The Best Hotels in the Greek Islands
Board the ferry from Athens and you’ll be rewarded with whitewashed fishing villages, ancient olive groves, pebble and sandy beaches, and world-heritage archaeological sites—not to mention iconic Aegean Sea views. Whether you’re making a pit stop on your Greek island-hopping adventure or holing up for the duration of your stay, these postcard-worthy hotels and resorts make the most of their surroundings.
Kontokali 491 00, Greece
Straddling a forested isthmus on Corfu, Kontokali Bay Resort & Spa avails its guests of five-star luxury while maintaining a fun, welcoming atmosphere for families. There are a wide range of accommodations (plus all-inclusive packages), from the 170 rooms in the main building to the 89 suites and bungalows clustered in lush gardens around the property; all have terraces or balconies, some with views of the bay or sea. For the VIP treatment, book the presidential suite, which features a private pool with two Jacuzzis, an indoor hammam, and a small gym. Beyond the rooms, guests have several choices for sunning and swimming, including two sandy beaches with loungers and umbrellas, a saltwater infinity pool overlooking the Ionian Sea, an indoor heated freshwater pool, and a kids’ pool in the playground area. Dining options are equally diverse: go casual at the beachside bistro, Mediterranean buffet, or taverna-style food court, or sample dishes that look as good as they taste at Asterias, the fine-dining restaurant.
Romance is easy to come by at Emelisse, on a private beach on Kefalonia. One turquoise infinity pool spills into another before seeming to pour directly into the glittering Ionian Sea. Come evening, dozens of glowing lanterns illuminate the stone terraces and two outdoor restaurants, as well as the open-air cinema. Framed by dark cypress and cedar trees, the suites, villas, and two-story maisonettes cater to every combination of adults and children with teak canopy beds and fine Italian linens. Just as enchanting as the setting are Emelisse’s myriad activities. Guests can sign up for scuba lessons and tennis matches, or take a 25-minute walk to the quaint port town of Fiskardo. If you’re looking for more adventurous pursuits, the largest of the Ionian islands offers everything from steep cliffs and mountains (Mount Aenos is the third highest in Greece) to stunning sand and pebble shorelines.
Getting to Onar Andros requires a fair amount of determination. A ferry from Athens or Mykonos takes you to one of the northernmost Cycladic islands (there’s no airport nearby); once you arrive at the port in Gavrio, it’s a slow 25-mile drive to the hotel. Your reward, however, is a tiny slice of Eden, an enclave of 10 stone-and-timber cottages set amid a lush river valley that’s only a five-minute walk to Ahia Beach, arguably the most beautiful in all the Cyclades. Built and maintained by the owner, Mateo, the accommodations are deliberately spare yet modern and comfortable, each with a pergola-shaded veranda with loungers and a hammock. Meals are served at a communal table, and what Mateo doesn’t grow organically, he sources from local fisherman, farmers, and bakers. Guests can even accompany him to pick fruits and vegetables to be used in that night’s dinner. After all, this is a place to ditch your devices and surrender to your surroundings.
Ornos Beach, Mykonos, Greece 846 00, Greece
Named for the Japanese word for enlightenment, this boutique property marries classic Cycladic architecture (cube-shaped structures, whitewashed stone walls, arched entryways) with the clean lines of locally made furnishings in naked wood. None of the 25 rooms and 10 suites are the same, but most have private outdoor whirlpools or plunge pools, plus plush beds that make it impossible to leave. Nearly all of the public spaces, however, offer stunning views over Mykonos (about 1.5 miles away) and the bay, and make striking use of night-lighting, especially at the pool, which is built into the natural rock face. A grottolike spa features two treatment rooms, a futuristic-looking whirlpool area, and a hammam for stylish pampering sessions. The hotel offers complimentary transportation to Mykonos, but with its inviting Bar & Sunset Lounge and a restaurant that is garnering awards and accolades, you may decide to stay put for the duration of your vacation.
Ornos 846 00, Greece
On a typical day during Mykonos’s high season, you can see why Santa Marina has cemented its status as the ultimate jet-set destination. Megayachts bob in the bright blue waters of Ornos Bay, and a long pier lined with stylish couples curled up in cocoon-shaped sun chairs gives way to a stretch of sandy beach sprinkled with privileged bathers. In fact, the Santa Marina is the only hotel on the island with its own exclusive shoreline. Just steps away, the whitewashed property’s rooms climb a granite hill that looks out over the Aegean; expect a private balcony and marble bathroom in every space. Two restaurants, a bar, three pools, and a first-class spa and gym add to the country-club atmosphere, especially for those who might have their mini-me’s (wearing baby designer duds) in tow: The underage crowd has a dedicated pool, playground, and supervised kids’ club.
Vagia Beach, Serifos 840 05, Greece
While the Cycladic island of Serifos has stayed blissfully under the radar for most tourists, savvy Athenians have been quietly snapping up property while preserving its dusty charms. COCO-MAT Eco Residences, opened by the eponymously named Greek sleep-product company, is emblematic of this mindset: Its 13 rooms were reclaimed from stone miners’ houses built in 1910 at the foot of a hillside, just steps from the sand and calm waters of Vagia Bay. The one- or two-bedroom units feature bedrooms on the (cooler) bottom floor and living spaces and kitchenettes above (they’ll do the grocery shopping); you choose your mattress preference from the brand’s sustainably made line. Carved into the cliff face, the Lounge Bar serves buffet breakfast in the morning, lunch and light snacks during the day, and dinner in the evening—including right on the shore (for an additional charge). The hotel also supplies car or motorcycle rentals should you want to explore the island, and also will arrange diving trips and excursions to different beaches.
It’s hard to believe that this iconic property once consisted of just two 17th-century “caves” that had been used to store wine when it launched in 1985. Today, the family-owned hotel has 17 rooms spread out over five floors, all of them with terraces or balconies and jaw-dropping views of the caldera and brilliant blue Aegean. The rooms were completely refurbished in 2015—followed by the public areas and infinity pool in 2017—favoring clean, contemporary lines, white-washed walls, and luxury that envelops you without distracting from the stunning scenery; several rooms feature heated plunge pools, while one has a free-form “river pool” that runs through it. A poolside bar serves lunch and snacks, but you shouldn’t miss dinner at sister property Canavas Oia Suites, just a short walk away. For a truly unforgettable experience, you can even charter the hotel’s yacht for a sunset tour.
Nik. Nomikou (Main Street), Oía 847 02, Greece
Nothing says Santorini like an aqua-blue infinity pool, and Katikies has three of them—all the better to take in westward-facing sunset views. Carved out of the cliff side 300 feet above the Aegean, the hotel’s public spaces are connected by a series of bridges and Escher-esque stairways as they descend from the town of Oia above it. Cube-shaped rooms and suites are minimalist but inviting, nearly every surface painted or clothed in calming white; all have verandas, while a few large suites have outdoor plunge pools or Jacuzzi tubs and alfresco seating areas. Upon check-in, guests are given cell phones to summon 24/7 service from anywhere on the property. They use them to order light snacks at the poolside bar and restaurant or make reservations for some of the best sushi on the island at the champagne bar, but the candlelit rooftop restaurant—serving Greek and Anatolian cuisine—is about as romantic as it gets.
Perivolas, Thira 847 02, Greece
It’s little wonder why the cerulean infinity pool at Perivolas has graced more than its fair share of magazine covers. Overlooking shimmering Aegean waters to the Santorini caldera beyond, it feels like heaven on earth. But in fact, the luxury hotel had humble beginnings: Onetime fishermens’ residences in the typical yposkafa style—with cave-like rooms excavated from native volcanic stone nearly three centuries ago—the property has been a family-run boutique lodging since 1983. All 20 rooms have a sea view with terraces to take in the Greek sunsets; some suites feature private infinity pools and Jacuzzis, while the Perivolas Suite is the ultimate indulgence, claiming not only a huge indoor hot tub, but also a steam room and swim-out pool that stretches from inside the cave to the terrace. Furnishings are minimal but sumptuous, with occasional pops of fuschia and purple to add contemporary flair and skylights that flood the whitewashed walls with light. If you can peel yourself away, Perivolas is an easy 15-minute walk from Oia. But with its own highly regarded Greek restaurant, that gorgeous pool, and a cliffside spa with sauna, steam room, and outdoor hot tub, is there really any reason to leave?
Imerovigli, Thira 847 00, Greece
Some of the world’s most jaw-dropping images of hotel infinity pools have been taken on Santorini, aka the honeymoon island. What makes The Grace stand out? With only eight rooms, 12 suites, and one villa, guests receive the staff’s undivided attention. Even before your arrival, you may be asked whether you’d like to organize a romantic surprise for your partner, or if you’d like your bathrobe to be personalized with your initials. Of course, the hotel’s pool, perched like a bird’s nest over the caldera and the blue hues of the Aegean, makes a pretty strong argument. Guests spend much of their time lounging around its perimeter and dining outdoors on a variety of dramatic terraces. Naturally, all the clean-lined rooms have equally stunning views of the sea and, after a 2016 revamp, are all white with brushed-concrete floors and handmade walnut desks, putting the emphasis on the azure setting. Drop your bags, then grab a cocktail at the Champagne Lounge to take in that sunset everyone keeps raving about.
Elounda, Schisma Elountas 720 53, Greece
Resting amid verdant gardens overlooking eastern Crete’s Mirabello Bay, the five-star Elounda Mare Hotel is a family-run Relais & Chateau property that feels like a stylish cocoon—no wonder it has entertained everyone from Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio to Kathleen Turner and Lady Gaga. Designed in the manner of Cretan mansions, the 92-unit resort makes generous use of stone and timber, with warm shades of white and red splashed throughout; balconies or terraces and full-length windows look out on the sapphire Aegean, and bungalows and suites include private pools and fireplaces. While the hotel itself has three restaurants and a bar on site, guests have access to five other restaurants and three additional bars spread among two sister properties, which are separated by olive groves but reachable via golf-cart shuttles. Chances are good that you’ll spend your days sunbathing on the private sandy beach or near the salt-water pool, but guests can also arrange to use shared facilities, like the spa and nine-hole golf course.
Kapsaliana 741 00, Greece
Follow the twinkling sconces down a path framed with pink bougainvillea and gnarled olive trees into the complex of stone dwellings that is Kapsaliana Village Hotel. Once an 18th-century village tucked quietly in the hills above Rethymno, the site was abandoned and left to crumble before being renovated by architect-owner Myron Toupoyannis into a low-key resort with 19 luxe yet understated guesthouses in 2008. Surrounded by one of Crete’s largest olive groves, the property is arranged around a turquoise pool that stretches toward the Aegean, providing beautiful backdrops at every turn. Nearby, couples gather on the restaurant terrace with a glass of rosé or licorice-scented raki. Pitharia, or large clay storage vessels, are sprinked throughout the public spaces, while accommodations display historical elements like arched doorways, exposed timber beams, and stone walls. For a real trip back in time, stay in the 1763 olive mill suite, where a breakfast of homemade bread and local eggs and honey is served in front of the fireplace, then visit the village’s 17th-century church and sit in on olive-oil tastings.