The Best Summer Breaks in France, Greece & Spain
Summer Breaks: GREECE
Danai Beach Resort, Halkidiki
Greek culture is all about generosity and conviviality, and this little Aegean beauty embodies this from the moment you check in until the final ‘yassou’. It’s no surprise that the resort, on the northern peninsula of Halkidiki, is a family affair. Originally built as a modest family home, it’s slowly expanded year on year – a true labour of love – to become the 64 suite, six-villa paradise it is today. Sprawling views, a private beach, award-winning wine cellar, and a cobbled lane of boutique shops make Danai feel like its own little village, neatly perched on the Aegean sea. Cliffside fine dining at Squirrel (voted number one restaurant in Greece) maintains the warm and jovial hospitality felt throughout Danai, but for a big fat Greek knees-up, dine al fresco at Bachtses. The tables are there to be danced on as much as they are to be eaten off of – don’t worry, everyone does it. If you fancy a day trip, the resort’s very own 82ft yacht is the perfect way to explore the Sithonia peninsula in style – not that you’ll ever want to leave.
BOOK IT: Suites from £375.
Marpunta Resort, Santikos Collection, Alonissos
Jagged cliff edges meet crystal-clear, deep blue waters and views out to Skopelos. Opt for rooms with a sea view from the cliffs, or the private villa. A glorious private beach lures guests away from the Aegean vistas, with white pebbles sloping into a turquoise sea and a large protruding rock piercing the cove (good to aim for when swimming or paddle boarding). Overlooking this heavenly seclusion is a vast pool flanked by a cocktail bar and restaurant Achinos. The menu here is an artful blend of Mediterranean tradition and modern culinary gusto, sophisticatedly presented but bursting with rustic flavour. Pair the fresh seafood with the Santikos family’s own wine, Moschato. Those seeking to take the edge off this Greek hedonism can choose from an abundance of yoga and fitness classes or hike the island’s fragrant hills and olive groves with a guide, weaving up through pine-clad forests to the Old Town. The hotel recently opened an outdoor cinema on the waterfront, beautifully projected against its old stone patio and helipad. It’s right out of a ’70s Bond film, with themed evenings, from classics to sci-fi.
BOOK IT: Seven nights from £1,025.
Elivi Hotel, Skiathos
Skiathos is the largest island in the Sporades, its eponymous capital a maze of bright white streets sloping down to a busy port. Twelve miles away, a modernist update of the local cubic whitewashed architecture sits deep in a pine forest on the peninsula’s shoreline. Up on a hill overlooking the indigo blue sea, guests breakfast on a limestone terrace and the hotel rooms beneath step out into a shared lap pool. In a quiet bay nearby, guests doze on cream linen daybeds. A five-minute buggy ride away, a nook of villas and a pool with a lifeguard sit behind a beach where local families build sandcastles. There’s also a naturist enclave, enjoyed by evenly-tanned northern Europeans. Nearby, protected wetland Lake Strofylia is home to black swans that stray onto the beach during the day and emerge in fowl-themed art around the hotel. Olive and almond trees surround its three restaurants, candlelight flickering over garlicky baked fish, tuna sashimi or Japanese teriyaki beef. In the Elemis spa, treatments use organic ingredients – a lime salt and ginger scrub is followed by a pine, sea fennel and rosemary mask. An Elysian paradise.
BOOK IT: Five nights from £740.;
Santa Marina Resort & Villas, Mykonos
Whether you’re looking for a chic grown-up getaway or a luxe escape with the kids in tow, the perfectly polished and white- kaftan-clad Mykonos jet set flock to Santa Marina for an annual sun-worshipping retreat. Located on a secluded peninsula 3km from bustling Mykonos town, it’s the only resort on the island with its own private beach. There’s also a glorious seawater infinity pool, a family-friendly pool (right by the bar so you can snack while the kids splash) and the island’s biggest, most luxurious spa. Nine suites among the 101 rooms have picturesque private pools, there are family-sized villas if you want a more intimate escape. Check out the old town of Hora, which is the perfect place for early evening meandering (so long as you don’t mind a lot of foot traffic in peak season). And if you have time take a day trip to Delos, it’s well worth a visit by boat, home to one of the major religious centres of the ancient world. Back at Santa Marina you’ll find the Colonial bar and restaurant serving fresh local flavours and the world’s first Buddha-Bar Beach, which is ideal for vermilion-sky, sea-view sundowners.
BOOK IT: From £360.
Villa Apasa, Corfu
Villa Apasa would fall into the see-it-to-believe-it category were it not for the fact it remains unbelievable once you’re there. When approaching its private seafront by boat, the six-bedroom villa, set on a nine- stremma (one Greek stremma equals 1,000 sq/m) clifftop site, looks like something out of a James Bond movie. The dramatic entrance, through huge wooden doors from India, leads guests into the 20-metre sitting room, past a grand piano and enormous sofas, and smack into the most breathtaking view: east to the coast and mountains of Albania, the magical site of ancient Butrint in full view, and south to mainland Greece and the islands of the Ionian sea. The unreal shimmer of magnificently blue sea isn’t the only water to gawk at – sleek swimming pools sparkle on white stone terraces, the upper pool trickling into a lower one via a four-level waterfall with lush greenery surrounding it. Bedrooms boast at least one wall of glass through which to gaze at the horizon, their own unexpected and impressive features. Think: private landscaped garden with a Jacuzzi and wide marble steps leading to a sunken double bath. Chef Veronica Drysdale wows with fresh seasonal suppers and discreet staff keep everything in good nick. Oh, and there is a glass- walled lift that takes guests down the cliff to sea level.
BOOK IT: One week from £39,790.
Ikos Aria, Kos
This island has finally shrugged off its reputation as the place for partygoers and water park enthusiasts in favour of a more refined holiday. The brand spanking new Ikos Aria is helping put Kos back on the map for luxury jetsetters with a sprawling beachfront property that beautifully combines contemporary style, traditional hospitality and spectacular views out to the glittering Aegean. And they’re redefining ‘all inclusive’ too, with restaurants curated by Michelin-starred chefs, over 300 wines to enjoy, and – most astonishingly – the option to dine out at the island’s best eateries at no extra cost (make sure to head to ALI for proper local cuisine). That’s the real game changer: being encouraged to get out and explore rather than hide anonymously away – much helped by the hotel’s fleet of Minis, perfect for a trip to nearby wineries or Kos Town for artisan shops and views of Bodrum so clear you can see the houses. Of course, that’s if you can drag yourself away from the miles of manicured beach, Anne Semonin spa, private pools and huge variety of activities on offer; with diving lessons, pedalos, water polo and windsurfing all available daily (again, all included). You find yourself wondering how they do it all for such a reasonable price, but then you’ll sip on your umpteenth cocktail, order a Greek salad to your sunbed, take a breath and remember to just lap it all up while you can.
BOOK IT: Seven nights all inclusive per person including flights and transfers from £1,368.
Summer Breaks: FRANCE
Château Saint-Martin & Spa
It would be difficult to visit Château Saint- Martin & Spa without making an occasion of it. Perched high on the hills overlooking the picturesque medieval town of St Paul de Vence, the winding road on approach builds up to a beautiful reveal of sumptuous French luxury and style. This prestigious Oetker Collection hotel reopened its doors in April last year to debut spa enhancements by interior designer and architect Bergit Countess Douglas of MM Design. You’ll be glad to join spa partner La Prairie on their eternal quest for youthful beauty through scientific innovation. Forget meddling with supposedly luxurious ingredients you’ve never heard of and get straight to business with the caviar body treatment and La Prairie’s caviar massage. Be lifted, firmed and elasticised by nature’s most exquisite bounty before heading for a swim to show off your shimmering skin. If visiting for the day, book a spa experience from a long inventive menu that includes ‘A Dream in Provence’ – it lives up to its name with lunch at the hotel’s one- Michelin starred restaurant, Le Saint- Martin, and access to the infinity pool. Alternatively, stay the night and enjoy the rooms’ famed views that take in the Côte d’Azur from Nice to Cannes.
BOOK IT: From £271.
Hôtel Crillon Le Brave, Provence
Perched on a ridge above a valley of vineyards, this boutique hotel looks towards Mont Ventoux – the toughest leg of the Tour de France. Its intimidating climb and terrifying descent is the subject of much debate among Lycra-clad bikers while they load up on pain au chocolat. The limestone buildings that once housed a 17th-century school, town hall and artist’s studio are now en suite rooms with roll-top baths, Bamford shampoo and cream linen sofas arranged on flagstone floors. The hotel’s spa is housed in a centuries-old, stone ex-stable. Quiet streets easily conjure the farmers who once led their horses into the vaulted stables where guests now gather for evening drinks. Restaurant La Madeleine takes flavours from Provence and the chef’s native Brittany; the waiter’s peregrination around the vast cheese selection becomes a soliloquy worthy of Racine. By day, guests read Le Monde Weekend by the pool, the mountain soaring above with a snow-topped peak even in summer. Now part of a small, family-run hotel collection called Maisons Pariente – worth keeping an eye on.
BOOK IT: From £306.
La Bastide de Gordes, Vaucluse
Perched atop 12th-century fortifications on the edge of the hilltop village of Gordes is La Bastide de Gordes, a spa hotel with sweeping views of the Luberon valley and mountains. Arranged over ten floors, it is home to 40 rooms and suites, a Sisley spa, four swimming pools and three restaurants, including Peir, from acclaimed multi- Michelin-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire. The 1,600sq/m spa, with church abbey-inspired architecture and vaulted corridors, immediately imparts a sense of calm. The staggered hillside setting means that for once the spa isn’t banished to the basement; instead, the treatment rooms benefit from natural light with sun-dappled private terraces for open air massages beneath ancient olive trees. The spa also houses a sauna, sensory showers, a compact gym and an indoor pool, which is open at one end to the Luberon valley. The highlight of this hotel has to be the outdoor pool edged with loungers, a perfect spot for taking in the unparalleled views. Classified as one of the prettiest villages in France, Gordes itself is a charming village with cobbled streets lined with shops selling the region’s famed lavender honey.
BOOK IT: From £262.
Summer Breaks: SPAIN
Summer breaks don’t come any fresher: Ibiza, jasmine and lemons, bright skies and a breeze, random roaming chickens, a veg patch with twists of artichoke, indoor fires, white beams, white walls. This is a family-run finca with its roots in nature. The food is wholesome excellence and based on a farm-to-fork philosophy. Expect treats such as Iberian ham and homemade croquettes, roasted pumpkin salad, suckling pig and excellent burgers and chips, done as they should be. There’s a chic, Asian-style spa with outdoor double daybeds, yoga classes, a gym, hammam and cool outdoor modern sauna pod. Treatments draw on Ayurvedic, Balinese and Thai traditions – therapists work intuitively. Bedrooms are simple comfort and there’s a groovy beach club, a sister restaurant 20 minutes away and even a dance floor (many weddings happen here). For extra privacy stay in the adjacent villa with its own pool, perfect for larger groups. The little on-site boutique shop supplies nearly every wish, so you don’t need to leave the premises. All you have to do enjoy yourself. Which isn’t hard. This is an intimate under-the-radar find with all the bells and whistles usually found only at much bigger, splashier resorts.
BOOK IT: From £149.
Son Brull, Mallorca
The scent of oranges is all it takes to win you over. Situated in the northern part of Mallorca near Pollença, Son Brull is a former monastery dating back to the 12th century. The hotel is the perfect rural sanctuary: cobbled stone courtyards, massive grand doors and an ancient, majestic olive oil press in Restaurant 365. A newly-built spa comes complete with wood and stone and pays homage to the original architecture. Dark colours and contemporary furniture ground guests in timelessness and peaceful silence. Orange groves on the property inspire the spa’s particular focus on getting back to nature and reconnecting with the earth. Three treatment rooms, set in the palatial garden that’s surrounded with the scent of local flowers and herbs, overlook the beautiful countryside and hills of northern Mallorca. Give yourself over to one of their seasonal therapies, such as The Spring Ritual, which utilises prickly pear and the essence of its flower to rejuvenate through a scrub, body mask, facial treatment and stretching massage.
BOOK IT: Seven nights B&B from £1,551 per person including flights and transfers.
Hacienda De San Rafael, Andalusia
Mustard yellow earth, shuttered windows, a bougainvillea-filled courtyard, private verandas, hushed gardens. Beg and borrow to get here, San Rafael will steal your heart. This is one of Spain’s secret gems. The non-hotel hotel and the stuff summer breaks are made of. Discreet, handsome, run and loved by the family who live here. You can walk around barefoot, listen to the birds waking up, snooze on a sunbed next to one of three glimmering swimming pools, pluck an orange from a tree or read a book next to the fireplace in the sitting room. There are just 14 rooms, all of them super-pretty, and beds come with electric blankets for colder nights. A villa for families is in the making and is sure to be a hit for those seeking even more privacy. If you can stir yourself, visit Seville, Jerez and Cadiz; go horseriding, enjoy cooking lessons, explore the region. But it really is tough leaving the place. There’s a mass of lovely nooks to loll in and the staff will do anything to please. Lunch will warrant a long afternoon siesta: huge house salads, Manchego, fried squid, spot-on guacamole, Spanish omelettes. They make excellent puddings and even children will love the vegetables. Put it on your list.
BOOK IT: From £280.