If extending an olive branch means peace, no wonder Olivar Suites is a place of consummate ease and placidity. A former 18th-century olive mill, this beachfront village-style resort is dotted with olive trees – some retaining their ancient spot despite the beach bar, spa or white-and-wood-hued suites erected around them. And while olive oil is used liberally at the hotel’s Flya restaurant and in its deity-worthy spa (the Aphrodite and Apollo treatments will leave you feeling almighty), it’s two mythic heroes that take centre stage here: the sky, given space to breathe between the hotel’s low-rise suites; and the sea, which laps gently against idyllic Messonghi Beach.
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A bottle of champagne on arrival and 15 per cent off spa treatments
Double rooms from £181.36 (€215), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 0.5% per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast. A deposit of 15 per cent is required on booking. The remaining amount is payable on check-in.
None of the rooms are specifically wheelchair-accessible, although most of the hotel and its suites are on the ground floor.
At the hotel
Public beach, spa, gym, sauna, yoga, Pilates, unheated outdoor pool. In suites: air-conditioning, WiFi, satellite TV, minibar (at extra charge), tea- and coffee-making kit, Jo Malone bath products, hairdryer, bathrobes, slippers. Some have a private pool too.
Our favourite rooms
Suites here are laid out like a small Corfiot village: cleverly arranged to ensure complete privacy; and none climbing above two storeys. Some have direct access to the beach (though none are more than a few steps away), but our pick is the Riviera Suite, with its five-metre-long first-floor window overlooking the Ionian Sea.
The 70sq m private pool is open from 10am to 6pm; there are tables here for dining with views over the Ionian Sea.
The Aegeo spa takes its influences from ancient Greek traditions: the Cretan massage employs an olive oil base, raki and orange extracts; the face massage uses avocado from Chania; the ancient Greek massage apparently borrows techniques used on athletes at the original Olympic Games. The real showstoppers here, though, are the Aphrodite and Apollo treatments, combining much of the above with international expertise to produce one mmmm-inducing package.
A copy of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, which recounts the British naturalist’s childhood adventures uncovering the secrets of Corfu’s flora and fauna…as well as those of his widowed mum and siblings.
The hotel opens from May until the end of October each year.
Children of any age are welcome, but there are no specific activities aimed at them; relaxation is the order of the day here. Some rooms fit an extra bed (children under 12 staying on a bed-and-breakfast rate stay free, otherwise charges apply).
As you’d expect from a newly built hotel, the structural materials – including plenty of olive wood – are locally sourced; as are at least 80 per cent of ingredients at the restaurant. Greece’s battle against single-use plastic is in full force here, too, with the hotel being plastic-free and staff taking part in beach-cleaning initiatives.
The poolside tables have the finest view of the Ionian Sea.
Opt for light, loose, white and wafty.
Flya restaurant is run by former Grace Santorini head chef Spyros Agious, who is inspired by nona’s cookery book and has adapted fantastically to the abundance of olive oil here. Guest chefs and mixologists visit regularly, pop-up kitchens appear when the catch is right and there’s an American-style fire pit for cosy evenings under the stars. Whether it’s a casual, poolside ‘meze’ or a beach dinner under the moonlight, dining at the ‘Flya’ is a joy.
Olibar is housed in the former olive mill building, and every care has been taken to retain its original features including its 18th-century cogs and levers. It makes for an atmospheric location to sip bergamot liqueurs or Kakotrigis, the local Corfiot wine.
Breakfast takes place 7.30am to 11am; lunch is 12 noon to 4pm; dinner is served from 7pm to 11pm.
A shortened version of Flya’s menu is available 24 hours a day.
Olivar Suites can be found in a secluded strip of quiet resorts facing out onto Messonghi Beach on Corfu’s mainland-facing east coast.
Corfu International Airport is reachable from dozens of European hubs, and is 30 minutes by car from the hotel.
You’ll want a car if you plan to explore the island beyond the resort; you can rent one at the airport and there’s free parking on site.
A ferry to Corfu from Igoumenitsa, one of the largest passenger ports in Greece, operates on a near hourly schedule, with the journey taking around two hours. Corfu is a hopping point on journeys to other Ionian isles, too, such as Ithaca and Kefalonia.
Worth getting out of bed for
Dividing time between the beach, the bar, the beach bar and the pool are all most can muster in this quiet corner of Corfu, but there is much to discover outside the hotel on this ruggedly beautiful isle – especially on foot. Hiking trails take in pin-drop quiet coves, pine forests and the ruins of the island’s Ventian, French and British past. Corfu old town is a 40-minute drive from the hotel and retains much of Venice’s influence, including its tangle of cobbled lanes, coral- and butterscotch-hued townhouses and no less than 39 Byzantine churches. It sits between two hilltop fortresses, the more photogenic of which is Angelokastro Castle, which surveys the old town and the surrounding sea. To the south of the old town (the other side of the airport), sits Pontikonisi, a tiny circular islet that punches above its weight by being namechecked in Homer’s Odyssey and influencing Arnold Böcklin when painting his symbolist Isle of the Dead. Further inland is Theotoky Estate – ask the hotel’s concierge to arrange wine tasting and sampling its multi-award-winning Governor’s olive oil. For sunbathing with little disturbance, head nine kilometres across the island to Halikounas Beach, or for something a little more wild and remote (but not quite intrepid: this is Corfu), Gardenos Beach.
You don’t have to go far for the traditional Corfiot taverna. Bacchus restaurant is next door to the hotel; its owners Demitri and Yanna serve up souvlaki, grilled fresh fish and calamari. A little further along the coast in Boukari is Spiros Karidis fish taverna, where the whole grilled squid is the showpiece dish, or even further on in Petriti is Limnopoula, where the fishermen can be seen hauling in their catch, soon to be on the griddle.
If the sound of gently lapping waves and the breeze through the olive trees become overly hushed, then fix your sights on Barocco beach bar, one of the livelier drinking holes nearby.
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 peaceful beachside hotel in Corfu and unpacked their extra virgin olive oil, a full account of their restorative break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Olivar Suites in Corfu…
Decades of tourism has somewhat ruffled Corfu’s natural elegance and poise, but the 2020 pandemic ground that footfall to a halt, giving the island in the far north west of Greece time to breathe. And this newfound focus on what’s important is reflected in the founding principles of Olivar Suites, a new breed of hotel popping up on Corfu. Slowing down, switching off and getting back to nature are important at many Mediterranean resorts, but this village-style stay right on Messonghi Beach does it with aplomb. Perhaps it’s something in the water – or the oil, more like: the hotel is on the site of a former olive grove and mill, with many ancient olive trees still in situ. You’ll see them pride of place throughout the restaurant, lobby, even your suite. Expect slick service, too, from staff who respect privacy and relaxation. Oh, and that brings us to the spa, which ties all of the above together: traditional Greek treatments using plenty of nourishing extra virgin oil. It’s enough to please any number of gods or goddesses.