Jagged white buildings jutting from the hills and into the azure blue sky; vivid pink flora curling around the horizon; infinite historical and cultural offerings, and that sublime Mediterranean breeze. There’s a reason we turn to the islands of Greece again and again for the ultimate vacation escapism. A major tourism spot for centuries now, Greek island hotels are amongst some of the best in the world.
From the uber-modern offerings of glitzy islands Santorini and Mykonos, to the carefully maintained old world ambience of the beloved Hydrea Hotel, the hotels of Greece’s islands both reflect the modern age of luxury tourism, whilst also celebrating the islands’ great heritage and history.
As classic as the ancient civilizations that still come to define the mainland and its islands today, there’s never a bad time to plan your next vacation across Greece’s many islands. Here are Elite Traveler’s most beloved establishments of the ever-changing – and yet utterly timeless – Greek island hotels scene.
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Porto Zante Villas & Spa
Located upon the island of Zakynthos and overlooking the Ionian Sea – with a private beach to boot – Porto Zante takes luxurious living to sparkling new heights. Popular with everyone from royals to footballers, the resort is a collection of high-end villas surrounded by pleasant gardens and brilliant vistas of the sea.
Homage to Greek culture is embedded through the villas’ tasteful curation of art; renowned Greek artists take the spotlight here. Otherwise, the luxurious amenities feel like a who’s who of the international designer scene, from Armani Casa furniture to Bulgari toiletries.
Ancient Olympia is accessible via private speedboat, and the local villages Tsilivi and Zaknythos Town are a short and complimentary bike ride away. We wouldn’t blame you if you can’t manage to squeeze a trip in, though: Porto Zante has endeavored, to great success, an ambience of deep privacy and a culture of seclusion in which not a single detail has been overlooked in its ambition to be the region’s finest luxury dwellings. We’re especially enamored by the spa, which is inspired by both Ancient Greek treatments with modern science-led therapies.
Oh, Kalesma. The party-loving younger sister of Santorini, Mykonos has long been seen as the Greek answer to nearby Ibiza, and we’re spoilt for choice on hotels that lean into this sense of island hedonism. Kalesma, on the other hand, sits atop a hill, and offers a much welcome – if not needed – sanctuary of serenity upon the island.
The aesthetic is pure, as the 2023 buzzword goes, quiet luxury; expect curling whitewashed walls, tall ceilings, and stone floors, with a muted color palette that only enhances the colors of the sky outside. Grecian mythology is referenced through equine-shaped hooks that nod to the horses Apollo stabbed in Mykonos.
There are three dining options; the pool bar, the all-day restaurant, and the outdoor sunset lounge built around a firepit that is optimal for intimate memory making and socializing with like-minded guests. All, thankfully, offer Greek cuisine courtesy of the brilliant executive chef Costas Tsingas. From the spacious suites to the gorgeous pools, this is a purposefully difficult hotel to leave.
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Out of all the Greek islands, Santorini, with its picturesque villages, world famous sunsets and active volcano, is one of the most beloved. The romantic ambience makes it perfect for lovers, whilst the charming vistas of the white houses built into the side of the volcano have tourists returning to the island from across the world. Three cheers to Katikies Hotel, located within the village of Oia, for providing such a wonderful home away from home in this utopia of islands.
This is a hotel experience for those seeking full immersion within the island. The hotel is built into the iconic cliffside and boasts some of the best views of the sunset from across the island, whereas the stone paths and narrow stairways of the building feel wonderfully authentic to the Greek island experience.
Luxury peaks with its three infinity swimming pools, its indoor hot tub and its sunbathing deck, and the service is warm and personable. All rooms offer sea views, but we recommend the Master Suite with Plunge Pool for the ultimate experience in paradise.
Hydrea Hotel, Hydra
Decades on from its status as the 1960s Mediterranean watering hole for bohemians and muses, the Aegean Island remains a charming spot in which the ambiance is somewhat addictive in its union of easy-going café society with the hustle and bustle of daily Greek island life.
First built as a private mansion in 1803, Hydrea has long been the digs of choice for those seeking a perhaps more authentic experience that leans more into the island’s fascinating history without, naturally, compromising on luxury hospitality. The building itself is a Greek Ministry of Culture historical monument, and the timeless interior feels more like a regional family home than a modern hotel.
Which is all to Hydrea’s appeal. Perfectly positioned to make the most out of your trip to Hydra, be sure to request a suite overlooking the port for fascinating views during your morning coffee. Be warned: it is a 150 stair climb up to the hotel, which, if you are able to undertake, only adds to the experience.
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Santa Marina, Mykonos
Located in the bustling Ornos Bay – not that you can tell once inside the world-within-itself resort – and a short drive from Mykonos Town, Santa Marina is the only hotel on the island to have its own private beach. It’s a testament to the pure luxury of Santa Marina that this isn’t even its main selling point.
For whether it’s the sushi beach Buddha Bar that transforms into a popular club at night, or the thrillingly gorgeous spa, the sheer size and amenities presented by Santa Marina feels somewhat like a utopian village in its own right. It even still maintains an original windmill and chapel within the grounds.
With 114 rooms, it’s difficult to select a favorite; built upon a hill, you can expect azure blue sea views from almost all. Its premiere suites are named after crystals and can sleep up to eleven guests in the five-bedroom Villa Turquoise. Yet it’s the Mykonian Cottage, tucked within the resort’s gardens, that is particularly mesmerizing for its original Grecian architecture.
For travelers seeking a more authentic experience of Greek island life away from the bright lights and cocktail menus of the bigger party islands, Paros will be very high – if not top – of our list. The Cycadean island is celebrated for its sandy beaches, bustling port culture, and Mediterranean pulse of freedom, and its main luxury hotel offering, Cosme Paros, beautifully reflects all that the island stands for.
Drawing inspiration from the fishing towns of the island, the design of Cosme has curated a village feel to its hotel, from the whitewashed Cycladic lines to the water fountains to even the winding pathways that unite the different units of the hotel. The island’s naval heritage is reflected within the art collection, which is curated from local artists.
The amenities, from the infinity pools to the wonderful restaurants, are stellar in both design and quality. Yet it’s the ambiance that is so inimitable; the success of Cosme to create a luxury hotel experience culture that feels totally genuine to the fabric of the island is remarkable and renders it indisputably one of the best Greek island hotels.
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Grecotel Eva Palace, Corfu
Tucked between two glittering seas and nestled in between tropical groves and luscious green gardens, there is something gloriously postcard-perfect about Grecotel Eva Palace. The scent of jasmine and olives linger in the sea breeze, and salt air lingers high enough to reach where the infinity pools meet the horizon.
This is a hotel experience for those seeking true bliss within one of the most beautiful Mediterranean landscapes. The interior is keen to highlight the phenomenal vistas outside, of which rooms offer either landscape or sea views. Flowers and orange trees curve around the suite balconies as they do around the pools, and the multitude of restaurants and bars – there are eight within the resort in total, and all are excellent – lean into the warm and laidback ambiance.
For the ultimate Greek village experience, take advantage of the transfers to Danilia village. The sun-beaten Ionian columns are framed by wide blue skies, and local farm produce is utilized to present the very best of regional Greek cuisine. Built in conjunction with the hotel, it offers a unique spin on the usual offerings of Greek island hotels.
Ambassador Aegean, Santorini
The white and blue colors of the Greek flag have never been better represented than the palette tones of the Ambassador Aegean. This luxury resort, located between the island’s capital Fira and the picturesque village of Oia, sprawls across the top of a hill, and its white buildings and swimming pools are all matched by the dreamy blue tones of the sea below and the sky above.
Swimming pools are a definitive feature of the Ambassador Aegean; each of the hotel’s 40 elegantly designed rooms, suites and villas include their own private swimming pool and even spa, for maximum privacy in the most luxurious of dwellings. Built atop a hill, you can also expect those iconic Santorini sunsets over glittering vistas of the sea from almost all corners of the hotel.
Ambassador Aegean also boasts a full service spa and wellness center which includes in-room massages, a gym, and even a private beach. This is the ultimate island escape for anyone seeking total luxury within the parameters of heightened personal privacy.
Stella Island Resort & Spa, Crete
Built around one of the continent’s biggest lagoons, Stella Island Resort & Spa – on the surface, at least – wouldn’t feel out of place within other luxury vacation locations, such as Southern Florida or the Maldives. Adults only, the lagoon-style pools curve around the entire resort for an all-encompassing resort experience.
Yet we’d be doing a disservice not to include the many subtle nods to the country’s heritage that the designers of Stella Island have embedded throughout the resort, from the desk carved from marble beside the Parthenon in Athens to its restaurants, of which many – there are six in total, including two bars – showcase both local Cretan and broader Mediterranean cuisine.
From scuba diving to beach volleyball within the large sports center, there’s something of an adult’s summer camp to Stella Island. A summer camp of heightened luxury, admittedly; the rooms are all impeccably designed, and the spa offerings are brilliant. If you find yourself spending the bulk of your vacation within the resort, we won’t blame you.