Amanzoe the Porto Heli Collection is the youngest hotel in the chain and the company’s third on European soil – the importance of which goes without saying.We arrived by Flying Cat from the port town of Ermioni in the north-eastern Peloponnese and from there drove for a quarter of an hour to Aghios Panteleimons Kranidiou, above the beach of Korakias, just a few kilometres outside the seaside town of Porto Heli. Amanzoe was waiting for us at the top of a hill with a panoramic view that takes your breath away and confirms the cliché that we are living in the most beautiful country in the world.
A stone gateway leads to a stately mansion inspired by Ancient Greece and designed by internationally acclaimed Aman architect Ed Tuttle, whose resume includes, among other jewels, the famed Amanpuri hotel in Phuket. Though the whole “Ancient Greek” thing may ring somewhat kitschy to some ears, it is not a word that comes to mind even once.
A young woman bearing a slaver of moist, cool towels greeted us in the grandiose marble lobby, giving us the best possible welcome to the Aman world. We climbed a few stairs and found ourselves in an open-air courtyard with a large reflection pool that overlooks the sea. The hotel’s main buildings and its pavilions, complexes comprising 38 stunning suites, are arranged around this central space, in a way the heart of the resort. The swimming pool is flanked on one side by a library, gallery and boutique, and on the other by an impressive 2,000 square metre (!) spa and one of the hotel’s restaurants. The pool then leads to the lounge bar, an amazing half-indoors, half-outdoors space strewn with comfortable sofas, armchairs and recliners, and offering an incredible view of the surrounding countryside.
We could wax lyrical about the location, the spa (Aman is renowned for its amazing spas) – which features pioneering treatments and eight double pavilions, each equipped with its own steam room and relaxation area – the impressive swimming pool near the second restaurant or the private beach club on the pretty, pebbled and isolated stretch of Korakias. But the resort’s greatest asset is the suites themselves.
They are arranged on different levels around the main building in order to ensure as much privacy as possible and optimum views. Marble, stone and wood compose a magical setting. Each suite is around 100 square metres and comes with a fireplace, a living room and a huge bathroom includes not just two toilettes but two dressing areas as well. All of the suites look out over a stunning, 100-square-metre flag-stoned veranda, as well as a pergola and private swimming pool, whose size – 6 or 12 metres – depends on the category of the suite.
A great hotel, however, is not defined by its structures and facilities but by the quality and range of its services. When a hotel has just 38 suites – for the time being – and seven villas (the plots can be purchased and the villas built to the proprietor’s specifications; the villas can also be rented) and a staff of 190, the service is just as good as you’d expect.
So, is everything perfect at Amanzoe the Porto Heli Collection? No, though I must admit that the overall experience came pretty close. If there is one thing to criticise, it is the choice to sacrifice proximity to the beach in favour of the view – you need a car or a sporting spirit to make the 30-45 minute hike down to the beach through a pine forest. Furthermore, while the quality of the food is quite satisfactory and an effort is being made to bring in local products and suppliers, I expected more from a resort of this stature. That said, there are a couple of things we need to remember. First that Aman Resorts the world over tend to put less emphasis on the food & beverage department (something I consider a mistake even though it is not up to me to say) and second, and most importantly, that Amanzoe is still in its early days of operation – after opening very discreetly last August – and that talking to the people there I am convinced the food and drink issue will improve with time.
Amanzoe has already succeeded in bringing a very high calibre of visitor to the area (after all the suites cost between €1,100 to €1,500 and the villas from €6,000 to €10,000 per day!), who appreciate the international brand, the privacy they are afforded but also the stunningly beautiful location. What is certain is that Greece needs more initiatives of this kind if it wants to reach out to a more discerning type of tourist – we have the locations in abundance and have managed not to destroy them.
We returned after 36 hours at the resort replete with experiences, ideas and the feeling that good things are happening in Greece, even today. We returned by car and in two-and-a-half hours (one of which was quite arduous over windy roads) arrived in Athens. And one more thing, before you reject Amanzoe as being way out of reach, remember how many hotels there are in Greece offering much less and charging more for their suites.
In closing my tour of what could be described as the leading resort in Greece right now, I must share some more information:
· The whole area around Amanzoe is stunning. One morning we took a tour in one of Amanzoe’s yachts, which but the way, is the first Wally to have circulated in the world! We sailed around for about two hours at speeds of 35-40 knots gawking at the mind-boggling villas.
· It’s not really my or FnL’s style to drop names but let me tell you, the broader area of Porto Heli is a European hot spot!
· Amanzoe was built on an investment by Dolphin Capitals, an international, Greek-Cypriot-managed fund that is listed on the London stock exchange. So far, Amanzoe has cost some 100 million euros and more projects are in the pipeline for Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the world. At the moment, the one drawing the most interest is a project at Nikki Beach, in combination with one of the first Nikki Beach Hotels! But more on this another time.
· Aman Resorts was founded by Adrian Zecha, who envisioned a collection of havens that offered privacy at locations of unique beauty, along with the discreet and warm hospitality of a grand private residence. The first resort, Amanpuri (“place of peace”) in Phuket in Thailand, introduced this concept and since then, Aman Resorts has grown into a chain of 25 resorts in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, France, Indonesia, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Turks & Caicos Islands and the U.S.A.
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