Touted as Greece’s best kept-secret, Halkidiki, on the country’s northern coast, is the quieter (but nonetheless just as attractive) sister to the country’s more popular and sparkling island destinations. Just three and a half hours away from the UK (take a direct flight to Thessaloniki – itself a treasure trove of untapped museums and ancient history), and by the afternoon you’ll be laying out your beach towel on an olive-tree-fringed beach.
Head to Ikos Oceania, which has just had a €27 million 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 term ‘Infinite Lifestyle’. Putting that quirk aside, it is currently creating a buzz in the travel industry due to its knack of redefining the traditional all-inclusive concept into something modern and glamorous. Gone 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 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 multi-levels, the hotel has a subtle Aegean blue and white palette, echoing the classic colours of Greece, all enhanced with stunning views over the Halkidiki peninsula. Urban-styled terrace bars, infinity pools and manicured gardens add to the luxe feel. You can get stuck into the tons of 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).
With a focus on fine dining, this is where Ikos’ ‘pre-paid luxury’ concept 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, including the 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.
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 you want to hide away, 24-hour room service is also included. A shuttle bus also takes you to local markets and towns. Seek out Nea Moudania, which in July has open-air theatre and music evenings in its amphitheatre, as part of its annual Festival of the Sea.
Ikos Oceania, Oceania Club, Nea Moudania, Halkidiki, Greece. Ikosresorts.com
Rates at Ikos Oceania start from £180/€215 per night based on two people sharing a double room on an all-inclusive basis.
This article was also published in City Am Newspaper on 19 March 2018