When a hotel is taken under the wing of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux brand, you know it has a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it a one-of-a-kind stay. Tucked away on tranquil Komista Bay in the shadow of mythical Mount Athos, a UNESCO World Heritage site, this boutique bolthole is the perfect place for couples and families to unwind in stylish surroundings.
There's a cluster of just 36 swanky rooms, suites and villas, many with private pools. When you’re not topping up your tan poolside, you can head out to explore this relatively undiscovered side of Greece. Island-hop around the uninhabited Drenia isles, try the fruit of the vine in the local wineries or sample wildflower honey at a bee farm. But there are also plenty of activities in the hotel, from yoga and fitness to cooking classes and watersports. A top highlight is the exceptional cuisine; expect fine dining with finesse. Atelier restaurant serves up beautifully-plated dishes created with local and seasonal ingredients, best enjoyed with a herb-infused signature cocktail or a crisp glass of bubbles from the Champagne Bar.
We’ve scoured mainland Spain to seek out the latest blue-ribbon hotels to add to our collection, and Kempinski Hotel Bahia Estepona, on the ‘Sunshine Coast’, is one of our favourite finds. Not only is this a top pick for keen golfers – there’s a dedicated golf concierge and some of Spain’s finest courses in easy reach of the hotel – it’s also a great hangout for foodies. There’s a good choice of restaurants dishing up delicious Spanish fare such as traditional tapas and fresh fish platters.
If you’re travelling with little ones, they’ll love the Bee Kids’ club where they can paint, bake and run wild the hotel gardens, as you pull up a lounger by one of the three pools and relax with an icy cold wine. And when you’re ready for a change of scene, the glittering lights of Marbella and Puerto Banus are only a short drive away.
As the name would suggest, this glamorous five-star sanctuary delivers a sweet stay in Crete. It’s hard to know where the cast your eyes as you enter the dazzling white lobby, as you take in the emerald green velvet sofas, pops of colour and retro furnishings. The eclectic style runs throughout the resort; we love the gold-splashed lily-pad sun loungers, illuminated confetti pool and the safari-chic décor in the Panther Piano bar. There’s a mix of sleek suites and villas, all with hand-painted floor tiles and spa-inspired bathrooms, ranging from snug Sea View Bungalows to Four Bedroom Villas with direct access to the beach – ideal for multigenerational families.
The vibrant town of Rethymnon is just a short drive away, but there are plenty of distractions on-site. There’s a spa where you can enjoy a muscle-melting massage on the open-air pavilion, yoga sessions at sunrise and thrilling watersports, plus an excellent kids’ club to keep little ones entertained. Grecotel is praised for its legendary breakfast spreads, and you certainly won’t be disappointed here. There’s a veritable bounty of homemade bread, local honey, made-to-order eggs and tropical fruit. We highly recommend upgrading to the ‘Dine Club’ half board, which includes a unique culinary dining experience at a traditional Cretan farm and the option to dine at participating sister hotels throughout Crete.
Having already opened a string of successful resorts in Greece, the Ikos hotel brand has made its debut on the Spanish shores with the arrival of its latest luxury hotel. Ikos Andalusia, a sleek beachfront hideaway nestled between glitzy Marbella and historic Estepona, blows the traditional concept of an all-inclusive holiday out the water.
Included in the Infinite Lifestyle package are Michelin-star meals and local dining experiences, as well as over 300 premium wines and a unique MINI driving adventure. You could be forgiven for never wanting to leave, as alongside the vast selection of restaurants – one for every night of the week in fact – there are eight beautifully designed pools, a spa oasis and practically an A-Z of activities from aqua aerobics to Zumba. In the evening, kick back with an expertly mixed cocktail and live music in one of the stylish bars, enjoy a fabulous show or shake your tail feather till the early hours in the sultry nightclub. If you prefer your nights a little more low-key, retreat to your balcony for a private party for two – room service and a daily-replenished minibar is included in your all-inclusive stay.
The award-winning Blue Palace Resort & Spa in Crete is one of the most sought-after hotels in the Med for ultimate luxury. Overlooking the cerulean Aegean Sea and the mysterious island of Spinalonga, this white-washed contemporary resort is sculpted into the hillside, making for dreamy blue views from many of the swish rooms. We particularly love the Superior Bungalow Seaview with Private Pool, where the private terrace is the perfect place for a sunset dip after a day basking in the Cretan sun.
The private white-pebble beach is easily reached by the fun-to-ride funicular lift, where you’ll also find a handful of the resort’s best restaurants. Head to the Greek Taverna Blue Door for waterfront dining and the freshest seafood, and at Asia Deep Blue, chefs conjure up inventive Japanese dishes and sumptuous sushi. Don’t miss a trip to the Blue Palace’s magnum opus, the state-of-the-art Elounda spa, for idyllic treatments; we recommend the olive oil massage and sea salt body scrub.
‘Anassa’ translates to ‘Queen’ in ancient Greek, and it’s a worthy title for this regal retreat. Designed in the style of a whitewashed Byzantine village and hidden away on the picturesque Akamas peninsula, this world-renowned resort oozes elegance with its palatial décor, top-notch service and couples and families appeal. The Roman-style spa takes the crown as the standout feature, with a highbrow menu of holistic treatments and detox programmes; we love the Thalasso bath therapy, which focuses on the therapeutic benefits of seawater.
When you’re not enjoying ‘me time’ in the spa, you can get active on the tennis courts, take a dip in one of the beautiful pools or work your way through the cuisine in the gourmet restaurants – a romantic evening in the cosy candlelit cavern, Basiliko, is not to be missed. For a taste of local life, you can sign up for a pottery class in the village square or enjoy authentic food, live music and folk dancing at the weekly Cypriot village fair.