These Greek island hotels have caught our eye over the past few years, drawing those in search of a slice of island life across the country.
- VERINA ASTRA, SIFNOSAn affordable boutique hotel with incredible viewsWith 235 churches across the island, Sifnos has a blue dome or white bell tower at practically every turn. And at Verina Astra, there’s a sleek terrace with a stone-lined swimming pool, from which windmills also dot the view, and on a clear day, Amorgos defines the horizon. In the bedrooms, whitewashed rock walls and bamboo ceilings are strung with rattan lampshades and there are ceramic vases and piles of grey-and-white striped cushions – everything is stylish and smart without a wildflower out of place. And in the restaurant, you’ll see waiters scurrying past the tables to pick rosemary, thyme and oregano to add flavour to plates moments before they are served. Burnt aubergine comes with walnut vinegar and smoked octopus – there’s a smoking hut on-site – while fresh, homemade spaghetti is simple, with parsley and bottarga.Less than a mile away is Artemenos, which looks like a typical Greek-island postcard with yet more churches and cafés churning out fried shrimp, sesame-coated cheese and chickpea balls. And about 30-minutes along the coastal path is Kastro and its legendary rum-toting Kavos Sunrise bar – the winding alleys with tumbling bougainvillaea and the Mamma Mia-famed Church of the Seven Martyrs are the stuff of fairy tales. Tabitha JoyceBOOK YOUR STAYRead the full Verina Astra hotel, Sifnos reviewThe Greek island hotel with the best viewsPLACES TO STAYThe Greek island hotel with the best views
- F ZEEN, KEFALONIA A simple yet sumptuous island bolthole with wellness at its coreKefalonia’s fragrant cliffs stippled with pines and wild herbs, milky-white beaches and time-warp fishing villages, where a balmy Mediterranean laps taverna table legs, fell into a more central spot on our radar in 2001 as the location for the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Family-owned F Zeen, a smart and earthy adult-only retreat, does a stellar job at showcasing this cinematic setting. Along the steep and verdant hills of Livathos – a pocket-sized seaside town of pastel-hued houses looking onto a bay – the hotel splays out in natural-stone villas and sun-bleached terraces with rustic tables and pools, all of which command views of the Ionian Sea and the crimson streaks cast across it at sunset. The organic, health-focused outlook is evident across all aspects of the refuge: in the locavore mezze and vegetables plucked from the kitchen garden; in the natural colours and fabrics in the understated but sophisticated villa bedrooms; in the roster of fitness classes, from al-fresco yoga to guided gym sessions, and, of course, in the spa where Greek herbs and seaweed-infused products are folded into sun-kissed skin.Rather than marking a departure from the hedonism of Greek mythology, F Zeen’s green-fingered wellness philosophy only compliments, if not encourages indulgence (restraint becomes futile over such delights as honey-drenched Greek yogurt topped with fresh figs). Guests recline on soft, whitewashed sunbeds while dipping warm, olive-doused pitta into bowls of creamy houmous. Active types drift back from paddleboarding sessions along the beach for cool fruit smoothies. Wafts of thyme, cypress and salt fill the evening air at Selini, the hotel’s open-air restaurant where pretty plates of lemon-drizzled calamari, lamb kotzi and salads honour both Hellenic traditions and modern palates. F Zeen’s power to disarm the most overloaded visitor lies in this clever blend of luxury and health – where Pilates and meditation followed by herb-steeped cocktails and rosemary flatbreads with lashings of tzatziki is all food for the soul. Rosalyn WikeleyBOOK YOUR STAY
- BEACH HOUSE, ANTIPAROS A barefoot side to the CycladesFor those seeking a slow pace on holiday, this simple barefoot offering in the harder-to-reach parts of the Aegean scratches an adventurous itch. Antiparos is barely more than a dusty islet, half an hour by ferry from Paros. It’s the antithesis of Crete’s package trips, Mykonos’s party-hard beach clubs, or the teenage rite-of-passage scene in Corfu’s Kassiopi.Beach House is a Cycladic villa right on a sheltered bay on the south-east coast – a rustic set-up where good vibes rule. The nine rooms are simple, with blue shutters and bougainvillaea-framed terraces, and the three family suites are the ones to book. Mornings on the beach are especially lovely. Lunches and suppers showcase authentic food with a deft hand: catch of the day, octopus risotto, seafood spaghetti, plus a marginally less fishy children’s menu. Yoga sessions and boat rides are available; the clear sea is great for swimming and snorkelling (there’s no pool). It feels like a mini Formentera.BOOK YOUR STAYRead more in our guide to Paros and Antiparos
- AMMOS HOTEL, CHANIA, CRETE A laid-back family hideoutThis is a feel-good hotel without any formality; most of the staff have been around for years and many guests are regulars, which comes as no surprise as the place is astonishingly good value. Owner Nikos Tsepetis, a self-confessed design junkie, has a black book packed with insider information about the region’s stunning beaches and remote mountain villages, plus details on where to go in the lively Venetian harbour of Chania.Tables at the laidback restaurant spill out past the swimming pool and down to a shallow, sandy beach, where the hotel has its own sunbeds and umbrellas. Bedrooms in the low-rise, sugarcube-shaped building are perky, with bright, colour-blocked walls, Marimekko cushions of clashing patterns and African-print Moroso stools adding a grown-up touch. The best are the deluxe sea-view studios where you can watch the sunset from your balcony and nod off to the sound of the waves.BOOK YOUR STAYRead the full review in our round-up of the best beach hotels in Europe
- DOMES ZEEN CHANIA, CRETE The multi-gen crowd pleaserOriginally launched as a Casa Cook hotel last summer, Domes Zeen Chania has since changed hands but remains one of our favourite family-friendly stays in Europe. Palm Springs-style concrete villas designed by Athenian architect group K-Studio – also responsible for Mykonos beach club Scorpios – dot the hillside towards the sea, and there’s a black-tiled pool surrounded by thatched parasols for snoozing under. Some villas have private pools and there’s also a smart spa using Elemis products. The kids’ club keeps little ones entertained, plus guests can take a boat trip or venture into pretty Chania.BOOK YOUR STAYGEORG ROSKE CREATIVE LEAD & CONCEPT BY LAMBS & LIONS BERLIN (HTTPS://LAMBSANDLIONS.COM)
- PARĪLIO, PAROS The affordable secretAway from the buzz of better-known Greek islands, Paros sits further out in the Cyclades – a neighbour to thrumming Santorini and party-happy Mykonos. Parīlio, which opened in 2019 on the north-east coast, has guestrooms set around a pool, with abstract art above the beds. There’s a clever restaurant, Mr E, on site, which puts an international spin on Greek favourites such as bream baked in lemon leaves with chickpea stew. It feels like a steal for the price (about £190 for a double room), and we named it one of the best new hotels in the world in our Hot List 2020.BOOK YOUR STAYBRECHENMACHER & BAUMANN
- ANDRONIS ARCADIA, SANTORINI The best spot for a sundownerLow-slung white-washed villas tumbling down to the sea provide bags of space here. On an island that’s usually packed to the brim with honeymooners and sunset seekers, each villa has its own private balcony and pool facing the ocean – which means you can lap up Santorini’s beautiful scenery without another person in sight. There’s a beach-club-style pool and bar, and a very clever spa, too.BOOK YOUR STAY
- ISTORIA SANTORINI The designer digsIstoria means ‘story’ in Greek. And when Antonis and Kalia Eliopoulos drove down a narrow track to Perivolos beach to explore socialite Christina Tassou’s abandoned mansion and stables, they saw the chance to tell a very different one; not of Santorini’s hotel-clogged western caldera but of human obsession and the wild, black sands of the remote south-east. At the age of 15, Tassou caught the attentions of a Saudi sovereign, 35 years her senior, at the Greek royal court where her father was equerry. The king doggedly pursued her across Europe but to no avail. To trim a very long tale, she eventually escaped here and seems to have preferred horses: her home was hung with oil paintings of her five steeds.
ISTORIA OPENS A NEW CHAPTER IN SANTORINI’S STORYCaptivated by her epic life, the maverick hoteliers behind Mystique and hilltop Vedema engaged Athens-based Interior Design Laboratorium to create a barefoot retreat, a homage less to Tassou than to organic storytelling by design. The departure from the whitewashed hotels and jet-skis of Oia, and the physical isolation here, are reinforced by a stripped-down ethos which allows the original stone structure – and wilderness itself – to dominate. Its translucent waters are arch-framed from 12 suites, six of which are converted from the original stables, where nature’s palette is repainted in blush plaster, polished cement floors and clay-toned linens. On a taverna-less part of the coast, quantity is replaced with an impressive strike of quality at Mr E, the invention of Noma alum Alexandros Tsiotinis. Ingredients for his re-tellings of classics are sourced from Tassou’s former gardens. Her spirit remains in little reminders: water troughs and bridles are the hotel’s art. But the showpiece here is the 30-metre slate pool, with the caldera-rivalling drama of monolithic Mesa Vouno range rising behind. It’s said to be the largest pool on the island – or perhaps that’s just a fable. Either way, Istoria opens a new chapter in Santorini’s story. By Roxy Kavousi-WalkerBOOK YOUR STAYhttps://www.youtube.com/embed/cCh_vEvP5GMBRECHENMACHER & BAUMANN
- CANAVES OIA EPITOME, SANTORINI The family favouriteSpace is rare in Oia; a commodity on the brink of consumption. Every square inch of cliffside here on the caldera, a giant’s bite into coastline, has been gobbled up by immaculately iced cake-like hotels jostling for a ringside seat. Yes, when it comes to Corbusier-lauded Cycladic minimalism, it’s poster-framed perfection. Yes, it’s all very pretty in a chaotic sweet shop kind of way – but a little claustrophobic. Canaves Oia Epitome turns its back on all of that. The fourth property from the Chaidemenos family opened in May 2018, a mile north at Ammoudi Bay, facing away from the caldera in a brazen flouting of conventional hotel wisdom.
THE OPEN LAYOUT IS LIBERATING: ALMOST ALL SKY, SEA AND POOLIn 1985, Yiannis and Anna were among the first to lure travellers to the Santorini fishing village with views that captured the very curve and expanse of the planet. The two cliffside caves they converted into minimalist dens for neo-troglodytes became Canaves Oia, and then the all-white Cycladic hotel brand which set the tone of the island’s smart scene for the next three decades. Now in charge, their sons Markos and Alexandros bring a stylistic gear change. For Epitome, the group’s first family-friendly hotel, they called in K-Studio, the hip home-grown designers behind Mykonos’s Bill & Coo Coast and ultra-cool Scorpios. The open layout is liberating: almost all sky, sea and pool with 24 quasi-neolithic, low volcanic stone cubes camouflaged into the rock face. These are brain-coolingly expansive villas. The huge Aqua Retreat has an aquarium-like window in the lower bedroom casting an ethereal blue light from the depths of the pool. There are plenty of places for families to escape one another; the black sands of Katharos beach are just a teen-stroll away. Swirls of tangerine in the sky signal the time to regather. The lesser-spotted sunsets here are somehow better than the ones at Oia. The ones over the caldera no longer seem worth the price. By Roxy Kavousi-WalkerBOOK YOUR STAYCHRISTOS DRAZOS
- OLEA ALL SUITE HOTEL, ZAKYNTHOS The zen masterThis opening marks something of a sea change for Zakynthos: a calm, smart design hotel, masterminded by slick Athens-Stockholm studio Block 722, heralds a new grown-up era for the roaring beach-party island. In some ways, it’s also a symbol of the resurgence of Greece. Plans for its creation, on a hillside above the north-coast town of Tsilivi, go back 20 years – to the decade before the global financial crisis curled its fingers around the throat of Europe. When its grip was finally released in 2018, the hotel was built within a staggering six months; the arrival coincided more or less with the completion of Greece’s final financial bail-out.
THIS IS THE NEW ZEN ZAKYNTHOS, AN ISLAND UPWARDLY REINCARNATEDFor owner Venia Xenou, part of the powerful local family behind 12 island hotels including Zante Maris Suites, the vision of what Olea would become didn’t dim during the intervening period. Perhaps because the vision was so strong. At first look, it could be a classical Hellenic city with whitewashed temples which appear to float on a terraced 4,000-square-metre lake. But the real art here is in the landscaping which allows water, and a certain energy, to flow seamlessly through tranquil rooms and subtly interconnected plunge pools. Inside, hard-lined concrete minimalism is softened with dark wood, lending a little dash of the Japanese while hanging egg-chairs and rattan inject the tropical. It’s all about flow here: indoor-outdoor flow; go-with-the-flow jumpsuits in the boutique; and yoga flow for morning asanas in the spa. This is the new Zen Zakynthos, an island upwardly reincarnated. And even if at night the faint sounds of karaoke bars can be heard from Tsilivi, the party on this island seems to be changing its tune. By Becky LucasBOOK YOUR STAY
- KATIKIES, MYKONOS The after-party pad Few consider Mykonos their Aegean go-to for social reclusion. But among the island’s more wholesome secrets are its covert refuges – even Dionysus needed a break from the fun. Most discreet yet on point is the new Katikies Mykonos, ensconced on a misshapen beanbag of land on the south-west coast, just east of the island of Delos, where the god’s toga-clad cult engaged in rituals of ecstasy. It opened in June 2018 as the equally shy, 30-year-younger sister to the adored Santorini original – a local design pioneer in its day – and was an instant classic, recalling the go-slow, get-lost spirit of pre-1950s Cyclades that second-wave bohemians fell in love with. It’s even hard to find: just a hamlet-like stack of pristine sugar cubes above Agios Ioannis’s quiet smile of sand. In fact, owner Nikolaos Pagonis’s amphitheatrical layout conceals 35 rooms with private terraces and plunge pools within a labyrinth of alleyways, creating illusions of space, solitude – and that little thrill of discovery.
ROOMS ARE RETINA-CALMING WHITE COCOONSThere is a surprise at every turn: a spa, a boutique (with a judicious edit of Vitamin A bikinis) and two infinity pools extending an unmarred cyan sightline to Delos, angled just so, to be sheltered from the relentless Meltemi winds. Rooms are retina-calming white cocoons, accented with cobalt and shades of ink; free of art and jarring design fads. Still, even Aegean-gazing hermits will be lured out at 7pm by the citrus-infused aromas created by young chef Angelos Bakopoulos at both Asian-fusion restaurant Seltz and poolside Mikrasia. The sandy beach-bar vibe belies the star-standard of his Anatolian and Byzantine twists on dishes such as cod on risotto in a spinach-and-dill emulsion. The shenanigans at Nammos and Scorpios are within 15 minutes toe-dipping and fleeing distance. Unlike the island’s bigger, brasher retreats, Santa Marina et al, Katikies is a place to hole up, not be seen in – by Mykonian standards at least. By Roxy Kavousi-Walker