Hewn from marble, propped up by pillars, surrounded by olive groves, overlooking the shimmering sea… There’s more than a touch of ancient majesty to Amanzoe resort on Greece’s eastern Peloponnesian peninsula. This modern Acropolis, with its peerless panoramas, first-class service and stress-banishing spa would be sure to dazzle even the most demanding of deities.
Double rooms from $974.99 (€880), excluding tax at 13.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional room tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include a la carte continental breakfasts. An additional charge of 24.5 per cent of all food and drink will be added to your bill.
Though you're perched high on a hill among the olive trees, you're only ever ten minutes from the secluded Beach Club: your own private pebble-shored, turquoise-watered stretch of Aegean Sea. Transfers are free and the hotel will whisk you down whenever you fancy
Annually, from 1 November to 31 March inclusive.
At the hotel
Private beach club, speedboats for island-hopping excursions, two swimming pools, gym, spa, yoga studio, tennis courts, boutique, library, free WiFi. In rooms: private swimming pool, minibar, TV, iPod dock, hair dryer, bespoke Aman bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Mere rooms don’t cut it here: every guest gets their own free-standing, marble-edged pavilion positioned for maximum privacy. All are soothingly styled with pale walls, natural stone features and a touch of pine, so your tough choices include: six-metre pool or 12-metre pool? Widescreen views of the shimmering sea or here-to-the-horizon olive-grove panoramas? Larger groups or families should plump for one of the serviced 4-6 bedroom villas – they come with a chef to cater for your every craving.
Gather at the main pool, an infinity-edged, lounger-lined stretch of azure with countryside views so impressive they’ll distract you from your lengths. Shade-seekers will appreciate the pergola-sheltered smaller pool, and if you’re a spontaneous skinny-dipping sort, each pavilion has its own private secluded pool. There are free transfers to the private Beach Club where you'll find two more 25-metre lap pools and a sheltered bay to swim in.
Ancient wellness rituals get a 21st-century update in the Aman Spa where massages, facials, body scrubs and Watsu hydrotherapy treatments are all available for solo or couples’ relaxation. For further pampering, there are two hammams, a yoga studio and a beauty salon.
Ladies, leave your beach hat at home – the hotel doth provide. Otherwise, don't forget your PADI license if you're planning on diving and pack a pair of binoculars for games of ‘whose yacht is that?’.
Two Pool Pavilions have been specially adapted for wheelchair use, and all public areas are fully accessible.
There’s a grown-up feel to the place but children are welcome, with a family-friendly pool, an indoor playroom and bicycles to borrow, by way of distractions. Babysitting can be arranged a week in advance for €18 an hour.
Executive chef Dimitris Boutsalis earned his gourmet gold stars in the kitchen of world-renowned, ant-serving restaurant, Noma. Now back on native soil, he serves up insect-free, Greek-tinged cuisine – made from the best locally grown, reared, fished and foraged ingredients – at the vista-riffic main restaurant. Seafood fans will be drawn to the cru of market fish and sea urchins with bergamot vinaigrette, and the kakavia fish soup with lagoustines, prawns, scallops and saffron-lemon aioli. The pool restaurant serves light lunches and Asian-accented evening meals, and you can accompany your Beach Club lounging with Mediterranean snacks, coffees and cocktails.
The sleek, black-topped bar sits beneath six marble columns in the middle of a relaxed lounge-cum-terrace – it's the ideal spot for toasting the jaw-dropping sunsets. Much of the wine is locally produced and many of the ingenious infusions on the cocktail menu use herbs grown in the hotel's garden.
Breakfast is from 7am to 11am. You can dine til 6pm at the Beach Club or 11pm back at the resort. Cocktail hour ends when you want it to.
Juices, smoothies, fruits, yoghurts, pastries and eggs by way of breakfasty bits, then sandwiches, pasta, seafood, grilled meats, salads and an array of desserts.
A short hop from Spetses and Hydra, Amanzoe is in prime island exploring territory, sitting atop a hill overlooking verdant olive groves to the east and the waters of the Argolic Gulf to the west.
The well-served Athens airport is a three-hour drive away.
You’ll mostly be exploring by boat and on foot but if you do want to take to four wheels, hire cars are available from the airport, or from the nearby town of Porto Heli, and there’s plenty of free parking on site.
Worth getting out of bed for
In need of an adrenalin rush? Shun the hotel's shuttle and borrow a mountain bike to get to the Beach Club – just aim for the sea and let gravity be your guide. Once there you can opt to recline by the pristine pools, swim in the calm turquoise bay or go daytripping around the islands aboard one of Amanzoe’s 007-worthy speedboats.
The pine-covered Spetses is the closest – all cute fishing ports and white-stone villages. Hydra, to the east, is a favourite with Greece’s yachty crowd (and Leonard Cohen – he had a house here since the 1960s) who gather in the restaurant-lined port. There are no cars on the island so exploring the hilly town, home to a burgeoning art scene, is best done on foot or by donkey.
For a more back-to-nature day trip, make a stop at Dokos, a tiny rocky outcrop populated mainly by monks and sheep-herders. Divers will want to seek out the world’s oldest shipwreck, a cargo vessel from the early Helladic period that lies just off the Dokos coast. Just over an hour inland, don’t miss Epidaurus, an ancient, Unesco-protected amphitheatre flanked by a wealth of Hellenic ruins.
In Spetses, stop for a palate-pleasing ceviche at Tarsanas, a relaxed port-side favourite serving the day’s freshest catch. Sister restaurant, NTA (Nero tis Agapis) is a more grown-up affair, but still seafood-centric. Geitoniko, on Hydra, is a laid-back rooftop terrace serving unfussy Greek cuisine away from the bustle of the harbour front.
They say you haven’t been to Hydra if you haven’t stopped by the Pirate Bar(+30 (0)697 304 9014), a terrace-sporting, DJ-soundtracked, lively late-night taverna. On Spetses, the beautiful people gather at chic beach hotspot, Bikini Bar (+30 (0)229 807 4888) for cocktails and posing.
Firstly, I should explain we were already wannabe ‘Aman junkies’ before we checked into Amanzoe. Secondly, yes, that is an official term (there’s even a Tumblr dedicated to the phenomenon). Since 1988, when the first guests were welcomed to a paradisiacal coconut grove in Phuket named Amanpuri, the luxury brand name has amassed an exclusive club of in-the-know fans, friends, and addicts; many so enamoured they refuse to stay anywhere else.
Mr Smith and I aren’t quite that die-hard; but we do fully appreciate ‘the Aman way’, which is to say, the dedication to luxuriously expansive space, unrufflable tranquility and seamless service. We were looking forward to our stay immensely, not least because we had a good idea of what we could expect. Furthermore, although Aman also do a commendable line in action and adventure on request, in my condition (seven months pregnant and bursting at the bikini seams) we knew this would be a hotel where we could count on perfect peace, quiet and private swimming sessions in the pool. Amanzoe – the brand’s first property in the land of sun god Apollo, no less – would be just the ticket.
So we booked our tickets to Athens, and only then (whoops!) did we think about how we might arrange a transfer. Mr Smith and I, as seasoned and prepared-for-anything travellers, usually wing it, you see. But Amanzoe, a good three-hour drive from Athens, was going to be a bit of a stretch in a taxi. ‘No problem!’ Aman’s helpful manager informed us – Aman would happily arrange our transfer: we had three very attractive, if spendy, options to choose from: a luxury sedan, a helicopter, or the Aquazoe yacht… (at €5,550 each way, now was not the time to take to the sea, but maybe next year). So we chose the car .
After a scenic journey we arrived to a welcome as warm as a plate of mezze in the midday sun. Amanzoe, like its refined siblings, has done away with the concept of a check-in desk, because, well – who needs it? They know we’re coming. And isn’t it just so much nicer to be greeted in person, like a guest in a friend’s ridiculously enormous house, before swapping your luggage for a welcoming cold drink and a refreshing towel as soon as you step out of the car?
That’s a rhetorical question. As is this: how utterly gorgeous is this resort? Such was our first thought, our last, and it also occupied much of our brain matter during our stay. From the sublime positioning and proportions of the architecture, to the views over the Argolic Gulf, and from the food we feasted on to the unforgettable sunsets, every detail of Amanzoe has been designed to delight. It genuinely is one of the most tranquil places we’ve ever stayed in.
We had a Deluxe Pool Pavilion, which was 200 square metres of elegance in the extreme, arranged around endlessly eye-catching views and our own private pool. Hotel rooms should all be like this. Mr Smith was particularly taken with the all-singing, all-dancing, all-water-jetting Japanese TOTO loos, while I was excited by the fact there were his-and-hers bathrooms, positioned at the end of each of our his-and-hers, walk-through wardrobes. In between them, our fabulously spacious sky-view shower was second in sexiness only to the vast, sunken marble bath tub, with its views onto our feng-shui-ed terrace, plunge pool and beyond, the sea.
Diligently, Mr Smith and I tried out all the restaurants during our stay, and each and every one impressed – the breakfast buffet especially was a feast. A word of warning though – the portions are as huge as everything else at Aman; happily with a big pregnancy belly already, that doesn’t matter. We duly finished it all. Down at the Beach Club (take a bike for extra wind-in-your-hair wonderfulness), we’d already had our breath taken away by the sunset in the sheltered bay, and were treated to a delicious seafood barbecue and tasting menu that nearly finished us off. The shuttle bus runs you back at the end of the night.
There was no time on our trip to sample the spa, or sail out to the islands, or really test the limits of the famously intuitive service, but not to worry because we will be back. We’re Aman junkies, after all – we just can’t help it.
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