If you're looking for pampering with off-the-hooks views, mainland Greece is back in vogue
Forget Santorini and Mykonos, Kassandra's Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort is luxury Greece at its best
Mainland Greece is back in vogue. There was a time when luxury travellers preferred the charms of islands such as Santorini for its stunning cliff-side retreats, or the gastronomic and party pleasures of Mykonos, but those in the know are now heading for less high-profile spots such as Kassandra, where world-class spa hotel the Miraggio Thermal Spa Resort is positioned away from the tourist hordes on the Halkidiki peninsula, offering incredible views across the Aegean Sea, together with a beautiful beach and a selection of well-appointed rooms.
First impressions are good. The winding road here (it’s 2.5 hours from the nearest major airport) whisks us past pine forests, olive groves and a coastline that’s postcard perfect, with boats bobbing in an azure sea providing a promise of the fun to come. Our room is stylish, although a little on the small side – grab a pool room instead, if you can. It does, however, have a magnificent view of the resort and its dramatic mountainous backdrop.
There are 300 rooms and suites, built in an amphitheatre-style, which sees them slope to the pools and sea beneath. And it is poolside where this place really comes into its own. Because these are super cool pools. They include a relaxing salt water pool that’s best suited to adults, a large lagoon style pool with water features (jets, underwater massage and huge fountains) plus a children's pool.
In terms of layout it’s very well thought out, with bars, restaurants and interesting boutiques scattered around the property. The sunglass store, in particular, has a range of top-end shades that wouldn’t look out of place in one of London’s finest designer emporiums. >>
Dining is a treat here, too, which is just as well as the Miraggio is miles from the nearest village. Kritamo is the main restaurant, and it’s buffet style. Breakfast here is impressive, with pots of freshly brewed strong coffee being chivvied back and forth while guests enjoy groaning tables of delicacies that include beautiful cheeses, smoked salmon and, of course, the sort of sticky pastries that Greece does so well.
Elsewhere, Portofino offers good Italian dining, Toroneo, overlooking the marina, serves fresh seafood, and the Oasis Pool Bar/ Brasserie is perfect for a quick bite while poolside. Oh, and if you have kids, expect to spend a lot of time in the ice cream store. For more grown-up fun, Sommelier's 8 Wine Bar is the perfect spot to enjoy the hotel’s refreshingly impressive wine list. I recommend the Whispering Angel, which is a great match for seafood.
Other must-dos? The 3,000sqm spa, of course, with its thermal water pools with hydrotherapy jets of varying temperatures and a rather cool swim in-swim out pool that offers a stunning view of Mount Athos. It’s worth visiting for those views alone, frankly. Do try the ice-cube filled plunge pool, too, which is a brilliant pick-me-up, particularly if you’ve overdone it on the Whispering Angel the previous evening.
Speak to Marina Manager Konstantinos Dedes and he’ll arrange an afternoon’s sailing for you, setting off from the hotel’s own marina – with room for 81 big yachts. We were taken on a tranquil excursion around the Toroneos Gulf, enjoying fresh fruit and even fresher fish while the waves gently lapped the hull of our beautiful boat. As the sun set and I took a slow swim in the warm water, I realised that mainland Greece had claimed another convert – thanks to the magical powers of the Miraggio.