A jewel in the Grecian crown, Divani Apollon Palace and Thalasso is the most relaxing beach resort you could ever hope to visit. The requirements are simple: light clothes and a generous playlist. This is where time stands still in picturesque perfection
By: Niyoshi Shah
Posted on: December 7, 2017
LF Says: ★★★.5
While Europe’s luxury destinations play a long-haul game, striving to maintain the perception of fanciful exclusivity, the Greek capital of Athens remains unmatched, even in the midst of a nationwide economic meltdown. A romantic oasis of culture steeped in the bluest of sparkling seas, basking under the brightest Mediterranean sun, Athens is a city that emulates an immortal tale of legendary mythology. The city coastline is decked with a string of beaches, which begins in Pireaus, known as The Apollo Coast. The further you go, more scenic beaches beckon. Situated in Vouliagmeni, overlooking the sandy beach of Kavouri, the majestic Divani Apollon Palace and Thalasso made for a refreshing spectacle as soon as I laid my eyes on it.
The Divani Apollon hotel chain (with seven properties in Greece), is a family-run empire that has systematically avoided suffering the consequences of brand dilution as many European hotels have. It brought home a definitive conclusion that traditional hospitality enhances any luxury experience in the most enduring way. And the Grecian hospitality was a defining characteristic, deeply felt, no matter where I went.
Blending time-honoured heritage with contemporary sophistication, the palatial building was constructed in 1966. It has been sensitively renovated in the past few years to create an ultra-luxurious hotel with the ambience of a stylish Greek residence. Located at the “Beverly Hills of Athens”, it provided me with a tranquil spot away from the bustle of the city. Combined with the most luxurious Thalassotherapy center in Europe, it made my nine hour flight lethargy vanish within seconds!
At first glance
The hotel features 330 rooms, including seven corner suites with sweeping sea-views and one presidential suite. Recreation provisions include four restaurants, water sports, tennis, golf and a world class Spa & Thalassotherapy Centre. The hotel is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World and awarded with the Five Star Diamond Award, making it a must-visit for fervent sun-seekers like me.
I savoured the updated mid-century modern style room designed in a soft neutral palette, featuring classic wooden furniture and modern technology with free high-speed WiFi Internet access everywhere. The superior rooms offered a tasteful veranda overlooking the pool, along with an extra-deep soaking tub for two.
On my first night I dined at their in-house restaurant, Mythos by Divani, which offers authentic Mediterranean cuisine coupled with a spectacular view of the Kavouri Bay. For hearty gourmet lovers the Mousse mastiha, Greek salad with rock samphire and Hot galaktoboureko (custard-filled phyllo rolls) are a must-try. I also enjoyed delectable tea and cocktails on the outdoor veranda of Atlantis Lounge.
After spending a quiet afternoon admiring the majestic Aegan sea, I hit the direct-access private beach where I was able to relax under an umbrella. Adrenaline junkies - try sailing, snorkelling or jet skiing – which is offered by the hotel.
A mid-morning visit to the magnificent Acropolis was preceded by a museum tour organised by the ingenious team of MidEast Travels. Feeding my insatiable appetite for art, the modernist museum at the foot of the Acropolis' southern slope showcased all of its priceless treasures still in Greek possession. While the assemblage covered the Archaic and Roman periods, the emphasis was on the apotheosis of Greece's artistic achievements. With its vast glass walls and sublime interiors, the museum brought home a true feeling of vitality. The crowning glory was the top-floor Parthenon Gallery, a glass atrium that housed the temple's 160m-long frieze.
My day’s expedition ended with an appetising meal at the Divani Caravel Hotel, located in the heart of Athens. Apart from the elegant rooms and sumptuous suites at the property, I was most enchanted by their grand ballroom called The Olympia (600 sq. meters), perfect for corporate conferences and wedding receptions. I had a delicious meal at the Constantinople Café, which offers distinct Greek delicacies like Spinach Pie, Mini Savarins, Spicy shrimps with ouzo and aniseed, Lamb chops with rosemary, Traditional tzatziki and Vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs to name a few. My favourite was the Fava with olive oil and fresh onion and the Stuffed tomatoes and peppers.
Divani Caravel’s house bar, Brown's Bar, evoked a convivial atmosphere with a roaring fire at one end and a wooden bar running along the other end. Inspired by the atmosphere of a drawing room and the sophistication of a gentleman’s club, it features a collection of cosy velvet armchairs and shelves filled with antique books, a perfect setting to enjoy a strong cup of cappuccino.
A stroll down PLAKA
During my last evening, I chose to take a walk down Athen’s oldest residential quarter – I was promised a view that would make a millennial insta girl swoon. Built into the hillside below the Acropolis, Plaka undeniably lived upto it’s extravagant hype. Retaining a quaint village atmosphere, despite the hordes of tourists, its cobbled streets were lined with pastel-hued picture perfect neo-classical mansions, small hotels, souvenir shops and bustling tavernas. It was like a quaint village within the city, a must-do for those who don't have the time to visit the Greek Islands
With pretty consistent warm temperatures and a reasonably painless flight time, Greece makes for an ideal destination for long weekenders and all-year summer holiday seekers alike.
LF Says: ★★★.5
Coordinates: Agiou Nikolaou 10, Vouliagmeni 166 71, Greece