Glass enjoys three blissful nights at Halkidiki’s elegant all-inclusive resort, Ikos Olivia

 

IKOS Olivia will make an avid relaxer out of even the most stubbornly stressed. It starts at the airport, where a private shuttle picks you up and transports you through the olive groves and vast, verdant vineyards of Thessaloniki into quiet Halkidiki, the resort’s pretty, coastal home. The lobby gleams – the long bar, on one side, serves a varied list of cocktails while just around the corner, the airy French restaurant Provence proffers fresh seafood and salads to diners who look out over the azure pool.

Ikos OliviaA boat ride in Halkidiki

After we checked in, we were driven by buggy to our rooms. The resort stems from a large main building, with balcony-backed rooms, to bungalow-like branches that offer sun porches and, in some instances, inviting private pools.  My suite had a large living area, with its own dining table, and a separate bedroom where beautiful dark wood features were offset by elegant, naval blues. We toured the rest of the resort before dinner and, as the sun was setting over the large Deluxe swimming pool, a father and son still played quietly in the water – I later learned that all the pools are heated, so this sort of late-afternoon frivolity is still entirely possible through the seasons.

FUSCO Restaurant Ikos Olivia externalThe beachside Italian restaurant, Fusco

Dinner, on the first night, was in the resort’s beachside Italian restaurant, Fusco. The sound of the waves skimming the sand sound-tracked a meal of delicate carpaccio, rock-salted steak and rich tiramisu. After the sun had well and truly set, we walked next door to Helios, the bar, for cocktails before bed. When I returned to my room, it had been prepared for sleep with the curtains drawn and little petit fours on the pillow. It’s this sort of attention to detail that defined Ikos Olivia for me – how could you fail to let go of real-world stress when even the tiniest thing is taken care of for you?

A one-bedroom bungalow suite at Ikos Olivia A bedroom bungalow at Ikos Olivia

On the second morning, following a vibrant buffet breakfast at Provence, the resort arranged for us to take a boat ride around a pretty and virtually deserted bay close by. We sat on the top deck as the boat, Sunday, gently skimmed  the rippling, cerulean water. Despite being quite far out to sea, you needn’t have strained your eyes to see right to the bottom of the water and to the seabed, where the occasional fish and peppering of coral provided the only entertainment we needed. As we looped around the bay, our captain came up to inform us that for the last few weeks, dolphins had been swimming in the circle of sea up ahead. We waited, quietly, as the boat – engine silenced – approached the little group of dorsal fins that dipped and weaved their way through the water. As we got closer, they began to jump out of the sea – as if they knew we were watching.

New+Ikos+Olivia+BeachThe beach at Ikos Olivia

Back to the hotel and we took a late, leisurely lunch at sand-side Flavors, which serves an enormous buffet that hotel guests are free to peruse and feast from at their leisure. Here, choice abounds, and our lunch plates were quickly filled with slow-cooked lamb, octopus salad, local olives, braised aubergines, soft feta and freshly caught fish – to name but a few of the beautiful dishes that caught our eye. From there, I made my way to the resort’s main pool for an afternoon swim and quiet cocktail – served directly to the table beside my lounger. We were also treated, that afternoon, to a massage in the spa.

Ikos OliviaA couples treatment room at the Spa

Here, therapists tease the remaining tensions from bodies before they retire to the indoor pool, sauna or Hammam. That evening we dined at Ouzo, the resort’s elegant Greek restaurant, where champagne flowed and traditional dishes were served in refined portions. I started with fried anchovies and continued with fall-off-the-bone lamb with potato puree. Another day slowly sinking away, and another pair of petit fours on my newly plumped pillows when I returned to my room.

Beach Ikos OliviaThe beach at Ikos Olivia

The next morning – and by now I had truly embraced the spirit of the resort – I woke up to enjoy a long, lingering breakfast at Flavors, overlooking the ocean. From here, we were driven to a local winery for a tour of the owner’s eclectic corkscrew collection and the little museum that accompanied it. It was all light and easy and, of course, ended with a tasting of the vineyard’s extraordinary wines which ranged from fruity white to tannin-rich red. Again, and wholly without complaint, the afternoon was whiled away in the water. This time in the sea, with a pina colada waiting by my lounger.

Ikos OliviaIkos Olivia Deluxe Collection

That evening, the resort had arranged for us to dine at a local taverna. The restaurant, with its pretty, vine-covered patio, radiated the kind of rustic magic that lends itself effortlessly to long evenings of jovial, wine-fuelled conversation. To eat, we shared an assortment of traditional Greek starters – grilled halloumi, rice-filled vine leaves, fried courgette and Greek salad. For the main course I had a kebab fresh from the grill – a perfect representation of what Greece does so well: simple, fresh food that’s perfect without embellishment.

And thus ended the dream – one I was very reluctant to wake up from. Our private shuttle took us to the airport the following morning. Despite having left, however, I took a little bit of the resort with me and, for a few days at least, I felt completely serene.

by Becky Zanker

About The Author

Becky Zanker

Glass Online dining and culture writer

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