22 June 2017
Overlooking the Aegean and surrounded by undulating olive groves, the hilltop acropolis of Amanzoe is a true delight on the Greek Peloponnese. Steeped in the mystique and beauty of Ancient Greece, it is the perfect base from which to peel back the layers of the region’s rich history or simply indulge on a Mediterranean retreat. Luxury travel expert, Jules Maury, discovers the resort on an odyssey of her very own.
A long weekend without the ‘long’ seemed a bit ambitious to experience the mystical Amanzoe. Yet with a window of time to spare, and an early Friday morning BA flight, we managed to squeeze in a weekend to discover this Peloponnesian gem. And what a discovery it was. Aman has always surprised and delighted, but Amanzoe is truly blessed thanks to its location in not only one of the most beautiful parts of Greece, but also one of the most historical and cultural. Ancient Greece takes on a different dimension as you envisage the fabled stories of Sparta, Troy and Helen being acted out on the doorstep of this stunning hotel.
We picked up the car with great ease and set off on the main highway for the first 100 kilometres. Coming off the motorway, we stopped for a late lunch at Kavos in Ermioni. Well known with the locals for its delicious fresh fish and seafood, we tucked into grilled fish, prawns, clams and a wonderful salad by the sea, all washed down with a carafe of local white wine. Well worth the stop and perfect to break up the two and a half hour journey without deviating off the main road more than a minute or so. The drive onwards was so pretty, winding through the hills and arriving at Amanzoe as the afternoon sun bathed the whole hillside in a golden light. Our Pool Pavilion overlooked the sea in the distance and the undulating olive groves and verdant flowers of the resort. A spacious terrace and pool flanked the beautiful room and the massive bathroom featured a sunken bath designed for two.
All I wanted to do was stay in our pavilion and watch the sun go down but we had been tipped off that the sunset from the main deck was quite spectacular so we tottered up close to eight and were immediately stunned into a near silence. Sipping our cocktails, we sat watching the golden orb of light paint the sky with a myriad of colours before finally sinking into Homer’s wine-dark sea. I have seen many sunsets across the world, from Africa to New Zealand to the Maldives and yet this was simply sublime. The light defies my verbal arabesque. It bathes the marble and stone architecture in a pink blush, a view that simply has to be experienced first-hand. Long legs is not one to wax lyrical about views and he simply sat and drank it in, mesmerised.
Taking in such a wonderful scene, serenaded by local musicians playing Greek music in the background, we wandered onto the terrace of the main restaurant overlooking the same splendid view. Heaters warmed the cooling evening air and the scent of lavender filled the air. Before the sky turned purple and gave way to thousands of stars, we were treated to a moving artist’s palette comprising every colour of the rainbow. This accompanied some wonderful contemporary Greek dishes and again the delicious local wine. Service was delivered with a smile and each dish of fresh seafood, cheese, and local meats, for the carnivores, was garden to table. As I finally reached for a pashmina, I could not believe we were here in May with such glorious weather, which only turned chilly as night fell.
As we walked through the floodlit grounds to work off dinner, we marvelled at the nooks and crannies which all seemed to hold a secret to discover. We strolled up to the Pool Restaurant that serves Asian fusion cuisine for dinner and after looking at the menu, we promised to return on the morrow as the fish looked so delicious. The setting overlooking the floodlit pool, lined with Cypress and Olive trees was so serene and peaceful that we had a coffee by the inviting fire pit sitting under a sky simply bursting with stars. I still cannot decide whether Amanzoe is more beautiful at night or by day – the dusk and sunset was as spectacular as the bright morning light flooding the lavender banks and olive trees with amazing clarity.
After a dreamless sleep we dined on homemade Greek yogurt with honey from their beehives (a tour to the farm and beehives is a must-visit) overlooking a limpid sea which merged into an azure sky. Breakfast was such a treat with so many options and delicious delicacies so I will not spoil it for you by giving anything away! Having decided we would bask by the pool on our final day, we took the bikes from reception and biked down the tiny road towards the Beach Club.
Barely 10 minutes of downhill pedalling- including stopping for photos every two minutes- through the fabulous scenery, including the local farm, brought us to the Amanzoe Beach Club. Four pools, the Beach Restaurant and Beach Bar, a stretch of sand and a selection of water sports awaited us. Having been set up on our loungers overlooking the sea, someone was constantly by our side offering water, cold towels, anything we needed. The lunch menu was full of Greek delicacies and fresh fish along with the most delicious and relatively inexpensive pizzas cooked in their pizza oven served with garden fresh salads. Luckily, as the day drew to a close, I had a chance to see one of the Beach Cabanas, perfect for guests or families wishing to have direct access to the beach. As the afternoon dwindled, we asked for a car and a few minutes later we were whisked up the hill back to our wonderful Pool Pavilion. Thankfully I have to add, as my mountain biking skills would not have run to the uphill journey through the olive groves, pines and hillsides that stretched in every direction.
On our way back to the main hotel you could not fail to see their beautiful private villas which are available for larger families. Visiting two the next day took my breath away, both with the décor and incredible views. They are perfect for a longer stay as you would hardly have to move from the poolside, save to wander down to the beach from time to time.
Sadly, we did not have time to contemplate taking a boat trip around the neighbouring islands of Spetses and Hydra on one of their two motor launches. Nor did we have a chance to visit so many of the historical and cultural sites that they include in half and full day tours. Nor do the farm tour. Nor play tennis by floodlight or try out the spa and state of the art gym. Just imagine morning yoga from the spectacular pavilion with views over the surrounding hills. Along with the days on the water, you can take out the Hobby Cats or snorkel in the bay. Plan a picnic in the surrounding hills or tiny coves or savour deliciously fresh seafood at Savouras in Nafplio Port. Visit Porto Heli and take the ferry over to Spetses for lunch at Tarsanas Fish Tavern or Hydra for a day trip. So much to do and so much to see but we were loath to tear ourselves away from the beauty and peace of Amanzoe for even a moment.
Luckily, we did have time to dine in the wonderful on site Asian restaurant before settling down with our last drink beside our private heated pool, which was welcomed in the chilly night air. Watching the crescent moon rise over the sea embraced by a brilliant Milky Way was a perfect end to a perfect day.
Leaving after a leisurely lunch at 3.30 on Sunday, we wound our way through the hills back to Athens and boarded our flight home. It was truly so sad to leave such a beautiful place that completely embraces the soul and architecture of Ancient Greece. I vowed to return with the knowledge that it’s no longer all about Helen.