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

Comments

More

First woman to visit every single country reveals top 5 destinations

From Mongolia to Pakistan

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Feb 2017

The adventure-hungry pilot encouraging female aviators everywhere

Eser Aksan Erdogan is high on life

by Anna Brech
17 Feb 2017

Need solo travel inspiration? Find your dream destination here

City break or beach holiday...?

by Sarah Biddlecombe
16 Feb 2017

Where to go in spring: the best holidays for March, April and May

Insider knowledge on falling prices, the best springtime skiing and avoiding tourist hordes

by Amy Swales
15 Feb 2017

The 12 hippest European neighbourhoods to visit this year

Coffee shops, vintage boutiques, and outsider art, from Athens to Oslo.

by Moya Crockett
14 Feb 2017

Soak up sea views and culture in Barcelona

Stylist's entertainment editor Helen Bownass rediscovers Barcelona's cool

by Helen Bownass
07 Feb 2017

There's a new Gin School and we're desperate to enrol

Me please, Miss

by Kayleigh Dray
01 Feb 2017

A winter wonderland in the Canadian Rockies

As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, Stylist’s Sue Fowler straps on her skis and tours the Rockies.

by The Stylist web team
31 Jan 2017

Who needs the Caribbean? The best islands in the UK

Time to book that time off work and enjoy a staycation

by Deborah Cicurel
30 Jan 2017

LA to launch sexual harassment hotline on public transport

It's the first city in the world to launch a dedicated hotline

by Sarah Biddlecombe
18 Jan 2017