The Greek islands are certainly not short of natural charm, but they’ve also become something of a magnet for design-led hotels. Our very own guide to the Greek islands, from the big hitters to the under-the-radar gems, takes in the best new place to stay on each hotspot, as well as our picks for dinners, day trips and the rest. There’s more to Mykonos et al than you think...
With lunar-esque beaches and bubbling hot springs, every inch of Milos tells the story of its volcanic birth millions of years ago. The ruins of an ancient amphitheatre – where the Venus de Milo was discovered – share land with early Christian catacombs, as well as the labyrinthine capital Plaka.
It was the untouched beauty of the island that Athens native Nausika Georgiadou fell in love with ten years ago. She opened Skinopi Lodge in 2016, a secluded sanctuary for those for whom luxury means the scent of herbs and the sound of the sea. Her architects Kokkinou-Kourkoulas (who also worked on the Benaki Museum in Athens) were tasked with building in a bioclimatic way that blended with the landscape.
Inspiration was taken from the syrmata – fishermen’s huts typical of the island – in the village of Skinopi. The result is a series of single-storey lodges made from local stone that epitomise indoor/outdoor living and are barely visible from the sea.
Four more lodges will open this summer, with the same stripped-back interiors. Spaces use local materials and a grey and white palette to evoke a sense of the Cyclades, letting nature and Skinopi’s mesmeric west-facing views take centre stage. skinopi.com
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How to get there: A three-hour ferry from Athens or a one-hour, 50-minute ferry from Santorini, which has an airport with international flights.
Boat day: Bay hop around the island, stopping at Polyegos for its bright blue waters before anchoring for dinner at Kymaon Kimolos, Milos’ diminutive neighbour.
Lunch: For fresher-than-fresh octopus and squid, hit Medusa in Mandrakia — it’s so close to the sea that you can take dips between courses.
Walk around: The picturesque village of Tripiti at sunset, where Skinopi Lodge owner Nausika also has a beautiful B&B.
Seek out: The island’s geothermal springs in the sea at Adamas, Skinopi or Paliochori.
The Port of Piraeus to the south of Athens is the jumping-off point for many a Hellenic holiday come the summer months. But tell your taxi to drive on and marvel as the city’s suburbs give way to a glorious stretch of coastline known as the Athens Riviera, which unfolds all the way down to Cape Sounio.
A short drive brings you to Glyfada, a forested enclave surrounded by lavender fields on one side and sapphire-blue waters on the other. Nearby, in Vouliagmeni, a lake with natural healing powers rubs shoulders with all-day beach restaurants, making it a wonder that the Acropolis stands proudly just half an hour away.
This year, the One&Only Aesthesis will breathe new life into the Athens Riviera when it opens in Glyfada. Made up chiefly of secluded villas with their own pools, its design draws inspiration from ancient Greek elements and the mythology of the surrounding Attica area. Its use of natural stone and timber will be offset with playful, mid-century design details and plenty of woven leather, giving it more than a whiff of more glamorous Riviera days gone by. oneandonlyresorts.com/aesthesis
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How to get there:A 30-minute drive from Athens’ city centre.
Find healing: In the geothermal waters of Lake Vouliagmeni, nature’s own spa.
Beach club: Spend a day at Krabo, a boho beach spot that will take you through from lunch to cocktails.
Wine lovers: Get to know the local varieties, with an afternoon tasting localAttica grapes at Cape Sounio.
Ancient history: At sunset, make the hour-long drive to the Temple of Poseidon, which was built 2,500 years ago to honour the god of the sea.
For years, the handsome island of Syros has flown under the radar, unlike its Cycladic neighbours, meaning the marble streets and palazzos of its capital Ermoupoli (also known by former name Hermoupolis) have remained the playground of its year-round inhabitants. Hotel Aristide is set to change all this in 2022. Launched softly during the pandemic, the boutique hotel weaves together a love for design, art and sustainability in a 19th century neoclassical mansion.
Owners (and sisters) Jasmin and Oana Aristide kept any transformation to a light touch, allowing the building’s original features to sing. Inside, marble bathrooms (a different variety of stone used in each) sit alongside jewel tones and contemporary furnishings.
Its nine suites are a kaleidoscope of colour, lifted further by Tom Dixon pendant lights, Kartell Louis Ghost chairs, freestanding tubs – and, in some cases, stone-clad private plunge pools. On the roof, cocktails and Greek-grown wines are best enjoyed from the comfort of your vintage ‘Croisette’ armchair. The hotel also houses a permanent art collection with works by Igor Skaletsky and Riccardo Vecchio, as well as a gallery, which will host exhibitions by seven resident artists this year. hotelaristide.com
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How to get there: A two-hour ferry from Athens.
Take a dip: An early morning swim against a neoclassical backdrop at the ‘urban’ beach beneath the hotel is something to behold.
Grab a coffee: Part café, part art gallery, Plastico is a chic spot that bustles throughout the day.
Lunch by the sea: Bag a table at beachfront Iliovasilema for a modern riff on Greek food.
Cocktail hour: Walk up to medieval hilltop settlement Ano Syros and head for Theosis, a tiny bar serving up Cycladic-inspired cocktails.
Fine dining: Seafood lovers will adore Mazi, a restaurant in the bougainvillaea-covered ruins of an old Venetian pottery factory in Ermoupoli.
Low-key Antiparos, the island which enchanted Lord Byron in the 19th century and hippies in the 1970s, is becoming a firm favourite with the style set. The island’s chicest new place to stay is The Rooster, which opened in June 2021. A temple to slow living, the hotel is the passion project of Athanasia Comninos, an accidental hotelier who fell in love with Antiparos while on holiday.
Over the course of several years, Comninos has shaped a holistic wellbeing retreat on the wilder west side of the island at Livadia Beach. The Rooster’s 16 standalone houses are a love letter to Antiparos – its rustic character and the charming dry-stone walls that criss-cross its open fields – and blend gracefully into the landscape.
Each of the laid-back, rough-luxe dwellings has its own freshwater pool and is decorated with driftwood beds, Balinese fans, Ikat cushions and luxurious marble details. Days are spent floating from your sundeck to the restaurant for wholesome dishes (from The Rooster’s own smallholding) and the House of Healing, its spa, for a spot of relaxation and rejuvenation. Afterwards, perch at the wooden bar for sundowners, before heading to an intimate dinner in the Secret Garden. theroosterantiparos.com
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How to get there: A seven-minute boat ride from Paros, where you can connect to Athens by plane or ferry.
Beach club vibes: Nestled on the postcard-perfect cove of Apantima, Beach House is an all-day hangout with a Greece-focused wine list.
Taverna lunch: Go to Captain Pipinos for a deliciously no-frills lunch right by the water.
Day trip: Head to Paros for a walk around its capital Naoussa’s harbour front and prawn skewers at Mario.
Dinner in town: Family-run Taverna Klimataria feels timeless with a bougainvillaea-strewn courtyard that’s lit up at night.
Mykonos has been seducing bright young things since the 1950s and 60s, when Jackie O and Brigitte Bardot were devotees of the windswept Cycladic isle. These days, the beautiful people still come in their droves but the island is no less lovely for being more discovered – if you know where to look. Delos casts a glow over the western coast, rugged hills give way to sweeping empty beaches and no-frills taverna shide quietly under the shade of trees.
Not far from Mykonos Town, where it’s still a joy to stop for your morning coffee and wind your way through the narrow streets, you’ll find Bill & Coo’s three new villas. Inspired by the traditional cubic architecture of the island, they have been designed by Athens-based studio Divercity to make the most of the Cyclades’ magical light. Sharp white lines, local stone and sun-bleached woods sit back to let the views of the Aegean do the talking.
As well as lording it up in your private villa, you can make use of Bill & Coo’s dazzling infinity pool (by the original suites) and its adults-only coastal retreat at Agios Ioannis beach nearby. The dreamy cabanas are just the place to sleep off late nights, before feasting on mezze and kobe beef gyros at its beach bar. bill-coo-hotel.com
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How to get there: A three-hour, 45-minute direct flight from London.
Soak in: Ancient spirituality on the next-door island of Delos, the mythical birthplace
of Apollo and Artemis.
Lunch: Go to Kiki’s Tavern, where everyone queues for its grilled octopus and Greek salad – no matter how famous they are.
Hop over to: The neighbouring island of Tinos by boat for lunch at To Thalassaki.
Score an invite: To Scorpios, Soho House’s beach club, for hazy rosé days that blend into mezcal margarita nights.
You might think you know Santorini, until you visit off-season. It’s a place of superlative views where whitewashed villages tumble over a magnificent caldera, violently shaped from a volcanic blast millions of years ago. But when the island shrugs off its hordes of tourists, its true self reemerges. There is wine to be tasted at its multitude of vineyards (some of the oldest in Greece), hiking trails reveal themselves and pretty medieval hilltop towns beg to be explored.
The Grace Hotel has one of the best perches on the caldera, spilling down two sheer hillsides at Imerovigli, as well as the island’s largest infinity pool. The 14 accommodations (rooms, suites and a villa) are hewn out of local white stone, inspired by the traditional cave-like houses that were designed to protect Santorini’s inhabitants from the scorching sun.
Walls are peppered with the black and white photography of Yiorgos Kordakis – hover over an image with the hotel’s new app, ARt by Grace, to unlock video footage narrated by Yiorgos at its location, immersing you in the raw, untold beauty of Santorini. And, new for 2022, Athens institution Varoulko Seaside will be popping up at the Grace Hotel, Michelin star in tow. aubergeresorts.com/gracehotel
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How to get there: A four-hour direct flight from London.
Swim: Descend the steps beneath Oia and head to the church Agios Nikolaos o Peramataris, marooned on its own island in the caldera.
A sense of history: Hire a guide to take you around Akrotiri, the Pompeii of the Cyclades, which was perfectly preserved by a volcanic eruption 3,600 years ago.
Wine tasting: Drink under the pergolas at Domaine Sigalas, one of the island’s venerated vineyards on the northern tip of the island near Oia.
Dinner: Book into Selene, one of the island’s gastronomic landmarks that’s set in an old monastery in Thira.