Private beach club or a villa with wow factor? Stylist’s Susan Riley discovers a Greek retreat that doesn’t force you to choose…
Finding the perfect villa for a group of friends is always the ultimate quest. Well, stand down: I have found it.
Down a (very bumpy) track in the raw and wonderfully underdeveloped north of Zakynthos – the southernmost of the Ionian islands – sits Levandi, a three-storey, five-bed beaut of a building that’s two years old but feels like it’s been part of its surroundings forever.
With a collection of cosy al fresco seating areas, you’ll immediately want to light as many candles as possible and pour an ouzo over ice. It also has an infinity pool – upon which we unashamedly unleash a giant, gold inflatable swan – and shares a courtyard (and charming play area complete with giant chess pieces) with its two smaller sister villas, Yasmi and Meli. To hire all three for a birthday celebration or intimate wedding would be incredible.
Better yet, should you tire of mixing your own Aperol spritzes or grilling octopus on Levandi’s outdoor barbecue, The Peligoni Club – whose portfolio Levandi is part of – and its members- only facilities are handily on tap.
Being honest, when there’s not a cloud in the sky and you’ve got a bird’s eye view of the Ionian sea from your sun lounger at the villa, it’s tough to summon the energy required to head to the beach club, which is a 15-minute drive away (although the club has other villas and cottages much closer).
Once through the club’s wooden arch, however, it’s blissful: whitewashed clapper-board decking built into the rocks and zigzagging right down to the water’s edge, where paddle-boarders and kayakers pootle past windsurfers. Don’t fancy captaining a vessel? Do as we did and chuck yourself into the surf off the rustic diving board.
Idyllic location aside, Peligoni prides itself on catering to your every whim. There’s the Peli Deli stocked with pastries and hampers; treatment rooms; a pool with a swim-up bar; a tennis court; a gym; guided bike rides and Land Rovers on call to taxi you to and from your villa.
They’ll even come and cater at your place. One of our best evenings was a hosted three-course feast: cured salmon, sea bass with courgette and apple slaw, baked feta and watermelon salad (yum) and a yoghurt, strawberry and lavender tart. All served up just an hour after we lazily change out of our swimsuits.
Another highlight is the Shipwreck Beach excursion: a morning boat trip to Navagio bay where the ruin of a decades- old freightliner sits unwittingly posing for picture after picture. On the return route, bask on the boat or dive into the turquoise waters between stop-offs at caves and coves along Zakynthos’ rugged coastline. So worth skipping a lie-in for.
With its on-site creche and sociable teen mixers, the high-season scene at Peligoni may be too family-focused for some. And its self-containment, while a wonderful retreat, will mean you’ll want to venture out to experience authentic Greece.
However, being located deep in the lush and un-touristy north, a 45-minute drive from the airport, makes this easy. Travel the hills by jeep. Take a sunset wander in sleepy Agios Nikolaos port. Enjoy a seafood lunch at the higgledy-piggledy Mikro Nisi taverna (mikronisi.com). Order a chicken souvlaki on Nobelos’ sea-facing terrace (nobelos.gr). Then head back to Levandi and enjoy the company of the friends you came with. Perfection.
Levandi sleeps nine people in five bedrooms. Seven nights in low season (May, June and September) costs £3,500. Peligoni Club membership is £140 per week; peligoni.com