Amanzoe has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. Over the past decade, landscaping around this Acropolistic hilltop resort has well and truly embedded it into the tapestry of the surrounding countryside, and softened its touch on the land. The land known as the lap of the gods, stoked by the honeyed glow of peachy sunsets, plays with your sense of scale.
The National checked in to see how this 10-year-old property is faring.
It’s a love-at-first-sight kind of arrival that never diminishes. Everyone looks relaxed and equally enamoured by the halcyon headiness and sheer beauty of this Grecian hideaway.
A short buggy ride from the reception, my husband and I are walking across our threshold for check-in formalities, which take place in our private villa. A resident cat pops its head around the corner to add to the welcome and the resort’s soothing atmosphere becomes immediately apparent.
The hotel, set on a rural peninsula less than three hours from Athens, has views one cannot fully capture with pen on paper or by photography. There is something about seeing land on the other side of water that changes one’s gaze and chemicals in the brain: it triggers an innate sense of desire to explore, to know, to tread … and a simultaneous sense of mystique with a preference to be still, to imagine, to dream, to live another life.
If a designer’s mantra is the devil is in the detail, no detail is too small here. I particularly love the ubiquitous panels of translucent marble, which act like Japanese tatami screens, letting delicate veins of early morning light permeate the bedroom. And the ancient knotted trunks of the olives that stand like cardinals along the rosemary and lavender-edged pathways.
Drawing on classic Greek architecture, all of Amanzoe’s 38 standalone Pavilions open onto terraces with private plunge pools and views of the surrounding land and sea.
Each Pavilion is accessed via a stone-walled courtyard, leading to a high-ceilinged interior. The resort’s Beach Cabana offers all of this in a prime beach position, just steps away from the water, while Amanzoe’s 10 villas feature open terraces with marble floors, dry stone-clad walls, concrete columns and cornices with a chef and a host on hand.
Service comes in the form of what you wish for in the moment you wish for it. A seamless provision by the particularly pleasant mix of Greek and international staff. The ancient Greeks believed the gods could magically appear through the essence of nature. Today’s guests feel they are living in an ethereal land of souls.
This is the ultimate setting for those seeking a romantic or secluded Aegean getaway, but families and groups of friends will also love the endless beach and hilltop entertainment options. These include yoga classes, a full-size football pitch, padel tennis courts and a children's club where many activities are tailored to include references to Greek history and culture, such as creating mosaics or learning various sports from the ancient Olympic Games.
More than anything, Amanzoe celebrates the genius of celebrated American architect and interior designer Ed Tuttle – this was his final masterpiece – and showcases the achievement of a lifetime of learning and mastery. He knew the magic of northern light; how to mix vast basins of water with long corridors of columns leading to distant views. The eyes never rest on a single spot. And yet it is sublimely restful.
Elsewhere, the holistic healings of Hippocrates are the inspiration behind Amanzoe’s light-filled 2,850-square-metre spa, where treatments are done using all-natural products. Lavender scents the air and sunlight streams into the spa’s stone courtyards, where water features reflect the light. Do try Aman’s new functional skincare line, Essential Skin, which is infused with powerful rice bran and indigo extracts, to achieve noticeably lifted, more radiant skin.
The signature massages, facials, body scrubs and wraps are offered in five indoor and two outdoor spa suites. The art of massage is an important therapeutic modality in Greek medicine and the classical Greek term for it is anatripsis. Amanzoe’s signature anatripsis spa treatment includes a delicious journey of pampering including full-body acupressure, followed by dry skin brushing, an olive oil and beeswax massage, cupping and a laurel oil head massage.
Lazy breakfasts are savoured on a Parthenon-scale terrace, with stunning wraparound views. A feast here can be as simple as the celebrated Greek yoghurt with honey from hives adjoining the property and a nectarine picked from the branch that morning.
Renowned for its natural produce – from its olives and honey to its cheese and herbs – the Peloponnese offers gourmands a plethora of culinary experiences. We had a slightly disappointing Mediterranean mezze and rather over-salted soup one night, but the following night in the Japanese restaurant both the recommendations of the chef’s specialities – Kobe beef and black cod – melted in the mouth.
Down on the beach, there is the perpetual sound of waves caressing the shore and the electrical pulse of cicadas buzzing in the olive groves along with gentle jazz in the background and an occasional icy rattle of the barman’s cocktail shaker. I stir at the smell of whitening coals, almost ready to break my trance – the catch of the day is recommended.
The highs and lows
Amanzoe’s location is the undisputed high point. The phenomenal juxtaposition of mountains and sea serves up dramatic views wherever you are in the property, and fully immerses guests in Hellenic nature.
Days can be spent exploring nearby islands such as Hydra or Spetses – both heralded for local shopping and rustic restaurants that attract the yachting crowd. Or simply head to Amanzoe’s beach club, five minutes from your pavilion suite, for a soporific day of rest.
The stillness in the air invokes an absence of urgency, which makes days feel longer.
The lows? I’m still trying to think of any. Perhaps that one disappointing meal.
The insider tip
A 10-minute drive from Amanzoe, Ermioni is a little-known port that has kept its community alive – a vibrant village with some pretty bars and excellent fish restaurants without the tourist price tags.
Situated on a finger-shaped peninsula, its protected shores are full of cobbled lanes and paving alleyways with whitewashed churches and statues of local dignitaries decorated in horizontal stripes of the blue and white national flag.
Whatever the Greek is for dolce vita, it is here in spades. The people of the Peloponnese appear content with who they are. You get a sense that they just cannot be bothered with modern life – they see it for the madness that it is.
The bottom line
Stays at Amanzoe start from Dh4,215 per room per night including breakfast for two people, excluding tax; www.aman.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel.