Almighty Amanzoe... by Michaela Cordes | 7th June, 2019 | Travel
On the east coast of the Peloponnese, far removed from civilization and everyday life, lies Amanzoe – one of the extraordinary destinations belonging to the famous hotel group. This spacious 38-room resort – which also includes ten spectacular holiday villas – sits enthroned on a gently sloping hill with stunning views over olive groves onto the dazzling blue of the Aegean Sea. A visit to a temple of minimalism and abundance.
My senses are already ignited as I look out of the airplane window and descend into Athens. Breathtaking views onto the deep-blue Aegean Sea and the glittering sunlight continue to build up my excitement over the two-and-a-half-hour drive to our destination. We travel westward along the Isthmus of Corinth, then south along the sweeping eastern coast of the Peloponnese before heading inland. And then, amidst olive groves, surrounded by some of the most significant UNESCO-protected archaeological sites in the world, we arrive at Amanzoe, perhaps the most magnificent resort run by the famous luxury hotel group. Aman means “peace” in Sanskrit, while zoe is Greek for “life,” words that perfectly capture the spirit of this magical place. I am greeted by imposing buildings reminiscent of imperial temples, many meters-high porticoes of sandstone-colored marble. A bit intimidated by such massive opulence, I exit the car and glance around, marveling at the magnificent views of the rolling hills and expansive ocean stretching toward the horizon.
If the Greek gods and goddesses were to leave Mount Olympus, they would feel right at home at Amanzoe
With his monumental yet at the same time minimalist structures, U.S. architect Ed Tuttle has created quite a complement to the Peloponnese’s landscape. Two elegantly dressed staff members are already waiting to greet me, handing me a chilled hand towel, which couldn’t be more refreshing after my long journey. I am escorted to my room, which is located in one of the exclusive hotel villas that are so spacious that they would make any hotel suite turn green with envy. Here, as everywhere I look, the interior is a charming continuation of Tuttle’s approach. No busy patterns or intrusive design details disturb the Zen-like charm of my accommodations. To the right is the spacious bedroom with an extra-large king bed and a terrace from which I could gaze endlessly onto the glimmering sea; to the left is my very own generous spalike bathroom with outdoor shower, bathtub, and walk-in closet. After a long, refreshing shower, I feel entirely reborn.
There is still enough time before dinner to explore the villa that I share with the three other guests who have been invited to get to know this hotel: I find three more bedrooms and an oversized living area with dining room, kitchen, and indoor-outdoor terrace overlooking a large pool looking out towards the stunning countryside surrounding us. In this gorgeous holiday home you could easily have 10 guests for a dinner party and still feel a bit lost in the spacious rooms, I think to myself, and can’t take my eyes of the impressive scenery that surrounds this unique place. There’s nothing but soft hills of olive trees, blue skies and the ink-blue sea! Civilization seems far, far away. The closest town is Porto Heli, which can be reached in just 15 minutes by car. Each villa comes with its own staff, and on another terrace I can see our personal chef already beginning to prepare a delicious dinner of local delicacies: Greek salad, fava beans, and succulent grilled meats.
After we’ve finished our fun dinner at the round dining table, we settle into the large sofas on the terrace for a nightcap, listening to the song of the cicadas and laying out our plans for the following day: a visit to Spetses – the famous “island of spices” that you can reach easily, just 20 minutes away by the hotel’s own boat – for the Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta that takes place every year. The next morning, we depart early, boarding Amanzoe’s tender – a Wally One yacht – and jetting off into one of the protected bays where we have a prime view of the race of vintage sailing yachts. Afterwards, we dock at Spetses’s scenic harbor and take a stroll past the cafes and also visit some local shops selling unique beach wraps, dresses and bags by Greek designers.
Later in the afternoon we return to Amanzoe’s Beach Club – 6.5 kilometers from the hotel and accessible by shuttle or, alternatively, mountain bike – and test out the waters: a dip in the wonderfully cool ocean followed by a few laps in the 25-meter pool. There are both heated and unheated pools here, as well as a shallow pool for kids. The Beach Club Restaurant offers Greek specialties and delicious pizzas on their menu, while at the hotel’s own Japanese restaurant Nama back at the resort you’ll enjoy a much more refined dining experience. We’ve been invited to the Nikki Beach Club in Porto Heli later tonight, where the regatta participants and sponsors have asked us to join them for dinner. But shortly after the meal, we feel the need to return to our wonderful villa, where we take another drink on our terrace before turning in for the night. The next morning starts in Amanzoe’s light-flooded spa, the largest of any in the Aman Group. It offers a steam bath, Thai massages and a wide range of treatments combining Ancient Greek beauty rituals with techniques from abroad – inspired by Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, among others – in five rooms covering almost 3,000 square meters. After a fabulous treatment we embark on a tour of the hotel and learn about Villa Number 20, the biggest of the ten villas, which is situated on 1.6 hectares of land and can accommodate up to 20 guests in nine bedrooms on six floors. Villa Number 20 is perhaps Europe’s most exclusive holiday villa and comes with its own sauna, spa, steam bath, gym and yoga studio. For guests who get bored easily there is the hotel’s remarkable library and elegant and curated souvenir shop, where you will find beautiful gifts and special artworks crafted by local designers.
Excursions into the culturally rich surroundings are also offered daily: The ancient city of Epidauros, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where theater performances are held in the summer, is only 50 minutes north of Amanzoe by car, while Mycenae, the premodern kingdom of the legendary Agamemnon, can be reached in 90 minutes. The Franchthi cave is only a 20 minutes’ drive north of the hotel. Those who don’t want to travel so far from the resort are free to explore the landscape of the Peloponnese on foot. If I could spend some more days here, I would do as the gods and give in to this delicious temple of relaxation.