7 of the fanciest resorts in Southern Europe
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The languorous shores of Southern Europe grow in popularity with each passing year, and the thirst for Mediterranean sunshine in locales like the Costa del Sol and Crete is so intense that in travel planning terms summer now begins in May and continues right up to October. With so many new properties (and some old classics) vying for your attention, how do you separate the simply so-so from the seriously bodacious?
First it’s a matter of size: the Mediterranean in particular has no shortage of trendy boutique hotels (too small to qualify as resorts) and bland all-inclusives (too generic to warrant much interest). What you want is the right modern/traditional mix, gorgeous swimming pools, a dedicated spa area, private beach and/or effortless access to a quality beach, gourmet dining with panache and high levels of anticipatory service.
One formula that works is to pair an iconic location with a splashy new or recent build: case in point Amanzoe in Greece’s posh mainland hideaway of Porto Heli. With that in mind, here’s a short Southern European resort wish list.
Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa, Alicante
Few spots hit all the Mediterranean summer high notes like Spain’s Costa Blanca, and if you’re looking to up the glamour quotient with “a serene sense of the Far East” then make Asia Gardens Hotel & Thai Spa in Alicante your priority bolthole. This Royal Hideaway resort and member of Leading Hotels of the World flips the script on what you’d normally expect of a hotel in these parts: instead of classic Spanish and Andalusian motifs you’ll find a boldly Southeast Asian-flavoured flight of fancy complete with lush tropical gardens with 200 different species of plants and trees imported from Asia. Seven sparkling swimming pools — including the Faces of Angkor pool which looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie — and nine swanky restaurants equals a unique gastronomic odyssey with a fabulous Thai spa that will keep you in max chillax mode for as long as possible.
Price: Deluxe Botanical Garden View room starts at £230 per night for two people in October.
Hotel Cap Rocat, Mallorca
Spain’s opulent Hotel Cap Rocat may be on the petite side as far as resorts go, but its understated hedonism is hard to resist and after all, it’s the Balearic island spot where Michelle Obama stayed in summer 2017. The site of Cap Rocat is a former 19th-century Spanish army fortress with sweeping views over Palma de Mallorca Bay. Meticulously restored original stone walls and archways make this place pure architectural eye candy. There are 22 seaview suites as well as three private, rustic-chic Sentinel rooms which are carved into rock at ancient defence points — and come with their own plunge pools. The architects managed to hack a pretty sybaritic spa out of the rock too. The two gourmet restaurants, La Fortaleza and Sea Club, also use locally-sourced ingredients as much as possible.
Price: Suite Cap Rocat starts at £553 per night for two people in October.
Amanzoe, Porto Heli
Many guests arrive at Amazoe, one of the Aman Hotels & Resorts, by private helicopter — pretty flash — so that should tell you something about the clientele here. True, you don’t have be a Kardashian to stay at what is the most luxurious resort not just in Porto Heli but probably in mainland Greece, but it wouldn’t hurt because this level of luxe is guaranteed to come with a hefty price tag. But it also comes with the chance to cocoon in a range of villas or in one of the standalone luxury “Amanzoe Pavilions,” all with sea view terraces and private plunge pools. The main swimming pool is a stunner (and that’s not counting the pools that are there merely for decoration). Amanzoe is perched on a secluded hilltop with views over the sea and island of Spetses. There are also a limited number of Beach Cabanas. You can dine poolside, Japanese-style at Nama, or at the casually elegant Beach Club.
Price: Pool Pavilion room starts at £790 per night for two people in October.
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Andronis Concept Wellness Resort, Santorini
Santorini, along with Mykonos, is one of the most perennially popular Mediterranean islands and is arguably the most unique on account of its mesmerising volcanic caldera. Many hotels and resorts trade on their views out over it, but don’t offer much more of note beyond that. Enter the ravishing Andronis Concept, located not in tourist-thronged Fira or overhyped Oia but about midway between the two, in the cliffside village of Imerovigli. A sleek, appropriately minimalist style extends to each of the 28 pool suites and villas and treatments at the Kallos Spa include a starlight massage. Part of the Andronis concept is the experiential interludes like taking a catamaran run or Greek cooking class – and the resort’s caldera view restaurant, Throubi, is one of the top dining spots in Santorini.
Price: A Cosy Suite starts at £283 per night for two people in October.
Related reading: 13 exciting new hotel opening this autumn
Borgo Egnazia, Puglia
Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, Sicily
Verdura Resort, part of the Rocco Forte Hotels group, bills itself with perfect accuracy as “a stylish Sicilian escape”. The nearest town of size is Sciacca, but on this particular stretch of the southwestern Agrigento coast of mighty Sicily you’re more or less on your own (and you’ll need a car). The setting is a verdant and bucolic valley that’s pretty much all olive groves and fragrant citrus trees, except for the part that’s an 18-hole championship golf course. There’s also an infinity swimming pool, sleek spa and pristine beach. The style throughout, from private villas to restaurants with alluring names like Amare, Liola and Zagara, is resolutely modern — but for a reminder of things ancient, visit the stunning ancient Greek temples to the south at Agrigento, which you can do as a day trip.
Price: Deluxe Double or Twin starts at £282 per night for two people in October.
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