Luxury, fine dining and Hellenic hospitality abound at Eagles Palace, a five-star hotel near Mount Athos in Greece, as ANASTASIA
Waves gently lapping the shore, a waiter’s tray sweetly clinking with wine and cocktail glasses… These are the heavenly sounds of Eagles Palace, a seriously laid-back five-star hotel in Halkidiki, just over two miles from the peninsula of Mount Athos. While a lot of attention and praise has been heaped on Corfu, Crete, Rhodes and their golden-shored neighbours, Halkidiki in northern Greece is a largely unspoilt area boasting water that’s clear as glass and an almost unbelievable shade of blue.
A 90-minute drive from Thessaloniki International Airport, it’s impossible not to be immediately mesmerised by the relaxed atmosphere of this family run resort. On arrival, guests are presented with a glass of chilled local wine, and then invited to
sit in the shorefront restaurant. Cue instant bliss. Eagles Palace, you soon discover, is just the place to come to for some serious honeymoon R and R.
A big part of the hotel’s appeal is that the pace of life is so blissfully slow – all the way down to how the staff stroll calmly around the resort – that you can’t help but gently drift in time to its circadian rhythm. Days can be spent lazing around and
napping, punctuated most enjoyably by lunch and dinner,
The private restaurants on site, there’s plenty of scope to sample local cuisine.
Amyra focuses on Greek recipes with an emphasis on fresh fish – you can tuck into treats like sea bass fillet with lemon juice, capers, parsley and sea fennel. Melathron is a laid-back buffet restaurant serving dinner with a different theme each night of
the week. It’s a great opportunity to try, in turn, food from the Balkans, plus Greek dishes such as soutzoukakia (meatballs) and Halkidiki’s local fare.
The fourth restaurant, Kamares is particularly special, and is devoted to using only Greek products to create modern versions of national dishes. Kamares is not included in a half-board stay, but it’s well worth booking for an evening of authentic cuisine.
As a rule, all food is sourced from within 100km of the hotel (exotic fruits being the only exception); watermelons are bought from a nearby farm, while tomatoes come from a village just 30km from Eagles Palace. It is a huge part of the hotel’s
philosophy to keep things local.
After a day spent feasting on the fine cuisine, we enjoyed a nightcap while the hotel’s resident pianist serenaded us into peaceful relaxation, before we retired to our room. The hotel has recently been refurbished, and the rooms are light, airy and vibrantly decorated – a pleasure to relax in.
The next morning, you can greet the day and watch as the sun rises behind Mount Athos. The staff at Eagles Palace are proud of their proximity to this mystical mountain, the peak of which is crowned majestically by white clouds. Nature flourishes here with wild abandon, and UNESCO has deemed the area a
World Heritage site. This scenery provides more than a beautiful backdrop to the hotel – it has a unique place in Greece’s spiritual and cultural identity. Owned by the monastic community, this area is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries.
Although it is possible to visit Mount Athos, it is strictly forbidden for a woman to step on these sacred grounds. So, for honeymooners, the lush forests and fortified
walls of the monasteries are to be admired from afar. Luckily, there are plenty
of other places to explore. Eagles Palace offers a range of private boat and yacht trips to enable guests to explore the local area. We managed to tear ourselves away from the comfort of the hotel for a sun-scorched morning island hop. You have the choice of renting your very own motorboat, or hiring one complete with captain as a knowledgeable guide at the helm – prices start at £100 per hour.
A guide can certainly steer you in the right direction of all the best beaches. You can head to Ammouliani, Halkidiki’s only inhabited island. Its population is just over 500, but in the peak of summer, this 4.5km squared idyll plays host to many more.
Take the opportunity to stroll up to the picturesque village square at the top of the hill, where you will experience some legendary Greek friendliness and charm. The beach on Artemis Island is famed for its beauty, but if you’re looking for something more remote and just as eyecatching, explore Pena, a tiny island with two golden beaches. Inhabited only by a herd of goats, it’s a picture perfect spot, with
trees wind-swept into charming, almost horizontal angles and a rugged coastline. If you’re visiting outside of peak summer season, you may get the island all to yourselves. It doesn’t get much more special than your own paradise island! After a few days of exploring land and sea, you may fancy slowing the pace down again. There’s plenty to help you relax. Mix it up with a lounge by the pool here, a snooze on the beach there. Should you get peckish, simply press the buzzer on your umbrella and a waiter will run over to take your order.
If you need to slow the pace down further still, you can try the on-site Elemis spa. The facilities are free, with sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, heated beds and pool all available to guests. Fancy a treament? Honeymooners will love the couple’s massage in a softly lit room with soothing music and scented oils – we tried it and loved every minute of it.
The spell is irresistibly cast on just about everyone who comes here. Once you’ve visited Eagles Palace, there’s a high chance you’ll be back for more. A striking 40% of customers return to the hotel year after year. Many come here first for their honeymoon, staying in one of the four sea-view bungalows, or in one of the two rooms with their own sea-view jacuzzi. They later return with family and friends, and often a growing brood of kids. There are a myriad of rooms and bungalows to suit any budget. The most prized of these is the presidential suite, named after Greek soprano Maria Callas, who stayed here in 1976.
Set in such a special location, and managed with familial warmth, Eagles Palace is uniquely luxurious and comfortable in equal measure. Its mystic charms will enchant you, and you will vow to return to this ancient part of Greece again.