Destination Inspiration: Spetses, Greece
A two-hour catamaran ride from Athens, the pine-scented island of Spetses beckons, home to white-sand beaches, farm-to-fork dining and sultry bars
12 September, 2022
Located in the Attica region of Greece, the sleepy isle of Spetses sways to a slower beat than that of its Sarconic siblings. Think secluded coves flanked by tangled olive groves, sprawling pine and citrus trees, warm-hued passageways peppered with whitewashed villas and old-school tavernas, and a local community that takes huge pride in its culture and traditions. With a population of just 4,000 full-time residents, the magic of this dinky island is that there are no hip chains or big-name faces moving in.
Just 27km in length, and having only one dusty road leading into the main town, this is an island best explored on two wheels - visitors are banned from bringing cars. We suggest getting your hands on a bicycle and peddling around the cobblestone streets. Start by swinging by the Psaragora, the daily fish market, to pick up the catch of the day to cook up for lunch, then head for a splash in the gin-clear waters of Agia Marina's beach, before taking a scenic stomp along the seafront from Kounoupitsa village to the old harbour, Palio Limani.
A secluded cove, left, and a palm-fringed tuk tuk. | Photo credit: Taylor Simpson & Ramon Kagie / unsplash.com
Spetses was the first island in Greece to raise the flag of revolution back in April 1821, declaring independence from Ottoman rule. To learn more about its proud history, visit the Bouboulina Museum, which is crammed with historic artefacts. The whitewashed, 300-year-old mansion was the former home of Laskarina Bouboulina, naval commander, heroine of the Greek War of Independence, and the first woman to attain the rank of admiral.
Where to stay?
Poseidonion Grand Hotel. Open since 1914, this sleek and stylish bolthole was the first Greek hotel to offer spa facilities. The wellness centre has come a long way in a century: today's visitors can expect a state-of-the-art pool, organic treatment services and a fully equipped gym. The whole property underwent an intricate refurb in 2009, which carefully preserved the original architecture while adding contemporary details. In the old wing, 38 rooms marry a neutral colour palette with antique furnishings; in a new annexe, all 17 rooms offer sweeping views across the private manicured garden. Insider tip: be sure to visit the hotel's farm-to-fork open-air restaurant Bostani. There are also cooking classes to book onto, should you wish to hone your kitchen skills.
Where to go for dinner?
Al fresco dining doesn't get much better than at Mourayo Spetses. Housed in a 19th-century farmhouse, the restaurant's outdoor terrace offers front-row sunset seats, plus palm-flanked parasols, cushion-clad sofas, lantern-laden tables and old-school crossback chairs. Arrive for 7pm to see the whole space illuminated in a warm coral glow, then order an extra-large plate of the salmon linguine - best washed down with a chilled glass of white.
Poseidonion Grand Hotel main entrance, left, and a pool suite.
And for a drink…
Bikini. This two-storey water-facing hotspot is renowned locally for its light bites and craft cocktail menu. The lower-level wood-decked area is decorated with rattan chairs and hanging plant pots; upstairs, plush sofas and a bar draw party people. Order a few plates to share. Standouts include feta-studded salads, black truffle risotto and cheeseboards - there's a great selection of sorbets, too. Our order? A topless cocktail - a Hendrick's gin with cucumber and green apple infused with fresh lemon juice and ginger syrup.
Who to take with you?
Spetses is the sort of place where you could go an entire day without crossing paths with another human being. For that reason, we suggest bringing your low-maintenance mate, who'll have no qualms about settling down on the beach with a good novel.
Essentials to pack
Every fashionista will tell you that the straw hat is the staple accessory for any sun-filled getaway - shoutout to Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn for that one. For effortless poolside glamour, pack this Ruslan Baginskiy straw hat.
How to get there
Take a direct flight from London Heathrow to Athens International Airport, from where it's just a two-hour catamaran ride from the port of Piraeus to Spetses.