The term lodgings denote more than one style of accommodation, and innovative is an artistic expression. Whether on business travel or a road trip with kids, there are times when a bed – any bed – is all that’s wanted. Then there are those times, as designer Diane von Furstenberg visualized, when magic is desired.
These ten hotels and villas from the Ionian Sea to the southern Aegean are not a “top 10 list” for Greece. They are ten of many lodgings from my Greek travels where for me innovation melded with that utter sense of “fantasy…comfort…reassurance.”
Eastern Macedonia and Thrace
The Hydrama Grand Hotel, Drama
Although Drama had been a town since Greece’s classical age, it did not become an important commercial center until the Byzantine era. Conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century it achieved great prosperity when tobacco farming was established in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The Hydrama Grand Hotel epitomizes the prosperity tobacco brought.
The luxurious hotel is a stunning adaptation of historic architecture. The building was the vast Spierer Tobacco House, which dominated Drama when it was completed in 1924. The adjacent wetlands once provided the waterpower required for the tobacco enterprise. Today the 60-acre Park of Santa Barbara with its lakes, ducks and meandering walking paths is a beautiful front garden for the Hydrama Grand Hotel.
The hues of local stone of the building’s exterior give way to the rich soft tones of the exposed stone interior with its original, massive, wood structural beams. Extensive use of interior glass walls in the public spaces allows the eye to experience both the past and present – modern comfortable furnishings, original artwork, state-of-the-art high tech guest rooms and suites.
The Cyclades Islands
Culture House, Cultural Village, Pyrgos, Santorini
A stay at Culture House within the Cultural Village is living in a typical small apartment in old Pyrgos – “Santorini of the past.” The apartment suites include spacious decks along with separate bedroom and sitting room/kitchen. An assortment of baked goods, juice, fruit, yogurt and beverage is delivered each morning at the time of your choice.
The staff double as advisors on what and how to experience Pyrgos and the surrounding area. The Culture House is a very brief walk to the main square, the hub for bus and taxi transportation. All of Pyrgos is just footsteps from your room.
The Golden Butler Villas, Mykonos
Mykonos is firmly ensconced among such luxury destinations as Ibiza and the Seychelles. The international rich and famous will fill the hundreds of stunning villas, chic restaurants and tony shops. This island of 10,000 population will swell by 4 million visitors during the summer season. Despite its party reputation Mykonos is more subdued than other luxury Cyclades destinations. There is 24-hour shopping and dinning/drinking, especially in Chora, yet entertainment occurs just as often within a fully staffed luxury villa.
The Golden Butler, created by architectural restoration expert Kostantina Kokotos, gives the term “full service” an extended definition. Along with an army of on-call staff from doctors to helicopter pilots, The Golden Butler does not simply manage villas. It creates the customized life-style their individual clients desire.
Villas and resorts on Mykonos are often built into the hillsides to maximize view. Clean lines constructed with native stone, marble, concrete, tile and glass grace the architectural landscape of Mykonos governed by strict building codes. At night indirect lighting bath the hills in a candle-like glow.
The villas of The Golden Butler range in size from “modest” luxury to a 24- bedroom palace suitable for a royal wedding party. A smorgasbord of services is provided and the safety, security and privacy of clients is paramount to The Golden Butler.
Myrties Boutique Apartments, Kalymnos Island
From the terrace of Myrties Boutique Apartments the morning sun illuminates the tranquil harbor. A beautiful location to enjoy coffee and breads picked up from village stores. Mrs. Maria Sarafoglou’s apartments include well-appointed kitchens, spacious living rooms, bath and luxury bed linens.
This quiet gem of an island is well known to seekers of adventure tourism especially rock climbing and diving. Kalymnos Island was once the world’s leader in technical innovation of deep water sponge diving and a commercial powerhouse for their harvest and marketing.
From high atop St. Savvas Monastery hill the lush agricultural Pothia Valley is like green parkland bisecting this rocky land of Kalymnos Island. Yet groves of olives, fruits, grapes, dairy cattle, goats and vegetables thrive, and what’s available from the surrounding Aegean is legendary.
Villa 1870, Corfu Town, Corfu Island
Built in 1870 in the Venetian style by an English architect for a Corfu merchant, Villa 1870 is ready for discerning guests to experience the magic of UNESCO World Heritage Corfu Town and explore this legendary island’s countryside. This impressive mansion is a vacation rental – five bedrooms, five bathrooms, heated pool, housekeeper, car and driver and a personal chef to cook to your needs. Obviously it’s the perfect venue for a vacation with friends and family or a small wedding.
Each of the spacious five bedrooms and baths are individually decorated in 19th century style with 21st century conveniences. An antique armoire is still a functioning piece of furniture. Even the rain shower in the marble bath hearkens back to the luxury of Villa 1870 when first constructed.
Eagles Palace Hotel & Resort, Athos Peninsula
The Eagles Palace Hotel & Resort and its sister, the Eagles Villas, are set within lush gardens. Everywhere there is comfort from the luxurious lobby that invites one to sink in a chair and dream to the soft sand or a lounge chair around one of the elegant pools … and then there’s the ever-present sun-kissed Aegean Sea. Its 170 rooms and 42 villas offer everything expected of a 5-Star resort.
This Tor Hotel Group resort has a complimentary shuttle to the centuries-old village of Ouranoupolis with its quaint shops featuring Athos specialty foods, crafts and waterfront tavernas where the grilled fish and seafood is as fresh as it gets.
The port is also the gateway to explore Mount Athos and purchase tickets for tour boats to view the monasteries from off-shore. For centuries (male-only) pilgrims have climbed to the top of the 6,000-foot Holy Mountain Athos and hiked to its 20 monasteries, which are engineering marvels.
The Flegra Collection, Pefkoahori, Kassandra
Brother and sister Yannis and Lena Laspas have built a select hospitality empire, The Flegra Collection, in Pefkoahori on the Halkidiki peninsula of Kassandra – the flagship Flegra Palace Hotel, the Flegra Beach Hotel and the Apanemia Apartment Hotel. Among these three stellar lodgings guests have convenient access to a variety of accommodations from oceanfront suites to stylish apartments with kitchens.
The fishing town of Pefkoahori has become one of Kassandra’s most popular summer tourist destinations. This family-oriented resort town is a marriage of sun, sea and Coney Island. A lengthy beachfront pedestrian walkway becomes a carnival of street food and vendors selling everything one expects from sunglasses to helium balloons. A small amusement park will delight children. Shopaholics will be pleased with the number and diversity of stores. Bar and restaurant hoppers will be sated with dozens of attractive beach venues and music opportunities.
Driving any of the Halkidiki peninsulas provides access to dozens of public beaches, natural hot mineral spas, classic white washed villages climbing hillsides and the incomparable clear water of the Aegean.
Nefeli Villas & Suites, Ermia Hotels and Resorts, Kassandra
Ermia Hotels and Resorts is a family owned company headquartered in Thessaloniki. Ermia owns resorts and manages villa rentals. Its portfolio in Halkidiki includes the Nefeli Villas & Suites and privately owned villas on Kassandra.
Positioned on the west coast of Kassandra, Nefeli Villas & Suites offers spacious one to four bedroom villas in a village setting. It’s a quiet oceanfront location within an easy drive of the pleasant villages of Loutra and Nea Skioni.
The four-bedroom townhouse I enjoyed was more than spacious for the normal maximum of eight people. Premium furnishings and kitchen appliances, Wi-Fi, outdoor barbecue, washing machine, pool and beach towels are all provided. The Aelia Beach Bar & Restaurant provides breakfast.
Hotel Hagiati, Edessa
Occupying a historic stone merchant’s house a short stroll from Waterfalls Park, the Hotel Hagiati’s interior is a blend of Balkan and Near East textiles and decorations. It’s not an artificial blend. This traditional Macedonian style is due to being at the crossroads of the world.
Cozy rooms feature wood-paneled ceilings and natural stonewalls, plus minibars, free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs. Room service is available and the enclosed garden courtyard of the former stables is a cafe until late in the evening. The breakfast menu includes several foods unique to this region of Macedonia.
Next to the Hotel Hagiati is the centerpiece of Edessa, Waterfalls Park. Started in the 1940s as the multilevel entrance to the tallest waterfalls in Greece, Karonos Falls, the Municipality completed the restoration of surviving water-powered mills into museums in early 2000. The museums highlight the industrial and agricultural history of the region as well as the significance of water to the ecosystem.
Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort, Aghia Pelaghia
Successful luxury resorts are innovative. They create experiences within extraordinary beauty. Perched on its own peninsula this family owned luxury village is rarely without a sea view. Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort is designed in three neighborhoods: The Classic Collection (family), Lifestyle Collection (modern art and wellness), Exclusive Collection (privacy, waterfront and beach) and then an additional four Unique Villas – the ultimate. Stunning botanical gardens surround all collections each with its own concept and design.
Out of the Blue’s award winning Detox 5+ Wellness Program influences all aspects of the resort. Wellness is not segregated just to a spa; the entire resort exudes a lifestyle key to maintaining physical balance. Yet for guests seeking treatments an extensive list of services can be prescribed after consultation with certified professionals.
Naturally the luxurious accommodations and setting of Out of the Blue enhances relaxation, and a Mediterranean diet is the foundation for all food and beverage at the resort. The resort grows much of its produce in its own extensive greenhouses. Supervised weight control and dietary detox programs are available.
Despite the sophistication of Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort hospitality concepts cater to families. There are a number of activities from game rooms for teenagers to a children’s play center – the Minoan Amusement Club modeled after the fabled labyrinth of Knossos. There’s a waterpark, tennis and racquetball courts and more than one swimming pool. Eco-conscience as well, bicycles made from bamboo are available to ride.
Whether a luxury mansion or a bunk-bed in a monastery on Mt. Athos, if it enhances your sense of “fantasy…comfort…reassurance” then it ought to make your list. Robert De Niro expressed it with an uplifting attitude, “My definition of a good hotel is a place I’d stay at.” 2
When you go: Greece has reopened this summer 2021 to travelers from many countries. Each of these hotels and villas are open as of publication and their websites detail their Covid-19 policies. Travel and behave safe because the pandemic is not over.