Kivotos Mykonos is an unpretentious haven on Greece's party island – Hotel Insider

A boutique hotel overlooking a yacht-filled bay provides the perfect retreat for those wanting to escape the island's wilder side

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It's likely your Instagram feed has been flooded with pictures of Mykonos over the past two months, as floods of UAE residents have decamped to Greece's most popular party island.

The Cycladic hotspot has a hard-earned reputation for being a playground for rich, young revellers. I, alas, am none of the above.

But what Mykonos's wild reputation fails to take into account is that, beyond the heaving beach clubs and overpriced drinks, it offers all the attributes that make any Greek island so appealing: beautiful beaches, good food, picturesque villages and warm people.

Kivotos Mykonos was lunched almost 30 years ago, making it one of the first boutique hotels in Greece.

Its design, comprising whitewashed walls, narrow paths, hidden corners and unexpected water features, is a nod to traditional Greek villages.

In its opening year, the hotel welcomed fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who has since become a regular guest.

Other famous visitors have included Donatella Versace, Shakira, Gerard Pique, Prince Albert II of Monaco and George Michael.

The welcome

The hotel looks out over Ornos Bay. Photo: Kivotos Mykonos

We start our holiday in Mykonos with a rookie mistake. Instead of organising an airport pick-up with the hotel, we nonchalantly opt to grab a taxi on arrival.

Turns out there are only about 30 taxis on the entire island – and none of them are at the airport when we land.

We end up sitting on the pavement for about 40 minutes in the baking sun, alongside a motley crew of other red-faced tourists, waiting for taxis to materialise. One does, eventually, but a lesson to the wise – organise airport pick-up through the hotel, whatever the cost.

The drive to the hotel takes about 15 minutes, although we are informed we are lucky there’s no traffic, since the island’s two-lane roads are prone to congestion during the busy summer months.

Our journey takes us over picturesque hills and down into Ornos, an idyllic bay flanked on two sides by mountains. Kivotos is perched on one of these.

An understated entrance leads directly off a main road into a cool courtyard encircled by lush vegetation. We arrive way before check-in time but, after a quick tour of the property, are promptly shown to our room.

The neighbourhood

While it is home to a string of Mykonos’s requisite beach clubs, Ornos is a quieter, more family-friendly affair than many of the island’s souped-up party spots.

The bay is dotted with mega-yachts, befitting Mykonos’s reputation as a playground for the rich.

To the south, the small but charming village is home to a bakery, pharmacy, supermarket and old-school fish restaurants, all of which are a five-minute walk from the hotel, as well as boutique hotels and a stunning new outpost of Dubai’s La Cantine du Faubourg restaurant.

Mykonos’s main town, Chora, is a 10-minute drive away, for those who want to mingle with crowds of selfie-taking tourists or the area's resident pelican.

Kivotos’s main selling point is that it offers a tranquil retreat from the worst of the madness, but easy access to Mykonos’s many delights.

Mykonos is known as “the island of the winds” thanks to the meltemi, a dry northern wind that blows over the Aegean during the summer months.

Kivotos, which inches down a hill towards the sea, is a constant recipient of this cooling breeze.

Safety measures

Face mask are a rare sight for the entirety of our stay in Mykonos, with the Greek islands having seemingly drawn a moratorium on Covid-19 for the summer season.

But the boutique proportions of Kivotos mean the hotel never feels crowded and social distancing occurs by default.

The room

Some suites come with glass-fronted pools. Photo: Kivotos Mykonos

Kivotos offers a selection of 40 suites and villas, including junior and deluxe suites with sea views, pool suites and a signature suite with a private glass-fronted pool that is the stuff of Instagram dreams.

There are also two multi-storey waterfront villas on either side of the property, each with a private pool.

Our junior suite has separate living and sleeping areas and leads on to a terrace with a glass-fronted plunge pool. It looks out over the resort’s other white-roofed suites and the yacht-dotted bay beyond.

White-washed walls and wooden ceiling beams are offset by colourful accessories, including a hot pink bust of an ancient Greek warrior.

A large bathroom features a Jacuzzi, rain shower and double sinks. Decorative elements seem to have been chosen largely at random, so there’s not much cohesion in terms of design, but this adds to its charm.

The scene

Loungers for couples are partially submerged in the pool. Photo: Kivotos Mykonos

We struggle to stray too far from the hotel’s infinity pool, which looks out over the bay and offers a great Greek island-holiday vibe throughout the day.

It’s lively, but not too lively, perfect for those wanting to enjoy Mykonos in a slightly more grown-up way.

A statue of a sea maiden, made by famous Greek sculptor Dimitris Armakola, stands in the centre of the pool area.

There are couples' sun loungers semi-submerged in the water, with surfaces to rest your drink on, and music that hints at Mykonos’s party vibe without overwhelming the senses.

A set of steps leads down to a rocky stretch of beach, where a roped pathway connects cabanas that are also half-immersed in the shallows. It’s an easy, incredibly relaxing way to while away the day.

The property is home to two boutiques, including one that specialises in sustainable products, as well as a small spa.

The food

The betroot risotto becomes an instant favourite. Photo: Maya Kayali

Breakfast is served on a terrace on one of the hotel’s highest points, with stunning 180-degree views of Ornos beach and the mega-yachts that drift in and out of the bay.

A basket-load of pastries comes as standard, complemented by a choice of a la carte options, including cereals, egg dishes, pancakes, salads and French toast.

On a particularly decadent morning, I opt for the Kivotos special ($17), poached eggs on an English muffin smothered in hollandaise sauce, Parmesan flakes, truffle and salt.

The avocado toast ($14) serves as a healthier alternative the following day.

Lunch and dinner are served poolside at Namah restaurant, which offers a concise but interesting menu.

There are the classics, from a club sandwich to a signature burger, but also a selection of traditional Greek dishes, including calamari and octopus appetisers, and a beetroot risotto ($19) served with goat’s cheese, pine nuts and sun-dried strawberries, which becomes an instant favourite.

The tagliata rib eye ($30) is another highlight.

Prices are also pretty reasonable, given the extortion taking place across the rest of the island, where a table for sunset drinks can easily come with a minimum spend of $150.

The service

With the exception of one openly rude barman, staff were exceptional – friendly, chatty and helpful, whether serving pastries at breakfast or delivering a never-ending supply of iced coffees by the pool.

There was genuine warmth from all members of the team, who have seemingly mastered the art of traditional Greek hospitality.

Highs and lows

The property is scattered with intriguing works of art. Photo: Maya Kayali

The hotel manages to be edgy and cool, but also warm and inviting.

One of its most interesting features is the artwork scattered throughout, which combines traditional Hellenic scenes with pop culture elements, so a bust of the goddess Aphrodite is overlaid with a picture of Bart Simpson and pink doughnuts; and a sinuous statue is covered in graffiti and cartoon-esque graphics.

It’s a playful, whimsical addition to an already visually distinctive property.

Recurring issues with water pressure in our bathroom were the only real low.

Insider tip

Rent a car or buggy if you want to move around the island – taxis are like gold dust. Otherwise, just park yourself by the Kivotos pool and stay put. You won’t regret it.

The verdict

The property’s chic but not-trying-too-hard vibe incorporates all the charm you’d expect from a Greek island, without being tainted by the pretentiousness of other parts of Mykonos.

The bottom line

Prices range from €400 ($401) a night for a suite in low season to $3,508 a night for a villa in high season; www.kivotoshotels.com/mykonos

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel

Updated: September 02, 2022, 6:02 PM
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