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New Kalesma Mykonos luxury hotel suites, villas & restaurant set to open in June

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Kalesma Mykonos hotel & villa complex sunset view

Kalesma Mykonos hotel & villa swimming pool

Kalesma Mykonos hotel suite terrace view of Ornos Bay

 Kalesma Mykonos, seen in renderings provided by the hotel, is comprised of 25 luxury suites, 2 villas and a signature restaurant showcasing Cycladic cuisine. A collection of whitewashed houses, the newly-built property occupies a hillside location overlooking Ornos Bay on Mykonos.  

 

Inviting newcomer: A unique collection of luxury suites and villas will make a distinctive mark on the Mykonos boutique hotel scene when it opens its doors this summer.

Kalesma Mykonos will bring chic designer digs, destination dining, “private experience concierges” and a traditional Mykonian village vibe to the Ornos area when it opens on June 1.

“Inspired by Cycladic architecture, combining tradition with contemporary elements, Kalesma is a design aficionado’s dream,” according to a property description brochure provided to me by the hotel.

Aerial image of a private terrace and pool at Kalesma Mykonos Hotel

An aerial view of the pool and patio at one of the Kalesma Mykonos suites. Each of the hotel’s accommodations has its own private heated pool.

 

With its Cycladic-style whitewashed houses that spill down a slope of the Aleomandra peninsula on the southwest side of Ornos Bay, Kalesma has been built to resemble a traditional island village.  Suites, villa and common area interiors will feature sleek minimalist design details, fashioned with locally-sourced materials. Each accommodation will boast its own private heated pool — a rarity on Mykonos.

The 25 suites are 680 square feet in size and can sleep either two adults and two children, or three adults. Each unit boasts a 970-square-foot terrace, furnished with poolside lounge chairs, and offers impressive, unobstructed sea views. “All accommodation features original artwork and expansive bathrooms with freestanding bathtubs and an outdoor shower on a private patio,” the hotel’s publicity brochure notes.

“Kalesma is also home to two spectacular, earth coloured private villas, one with two bedrooms and one with three. Ideal for entertaining or family holidays, both feature an open plan living room with cosy sofas, dining area and a fully equipped kitchen with pre-stocked food and wine fridges. A personal chef is available to villa guests if they wish to organise an intimate gathering or romantic meal on their terrace. Villas also come with their own fitness rooms complete with Technogym equipment. A stay in one of these private villas combines self-contained serviced residences, with access to exceptional hotel facilities and each will have a dedicated Villa Manager on call to coordinate guests stays,” the brochure adds.

When they’re not admiring and relaxing in the beautifully-designed private and public spaces, Kalesma guests will enjoy fabulous scenic views including beautiful Ornos Bay, the Aegean Sea, and both the sunrise and sunset.

 

Kalesma is a Greek word for “inviting,” and the hotel complex and its services have been meticulously planned to foster an inviting, welcoming ambiance and provide outstanding hospitality. “The look and feel of a traditional village is deliberate, as Kalesma is all about making guests feel at home and encouraging a neighbourhood vibe, enhanced by weekly intimate dinners,” the hotel description says.

Kalesma Mykonos hotel PERE UBU restaurant

Kalesma Mykonos hotel sunset lounge fireplace

Top: The al fresco patio for PERE UBU restaurant (there’s an indoor dining room as well); bottom: the outdoor fireplace at the Aloni lounge.

 

Kalesma’s centerpiece will be its restaurant and “social hub,” PERE UBU, whose menu will spotlight Cycladic cuisine incorporating seasonal local products.  Created by the owners of the acclaimed Pere and Ubu and Sea Spice restaurants in the glam Glyfada district of Athens, Kalesma’s PERE UBU will offer “a laid-back atmosphere during the day with chilled summer music, delicious small plates and light lunches. By night, it transforms into a sophisticated eatery, serving simple, elegant dishes showcasing the local produce alongside innovative cocktails keeping guests fuelled into the early hours.”

Open to the public, PERE UBU has been conceived as a destination restaurant whose inspiring cuisine and comfortable atmosphere  will entice visitors from across the island. However, the restaurant also will host intimate weekly dinners exclusively for Kalesma’s own guests. 

 

With an open fireplace, the Aloni Sunset Lounge is another common space that is expected to become a popular gathering spot for sunset viewing over cocktails or late evening conversation and nightcaps.

Additional amenities include a private on-site chapel for wedding ceremonies, and a boutique shop offering luxury brands, accessories and local products.

Aerial view of Kalesma Mykonos hotel

Aerial view of the Kalesma Mykonos hotel property

These aerial images show how Kalesma’s hotel, villa and common-area buildings have been designed in the distinctive white architectural style of the Cyclades islands, and positioned to resemble a traditional Mykonian village 

 

As part of the Kalesma hospitality team, private experience concierges will be “on hand to help guests discover the islands hidden gems including local eateries, exclusive boutiques and picture-perfect tiny churches. They can also arrange trips to some the island’s 25 beaches – from the hottest beach clubs to wide stretches of golden sand and secluded swimming caves, known only to the hotel’s private tenders. Private yacht charters and helicopter transfers are also available upon request for those who wish to truly push the boat out and experience the island from a different perspective.”

Please click on the link below to continue reading and see more images of Kalesma Mykonos on page 2.

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Top Greece travel reads of 2019: Best articles, stories & profiles of Greek islands

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Tinos island as seen from a departing ferry

Chania harbourfront at sunset

Arkoi island ferry port

cliffs below Chora village on Folegandros island

Sarakiniko beach on Milos island

the western coast of Andros island IMG_1111

From the top: Tinos seen from a departing ferry; the Chania harbourfront at sunset; the small port pier at Arkoi; soaring cliffs beneath the whitewashed buildings of Chora village on Folegandros; rock formations at Sarakiniko beach on Milos; a mountain and beaches on the west coast of Andros. These are some of the places profiled in my favourite articles about Greek islands in 2019.

 

Magazine articles and newspaper stories about Greek Islands are the focus of this post, the latest instalment in my series of “best travel reads of 2019.”

The reports I have included in this list are the ones I liked the most last year because they me made wish I could rush right away to the island being discussed; taught me about interesting places, attractions and activities I wasn’t aware of previously; or provided thoughtful insights by exploring destinations from a unique and captivating perspective. Some are educational; some are inspirational; others are simply fascinating or fun to read.

 

Though they were published during 2019, all of the reports and profiles are worthwhile reads for anyone planning or thinking about a trip to one or more of the islands either this year or sometime in the near future.  They provide helpful practical information about intriguing things to see and do,  suggest areas to stay in or specific accommodations to consider, and offer ideas for discovering and experiencing the unique local character, history and features of each island. I have included links to the online source of the articles so readers can bookmark the ones that interest them for further reference.

The islands featured in my best articles round-up are:

♦ Amorgos, Andros,Folegandros, Ios, Kea, Milos, Paros, Santorini, Serifos, Syros and Tinos in the Cyclades;

♦ Ikaria in the eastern Aegean;

♦ Arki in the Dodecanese; and

♦ Crete

I’ve listed the articles in alphabetical order by island name so readers can easily scroll to a specific destination that interests them.

— Amorgos —

Screenshot of National Geographic article about Sister Irini on Amorgos

Screenshot of National Geographic article about Sister Irini on Amorgos

 

A highlight of our trip to Amorgos back in 2009 was a visit to the island’s best-known monument, the Chozoviotissa Monastery. Founded in the 11th Century, the whitewashed, fortress-like edifice clings to the face of a rugged cliff hundreds of meters above the sea. It is such an incredible sight, my first glimpse of the brilliant white building literally took my breath away.  I’m still so fascinated by Chozoviotissa that I get excited whenever I see photos of it on my Instagram feed, or find video views of it on YouTube.

While I’m certain we will pay it another visit next time we return to Amorgos, there’s a much newer monastery I’m equally keen to see. It didn’t exist when we travelled to the island, and I didn’t learn about it until I read Meet the tourist who became the only nun on Amorgos, a National Geographic piece published on January 17 2019. 

 

 

Written by Terri Steel, the article is an engaging story of transformation — a profile of a woman who decides to turn her life in a totally new direction while restoring a derelict church property into a lush garden “paradise” now known as Agios Georgios Valsamitis Monastery.

“She first came to the island as a young mother and wife 35 years ago; after her husband passed, she chose a new path. Her name is Sister Irini, now, and she remains Amorgos’s only nun,” Steel writes, noting that Sister Irini took her vows as a Greek Orthodox nun in 2011. 

“Seven years ago, Sister Irini began transforming a long-abandoned monastery into an oasis. Visitors come throughout the year to walk her bountiful garden lined with Byzantine frescoes, to hear her story, and to purchase her magnificent paintings of religious icons.”

Steel relates part of the sister’s story, outlines how the nun spends her days and speculates on how the “heavenly landscape” of Amorgos may have encouraged Sister Irini to pursue a simple, holy life there.

The article is illustrated with images of beautiful Amorgos sights and scenes captured by photographer Chiara Goia.

 

— Andros —

Screenshot of Conde Nast Traveller September 2019 article about Andros island

 

In 2019, prolific travel writer Rachel Howard penned two feature articles about Andros — one for Conde Nast Traveller magazine (top), the other for The Sunday Times newspaper (below).

 

Screenshot of Rachel Howard Sunday Times article about hiking on Andros island

 

Andros is a big island, and we knew we would barely scratch the surface when we spent six days there in late May of 2015, even though we split our stay between towns on opposite sides of the island. Last year, when I read two revelatory articles about Andros, it really hit home just how much we didn’t get to see or experience. I felt hugely disappointed when I realized we had missed some of the island’s best features.

Both stories were written by Rachel Howard, for different publications.

The first, Andros: Greece’s hidden hiking hotspot, was published January 27 2019 in The Sunday Times.   

Noting that Andros is a lush, mountainous isle, Howard observes that the “forested peaks are ribboned with streams and ravines careen down to wetlands teeming with wildlife. One third of it is a nature reserve, there are dozens of stone villages camouflaged in the hills and it has about 70 beaches, many of the best accessible only by boat or on foot. So it’s hardly surprising that Andros is carving out a niche as a year-round hiking destination.”

Hiking is what drew Howard to the island — she spent several days walking segments of the island’s 200-mile network of footpaths, many of which have been cleared and waymarked by the Andros Routes volunteer organization.

She describes trekking a circular route in Livadia, “a valley dotted with magnificent manor houses, where some of Greece’s most illustrious shipping families hole up for the summer,” gentler walks from the Ktima Lemonies guesthouse estate to the villages of Lamyra and Menites and to the island capital, Chora, and a 6-mile trail from the mountain village of Vourkoti to remote Achla beach. 

“Venture towards the highlands and you’ll stumble upon abandoned watermills, medieval watchtowers and cascading waterfalls. It’s easy to imagine Pan charging through the woods, but you’re more likely to meet a farmer threshing with an ox or frying sausages and potatoes in pork fat in an outdoor wood-fired oven,” Howard says.

 

Although we did some scenic walks during our own Andros visit, we didn’t get to explore any of the specific paths Howard talked about, or any of the trails marked and maintained by Andros Routes.  I’d love to get back to Andros to check some of them out, and perhaps attend one of the programs at Melisses guesthouse, located above Paleopolis Bay on the west coast of Andros.  Howard says bloggers and authors visit Melisses “to present cooking workshops and creative retreats such as illustration and travel photography, hosted by Allegra Pomilio, a glamorous Italian food stylist and a wonderful cook.” An Andros holiday with plenty of scenic walks and the opportunity to attend a creative retreat would be right up my alley.

Howard’s second article, Is this Greece’s undiscovered island? appeared in the September 2019 edition of Conde Nast Traveller magazine. Unlike the previous story, which focussed on island walks, this report is a more general overview of the island’s recent history as well as its top sights and leading attractions.

Howard notes that three Greek shipping dynasties — the Embiricos, Goulandris and Polemis families — put Andros on the map in the early 20th Century.  These wealthy families shared some of their largesse locally: They “paved the streets in marble, built imposing mansions and museums filled with billion-dollar art,” constructed the island’s first high school and hospital, and built a beautiful retirement home.

“Because the island’s shipping families used patronage as a show of power, Chora has an embarrassment of cultural riches. There’s an archaeological museum, a maritime museum, the Kaireios library with archives stretching back to the 16th century, and an open-air theatre where Pandelis Voulgaris, one of Greece’s most accomplished directors, stages the Andros International Festival, a summer-long celebration of the arts,” Howard notes.

Since  shipping was the island’s primary source of employment and income for so long, Andros didn’t have to begin  developing a local tourism industry until just a few decades ago. Tourist traffic is now picking up as more people learn of the island’s scenic hiking opportunities, and visit to see its lush natural greenery and “densely wooded hills and ravines” — features they won’t find on other islands in the Cyclades.

“Divided by four towering mountain ranges, the landscape is surprisingly varied and the weather can change around each bend. One moment it looks and feels like Tuscany, the next the Scottish Highlands. Watermills, dovecotes and watchtowers materialise in misty valleys,” Howard says. “Andros has plentiful springs and streams, waterfalls and wetlands. Every village has a communal marble washbasin fed by ice-cold mountain water. Venturing deeper into the mountains, carved fountains in village squares give way to waterfalls cascading through forests of chestnut, white poplar, oak and maple,” she adds.

If you have been to the Cyclades before but haven’t yet seen Andros, try adding it to your next island-hopping itinerary; you’ll find it’s a striking contrast from the arid brown landscapes dotted with whitewashed villages that are so characteristic of its neighbouring isles.

Please click on the link below to continue reading island profiles on page 2 of this post.

 

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Above the rest: Panoptis Escape luxury villas set to open in May on a Mykonos mountaintop

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Aerial view of Panoptis Escape villas at Elia beach on Mykonos

From their lofty aerie overlooking Elia beach, guests of the Panoptis Escape villas will enjoy unrivalled 360-degree views of Mykonos and the sea, plus both the sunrise and the sunset.

Daytime aerial view of Panoptis Escape villas on Mykonos

Sunset view of Panoptis Escape villas on Mykonos

 

Peak perfection: An exquisite new mountaintop villa retreat will be opening on Mykonos this summer, promising “pure relaxation,” “laid-back luxury,” and exceptional personalized service  along with “breathtaking sunrise to sunset sea views.”

Perched on a rocky peak high above Elia beach, Panoptis Escape is an enclave of luxuriously-appointed boutique accommodations that include honeymoon suites and 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom villas.  While the villas can be booked on an individual basis, the complex can be reserved in its entirety as well. Featuring more than 1,900 square meters of indoor space, 2,500 meters of outdoor space, 12 swimming pools and 21 bedrooms that can sleep up to 69 people (42 adults and 27 children), Panoptis will provide a perfect private getaway space for a wedding party or large group of family, friends or business associates on a corporate retreat.

 

Panoptis is the 10th and newest 5-star property in the Myconian Collection luxury hotel and villa chain, owned and operated by the Daktylidis family of Mykonos. It is scheduled to open in May.  Five other Myconian Collection hotels are clustered on the same steep mountainside at Elia — the Imperial, Royal, Villa Collection, Utopia and Avaton. Panoptis overlooks these sister properties from its enviable summit position. 

 “Panoptis” translates as “where man meets his gods,” and villa guests could well feel like they’re in heaven as they savour the scenery and serenity at their lofty lair.

Each of the accommodations include “en-suite multi bathroom facilities and luxury toiletries and amenities, separated living rooms with mini kitchenette facilities, refrigerators, wine coolers, coffee machines and electric kettles and a fully equipped kitchen.”

The property features a welcome area, lounge, open-air bar, outdoor open-air kitchen with BBQ, restaurant facilities, and a wellness studio. Guests can relax on sunbeds on the Myconian Collection’s private section of Elia beach, and have access to spa facilities. Private vehicle parking is available, while a helipad can accommodate up to three helicopters for guests who arrive by air. A staff of 20 — receptionists, bar and kitchen personnel, housekeepers and maintenance crews — work on site.

Daytime aerial view from Panoptis Escape villas on Mykonos

Daytime (above) and sunset-time views (below) from one of the private swimming pools at Panoptis Escape

Sunset view from the Panoptis Escape villas on Mykonos

 

I can only imagine the fabulous impression Panoptis will make on visitors — and how amazing it will be for them to spend their vacation relaxing amidst such sumptuous surroundings and spectacular scenery. We have thoroughly enjoyed staying in two of the Myconian Collection properties — the Ambassador at Platis Gialos (our first hotel on our very first trip to Greece), and the Imperial — so we have an idea of what the Panoptis guest experience will be like. And we’ve already seen its breathtaking views with our own eyes. During our stay at the Imperial, we climbed to the top of the mountain above the hotel, and stood near the spot where Panoptis now sits. The views were outstanding, so I feel a tad envious of the lucky guests who will enjoy them from the comfort of private pools and patios at the Panoptis.

 

Seaview patio at Panoptis Escape villas on Mykonos

A seaview patio for one of the villas

 

Open air dining room at Panoptis Escape villas on Mykonos

An open-air dining space on one of the villa patios

 

Panoptis is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and can be booked through its listing on the SLH website.

Please click on the link below to turn to page 2, where I have posted additional photos showing some of the villa interiors and outdoor spaces.

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Top Greece travel reads of 2019: Best island-hopping guides, articles and trip reports

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Cover of the May 2019 issue of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

The May 2019 edition of The Sunday Times Travel Magazine featured a special Greek Islands travel guide, replete with gorgeous photos of dreamy destinations. I tell you more about the guide on page 2 of this post.

 

Athens is amazing, mainland Greece is marvellous, and the Peloponnese peninsula is pretty darned impressive. But for many people, it’s the Greek Islands that typically come to mind when talk turns to the subject of vacations in Greece.  Indeed, if you tell someone that you’re heading to the Hellenic Republic for a holiday, they’ll probably ask which islands you’re planning to visit. 

Since island hopping draws millions of tourists to Greece each year, many of whom are first-time visitors,  there’s tremendous demand for information about where to go, how to move between places, and what to see and do.  Likewise, there is a massive amount of Greece travel material available on newsstands and on the web. A simple Google search will produce links to articles and guides galore; thousands in fact, published by major magazines, newspapers, bloggers and social media influencers. One could easily spend weeks sifting through all the self-described “best” or “ultimate” island hopping guides, along with scores of feature stories trumpeting “hidden gems,”  “undiscovered islands,” or the newest trendy “paradise.”

I read hundreds of them in 2019, but found the vast majority disappointing and a waste of valuable reading time since they lacked originality and didn’t offer much useful  information. Most were simply puff pieces full of flowery descriptions and little else. Many were so similar, I’m sure the content was cribbed from quick online searches, then hastily rewritten and repackaged with stock photography. 

But several magazine and website guides stood out because they contain what I consider to be good, practical advice to help travellers pick the islands best suited to their personal travel preferences and lifestyles, and to plan how to get where they want to go.

Also noteworthy was a small selection of fascinating stories and engaging essays in which travel writers and even some high-profile authors recounted delightful and eye-opening personal experiences while visiting multiple islands.

 

This post spotlights the guides and stories that were my personal favourite reads during 2019. They’re the magazines I keep on my bookshelf, or the blog posts and website articles I have bookmarked on my computer, to keep close at hand for easy future reference. They include:

♦ A superb, detailed guide by The Mediterranean Traveller blog that promises — and delivers — “everything you need to know” about island-hopping;

♦ An excellent 26-page guide by The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

♦ General island profiles and trip suggestions in pieces published by the travel magazines Indagare, Afar and Lonely Planet

♦ An insightful 5-part report by a travel writer for The Guardian on his personal odyssey to explore six out-of-the-way islands;

♦ Reports by writers for the Boston Globe newspaper and Travel + Leisure magazine on trips that combined enormously-popular Santorini with visits to lesser-known and much-less-busy islands in the Cyclades; 

♦ An intriguing essay from Town and Country magazine in which a prominent author reflects on his  holiday travels to Spetses, Paros, Antiparos and Crete;

♦ Two separate stories on travelling by charter yacht or sailboat in the Ionian islands, from The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and World Traveller magazine;

♦ An account of a superyacht island-hopping tour of the Greek Riviera and several islands in the Argo-Saronic Gulf; and

♦ An article profiling small cruise ships with itineraries that include stops at several Greek islands.

Though they were published last year, these reports will still provide an excellent reference resource for travel in 2020 and the next several years. Even if you don’t need them to plan your own vacation, they’re all interesting and  fun reads that will quickly put you in a blissful Greek holiday state of mind.

 

— Best island hopping guide — 

Screenshot of The Mediterranean Traveller guide to Greek island hopping

 

It’s easy to make the decision to spend a vacation on one or more islands in Greece. The hard part is figuring out how to get to and from the island(s) you want to see. Many first-timers think it will be a breeze planning their itineraries, but quickly discover that the Greek Island ferry system isn’t as straightforward as they expected. In fact, it can be a rather daunting task to plan a multi-island holiday, particularly for ferry travel in off-season or low-season periods.

However, help is just a couple of quick clicks away, thanks to a superb guide published by The Mediterranean Traveller blog on February 5, 2019.

Aptly entitled Greek Island Hopping 101 — Everything You Need To Know, it’s the most comprehensive blog post I’ve seen on the subject, packed with tons of helpful tips, advice, information and links, and presented in a format that is super-easy to read and understand.  Topics include things travellers need to consider when initially planning their trip; flights versus ferries; an explanation of how the Greek ferry system works; ferry schedules and pricing; descriptions of the different island chains; deciding where to go and when is  best to visit; organized group tours, and plenty more. 

 

 

Please turn to page 2 to continue reading about the guides and articles that may help you determine which islands to visit, or give you inspiration for future holiday destinations.

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