Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Go In Search Of The Good Life In Greece

greece.jpg
greece-1.jpg
greece-2.jpg

Stylist contributor Caroline Warner heads to the south of Greece to experience the very best in luxurious relaxation at the Amanzo’e Retreat

It’s been a bleak old winter and while it’s a little ungrateful to turn your back on the British sun that has just begun to emerge, there’s no shame in locating your passport under that pile of unopened gas bills on the kitchen table and sending yourself overseas. And while there may be a current trend to visit the more unusual corners of the globe (we’re not ones to shun a touch of adventure), it’s also worthwhile heading to a holiday destination of old. I’m saying this because you might think you know what to expect from a holiday to Greece – quaint whitewashed homes, packed tavernas and overindulging on feta and olives (and perhaps a touch of Ouzo) – but the incredible Amanzo’e Retreat is an entirely different prospect.

ABOVE: The pool at the Amanzo’e Retreat : If you can’t relax here, you probably can’t relax anywhere

Why it’s hot

Situated on the herb-infused hilltop (183m above sea level) of Porto Heli, near the Peloponnese town of Kranidi, you might smell Amanzo’e before you see it. On arrival you’re hit with a cocktail of rosemary, thyme and lavender, along with jasmine and the scent of the 350 olive trees surrounding the newly built five-star spa resort.

Once I’m out of the car, staff hand me an ice-cold face cloth and a welcome cocktail. And, to be honest, I need it after the 150-minute car journey from Athens. But once refreshed, you can take in the scenery, which is nothing short of spectacular. There are virtually 360 degree views from the resort across the surrounding olive groves and a short stretch of azure sea to the islands of Hydra and Spetses. The buildings stand on no fewer than 552 marble columns (the resort is built in ancient Greek style) and the effect is both grand and luxurious.

Next, I’m shown to my own private pavilion (there are 38 on site, all served by five staff each). Now, I was excited when I got the keys to my first flat, but this is something else. With two bathrooms, a sunken bath overlooking the landscape, mood lighting and a wrap-around private terrace, it’s spectacular. And then I see it, there in all its glory; my own pool. Now I’m not talking Olympic-sized, but it’s mine and that’s quite enough for me. And every private pavilion has one.

The next day I head over to the spa; a serene, understated sanctuary. It’s very calming and the staff go out of their way to make you comfortable. I opt for the Amanzo’e Rejuvenation, an all-over body scrub massage with sea salt, olive oil and herbs. It lasts for 90 minutes and I emerge feeling (or not-quite-feeling with my soothed muscles) totally at ease and full of energy. I’m so relaxed I can barely stumble to the beautifully stocked library to find a book to keep me company by the pool.

I spend the rest of the day sipping on freshly pulped apple juice while reading on one of the wooden slatted, cushioned sunbeds. If you’re after more action, the resort can provide equipment for watersports, snorkelling and paddleboarding. You can take a complimentary hotel car to the beach, unless you fancy the 20-minute walk, of course.

ABOVE: Living room meets bedroom heaven

Eating and Drinking

When you imagine your perfect holiday, there are few elements more vital than food. Happily, Amanzo’e has thought long and hard about this. There are four places to eat; The Restaurant for fine dining, the Lounge Bar for informal meals, while the Pool Restaurant and Beach Club are there to feed you during your epic hours of relaxation. The Beach Club’s kilava red shrimps and the fresh juices made to order are a must.

All the eateries provide breakfasts. I ordered poached eggs on toast but I got so much more than that. The eggs had been cooked very slowly for 45 minutes in their shell and then cooked out of their shell for a further four minutes to create the most exceptional poached eggs I’ve ever tasted – the kind of rich yellow yolk of which dreams are made. In the evenings, the cocktail selection stays true to everyday favourites but also includes many sophisticated varieties that use herbs grown on site. I opted for the Lavender Margarita.

However, if you’re after a more rustic eatery, visit the Delfini Taverna in the local town of Porto Heli. We ate fresh grilled local seafood to the backdrop of crashing waves.

ABOVE: "I don't care if it won't start, I'm not going to push"

If you only do one thing

It’s wise to carve out some time to head over to Spetses Island (via a regular catamaran) and potter through the cobbled narrow streets; stalls sell fresh honey and spices, items of handmade clothing and one-off pieces of art. We stop off at Patralis Fish Tavern, just a short – but well worthwhile – walk away from the main thoroughfare. Their lobster spaghetti is simply incredible.

For something a little more dramatic, head to Didyma, a little town close to Amanzo’e, where the hills contain a huge fascinating crater. A steep staircase leads you down into the sunken rock that looks like a meteor made a decent impact a good few thousand years ago. Two tiny ancient churches have been built under the overhanging sides of the crater and are still used for worship. Then head up into the hills of Argolis and visit the 11th-century St Dimitrios Monastery, which visitors are welcome to enter. It’s been carved into the rock on the side of the hill and offers spectacular views – but beware: it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s very high up and can reduce even the hardiest travellers to a crawl instead of a walk by the end of the climb.

Practical and Useful

If you like your own space and agenda, then you will probably need to hire a car to get around, especially for the drive from the airport (103 miles) as the resort is blissfully rural. We were also told to stay away from the local dogs as they tend to be strays who are not necessarily friendly. Still, nothing can tarnish this paradise.

A stay at Amanzo’e costs from 1,100 Euros (£938) per night in a valley-view pool pavilion. The price is valid from 26 March–31 October 2013 and is subject to 7% tax. For reservations visit amanresorts.com. British Airways offers a seven-night fly-drive to Athens from £189 per person. Price includes return British Airways flights from Heathrow and Avis car hire for the duration, based on two sharing; ba.com/athens

More

The truth about that ‘SSSS’ airport stamp on your boarding pass

A lot of people have been complaining about this on Twitter

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017

These are the most wish-listed places to stay on Airbnb in the UK

Just wait until you see the tree house

by Megan Murray
21 Sep 2017

Discover paradise closer to home

Turquoise water, white sand and bottle-nosed dolphins; Stylist discovers Britain’s most tropical archipelago

by The Stylist web team
19 Sep 2017

These are the least (and most) stressful cities to live in the world

You'll never guess where made it to the top of the list

by Megan Murray
19 Sep 2017

Ryanair has cancelled up to 50 flights per day

"You need to give us a chance to make alternative arrangements"

by Susan Devaney
18 Sep 2017

The 7 most spectacular autumn holidays to book now

From Europe to Asia, these are the best trips to add to your bucket list

by Sarah Biddlecombe
15 Sep 2017

The first underwater restaurant will fulfill your mermaid fantasies

It's everything you dreamed and more

by Megan Murray
13 Sep 2017

Ryanair just made a major change to its cabin baggage allowance

This changes everything

by Sarah Biddlecombe
07 Sep 2017

Live the good life in the British Virgin Islands

Stylist uncovers the variety on offer in the British Virgin Islands

by  Moya Lothian-McLean
05 Sep 2017

How to get 24 days off in a row in 2018, using just 14 days' holiday

by Maggie Hitchins
04 Sep 2017