Be welcomed as family into the home of Karl and Hannah at Yayaki Spetses, a sophisticated meat-free bed and breakfast on the exclusive Greek island of Spetses. The word Ya-Ya is Greek for grandmother, imbuing the sense of homey hospitality that you’ll feel from the moment you arrive. Spend your morning casually lapping the pool or taking a yoga class, slipping into an afternoon siesta, and then discussing personalised recommendations for dinner over an afternoon cocktail. Spetses’ first and only exclusively plant-based hotel is a tonic for the mind and body.
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Welcome drink each and a bottle of wine; guests staying in suites get a fruit platter too
Check-in is from 3pm, check-out is at 12 noon. Requests outside of these times will be accommodated if possible, and luggage can be held.
Double rooms from £118.87 (€140), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include a choice of freshly prepared vegetarian or vegan breakfasts, served on the poolside terrace or delivered to the suites.
Renowned Lyonnais interior-design duo Stéphane Garotin and Pierre Emmanuel Martin of Maison Hand are responsible for the interiors, which add Gallic cues to the local Greek style. It’s a nod to the years that proprietors Hannah and Karl spent living in Paris before moving to Spetses and opening the hotel in 2021.
The hotel is closed over winter, from November to March.
At the hotel
Yoga studio and gym, terrace bar, lobby lounge with bar and small shop selling local treats. In rooms: Free WiFi, air-conditioning, workspace, tea- and coffee-making facilities, minibar.
Our favourite rooms
The Panorama Suite boasts an outdoor shower and 180-degree views that stretch from the hotel’s pool, across Spetses town, and out to the mountains and sea beyond. If you’re a digital nomad, this veranda could become a fantasy workspace.
Ensconced within a whitewashed courtyard and with vivacious pink bougainvillaea flowing behind, Yayaki’s bright lap pool was contrived for cooling dips in the midday sun. Eight sunloungers are spread around a wooden deck, and the fact that even the pool itself is closed for an afternoon siesta tells you how seriously leisure is taken here. Naturally, there’s an abundance of nearby beaches too. The pebbled Paralia Agios Mamas beach is a five-minute walk through town and has a lifeguard; the private Paradise Beach is slightly further afield but has sunloungers, watersports and a seafood restaurant and bar.
Don’t forget your yoga leggings – Yayaki has a fully-equipped yoga, Pilates and meditation studio, and classes move poolside when the sun is shining.
Proprietors Karl and Hannah pride their local knowledge and will act as your personal concierge throughout your stay.
Children are welcome and babysitting can be arranged. Two Balcony Rooms interconnect and kids are welcome to play in the pool, but given its proximity to the rooms, it closes from 2-5pm daily for siesta.
Proprietors Karl and Hannah are passionate about raising awareness of sustainable eating, and Yayaki Spetses is the first meat-free hotel on the island. All of the plant-based ingredients are organic, and are sourced locally from farmers on the island. The gardens surrounding the terrace and pool grow tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, kumquats, papayas and olives, which are used in the breakfasts and pool snacks.
Yayaki Spetses observes siesta religiously, which is an indication that you can wear whatever feels right.
A lovingly homemade breakfast is served under the shaded pergola daily on Yayaki Spetses’ outdoor terrace, filled with fresh local fruits and vegetables sourced from producers on the island and the hotel’s own garden. The breakfast menu was developed in conjunction with Esco, founder of Athenian plant-based restaurant the Plant Kingdom. There is a traditional vegetarian or a vegan option, and guests can add eggs, cake or a cheese plate to their order. And, if you give the owners a nudge, they'll pack you a picnic too.
The garden terrace turns bar in the afternoon, and proprietor Karl becomes bartender, serving a selection of plant-based poolside snacks and drinks. Don’t miss his late afternoon cocktail hour, a clever pick-me-up before you venture into town for dinner.
Breakfast runs from 8am to 10am.
The homemade organic or vegan breakfast can be served to guests in the suites.
Yayaki Spetses sits on the minute Saronic island of Spetses, burrowed deep within its homonymous town, the only one of any discernible size on the island.
The majority of visitors fly into Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, and take a 40-minute cab ride to Athens’ Piraeus Harbour, from where the Hellenic Seaway ferry to Spetses takes around two-and-a-half hours. Transfers can be booked from €220 one-way for two guests.
Athens’ Piraeus Harbour and its Spetses-bound ferry is technically connected to Europe’s train network via Belgrade, but only the committed would attempt it.
Travellers with a hire car on the mainland can park in Kosta, three hours’ drive from Athens, and take a 10-minute water taxi across the channel. Spetses town is blissfully car-free, and only residents can bring them onto the island. The hotel is a 15-minute stroll from the ferry terminal, and transfers are available on its charming Piaggio Ape tuk-tuk.
The Yayaki team can arrange a 15-minute helicopter transfer direct from Athens airport to the Spetses helipad, with a transfer to the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Spetses hits a little different to many of the Greek islands. Frequented in peak summer by well-heeled Athenians on city breaks, the island is a softer, more intimate alternative to nearby Hydra. Life moves markedly slower – cars are banned in Spetses town and even if you had one, there’s nowhere on the island that isn’t better accessed by a rented e-bike. Seafront Spetses town is noted for its restaurant scene and Florentine-era buildings and is seemingly shaped for post-siesta ambles – start at the Old Harbour and see where the mood takes you. The Bouboulina Museum and Spetses Museum are both housed in historic mansions, and the former’s wood-carved Florentine ceiling is remarkable. Summon the energy for the gentle hike to the Spetses Church of Panagia Armata, which was built in 1824 to commemorate the unlikely defeat of the Ottoman naval fleet by Spetsiote commander Ioannis Koutsis in 1822, and sits hilltop above the Old Harbour. It is one of the best spots to watch the sunset. There is but a single road on Spetses and it makes a 24-kilometre circumnavigation of the island. Hire a bicycle (committed), e-bike (sensible) or motor scooter (speed demon) and spend a day hunting views across the Saronic Gulf and chancing swims at hidden beaches. Arid scrub and pine trees meld to silky sands at the remote Agia Paraskevi Beach on the western coast, or swim through a cave to access a tiny subterranean beach at Bekiri Cave.
Yayaki Spetses is handily perched a short walk from Spetses town’s buzzing restaurant scene, so seeking out a nosh-up is far from a chore. Seafood restaurants are plentiful, but the second-generation family run Tarsanas sets itself apart by having its own fleet of fishing boats, which supply the restaurant ahead of even the town’s fish market. Select your fish from the display cabinet, tell the chef how you’d like it prepared, and relax. Mourayo may claim to offer wedding parties the best DJ in all of Greece, but don’t let that put you off. Housed harbourside in a one-time pirate warehouse, the meat-leaning menu combines Greek recipes with wider Mediterranean flavours. Patralis Restaurant claims to be the oldest tavern on Spetses (opened in 1935) and is still run by the son and grandchildren of the founder, Barba Panos. Fresh seafood, crisp white wines and that Saronic Gulf backdrop – some things never need change.
Meet at the Dapia’s cannons for a morning coffee while watching the comings and goings of the harbour at Roussos Café. Sweet tooths will rush to Tiramisu Sweets and Coffee, which does its namesake spectacularly well, as well as fluffy cloud eggs for brunch.
Spetses is known for its nightlife, and conveniently, the majority of bars and restaurants are concentrated within an easy walk of the town’s waterfront. The best cocktails on the island are reputedly found at The Palms Bar, on the promenade at the epochal Poseidonion Grand Hotel. This year the mixology team from Athens’ ‘Mr.Fox: The Bar’ are holding residency. However, Mr Smith suggests Bikini for multiple reasons, not least that the Dragon Fire – tequila, mezcal, lime juice, prickly pear, agave and ginger syrup – paired with a tasting menu stretching from coffee cold-smoked tuna tartare to bao buns, is thoroughly charming.
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 energising hotel on Spetses and have unpacked their yoga tights and baoding stress balls, a full account of their meditative break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Yayaki on Spetses…
I won’t claim to be an experienced traveller, but one thing I’ve gleaned over the years is that fastest isn’t usually better. Yes, you can see more, but is it better?
I did the Greek islands in my 20s the way that everyone does – land on Mykonos on a Friday morning via a cheap and deeply uncomfortable flight, party for the subsequent 48 hours, and then back home on Sunday night, completely shattered at work on Monday morning.
This time we did less, but it felt like more.
We flew to Athens and collected a hire car, and made the sinuous drive across rocky, arid land and around the Saronic Gulf to Kosta. Google said it would take a little under three hours but we stretched it to five – when the hairpin bends of the clifftop road frame the Saronic Islands like paintings in a gallery, only a maniac wouldn’t stop to take it in. We left the car in secure parking in Kosta and caught the ferry to Spetses Town, just 15 minutes across the strait.
Proprietor Karl met us at the terminal on the Yayaki Piaggio Ape, and the three of us loaded up for the five-minute hop back to the hotel.
The ride was just long enough for Karl to tell his story, one which bears more than a slight resemblance to a rom-com plot. He met his now wife, Hannah, at hospitality school in Switzerland, and after taxing early careers in London and then Paris and with two small children, the couple bought a rundown Spetsioti home and renovated it into a small boutique hotel. They’d been holidaying regularly on the island since 2003 and even got married here.
There are no cars permitted in Spetses town and that’s just as well, because there’s no way they’d fit. After departing the harbour, we wind through labyrinthine alleys past homes and shops and small garden plots of tomatoes and cucumbers, the little two-stroke Piaggio zinging with the same glee as its driver. The teetering Ape almost scrapes its mirrors on the walls at times, and we arrive at Yayaki Spetses.
As soon as you walk through the heavy wooden doors into the whitewashed courtyard and breathe the sweet scent of bougainvillaea in full flower, you can feel your big-city stresses flow right away. With no traffic nearby and being far enough away from the main restaurant strip, it is peaceful inside.
Check-in takes longer than we expected, but only because we’re drawn into a deep conversation with Karl and Hannah about their passion for the island. Karl offers to take us on a tour of Spetses town and to show us where we must eat and drink, so back on the Ape we hop.
It’s patently clear that this isn’t a job for the courageous couple. They have poured their heart and soul into Yayaki and are clearly stirred by their guest’s happiness, far more than the reward that a simple night’s lodging brings.
In stark contrast to our Greek island trips of old, we really don’t do much at all. We rigorously observe siesta, the most physical exertion we achieve is a yoga class and the most mentally taxing task is choosing a restaurant each night.