Kenshōis a Japanese word meaning enlightenment: after a cocktail mixed by Kenshō Ornos's dapper barman, a meal rustled up by clever chef George Stylianoudakis and a night or two in one of the whitewashed rooms, you’ll certainly have achieved a higher level of consciousness. Staff waft around in ethereal linen layers like off-duty angels; to keep things at a celestial level, there’s a serene, sea-spying pool, an expert onsite yoga teacher and a madcap, cave-set spa.
Get this when you book through us:
Free shared airport transfer to the hotel, a bottle of wine, a fruit platter in your room upon arrival and 15 per cent off spa treatments
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm (1pm, if availability permits).
Double rooms from £503.43 (€555), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates usually exclude breakfast (pick from buffet and à la carte options).
Breathe in Kenshō’s signature scent – a heady blend of sea salt and fig, developed specially for the hotel by a boutique perfumery based in Athens.
From 27 October to 22 April.
At the hotel
Spa with treatment rooms, hammam and plunge pool; alfresco Jacuzzi; yoga area; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, minibar, Hermès bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Room number 121 – a Junior Suite – has a swing chair you’ll want to take home with you and some bonkers chunks of crystal set in its ceiling, along with a hunk of whitewashed treetrunk spliced onto one wall. There’s also an outdoor Jacuzzi, designed for sunrise and sunset sessions (preferably accompanied by champagne/some of bartender Alex’s cocktails).
There’s a sea-spying outdoor pool by the bar, shielded by a glass wall and flanked by chic sun loungers. Should you get thirsty from splashing and sploshing, the bar is just a flipper’s flap away. (There’s also a little pool in the basement spa.) You can easily walk to Ornos Beach.
Affectionately known as the Cave, the spa is proof of Kenshō’s playful side, featuring craggy, rock-boulder walls, a colour-lit pool, a Jacuzzi and curved massage chairs that look like they’ve been left behind by aliens. Treat sun-frazzled skin to one of the refreshing, soothing therapies starring fragrant Fleur’s products: a clay-and-cucumber body mask or a body peel plus massage, perhaps.
Swish swimwear for the pool; some cue words for cocktails: ‘refreshing’, ‘sour’, ‘sunset’, for example.
Design fans will wander around wide-eyed admiring Kenshō’s collection, which includes pieces by designers such as Patricia Urquiola, Paola Navone, Il Laboratorio and more. Reforested wood gets a star role; for every tree used, another seven are planted.
Little Smiths can come too, but don’t expect heaps of family-friendly frills – Kenshō Ornos was definitely designed with grown-ups in mind. Baby bedlinen can be provided, as can on-loan highchairs; babysitting is €40 an hour.
Aim for the stars – or at least the ravishing rooftop verandah that spies on Ornos Bay (there’s even a Jacuzzi up there, should you wish to have a bubbly interval between courses).
Copy the eye-candy staff: sport loose linen layers – bleached Mykonos-white, naturally – and caramel-coloured Grecian-god/goddess sandals.
George Stylianoudakis – Kenshō’s acclaimed chef – is on a mission to win Greece its first Michelin star outside of Athens. Don’t expect simple souvlaki here – dishes are culinary fireworks of texture and flavour: sea urchin with sea-mist tea, crispy cod skin with oyster emulsion, suckling pig with celery and green-apple pickles, for example. Opt for the Moonlight Tasting Menu to canter through 10-plus courses with deceptively concise names such as ‘Egg’, ‘The Garden’ and ‘Octopus’. Save room for dessert – baklava with honey jelly, lemon cream, black-pepper ice-cream and honey crystals, perhaps.
The bar is by the pool, manned by drinks don Alexandros. Menus are for squares: let the exceptionally capable bar staff rustle you up something based on your precise thirst at the time – just lob them a clue such as ‘sour’, ‘minty’ or ‘dangerous’, to point them in the right direction.
It’s a deliciously leisurely set-up: breakfast is served until 11am; lunch til 5pm (yes, really). The restaurant closes at 11pm; the bar doesn’t really have a set closing time – it takes its cues from you.
Order salads, snacks and mains (meaty, veggie and seafood) from the restaurant to your room.
Kenshō has a prime position: it’s just a few minutes from Ornos Beach, within easy reach of the airport and the old town.
Mykonos Airport is 7km away, a 15-minute drive. Call our Smith24 team to arrange flights and transfers to the hotel (€35 each way).
Don’t let wheels weigh you down. Taxis are fairly cheap; even better, gad about by air or water.
Nautical types would do well to island-hop across the Aegean. Mykonos has two ports: one old (connecting to Delos and its ruins); one new (serving the key Cycladic islands).
Worth getting out of bed for
Admire the off-duty glitterati sunning themselves in tiny swimwear on nearby Psarou Beach; Platis Gialos is Psarou’s sister, with a more mellow feel. Both are a short drive away; your local stretch of sand, easily accessed on foot, is Ornos Beach. Other items for your sun-sea-and-sand list include: Paraga, Paradise and Super Paradise. Boats to all of the above – and more – regularly leave from Ornos Bay. Not everybody wants to lie on sand all day: potter around Little Venice, browse the boutiques that line Matogiannia (one of Mykonos Town’s main pedestrian walkways) or have an interactive history lesson at Delos’ museums and galleries. Kenshō’s concierge team includes quite a few native Mykonians – get the local low-down on what to do.
If you end up eating every meal at Kenshō, nobody will blame you. If, however, you’d like to savour something different, Pasajiis a safe bet. The restaurant is right on Ornos Beach; the seaside influence extends to the menu, which gives succulent seafood a star turn. Sushi-lovers should have a memorable meal at Kuzina, also on Ornos Beach, where Mediterranean flavours and Japanese techniques enjoy a happy marriage. Catch sunset at Appagio, which is relaxed, friendly and in possession of beach views and friendly owners. If you leave without having a tot of ouzo or raki, you’ve done something wrong.
Pick up fresh bread and Greek treats – such as just-baked, jam-less, sugar-rolled doughnuts – from Choriatiko bakery nearby.
Kensh? Ornos is the kind of place where you feel your shoulders drop as soon as you're handed an icy strawberry lemonade – which can be spiked with alcohol if you can handle afternoon drinking better than Mr Smith and I.
We’re given a short tour around the hotel; a warren of white. We quickly learn that white is the colour of Mykonos; that famous Cycladic-island white that all the churches are painted in out here. In fact, I don't recall seeing anything other than little white sugar cube buildings on our journey – perhaps its law? Colour comes courtesy of the bold blue sky, pink bougainvillaea and leafy green fig trees on every corner.
Kensh? mixes its white with natural elements – stone, wicker, wood – and there are Instagram-friendly shots around every corner as a result. Enviously effortless interiors that mix an industrial aesthetic with island-cave chic.
Elena, our host, jokes that there are as many corridors in Kensh? Ornos as you'll find alleys in the old town of Chora (a must-visit, by the way) but you'll always find your way out eventually.
In this case, we find our way to the pool area. Surrounded by olive trees and lavender, both the pool and Jacuzzi are carved out of stone. They sit looking out across Ornos bay and it's azure water below. There are white sun-loungers and plump daybeds to sink into, and I could mention the gym, yoga deck and personal trainers we passed on our way round but there’s no room for exercise on any holiday of mine.
Our suite, room 203, is cavernous. 'When was the last time we had a room this impressive?' I exclaimed to Mr Smith as we jumped around in excitement. A freestanding roll-top bath (white, of course) sits against the whitewashed stone walls. Hermés toiletries are next to the bathroom sink, the deepest butler-style sink we've ever seen. This is all lovely, of course, but sometimes it's the little things that stand out most. Like the two sets of robes each (both waffle and fluffy depending what you’re in the mood for) or the edible flowers on our welcome fruit platter.
Kensho knows how to play it seriously cool, too. With the touch of a button we can have their curated Spotify playlist on loudspeaker through one of two huge TVs. And there's no room guide, instead a (white) iPad acts as a clever online concierge to the island in which you can choose to get tailored tips to live either as a cosmopolitan or as a local.
Mr Smith admires the skilful plasterwork of the lights in the cave ceiling (as you do) while I’m distracted by the view out to our private plunge pool and wicker hanging egg chair swinging in the breeze. We have complete privacy, we only birds to spy on us. Bliss. Until I get the biggest fright of my life as the pool guy hops over the wall without warning, anyway. It might be worth mentioning this to the hotel if you’re into skinny dipping…
When you’ve got it this good it can be hard to leave, but Ornos beach is only a five-minute saunter down the hill, with its sparkly waters and boats bobbing around. Mr Smith remarks that the sea is the clearest he's ever seen, and that's a strong accolade after honeymooning in the Maldives.
This isn't a sleepy little cove; Mykonos is known for being a party island and Ornos definitely buzzes. Buy lunch at any of its restaurants and you get use of the beach sun loungers it turns out – I like to judge a holiday destination on the thickness of the loungers and these are off the scale.
We spend most of our time lazily relaxing in the sun on our terrace, away from the beach tunes. But one afternoon, when the heat of the day set in, we head to the spa. Our booking includes a welcome massage each which we extend into a full couples massage. We’re pummelled and stretched in the treatment room and then get steamy in the hammam (complete with gold leaf in the walls, no less). We emerge into the light like Greek deities, practically floating back to our room. In most places it takes a few days to wind down, here Mr Smith and have reached dream-like nirvana in an afternoon.
Waking from the best slumber in ages, under the highest thread-count bedding known to man, it’s time for breakfast. We devour the lot: Greek yogurt topped with three different types of honey, compotes, eggs, croissants and artfully displayed cold cuts. ’Calories don’t count on holiday’ I assure Mr Smith, reaching for just one more mini pain au chocolat.
The evening is just as enchanting. As the sun dips down, soft jazz plays, candles flicker, a fire pit burns and the pool lights up like a sky of shooting stars. If that all sounds ridiculously romantic, rest assured Kensho remains hip enough for this not to get mushy.
It takes us a while to appreciate the meaning of the Japanese word behind the hotel’s name: enlightenment in nature. But after a couple of nights I turn to Mr Smith pleased as punch that I finally get it: earth, water, wind and fire, just like those Ancient Greeks believed in, they’re all here at Kensho. We leave feeling very enlightened indeed. Just maybe less of the wind next time – you need to hold onto your hat on this island…