With its endless miles of coastline, sun-bleached ancient ruins, strong feta and even stronger ouzo, it would be hard to contest that Greece is the jewel in the Mediterranean crown. Whilst Greece is blessed with idyllic islands and long sandy beaches, the mainland has so many treasures to uncover too. Travel expert, Georgina, spent a long weekend discovering the hidden gems of this Mediterranean hot spot.
Having only planned five days in Greece, I didn’t think I would have the time to fit in seeing many of the wonderful treasures it has to offer. There is something about Greece which just slows down time and relaxes you instantly so fortunately, it felt like I was there forever. My trip took me from Crete to Halkidiki and then on to the wonderful Peloponnese, all in the space of five wonderful days.
I began in Crete, which has always been a favorite for Scott Dunn guests, and with its authentic villages, never ending olive groves and soaring mountains, you can see why. Navigating the Cretan roads couldn’t have been easier and the bonus of renting a car meant I could sight see in my own time. Arriving at Daios Cove felt like being in a scene from a James Bond film. I entered the glass lift down to reception, gawping at the most fantastic architecture which is tiered down a rocky hillside. It is a completely breath-taking place. Waking up to the view of the cove below was the most amazing feeling and each of the rooms has the same outlook so everyone is able to enjoy this luxury. The local town of Agios Nikolaos, the Minoan site of Knossos, and Spinalonga too are all wonderful sites to visit during your stay.
My second stop was the lovely Eagles Palace on the mainland, found on the Athos peninsula, one of the three ‘legs’ of Halkidiki’s Eagles Resort. Eagles Palace has a wonderful private beach which overlooks the island of Ammouliani. It has no shortage of wonderful restaurants and I can safely say the Armyra is the perfect place for a beachfront alfresco lunch where you can sample local delicacies, such as fresh squid and juicy olives, as well as try the hotel’s own olive oil which is on offer too. Try and get the table at the front so you get the best view of the beach. The fabulous brand new villas at Eagles Resort are a lovely extension to Eagles Palace and are a fantastic way to vacation in style, located only a buggy ride or a short walk away from the main facilities. The villas are designed beautifully with wonderful views out over the Aegean Sea and of Ammouliani Island. They are hugely private and not overlooked from either side as they are staggered up the mountain face.
My last stop, was the magnificent Costa Navarino. Everything from the beautiful drive up to the world renowned resort, to having lunch overlooking its wonderful gardens and golf course, or to the roofs of the little terracotta villages and not forgetting the local countryside where you can cycle around the local lagoons made me realise that this is a seriously special place to visit. There are activities and facilities for all, whether you are athletically inclined, crave fabulous food or just want to relax and take a break from the strains and stresses of life, then Costa Navarino caters to all. The beach is a short walk from the hotel and is fantastic; the water is beautifully clear and there are lots of sun loungers and umbrellas dotted along the beach to choose from and the Barbouni is such a lovely escape from the sun at lunchtime too. The beach at Costa Navarino is part of the Caretta Caretta turtle protection scheme so turtles are able to still use the beach to create nests and hatch eggs, which can be watched later on in the year towards the end of the season. If you’re looking to get out and try a local village for dinner, then I hugely recommend the village of Gialova where there are some lovely restaurants which overlook the Navarino bay and is a lovely way to do something a little different in the evening.
Boat trips and excursions are best ways to see the famous coastline, whether you are on the mainland or on one of the islands, it is always a lovely way to spend an afternoon and great for all ages. One of my highlights at Eagles Palace was speeding down the coastline, passing the grand monasteries which are dotted along the headlands of Halkidiki, from here we also meandered through the Donkey Island to end up at Ammouliani Island where we found an empty beach lapped by crystal clear water- the perfect spot to cool off in the afternoon sun! Another top tip is to hop on a bike, preferably at a cooler time of day. That way, you can properly see the local countryside, small bustling villages and also wonderful views from the top of mountains (if you have the energy to keep up that is!). Costa Navarino Outdoors also offer the most amazing selection of activities, from picnics on the beach to scuba diving on Proti Island and even E-Biking too!
Culinary experiences are another good way to get under the skin of Greece. The Greeks pride themselves on their cuisine and will go out of their way to ensure you are well fed. I was hugely spoiled during my time spent there. Who knew that the olive oil tasted so different all over the country! Being so close to the sea meant amazing fresh fish which is always a treat, the seabass at Daios Cove and the dorado at Eagles Palace were true highlights. Everything from the homemade tzatziki to the crumbling feta was sublime, especially finishing off with wonderfully crisp Greek local wine whilst watching the sky turn from pink to indigo right in front of my eyes. If you’re feeling slightly daring then I do suggest a nightcap of Mastika, a liquor made from the tree sap of the mastic tree which is only produced only in Greece!
Kids Clubs are one of the best ways for everyone to get the most out of their vacation and ideal for parents who can relax whilst the kids are in the most experienced hands possible! Scott Dunn Explorers kids club have fantastic spots for children from 4 months upwards and make sure they are kept comfortable, safe and entertained at all times. Daios Cove organizes two excursions a week outside of the hotel, either to the local aquarium and also to a nearby water park whilst Eagles Palace has a fantastic beach setup as well as a great playroom, allowing for lots of fun and games to be had in the cool shade of the trees. For older children there is the Aqua Explorers club which is available at Eagles Palace, making use of the fabulous beach and the water sports on offer. Running weekly for a few hours every day, it gives kids the opportunity to try lots of different activities on the water in a safe environment. I was luckily enough to go off sailing and enjoyed every minute!
Greece is well worth a spot on your travel bucket list and even if it is just for a little weekend break, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!