The most exciting hotel openings in Greece are on uncrowded islands

This summer, bypass the throngs of tourists in Mykonos and Santorini for 1 of these 5 luxurious new resorts

by SARAH RAPPAPORT

FOLLOWING a stellar 2023, Greece appears to be heading for another record-breaking summer. So, say government forecasts and forward bookings with airline and tour operators, whose projections all point toward 2024 being Greek tourism’s best year.

For travellers interested in visiting the most popular islands — namely Mykonos and Santorini — that’s not necessarily a good thing. Last summer brought overcrowded streets as tourists spilled out of cruise ships, along with sky-high prices at resorts and restaurants, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and little elbow room on beaches.

Those issues are concentrated in a few spots and hardly represent a country that includes 227 inhabited islands and plenty of unsung gems on the mainland. Still, if you’re looking to avoid the most bustling spots, it can be hard to find luxury infrastructure and inspiration.

That’s changing. This year, the most exciting hotel openings in Greece are all popping up in spots less known to an international crowd.

Take the rocky island of Folegandros with a population under 1,000. It’s just an hour by ferry from Santorini — more than three hours from Athens — but it’s much less travelled. This summer, Folegandros is getting Gundari, its first luxury hotel of note. The property will feature a restaurant from Lefteris Lazarou, the first Greek chef to have a Michelin-starred restaurant, and all rooms will have private infinity pools heated with solar panels.

Here are five such openings. Each raises the bar in an unexpected spot, from the centrally located Cyclades islands to the Athens Riviera, along with summertime rates and details on how to get there. — Bloomberg

91 Athens Riviera

When: May

Where: Athens

How to get there: Take a 30-minute cab from Athens International Airport

This posh, tented camp — on the beach yet 30 minutes’ drive from the historical sights and bustle of downtown Athens — is a rarity for many reasons, not least its ability to streamline sun, sand and urban culture into a single itinerary stop. That makes it perfect for time-crunched visitors who can’t (or don’t want to) deal with the hassle of ferries. It’s also far more stylish than your average glamp-site: The so-called “tents” look more like futuristic beach bubbles and have air conditioning, plunge pools and panoramic glass walls. All this is part of a members club whose walkable grounds include eight large tennis courts, a fitness area, a private beach and the Greek restaurant Barbarossa. Rooms from €900.

Whitewashed stone rooms at One&Only Kea Island – Source: One&Only Kea

One&Only Kea Island

When: May

Where: Kea

How to get there: It’s an hour’s ferry from Athens or 15 minutes by helicopter

One&Only’s second Greek hotel follow’s its debut in Athens last year, creating an ideal city-beach combo. This makes it no surprise that the brand chose to locate on Kea Island, the closest Cycladic Island to the capital. Kea is not yet much visited by internationals, but Greek weekenders love to flock to its pebbled beaches. (The island is also popular with diving enthusiasts, who go to Kea to access underwater historical sites like the shipwrecked HMHS Britannic, a sister ship to the Titanic.)

At One&Only’s 160-acre (64.74ha) resort, every room is a stand-alone villa; the smallest measures a generous 75 sq m. Each has a private pool on a spacious deck outfitted with a shaded daybed. And when you want to go out, hiking paths across the property will lead down to quiet coves and chapels. Rooms from €2,500.

One of the pools at Gundari – Source: Gundari

Gundari

When: May

Where: Folegandros

How to get there: The ferry from Santorini takes an hour

It doesn’t get more idyllic than the hilly island of Folegandros, whose three small villages are connected by a winding road. The main town (Chora) is like Mykonos without the nightlife: All whitewashed stone homes, cobblestone streets and lively tavernas. Now it has its first luxury hotel, Gundari. Its 27 rooms, all with private infinity pools overlooking the sea, are spread across 80 clifftop acres less than two miles from the main town. There’s also a wine bar featuring local Greek wines, now trending on and off the islands. Given the location, there’s no beach on site, but electric bikes and ATVs are offered to help guests venture to secluded coves. Along with patchy cell phone service, it’s the type of blessing and curse that comes with getting truly off the grid. Rooms from €600.

The open-air Matsuhisa Paros restaurant at Avant Mar – Source: Avant Mar

Avant Mar

When: April

Where: Paros

How to get there: Take a regional flight from Athens or a three-hour ferry from Athens’ Piraeus Harbour

Paros has a devoted following for its lively nightlife scene, world-class restaurants and great hotels, all at more affordable rates than some of its Cycladic neighbours. (The lack of an international airport helps keep it less crowded.) Avant Mar, which opened last year but will now enjoy its first full summer season, is an ideal place to take in all of the island’s charms. Its central feature is a 55m long swimming pool facing the sea; guests can also stroll down a boardwalk to the scene at Piperi Beach, where the hotel sets out private loungers. On-site restaurants include Matsuhisa Paros — a Nobu offshoot — that serves world-class sushi as DJs spin nightly sets. On Paros and at Avant Mar, the general vibe is to party hard and sleep late.

Pack your sneakers along with those dancing shoes: The well-visited but picturesque fishing village of Naoussa, full of waterside cafes and boats, is a five-minute walk up a hill. Rooms from US$400 (RM1,906).

A rendering of the pool area at Odera in Tinos – Source: Odera

Odera

When: May

Where: Tinos

How to get there: It’s 20 minutes by boat from Mykonos

The island of Tinos is mainly known as a spiritual site, with Greek Orthodox pilgrims voyaging to its Renaissance-style church, Our Lady of Tinos. (The ornate white building, wrapped with grand colonnades, was built to commemorate the patron saint of Greece.) Now, the island is getting its first luxury hotel as it looks to expand tourism beyond religious visitors.

Just a short walk from the old town, Odera will be made up of 77 rooms with limestone-washed walls and beamed ceilings, many with swim-up access from a shared pool. There’s a small spa; even better will be to get a massage right on the private beach. And travellers can hire the hotel’s boat to journey along the island’s dramatic, cliff-lined coast with stops to meet local artisans that work with the island’s famous dove-white marble. Rooms from €320 (RM1,641).


  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition