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Yesterday, in a national referendum, the people of Greece voted no to accepting the EU’s proposed (but expired) bailout offer. The future of Greece in the euro is unclear, and austerity measures are hitting the country hard. The banks are closed (due, one hopes, to reopen tomorrow), there are reports of ATMs being empty, supermarket shelves are predicted to lose stock, and worst-case-scenario warnings of hospitals running out of medicine. So, should you cancel your hotel stay?
No, says the Guardian, but take enough cash for your entire vacation.
No, says the Independent, but don’t rely on credit cards.
No, we say. But there are some important things to note:
Greece may be on the verge of dropping out of the Eurozone and facing economic collapse, but don’t let that put you off visiting!! Ok, seriously – you shouldn’t be ruling out Greek visits this summer. We know how much you love your Greek island stays and it doesn’t help Greece to give those up – have a read of this article to see how to be practical about planning.
In the meantime, here’s a bunch of HotelChatter’s greatest, Greeciest hits to give you some inspiration - call them 10 reasons to go to Greece this year. Santorini may be top of everyone’s bucket list, but there are other, more affordable islands – and Athens was just listed by Claus Sendlinger, Design Hotels founder, as one of the most exciting cities to watch (at the LEmiami show, compered by our supreme leader Juliana).
Mykonos Hotels / Boho Hotels / Wellness Hotels / Hotel Bars / Design Hotels / Greece Hotels / → All Tags
Detox. Yoga. Mindfulness. It feels like it’s only a few layabout hotels who don’t offer wellness options these days, but even by 2015’s modern monastery standards, this is something rather special: the San Giorgio Mykonos has opened an entirely separate “beach, restaurant and cultural offshoot” dedicated to al things boho.
Boho is the name of the game for the San Giorgio in the first place. It’s a member of Design Hotels, but a rustic member, with shabby chic rooms, a simple pool and restaurant overlooking the shoreline, and even a wooden platform to dive straight into the sea.
So far, so Greek island idyll. Here’s where it gets different: San Giorgio has just opened Scorpios, which they’re calling a “modern day agora” (where everyone used to hang out in Ancient Greece) specializing in “holistic beach culture”. It’s an interesting move for Mykonos, which is as well known for its sophisticated party scene as it is for its coastline. This sounds like it’s come straight to Greece from Goa – and, in fact, that’s one of the inspirations, along with Bali, Burning Man, the posh side of Ibiza and… Glastonbury.
That awkward moment when you turn up for your vacation to realize that the hotel’s still under construction. (You may need to replace “awkward” with “stuff of nightmares”.)
That was the horror faced by people who’d booked the Blue Lagoon Princess in Halkidiki, Greece, through British company Thomson Holidays. Billed as a 5“T” property under the “Platinum Lifestyle” brand, the renderings looked seriously appealing.
But when people who’d booked turned up last Monday, the official opening date, they found the hotel still looking like a building site.
Stay at Grace Santorini, help children in need
We already told you that Grace Hotels are one of our favorite Greece-based small hotel brands. But prepare to love them more – they’re the latest hotel chain to do good, by launching a charity initiative to help children at risk.
Under the Give with Grace initiative, Grace will donate $1 for every night a room is occupied in each of their hotels. That’s them playing their part – and they’ll ask you to do the same, inviting guests to contribute $1 per night of their stay. They’ll also donate money from the sale of certain food and drink items sold in the restaurants, as well as Give with Grace-branded things in the stores.
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Grecotel’s Mykonos Blu
So Greece’s new Prime Minister doesn’t want you to stay in all-inclusive hotels. And although his new Syriza government came swiftly out and reassured us that they won’t take any action against them, he still has a point. All-inclusives do nothing for the local communities they’re based in, and they do nothing for broadening the minds of their guests.
Greece, of course, is chock full of delightful independent hotels. But if you’re an all-inclusive type who’s keen to step out of your comfort zone, but not to the extent of booking a one-off place, here’s a halfway house – some of our favorite Greek hotel chains.
Alexis Tsipras, newly installed Prime Minister of Greece, wasted no time in tackling tourism issues, announcing that he hopes to ween the country off of mass tourism and all-inclusive resorts.
According to The Daily Mail, he does not support an outright ban of all-inclusives, but "wants to encourage a move away from the all-inclusive resorts back to the traditional holiday model where visitors use local bars, restaurants and attractions."
It was indeed a bold announcement, and one that is sure to split rooms down the middle. Tsipras said he thinks the resorts tend to wall-in visitors, ultimately reducing the benefits to the local economies despite their ability to draw visitors, with the financial impact is mostly kept to the owners of the property itself.
This is a complicated debate where people with different ideas about tourism and its impacts are sure to butt heads, comparing short and long-term financial and tourism outlooks.
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Does the phrase “all inclusive” make you come out in hives? Do you shudder at the idea of ugly wristbands? Does your stomach heave when imagining a “five star buffet” three times a day?
Us too. But it’s always good to challenge one’s demons and confront one’s prejudices, so we’re intrigued by the idea of Ikos Resorts, a new upmarket all-inclusive group – or “Infinite Lifestyle”, as they call it.
Ikos is kicking off in Greece, with two beachside properties opening in Halkidiki next year: the Ikos Oceania in March, and the Ikos Olivia in May. They promise to “redefine the all-inclusive experience”, keeping the good side of all-inclusive (no extra bills to pay) and jettisoning the bad part (everything else). So instead of grubby buffets and poolside rubdowns, you’ll get Michelin-starred chefs overseeing four a la carte restaurants per property. No need for rainbow-colored cocktails, either – there will even be sommeliers!
Now is a great time to be in Greece. We are writing this from the island of Patmos, where the temperature is dropping to toasty but bearable, the hordes have gone, and the hotels are still open – at least for a few more weeks.
But if going end of season feels a bit grubby, fear not – because if you go to the tiny island of Milos, there’s a new hotel waiting for you. Eiriana Luxury Suites is one of that new breed of Greek hotels – tiny (just four rooms) but perfectly formed.
It’s located in Trypiti, near the old-style windmills, and is on a hilltop so all the rooms have panoramic views (including some of the sea). The décor is very Greek with a hint of madness – traditional all white rooms, but with pops of lurid color in the drapes, cushions and bathrooms. We’re not convinced by the color tbh – nothing feels as Grecian as a pure white room – but at least they’re trying something different, and we’re not about to criticize the aesthetic of the island that brought the world the Venus de Milo. (Milos is also known as the Island of Colors, so we should probably give them a break.)
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If there’s one thing that’ll get us on a plane to Athens, it’s a designated selfie spot. We jest, of course – but the idea of a designated selfie spot was so
horrifying compelling that during an afternoon in Athens last week, we had to go and see it for ourselves.
The selfie spot is at the Grande Bretagne in Syntagma Square (Athens' main square), though to our relief, when we asked at the concierge desk where to find it, they had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. To save you the mortification of trying to explain the concept of a selfie spot to an Athenian - right there in the cradle of democracy, literature, philosophy and everything else that selfies run in the face of - just head to the rooftop bar and restaurant.
The selfie spot, it has to be said, is incredible in the flesh. Of course, an Acropolis view in Athens is no big deal - the majority of hotels have them from rooftop terraces, if not from the rooms themselves. But most Acropolis views are not like this (the only one that comes close, we reckon, is the Hilton, which is a little further out of the city center). The Grande Bretagne not only dominates the skyline around it, meaning you’re looking straight at the Parthenon, but glance to your left and you’re looking straight at the Greek Parliament, with the Evzones soldiers trooping around the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every hour.
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Ah, questionable American chains
ruining encroaching on arriving in peaceful Europe. If it’s not the Hard Rock opening in Ibiza, it’s Nikki Beach descending on Porto Heli, on the Peloponnese in Greece (two-and-a-half hours from Athens by car, or a mere 25 minute via helicopter, as they helpfully tell us).
Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Porto Heli, which opened last month, is the only seafront hotel in Porto
Hell Heli. All 66 rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows (all overlooking the Porto Heli gulf), balconies, separate showers and tubs (warning – it looks like the Luxx rooms have peekaboo bathrooms) and yummazeballs Malin & Goetz toiletries. The décor is just what you’d expect – white, white and more white, with white drapes wafting about in the Mediterranean breeze.
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Selfies. You either love them or you hate them but no matter how you feel about them, you are taking them. Just admit it. You’re taking them in the car, at the club, at concerts, at sporting events, at the playground, the beach, the rooftop bar, and even from your bed. Especially from your bed.
But at the Hotel Grand Bretagne in Athens, you’re gonna want to get out of your bed for that selfie because the hotel has a designated “Selfie Spot" on the GB Roof Garden Restaurant. The spot marked with a selfie icon is actually the best spot on the terrace to take a selfie so that you can show off your newly acquired Grecian glow with a precise view of the Acropolis in the background. For Millennials, we'll put it in terms that you can understand--The Acropolis will photobomb your selfie.
The hotel is a Luxury Collection Hotel from Starwood in Syntagma Square but rates aren't crazy out of control. We found a prepaid rate for next weekend for 278 Euros. That's for a classic room with two beds. A king bed with butler service was also available for 303 Euros. Fortunately, you can get your selfie on without booking a room as the GB Roof Garden Restaurant is open for lunch and breakfast. Now, let me take a selfie.
[Photo: SPG Greece]