We don’t blame the resident black swan at Elivi Skiathos: this is a fine spot to strut about on private beaches or the nearby wetland. An eminently likeable father-and-daughter team has restored the shell of this former Sixties hotel to its past glory, when the likes of Jackie Onassis were regulars, and then some. Contemporary artwork, neutral hues and a showpiece sea-view lobby impress on arrival, before an Elemis spa, pool-toting beachfront villas and an authentic Japanese restaurant confirm this as an inspired (and wallet-friendly) alternative to Mykonos and Santorini. We know where we’ll be swanning off to next…
Get this when you book through us:
Free return transfers; one 30-minute spa treatment per booking; sparkling wine and dried fruits in your room; and a drink each on arrival
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £563.51 (€634), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast.
The original hotel was one of many built in the Sixties as part of a nation-wide tourism initiative. These government-owned hotels shared two recurring features: they were usually called ‘Xenia’, and they invariably presided over the area’s most exceptional views. But while the political landscape has changed in the intervening decades – which saw Xenia abandoned – the physical landscape has not. Those showpiece Aegean views are still breath-takers to this day.
Due to Covid-19 precautions, the spa and gym will be for private use only for the foreseeable future – both must be booked in advance. During this time, the indoor pool, hammam, sauna and kids' club will be closed.
11 October until 30 April
At the hotel
Private beach, gym, boutique, children's play area. In rooms: TV, air-conditioning, minibar, tea and coffee.
Our favourite rooms
Grace suites are built into the lower hillside so the views from the rooms above are unimpeded. This keeps them nice and cool, and mere steps from Ambelakia beach, whose butter-soft sand is just beyond your private plunge pool. If you’re with the family, the Nest villas across the peninsula offer a spacious, self-catered alternative and are close to their own private beach, pool and play areas. All are minimally dressed with cooling hues and have the hotel’s emblematic black swan as a recurring motif.
The main pool – flanked by a curved bar – is tucked into the hillside, with an infinity edge that pours water to the level below. Shared lap pools face the opposite direction, towards the flawless crescent of Koukounaries beach. Over the hillside at the Nest there's a second 'main' pool neatly set beside the Nest Greek Fish Restaurant. Several rooms and most suites and villas have their own private plunge pools, too.
Elivi’s spa is by Elemis, promising first-class service and treatments packed with trademark minerals and micronutrients, inspired by ancient Greek methodology unique to the island. There are three treatment rooms; a beauty salon offering hairdressing, manicures and pedicures; and an indoor pool backed by a sauna and hammam.
If photography’s your bag, bring a long-focus lens for spying wildlife across at the protected wetland’s Strofilia Lake.
There are four disabled-access rooms, reached via a lift or pathways, with bathrooms adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to some rooms for a fee, and babysitting can be arranged.
Kids of all ages are very welcome, especially over at the Nest on the opposite side of the peninsula, home to the kids’ club, family-friendly beach, pool and play area.
The Nest rooms, villas and suites are primed for big and little Smiths, with spacious living areas, verandas and, in some instances, self-catering kitchenettes.
Choice = spoiled. When you've exhausted family time on the sunset-facing beach and nearby nature reserve, there’s a great kids’ club where your little ones can go for dance lessons, kids pilates and yoga, art classes and more.
There are two pools: one near the main building over-looking Ambelakia beach and one over at the Nest, beside the Nest grill. the Many of the suites and villas have their own plunge pools, too.
Friendly chefs are more than happy to adapt the menu for children. Highchairs are available on request, as well as children’s cutlery and bibs.
Babysitters are available for €20 euros per hour. Please let the hotel know three days in advance.
All rooms, suites and villas are accessible by prams, which, incidentally, are available to borrow.
The unsullied splendour of this stretch of the Aegean and the neighbouring nature reserve is reflected in the hotel’s attitude towards its environment. All rooms are fitted with presence detectors (meaning no power is wasted when you’re not around) LED lights, water-saving taps and geothermal air-conditioning.
The far-corner table of the stone-built terrace outside Leda & Swan offers almost 240 degrees of turquoise-streaked sea views.
For ladies, a tie-front dress with some primary-colour punch (to offset the resort’s softer hues); for gents, a loosely buttoned collarless shirt, shorts and a pair of espadrilles.
You’d be right to predict that fish features heavily at Elivi’s four restaurants; what you won’t be expecting are the culinary leaps made by its adventurous chefs. Leda & Swan is the hotel’s culinary canvas, where traditional Greek recipes are zhuzhed by exciting, modern flavours. The kakavia fish soup, bonito with bean-soup cream, smoked herring mousse and caviar touille all strike a successfully delicate balance, as does the magnificent lamb with summer-vegetable casserole. Full marks goes to Hagoromo, too, the hotel’s bold recreation of a Japanese restaurant, where fish is served in its sashimi and nigiri form (though the soft-shell crab and sake selection steal the show). And, just to prove their mastery of the Aegean’s bounty, the Nest Taverna grills fresh-from-the-sea shrimp, sea bream, red mullet and more, served with locally produced tsipouro and ouzo. Even the beach-bar cooks have foodie impulses: the chef at Grace Restaurant has an obsession with pizza dough (tending to his batches nightly and referring to them as his ‘babies’). His TLC, we can confirm, is teased out in the taste. At the extensive breakfast spread you’ll find freshly baked bread, delicious traditional pies, home-made jams and local honey.
The well-stocked Elevate bar – in the original main building to the left of the lobby – is helmed by an adventurous mixologist and flanked by two long glass-partitioned terraces. These are dotted with elegant seating overlooking all the action on Koukounaries beach, the perfect spot for sipping the hotel’s signature cocktails.
Leda & Swan and Hagoromo are open for dinner between 7pm and 11pm, whereas the more laid-back Nest Greek Fish Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner (1pm–11pm). Breakfast is served at Xenia Restaurant between 7:30am and 10:30am.
A selection of dishes from each of the hotel’s restaurants features on the room-service menu, available 7am–11pm.
Skiathos is in the northern Sporades, not far from mainland Thessaly. Elivi perches on a rocky outcrop to the west of the island, overlooking Koukounaries Beach to the north-east and the hotel’s private Ambelakia Beach to the south-west
Skiathos International Airport (JSI), also known as Alexandros Papadiamantis Airport, is to the east of the island, 30 minutes by car from the hotel. One-way transfers, which skirt the scenic coastal roads, can be arranged for €30.
You can organise car rental from the airport, which will be useful if you plan on spending lots of time in Skiathos town or striking out to explore some of the island’s more secluded beaches.
Ferry routes from port towns in mainland Greece such as Agios Konstantinos (two hours from Athens), Thessaloniki and Volos connect with Skiathos and the neighbouring Northern Sporades islands.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s enough to entertain you on either side of this rugged peninsula that you’ll barely feel the pull of leaving the resort. Most prominently, there are four beaches to explore: the public Koukounaries beach, served by the hotel’s Xenia beach bar; the smaller, private Ambelakia beach, a fine spot for a light lunch by your day-bed; the family-friendly Banana beach on the opposite side of the peninsula, home to watersports and other activities; and, finally, the cheekily titled Little Banana beach, popular (be warned) with the naturist crowd. You’ll find tennis courts and other sports facilities on site, too, but we fully recommend an early-morning or late-evening stroll around the perimeter of Lake Strofilia, the centrepiece of a neighbouring protected wetland (of which Koukounaries beach forms a golden perimeter), for the chance to spot cormorants, egrets, ducks and the hotel’s famous black swan.
If you do decide to venture out, Skiathos town is a 25-minute drive away. Avoid the tackier end of the souvenir circuit by keeping to the wonderfully winding Byzantine streets to the south. In this quieter neighbourhood you’ll find the Monastery of the Annunciation, where Greece’s iconic blue and white flag was designed in 1807, and a handful of charming arts and crafts boutiques. From here, follow the sloping streets down to the colourful harbour and its protruding Bourtzi, a tiny peninsula that hides a small church and a laid-back barand restaurant with glass lanterns hung from the enveloping pines.
To the very north is clifftop Kastro, the island’s first settlement: it was built on this windswept, rocky crag to repel pirates before being abandoned in the 19th century. Its ruined cannons, churches and Turkish-era mosque have been restored for visitors, and a trip here makes for an atmospheric afternoon. For the more adventurous, the Aegean’s turquoise waters afford Scuba diving opportunities – to a shipwreck for more advanced divers – bookable from outlets in Skiathos town or through the hotel.
The unshowy, hilltop taverna Amfiliki has modest looks, dazzling instead with gasp-inducing coastal view and a menu of the highest calibre seafood and local delicacies. Everything from the stuffed peppers and marinated anchovies to the hummus and taramasalata are fresh, simple and flavourful.
For a relaxed evening meal, Alexandros is an old-time taverna popular with tourists and locals, and with a resident guitar player whose performances fall on the correct side of schmaltz. For something more contemporary, Ergon is an organic deli that doubles as an in-demand modern taverna, serving meze such as pastrami pastries, Ioannina Gruyère with paprika, and smoked-tomato glazed pork ribs.
Kentavros is a much-loved rock, jazz and blues bar in Skiathos town with a friendly crowd and an atmospheric mix of low-key lighting, turn-of-the-century portraits, jazz posters, and a hodge-podge of liquor bottles.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this water-fringed luxury hotel in Greece and unpacked their hortopitas and home-made liqueurs, a full account of their sun-blessed Greek island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Elivi Skiathos…
Holidays to Greece aren’t exactly a new idea – in the Sixties, and with one eye on a burgeoning tourism industry, the country’s government bulk-bought many of its islands’ most exclusive spots. On Skiathos, it was the clifftop Xenia hotel (many of these nationalised hotels were named ‘Xenia’) overlooking ever-popular Koukounaries beach. Its halcyon days saw visits from the likes of Jackie Onassis, but a shifting political climate meant that, until recently, the old Xenia lay an empty, decaying relic. Then, in 2018, father and daughter Elias and Vivi Nathanailidi bought the plot and transformed it into a wildly romantic, family-ready resort, extolling a brand of luxury unheard of in these parts for decades.
As well as decking out the hotel’s original frame with contemporary artwork, neutral hues and a showpiece sea-view lobby, they’ve added an Elemis spa, chic private beach bar, beachfront villas and an unexpectedly authentic Japanese restaurant. They’ve expanded, too, across the peninsula. The Nest is primed for family holidays to remember, with an exhaustive kids’ club, play area, a children's pool and gentle-wave–lapped beach. And when little Smiths are beached out, there’s the nearby protected wetland for hikes to spot swans, cranes and cormorants. So, while Mykonos and Santorini might have the glamour, Elivi Skiathos is an equally luxurious, budget-friendly option that will force you to rethink your Greek preconceptions.