Best hotels in Greece
Santorini, jewel of the Cyclades and queen of envy-making social media pictures, is one of Greece's fanciest islands. If you’re after high-end bars and restaurants and infinity pools with views that stretch from the sky to sea, you’ve come to the right place. The Grace is a small, minimalist boutique hotel with one of the most impressive pool views on earth – though most of the chalk-white rooms have their own private plunge pools too. There are daily free pilates and yoga classes and a concept store as well as – bring your glad rags – a rather glamorous scene at night.
Mykonos is the other big hitter in the Cyclades when it comes to posh, whitewashed sugarcube villages and accommodation that you need to book months, sometimes years, in advance. The Kivotos pushes the boat out when it comes to luxury – literally: it has its own yacht. As well as its own beach and two pools. You’re ten minutes by cab from Mykonos town in case you fancy leaving for a spot of partying.
Hydra is one chilled out island: cars, bikes and new construction are (largely) all banned, and in place of cabs, you’ll find mules pottering about, laden with suitcases en route to one of the hotels above the port. Wealthy Greeks and international celebs (including, most famously, Leonard Cohen) bought property here, but there’s still much to entice first-timers. For a taste of the time-warped good life try the Cotommatae, a homely, not-too-pricey boutique hotel just up from the port. You’ll find a stunning Greek breakfast, resplendent views, and all the charm of an old antique-packed house that’s traditional without being fusty.
Zakynthos or ‘Zante’ is a mixed bag. Big package resorts in the south of the island mean that regular flights to the UK are easy to come by, but if you want a taste of traditional island life, head north to Skinaru where you’ll find two Windmills owned by the Potamitis brothers, both accommodating just two guests. It’s about the simple life here: sea views, a taverna and a beach a stone’s throw away, plus plenty of quiet.
Sure, most visitors come to Athens for the history and museums, but away from the likes of the Acropolis, the city’s contemporary cultural scene is booming (artist-studio rent here is a fraction of what its is in similar European cities). If you’re after a slice of contemporary cool Athens, try the NEW hotel, where you’ll find interiors dreamt up by international heavyweight designers as well as a spa and rooftop bar and restaurant which keep the place busy with the capital’s movers and shakers. The location is a bonus: it’s a hop, skip and a jump from Syntagma, Athens central square.
Away from rowdy resort of Faliraki and the civilised but touristy Rhodes Town, the island of Rhodes is beautiful, low key and wonderfully relaxing. And if it’s relaxation you’re after, you’ll happily find it at the Lindos Blu, an upscale 74-room resort where kids aren’t allowed, meaning it’s pindrop-quiet as well as luxurious. Some of the rooms and villas have private pools, but if you like a little company, there’s a sauna, gym, steam room and, at the bottom of the amphitheatre-like complex, the hotel’s private beach.
If you want the option of exploring the bars and restaurants of Skiathos Town but need somewhere that offers some r'n'r too, this modern, stone-built hotel with room views out over the Aegean might be just the ticket. It’s got two pools (one for babies), a sauna, a gym, and even a billiards room – all a pleasant 25-minute bus ride away from town.
Corfu has become a bit of a punchline in chats about package tourism but stunning pockets of solitude still exist when you know where to look. Much of the north remains traditional and laidback. Take the Family Hotel Penelope at Boukari Beach, for example: a simple, 16-room bolthole with one of Corfu’s best tavernas attached. All rooms have balconies looking out over the Aegean, and there are free bikes for guests booking directly – perfect for exploring the deserted bays up and down the coast.
If, as the location for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, you imagine Kefalonia like some sort of mythical Hellenic idyll – all pot-bellied donkeys, cobalt seas and olive groves – you’d be right. But things, of course, have also moved with the times. The F Zeen Retreat – to give it it’s full name – wouldn’t be out of place in Ibiza. Think an al fresco yoga deck and gym overlooking the sea, and a spa and infinity pools surrounded by daybeds with billowing white linens. The food offerings are sparse but local tavernas plentiful. And, romantics rejoice: it’s adults-only.
If you’re travelling with family, Crete is a good call, and if you’ve the moolah, the White Palace a particularly good call for your (well-behaved) brood. Tennis courts, an outdoor cinema, a gym and a watersports centre on the beach, as well as 17 pools (some private), provide the entertainment, and there are even excursions to the resort’s farm and petting zoo, as well as the nearby Kingdom of Poseidon water park. For some grown-up fun, drop the kids in the kids club and head to the nearby resort of Rethymnon, where you’ll find bars aplenty.
Kos, just off the coast of Turkey, is full of well-oiled machine resorts, and one of the newest kids on the block is from Thomas Cook, but there’s a catch. Casa Cook is one of three (and counting) new hipster hotels from the brand, where guests get the ambience of a trendy boutique place, with the logistical know-how and service of an industry behemoth. So you get slouchy beanbags, a farm-to-table menu and low-key sundowner DJ sets by the pool, as well as free yoga classes, a gym and activities like paddleboarding and horse-riding on the nearby beach. Sweet.