Homespun Greek hospitality and superlative Med island style combine harmoniously at Liostasi, on the laidback Cycladean island of Ios. Perched by the Aegean Sea and with sweeping views of Ios’ charming port, here’s where days pass languidly by as you watch the comings and goings of the harbour, under olive-tree shade at the cocktail bar, pool, or your suite’s private terrace. Savour the contemporary fusion flavours at Grandma’s Restaurant, one of the hottest spots on the island, or rejuvenate with one of the many nature-infused treatments in the Liostasi Lifestyle Spa. It’s unlikely a more aesthetically pleasing hideaway to be found in all of the Greek Islands.
The hotel has 22 suites and six rooms – all have ocean views and are uniquely decorated.
Check-out time is 11am, and guests can check-in from 3pm. Flexible arrival and departure requests will be accommodated where possible, and waiting guests have free access to the hotel’s facilities and a shower.
Double rooms from £109.23 (€125), 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 include a welcome drink on arrival.
Proprietor Despina Denaxa is a Cycladian by birth, and she leads Greek cooking lessons where she shares her family recipes and the flavours of the island – enquire when booking.
The hotel is closed during the winter and shoulder seasons, from mid-October to early May each year.
At the hotel
Cocktail lounge, open-air cinema, swimming pool with sunloungers and sea views, spa with Jacuzzi and hammam, fitness room. In rooms: All rooms have a private balcony or terrace with Aegean sea views, television with satellite channels, free WiFi, Nespresso coffee machine, air-conditioning, Olive Era biological bath products, free bottled water, black-out curtains.
Our favourite rooms
When the vivacious hotelier Despoina Denaxa teamed up with interior designer and theatre director Antonis Kalogridis, he devised ways to add intrigue to Greece’s traditionally white decor in suites, with whimsical details. For Mrs Smith, however, the Liostasi Sea View Suite’s aquarium infinity pool made it a true stand-out.
While you’re gently lapping Liostasi’s main pool, before you unfurls a palette of bright blues: the pool, the sea beyond, and the sky above. A crimson sculpture by Greek artist Kostas Georgiou flawlessly frames port Ios below for your Instagram shots, and the customary Mediterranean tones of dusty stone, whitewash and olive meld with the arid Cycladic landscape. The Bar is a self-titled ‘ode to slow living’ and has your poolside cocktail needs attended to, and there’s a sequestered Jacuzzi in the Spa, too. Six of the suites also have access to their own exclusive sharing pool, and shaded Gialos Beach is a 15-minute walk from the hotel.
Down a narrow sunlit path and through a pair of traditional kamaras (stone arches) you’ll find the intimate Liostasi Lifestyle Spa, a sanctuary of organic wellness founded on traditional treatment principles and using only local, organic spa products from Greek brand Ariadne. The two naturally-lit treatment rooms give you plenty of opportunity to contemplate that signature ocean view, and can accommodate couples and special honeymoon treatments. The Cretan body ritual zhuzhes up the skin using natural elements from the nearby island, including organic honey and bee pollen, dittany oil, saffron, and raki, to renew, tighten, massage and hydrate. There is also a steam room for hammam rituals, a beauty salon and access to the spa’s own outdoor Jacuzzi. For an extra charge, treatments can be made off site, including in the hotel’s suites or on private yachts.
Bring your copy of Homer’s Odyssey – the influential poet is reputedly buried on Ios, and the opening verse of the famous epic is translated and inscribed in stone around the pool, running through into Grandma’s Restaurant. Once you’ve begun reading, you’ll have no choice but to see the full tale through.
Welcome; there is a kids club, and a babysitting service is available on request for €20 an hour (48-hours’ notice is required).
Children under 10 will get the most out of the children’s pool and Kids’ Club activities.
The Junior Suites have space for a crib, and the Connecting Design Sea View Suite and Adjoining Superior Sea View Suites sleep four and have additional space for two cribs. These suites can be connected for larger groups or families.
The hotel offers a Kids’ Club – enquire when making a reservation.
There is a children’s swimming pool, and the shaded Gialos Beach is a 15-minute walk from the hotel.
A babysitting service is available and charged at €20 an hour, and must be booked with reception a minimum of 48 hours in advance.
The sofa benches near the poolside afford the best views across port Ios at sunset.
A pressed shirt thrown over some drying swimmers will suffice.
As is the case in any traditional Greek home, Grandma’s Restaurant is the focal point at Liostasi, and it is known as one of the best on the entire island. It’s sited behind the pool and with those same bombastic views, has been awarded the prestigious Toques d’ Or award in the modern cuisine category for three years running. The menu is the result of the combined creative force of proprietor Artemis – who can sometimes be surreptitiously found practising ancestral recipes in the kitchen for the fun of it – executive chef Christos Kanoulas, and consulting chef Sotiris Evaggelou, a leading ambassador for the new Greek cuisine movement. The menu is full of new recipes based on the region’s rich gastronomic traditions using its locally produced cheeses, wines, thyme, honey and meats. The beneficiaries are the guests, who dine on hybrids such as the green salad with fruit and Cycladic mizithra cheese, and a locally-adapted version of the classic French coq au vin.
Appropriately named the Bar, Liostasi’s poolside haunt has all of your holiday favourites on speed-dial, with an extensive list of classics and bespoke creations alongside a host of local wines and ice-cool beers.
Lunch is served from noon to 6.30pm; dinner is from 7pm until 11.30pm.
The hotel offers a room service menu until midnight.
Liostasi is perched on a rugged hillside on the Greek island of Ios, and is conveniently situated at the halfway point between the island’s port and its biggest town, Chora. It’s a scenic 10-minute walk to each.
The nearest international airport is on the island of Santorini and is well connected within Europe. Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos is easily reached via any number of short and long-haul routes globally, but is but is three and a half hours further away from Ios by ferry. . Shared transfers to and from the hotel are included in your room rate. Helicopter transfers are available to Ios; the flight from Santorini takes just 15-minutes, can accommodate four passengers, and costs €1,700. Take it for the captivating aerial views of the islands alone.
The hotel offers free parking but Ios is a small island, making a rental car redundant in Mr Smith’s eyes. Liostasi offers free transfers to and from Ios’ charming port, and can arrange island tours and transfers for those looking to go further afield. The adventurous may want to rent a scooter or quad bike from nearby Chora.
Numerous ferries link each of the Greek Islands almost hourly at the height of summer, and most visitors to Ios arrive this way. The Santorini route is the most convenient and takes 40 minutes, the journey from Athens’ Piraeus Port takes a little over four hours. The larger Greek ferry terminals can be chaotic, especially in Athens, so be sure to arrive a little early for your crossing.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you were to arrange the Greek Islands on a scale of activity, Ios is certainly nearer the axis of serenity. That it doesn’t have an airport puts an extra step in the journey for most travellers, which goes a long way towards protecting its nonchalant atmosphere. The party-round-the-clock reputation that it once had has evolved to a more cultured one of terroir-driven dining in boutique restaurants, although nightlife can still be found. Following the same path that runs from Port Ios, head 10 minutes uphill to the town of Chora, the largest settlement on the island. Its buildings are uniformly whitewashed and finished with sea-blue highlights, and among its labyrinth of alleyways are hidden a great selection of bars and eateries. Landmarks in the town include the hilltop church Panagia Gremiotissa, worth the trek for panoramic views of the town, the Theatre Odysseas Elytis, and the famous 13th-century windmills. The island’s arid wilderness is traversed by a network of lightly-trafficked roads and hiking trails, covering mountain, countryside and beach (request a map and customised route from reception). A popular hiking destination is Homer’s Tomb in the ruins of the ancient Hellenistic town of Plakotos, where legend says that the Father of Greek literature rests. Ios is famous for its long stretches of golden-sandy beaches, and with 32 of them totalling 75km in length, you’ll have no problems matching the right beach to your mood. Yialos, Mylopotas and Manganari are organised beaches with bars, restaurants and watersports, whereas you’ll find seclusion at Agia Theodoti and Psathi.
The long lunch was seemingly invented for Ios alone, and Drakos Taverna is surely where Demeter, the Goddess of the harvest, would take hers. Moor your boat right at the restaurant’s edge on the western end of Mylopotas Beach and step ashore for the freshest possible seafood, prepared with authentic Greek recipes. Rigani Meze and Wine has a large shady garden from where you can see Chora’s hilltop church while sampling its contemporary Greek menu, with creations such as their savoury feta, tomato, marmalade, carob and rusk cheesecake. Ithaka Restaurant offers a contemporary Greek menu in an idyllic harbourside location, and is conveniently located in the port of Ios.
The line between café and bar on Ios can be a blurry one, and it really only depends on the time of day. Foiniki Art Café Bar in Chora has the best speciality coffee on the island, which is hidden fantastically well in a naughty espresso martini once the sun goes down. For something a little less temptingly boozy, Kafeneio Nios, also in Chora, is the place to keep on the straight and narrow.
Liostasi sits resting on the hillside above the island’s port, and it’s an easy 10-minute walk down to Enigma Bar Restaurant, where you can sit under the shade of a wide fig tree, portside, and indulge in their cocktail list, which chef Nikolas Nikolaou has linked with a series of innovative food pairings. Ios Club is iconic as the counterculture go-to for the hippies and artists of the 1960s and 1970s, who would gather here to worship the sunset. It’s now an ambient chill-out lounge and cocktail bar with a small mezze menu of Mediterranean classics, but that life-affirming sunset hasn’t changed. Alternatively, the island's latest offering, Doors, is a little slice of bohemian beachside where you can rock away in a cushioned hammock, cocktail in hand.
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 art-filled hotel on Ios and have unpacked their loafers and shades, a full account of their Aegean break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Liostasi in the Greek isles…
It was the shadows that first caught my attention. Jet-black silhouettes against the bright whitewashed wall in the midday sun. Olive trees with their slimline trunks, blowing in the breeze, dancing on the walls and on the gravel pathway. Earlier, we had boarded the ferry in Santorini, jostling among tourists and travellers walking shoulder-to-shoulder seeing the sights, and then took the short ferry ride across the Aegean. Stepping off, it felt like we were somehow returning to the 1960s, when the island of Ios was a soothing retreat for the hippies and artists of the time. Calm, chilled, relaxed. The driver from Liostasi met us at the ferry terminal with a beaming smile for the short drive along the sun-parched road to the hotel. And here’s how our stay unfolded: a cool welcome drink on arrival, sipped as we conversed about local news with flamboyant hotelier Despoina Denaxa; dinner at Grandma’s Restaurant for some of the most incredible Greek-fusion flavours imaginable. Then sipping a drink while spending an uninterrupted 10 minutes discussing boat movements in the harbour, assuming the role of pretend harbourmasters and later, catching a movie under the stars. Our visit wasn’t all this chilled (Ios still has a party scene, don’t forget), but the crisp design, artful whimsy and warm family-inspired hospitality at Liostasi fostered an enormous sense of calm, the sort of place where you can just sit, be still and watch those enigmatic shadows sway.