Halkidiki is the quieter alternative to the more popular beaches and nightlife of Mykonos, and every bit as attractive as the rugged volcanic terrain of Santorini.
Situated on the country’s northern coast, this region of Greece is just three and a half hours away from London. You can take a direct flight to Thessaloniki, itself a treasure trove of museums and ancient history. By the afternoon you’ll be laying out your beach towel on an olive tree-fringed beach.
Where? I stayed at Ikos Oceania, which has just had a €27m makeover, and is one of the new-wave of all-inclusive properties by the innovative Ikos group. Actually, Ikos doesn’t label any of its boutique-style hotels as ‘all-inclusive’ – preferring the more luxurious sounding ‘Infinite Lifestyle’ instead. Putting aside that curious affectation, Ikos is currently creating a buzz in the travel industry due to its knack of redefining the traditional all-inclusive concept into something more modern and upmarket. Out are the tired buffets, and in are restaurants overseen by Michelin-star chefs, while interiors are chic and service is five-star all the way.
The stay: The hotel boasts stylish suites and spacious rooms, some with gardens and private pools. Décor is elegant with pretty bedside chandeliers, smart velvet headboards and luxurious bedlinens. Set into the hillside on multiple levels, the hotel has a subtle Aegean blue and white palette, echoing the classic colours of Greece, all enhanced with stunning views over the jutting Halkidiki peninsula. Urban-styled terrace bars, infinity pools and manicured gardens add to the luxe feel. You can get stuck into the water-sports on offer, hire a bike to zip around on and try out a range of daily activities. For extra treats, there is a sophisticated spa, with Anne Semonin treatments on offer (which you do have to pay extra for – your ‘Infinite Lifestyle’ must know some bounds after all).
The food: With a focus on fine dining, this is where the‘pre-paid luxury’ concept that Ikos is banking on comes into its own. As well as all-day dining at Flavors restaurant, there are four à la carte options, including a choice of Asian-fusion, Italian and French, with menus designed by Michelin-starred chefs. At the all-white, glass-walled Ouzo restaurant, for instance, traditional Greek dishes are overseen by Lefteris Lazarou – the first Greek chef ever to win a Michelin star – including his signature lamb kleftiko with potato puree. It’s a sublime dish, cooked for 48 hours, and proven to be the most popular meal in the whole resort.
Ask about: The Dine Out experience, where you can opt to go to a local taverna, such as the charming Erodios, at no extra cost. Or, alternatively – if your idea of living your ‘Infinite Lifestyle’ is eating a selection of grilled meats in bed while watching Greek television – 24-hour room service is also included.
To find out more about Ikos Oceania and to book your stay visit ikosresorts.com. Rates start from £180 per night based on two people sharing a double room on an all-inclusive basis.