Greece has always been at the top of any traveller’s bucket list. In a beautifully scenic trip, Edward Smith explores the capital and the beloved islands of Santorini and Mykonos.
Out & About In Athens
Centrally located within just a few kilometres to the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Temple of Apollo and Plaka, the Athenaeum InterContinental makes staying in Athens a breeze.
Entering the hotel, we are greeted by the ‘Blue Man’ art sculpture – a large blue glass man lit from within, holding what could be described as a break dancing pose. Throughout the hotel, you will find many interesting sculptures, as the hotel’s owners also own an extensive art collection where they display certain pieces within the hotel throughout the year.
After a swift check-in at reception, we are led to our spacious room. Once settled in, we opened the blinds to see a fantastic view of the Acropolis, which stood proudly in the distance during the day but was even more spectacular as darkness fell over the city and the monument sat glowing on top of the hill.
In the morning, we travel into the historical neighbourhood of Plaka, with its beautiful cobblestone streets, colourful houses and selection of local restaurants. We spent the morning wandering around and then decided to head back to the hotel.
Once back at the hotel, we decided to cool down by taking a swim in the 120-square meter pool surrounded by the terrace garden. After our swim, we visited i-Spa – Asian Spa, to unwind with one of their signature Asian style massages performed by highly qualified and experienced spa therapists who managed to release all the tightness and tension from the flight, followed by more unwinding in the beautifully designed steam rooms.
Once we were feeling refreshed, we ventured to the Acropolis, wandering through the ancient sites of the Parthenon, down to Dionysus Theatre, further on to the Temple of Olympian Zeus and finishing at The Arch of Hadrian.
As the sun was setting, we headed to the rooftop terrace on the 10th floor of the hotel, a spectacular way to end the day, soaking in the view of the setting sun across the city whilst gazing at the Acropolis. After a few cocktails, dinner was served inside the award-winning ‘Premiere’ restaurant.
The gastronomic adventure began with a wax-sealed envelope delivered to the table. Inside were wafer thin pieces of lavash to be eaten with the first course. The meal was a visual delight created by Chef Michalis Nourloglou, each ingredient wearing a disguise, the fettuccini was actually squid, the bone marrow was really tender lamb fillet and the dessert was part of a plant. Each course was perfectly balanced with a combination of textures and rich flavours.
Arriving from the high-speed ferry in Mykonos, we were greeted by our driver with a luxury SUV to transport us through the narrow winding roads to our private villa.
Located 15 minutes out of the town centre, our private three-bedroom villa, one of the ‘Blue Villas’ extensive collections of luxury villas, situated on the hillside was the ultimate secluded paradise. The beautifully decorated living and dining room opened out onto a vast terrace with an uninterrupted Mediterranean Sea view. Downstairs the three bedrooms were equally spacious with beautiful traditionally designed bathrooms with a modern twist.
Outside we had our own large private infinity pool surrounded by sun loungers and a huge outdoor entertaining area with an inbuilt table to seat 12, all with that incredible view of the sea.
Once we had explored the villa, we sat down with our private concierge Christie (the only Mykonos local to be a concierge on the island), who after getting to know our tastes, explained what we might prefer on the island and referred us to the best beaches and restaurants.
We ventured into Mykonos’ town centre and spent hours wandering the picturesque streets lined with the classic white houses adorned with coloured railings and beautiful flowers, stopping only to step into the quaint boutiques.
For sunset, we visited little Venice, luckily getting a seat by the water at one of the many restaurants to enjoy our delicious mixed drinks while the sky put on a show.
The following day our personal chefs visited our villa to prepare a traditional Greek breakfast for us, with plates full of tomatoes, fruit, olives, bread, eggs and an assortment of cheese all arranged for us to sit and enjoy that fantastic view once again while relaxing in our living room. The chefs explained that they could customise the menu to suit any taste and prepare lunch and dinner if we chose to stay in the villa for meals.
On our final day in Mykonos, we took one of Christie’s suggestions and headed to Scorpios, a beach club and restaurant built around a contemporary interpretation of the ancient Greek agora (market), incredibly designed with driftwood daybeds, wicker terraces and weathered stone walls all giving you the sense of being a world away from the chic white and blue colours of Mykonos. With delicious food and incredibly attentive staff, Scorpios is a relaxing escape by day and vibrant social party spot at night.
The spectacular cliffs of Santorini greeted us as we pulled into the port aboard the high-speed ferry. A nerve-wracking drive tightly winding up said cliffs while negotiating buses and cars was the start of our Santorini adventure.
Once we reached the beautiful town of Oia (cue manic photo taking!), we easily found the entrance to our hotel: Hotel Santorini Secret Suites & Spa, located on the main walkway. Luckily the staff were accommodating in carrying our luggage down all the stairs to our room as the hotel is situated on the picturesque cliffs covered in the classic white cave houses.
Our room was spacious with modern decoration featuring touches of natural wood, a comfortable sitting area at one end and a large cosy bed at the other, divided by a tall wooden feature wall. The bathroom was exceptionally huge! The gigantic jacuzzi bathtub was big enough for four or more people.
Stepping out of the room, we found ourselves on our large private terrace with a spectacular view of the caldera, fitted with a private hot tub and sun loungers. It was the perfect place to relax and watch the boats go by.
We ventured down the stairs to the hotel’s infinity pool and bar, it was stunning! We spent the day relaxing on the day beds, drinking the most delicious cocktails and swimming in the warm water enjoying the uninterrupted view of the caldera.
In the morning, we were welcomed by our made to order breakfast which we had filled out the night before and designated our delivery time – with so many incredible options on the menu, we were overwhelmed! Each treat was tastier than the last. After feasting on fresh-baked croissants, eggs benedict, local sausages, cucumber and tomato salad, fresh Greek yoghurt, fruit and a bounty of Greek treats (the best loukoumades of our trip!), we decided it was time for some exploring!
The hotel is ideally located to walk around Oia and take in those picture-perfect views. We ventured over to Imerovigli and watched the sunset from Grace Hotel’s lounge. With chilled tunes and tasty canapes, washed down with Grace’s signature cocktail, the sunset front of us, turning every shade of red and pink.
As our trip ended, it was so hard to leave; it was made even tougher because the staff at Santorini Secret were so incredibly attentive that we felt like old friends by the end of our three days. In particular, the hotel’s food and beverage manager, Manos, was there to help us with everything. He took time to explain the island to us, where to visit and where to avoid, arranged tours and restaurant bookings and even created custom cocktails for each of us.