was also named World’s Leading Eco-Lodge in 2017. Spread out amphitheatrically across the highest point of the picturesque village of Aristi in western Zagori, it offers a view of the peak of Astraka and the Vikos Gorge. The hotel is noted for its innovative approaches to sustainability and for its efforts to protect the natural and cultural heritage of the area. Traditional wooden roofs and walls constructed using local gray stone define the complex with its 24 rooms, suites, villas and large heated indoor swimming pool that looks out towards the mountaintops. The cuisine shines a spotlight on traditional recipes, making use of top-quality local ingredients.
Anemi Hotel, Folegandros
Anemi Hotel rises amphitheatrically above the pebbly beach at Karavostasi, its 12 detached two-story buildings offering an arresting view of the Aegean Sea and the island’s port. In no way do these buildings disturb the beauty of the Folegandros landscape; rather, they serve to showcase traditional Cycladic architecture. The low, white structures that contain the common areas and the rooms are draped in fuchsia bougainvillea, while inside the the spotlight is on furniture created by international contemporary designers. Another standout feature of this five-star hotel is its seawater infinity pool, which provides an ideal refuge from the winds of summer.
Kapsaliana Village Hotel, Rethymno
In the case of the Kapsaliana, the history of a small Cretan village has been given a bright new chapter. Architect and owner Myron Toupoyannis has breathed new life into a place of great natural beauty and tranquility by reconstructing the buildings of a metochi (dependency) that once belonged to the Arkadi Monastery. He managed to do this while remaining respectful of the historical appearance of the village through the centuries. The Kapsaliana Village Hotel, a member of the Historic Hotels of Europe, is nestled in the highlands of Rethymno, near the museum of the archaeological site of Eleutherna. Today, it features a model guesthouse with an organic vegetable garden, and it also boasts a restaurant that serves Mediterranean and Cretan dishes prepared with locally sourced ingredients. The millstone of an old olive oil press, as well as tools and wares from the last century, are on display in the communal areas.
Katogi Averoff Hotel & Winery, Metsovo
The hotel in the vineyard
The Katogi Averoff Hotel & Winery is considered one of Greece’s model wine tourism complexes. It began operation in 2008, setting its sights on combining the worlds of wine, the arts and hospitality, all within an environment that celebrates nature. Its 15 rooms, all featuring modern amenities and wine-inspired decorative elements, offer views of the winery and the Metsovo area. Here, discreet luxury comes with touches of tradition, and the overall experience is further enhanced through wine tastings and walks through the vineyards and forests, allowing guests to become better acquainted with the Metsovo region.
Perivolas, which is spread out amphitheatrically across a secluded part of Oia, is, in the minds of many, characterized by its amazing infinity pool and the stunning views it offers. Photos taken from here have graced the covers of international travel magazines time and again, to the point where they have become iconic images conveying the magic of the caldera and of Santorini as a whole. Its founder, Captain Manos Psychas, was born in Odessa but had family roots in Santorini. In the 1950s, he decided to renew his ties with the island, and, in 1969, he and his wife Nadia bought property in Perivolas, in the upper part of the village of Oia. The section of cliff they purchased included 300-year-old yposkafa (cave houses dug into the rock) and stables. With the help of local craftsmen, they restored the yposkafa, once homes to fishermen and farmers, and this historic setting was gradually transformed into a luxurious 20-suite complex, which today finds itself on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List.
This article was originally published in the print magazine Greece Is Philoxenia 2019-2020. To browse or download a digital copy of the magazine click here. Hard copies can also be ordered from anywhere in the world via our e-shop at only the cost of postage and packaging.