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These Party Islands in Greece Need to Change Their Image


It was across the time that the ferry eased itself into the port of Ios, an island within the Greek Cyclades, that I started to wonder if we had come to the appropriate place. We — my husband and I, elder millennials on the cusp of middle age — were shoulder to shoulder with teenagers, hordes of them, youthful energy bounding off their dewy skin. Within the thick of summer, the ferry’s windowless boarding area felt like a furnace. I felt a wave of claustrophobia. These kids had come to party. We had … not. We sought good food, local wine, to by some means come home healthier than after we left, just like the individuals who go to Paris and return 10 kilos lighter, “due to all of the walking” and the unprocessed bread.

To paraphrase a preferred meme: Could the island do each?

Obviously, there’s loads of respite to be found inside Ios’s 42 square miles. Goats still roam the island’s craggy hills and cliffs. It lacks an airport. But, because the Nineteen Seventies, Ios has been known, primarily, for one thing.

“It’s a spot to party,” said Katerina Katopis-Lykiardopulo, a photographer who collaborated with the creator Chrysanthos Panas on “Greek Islands,” a coffee-table book published in May.

“Back within the day, there have been hippies, there have been drugs, there have been people sleeping on the beach.” Ms. Katopis-Lykiardopulo said. “Is it still a celebration island? Do teenagers still come? Yes, in fact. However the island is making an effort to be greater than that.”

Aware that not every visitor desires to rage until dawn or cross off points of interest with their fellow cruise ship passengers, intrepid operators on Ios, in addition to its world famous Cycladic neighbors to the north and south, Mykonos and Santorini, are inviting tourists to place up their feet and lean right into a version of wellness that hinges on slowing down.

Living proof: Calilo, a 3-year-old resort on the east coast of Ios, enough hairpin turns over the hills and away from the port to (almost) banish the memory of a billboard promoting a nightclub named Scorpion (“Don’t leave until you get stung”). A Disneyland for the spiritually optimistic, Calilo pushes motivational mantras as an alternative of five-for-one shot specials.

“Once we enter this place, we leave all the pieces negative behind,” said Sandy Parisi, a Calilo concierge with a disposition to rival the midafternoon sun, leading us through a breezeway with shapes strategically cut out of its roof: when the sunshine hits right, hearts spray out across the trail.

Within the white stone lobby, Ms. Parisi stopped beside a revolving marble and metal sculpture. It looked like a person pierced by arrows, falling right into a pit.

“Here, we throw away the darkness, the anger, all of the negative stuff,” Ms. Parisi said. Words, sculpted out of metal, floated within the pit: “malice,” “negativity,” “lies.” She explained that the person was not falling but, in truth, being lifted up by words that jutted out of the arrows on heart-shaped suggestions: “love, hope, pathos, which implies passion, in Greek.” So engrossed was I in taking a video of this carousel of excellent vibes that I almost crashed right into a heart-tipped arrow that said “smile.”

“The aim of this experiment, if I can call it that, is to bring as much positivity, love and freedom to people as we are able to,” said Angelos Michalopoulos, who owns and operates Calilo, in addition to six other restaurants and hotels on the island, together with his wife, Vassiliki Petridou, and 4 of their five children.

Motivational messaging is an element of Calilo’s holistic approach to wellness. An on-site farm grows much of the produce served on the resort’s restaurants, including tomatoes flavorful enough to make you wonder if you happen to’d ever really tasted one before. The décor endeavors to surprise and delight. The sunken dining tables by the important pool appear to be something out of “Alice in Wonderland,” and everywhere in the property, swings sway within the breeze. We swayed while drinking coffee. We swayed while reading books (or scrolling Instagram).

Over the course of three days, Calilo’s whimsy overtook me to the degree that I almost got over the grammatical idiosyncrasy of the neon mantra blinking above its bar (“Create a life you’ll be able to fall in love with”). Once I found myself fixating on that dangling preposition, I reminded myself of the countless liberties I’ve taken with grammar, and the indisputable fact that I used to be alleged to throw my cynicism within the pit upon arrival.

“Quite a lot of our guests say that once they come here, they’re entering a fairy tale,” said Ms. Petridou. “They could be kids again. Most individuals come to Greece for the pools, the party and the nightlife. We wish to interrupt that cycle.”

Athens natives, the couple first got here to Ios in 2003 for a family vacation. They were astounded by the degree to which it remained untouched — save for the chora, the Greek term for an island’s important town, where bars and nightclubs reigned.

“After seeing a few of these beaches, I used to be absolutely stunned,” said Mr. Michalopoulos. “I said to myself, either I actually have sunstroke or there’s a Russian nuclear dump somewhere around here, because this place has two things which are completely opposed to one another: unbelievably beautiful and virgin. This, you would not have in Europe. To be between two epically developed islands, Mykonos and Santorini, and by some means remain pristine — it’s paradoxical.”

Mr. Michalopoulos had a financial firm in Recent York, where he and Ms. Petridou attended university. They didn’t intend to get into the hospitality industry, but said they saw a chance to preserve the island’s beauty while developing it in a sustainable way. Over the course of 5 years, they bought 182 parcels of land from 2,137 landowners. They got approval from the local government to construct on 1 percent of the land and leave the remaining untouched. They planted 70,000 trees, including some centuries-old olive trees that were previously marked for firewood. They hired 400 employees.

In 2019, they opened Calilo to lure a latest style of traveler to Ios. Calilo’s nightly rate starts at 660 euros, or in regards to the same amount in dollars — significantly higher than those of the modest hotels that populate the chora. The couple hopes the generated income will keep their development company, which Mr. Michalopoulos calls “a prototype,” going.

“This is usually a land preservation project slightly than a profit-maximizing project,” said Erica Michalopoulos, one among the couple’s daughters, who’s Calilo’s director of business development and partnerships​​. “But the important thing point is that we should be financially sound to find a way to preserve the land.”

“This is just not only a hotel,” added Mr. Michalopoulos. “Hopefully, it’s loads greater than that. It’s a proposal of a latest way of taking a look at a hospitality business.”

Tourism accounts for about one fifth of Greece’s economy, in accordance with the consulate general of Greece. Unchecked, the compulsion to drive up profits can result in, for example, the worldwide phenomenon that’s Mykonos: beautiful beaches and legendary sunsets, yes, but additionally streets jammed with Mercedes Sprinter vans, Starbucks and day clubs that can charge upward of 150 euros for a sun bed. After Ios, we had planned to proceed unwinding in Mykonos for 2 days. Mykonos had other plans.

“Mykonos is the party island,” said Tasos Pavlidis, a neighborhood concierge who attempted to get my husband and me on Mykonian standard time: breakfast at 4 p.m., lunch at 6:30 p.m., dinner at 11 p.m. Sleep? “You don’t come to Mykonos to sleep,” said Mr. Pavlidis.

“Mykonos is a planet of its own,” said Ms. Katopis-Lykiardopulo, the “Greek Islands” photographer. “We used to have people like Jackie O,” whose 1961 arrival on the island thrust it into the worldwide jet-setting scene, “now we now have Elon Musk,” she added.

Beach clubs like Alemagou (which Mr. Pavlidis describes as “bohemian,” though it also attracts individuals who wear Cartier watches and hats that say EBITA) and Scorpios (affiliated with Soho House, a members’ only club) attract swarms of hopefuls jostling for the possibility to pay 20 euros for an espresso martini. For many who wish to dance, drink and people-watch after dark, the chora of Mykonos exerts a magnetic pull. Regardless of this, in July, a latest resort opened with the goal of getting guests to sit back out: Cali Mykonos, an amalgamation of fresh lines and opulent curves fueled by solar panels, a rooftop herb garden and an on-site water purification plant.

“Last night, we had a pair who went to a neighborhood beach club within the afternoon and planned to enter town within the evening and party,” said Eric Mourkakos, Cali Mykonos’s managing partner. “They got here back here to shower, got to their room, and said, ‘We realized, we now have no reason to depart.’ I discovered them later, sitting by their pool under the pergola, looking up on the sky.”

One needn’t possess self-control of Herculean proportions to avoid the thrum of the dance floor in Santorini: compared with Mykonos and Ios, there aren’t a number of clubs. The madding crowd functions in a different way on this volcanic island, with vistas so jaw-droppingly picturesque, they’re incessantly punctuated by social media influencers and soon-to-be brides and grooms, together with their attendant photographers.

In 2017, the Greek hospitality company Andronis opened Andronis Concept Wellness Resort, inviting Santorini visitors to remain awhile and sink into some atypical offerings, which include a lantern-lit, hammam-like spa and a health assessment that uses a strand of hair for epigenetic testing. The test claims to supply insights into your habits, “and the way you may change them to steer a healthier life,” said Carla Sage, Andronis’s director of wellness. “It’s growing in popularity. We’re doing one or two assessments every few days.”

Strolling through Andronis’s open-air corridors as dusk falls feels transformative in and of itself (a friend we met in Santorini compared the resort’s high, undulating partitions to the abstract curves of the sculptor Richard Serra). Restaurants on the island also present an argument for slowing down: dinner at Botrini’s, within the Oia village of Santorini, sprawls out over 11 two-or-three bite courses, best enjoyed because the sun dips into the Aegean and the sky goes Rothko.

An epigenetics test seemed like a chore: a likelihood to get scolded, likely, indoors. Potential bad vibes, negative energy. Not the method to end a visit. We decided that the healthiest thing we could possibly do, on our last full day in Greece, was take a wine tour. Healthy for the mind and soul, a minimum of, if not for the corporeal body.

Under the tutelage of Santorini Winetopia’s Marissa Diamanti, an effervescent tour guide with an encyclopedic knowledge of Hellenic wine, we dug our hands into the crumbly soil beneath the vineyard of the family-owned Hatzidakis Winery and marveled at the best way the vines had been kept low to the bottom and shaped into baskets to guard the grapes from harsh sun and wind. Later, at Artemis Karamolegos, a winery 10 minutes down the road, we swooned at the best way a bite of squid ink and fennel risotto elevated Pyritis, a white wine comprised of Santorini’s indigenous Assyrtiko grape. We indulged in one of the vital holistic types of wellness: a wonderful meal with great company, outdoors, on a summer afternoon.

After lunch, the 76-year-old proprietor of Art Space Winery, an art gallery, history museum and winery across the road from Artemis Karamolegos, unearthed an unlabeled bottle from below his bar and proffered it to us with a matter.

“That is my moonshine. You recognize moonshine? You’ll try moonshine?”

Given my Cycladic understanding of wellness, there was just one right answer.

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