Over a thousand islands stretch from the Ionian to the western Aegean Sea, each with its own individual feel and character. But that hasn't stopped a few particular Greek scenes from dominating the imagination. In the minds of many, Greece remains a shipowner's private paradise (Aristotle Onassis on Skorpios, Stavros Niarchos on Spetseopoula), a playground for jet-set pioneers (think Mick Jagger and Rudolph Nureyev in 1960s Mykonos), and a post-collegiate destination of choice. But these days, as some one-time intensely private havens open to select outsiders and hoteliers create design-driven properties up to international standards, another Greece rises. And yet, the quintessential Greek experience remains exquisitely simple—fresh fish perfectly grilled in a taverna near the water, a plate of fresh figs the hotelkeeper brings to your room each morning. How to choose between them all? Read on.
The Classic Experience
Their names are familiar—Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes—and their roads well-traveled, but despite the cruise ships and hordes of tourists, these islands offer the most in terms of sights, restaurants, and hotels. Here, the way to navigate one Greek classic.
Santoriniis simply one of the most visually dramatic islands in the world, with its steep cliff; the caldera, formed by volcanic explosions thousands of years ago; and villages punctuated by the familiar Cycladic blue-domed churches. Minimize time in the main town of Fira, which is chaotic and filled with tacky tourist shops, and concentrate instead on Oia, the northern village that is a separate municipality from the rest of the island and subject to much stricter development controls. There are some signs of mass tourism, but they are outweighed by the village's charm.
Perivolas Traditional Houses This cluster of 17 houses, some fashioned from 300-year-old caves, is the ultimate in elegant simplicity. The rooms look like stone igloos, cool and slightly exotic, and the furnishings are as they should be, nothing more—handwoven rugs and pillows, a carved wooden stool. The view over the caldera, particularly from the infinity pool, is astonishingly beautiful. Most people are content to just lie on their decks and stare. And owner Costis Psychas and his staff are so welcoming that you are on a first-name basis immediately, which is why so many visitors are so eager to return. Book No. 17. The 15-foot ceiling gives it a grander scale than the rest. A new house with its own outdoor Jacuzzi and private pool should be ready by next season. Rates, $420-$610. $ Oia. Contact: Villas of the World.Com; 888-728-4552; 30-22860-71308; www.perivolas.gr.
1864 The Sea Captain's House Directly in Oia, but below the walkways that pass for streets (and therefore very quiet) this exquisitely restored captain's house opened in April. It has three suites each furnished with a real mix: antiques, works by local artists, and truly unusual pieces like the '40s wooden iceboxes from Piraeus and handblown glass lighting fixtures from Crete. Best is the upstairs Sailing Sea Suite, with the prettiest furnishings of all and a terrace on the caldera. Proprietor Tony Mosiman is also co-owner of two of the best restaurants in town, so catered dinners can be easily arranged. Rates, $295-$550, with special rates for renting the entire house. Oia; 30-22860-71983; www.santorini-gr.com.
Katikies From the staff at attention by the chaise longues to the waiter serving ever so formally with one arm behind his back, this is a place of high drama, where everyone whispers and guests pose and preen. Decor in the 22 cottages is stylish, if somewhat generic Euro-chic—leopard-print lampshades and marble-topped antique tables; the views and the pool are stunning, but not quite as astonishing as those at Perivolas. The hotel does have the most expensive suite on the island, a duplex with an outdoor Jacuzzi just steps below the main swimming pool. (Also with a circular staircase that was so narrow it barely accommodated my size-five feet.) Warning: If you intend to leave the premises, the 77-step climb to street level is so steep that you should train for it before you arrive. Rates, $295-$1,090. Oia; 800-295-1090; 30-22860-71401; www.katikies.com.
The Tsitouras Collection This collection of five themed houses, opened by art and antiquities collector Dimitris Tsitouras in 1988, was the trailblazer in Santorini's rise in luxury travel. In recent years, the decor began to seem a tad tired, and the management more than a bit distracted. But with a recent freshening and Tsitouras' passionate, perfectionist daughter Eleni as manager, it is looking very special once again. Apart from the classic furniture—Biedermeier chairs, Venetian lamps—in all the houses, each is distinguished by the museum-quality artifacts: the Picasso ceramic plate and 16th- to 19th-century nautical maps in the House of the Sea; the Byzantine icons, Venetian candelabra, and sketches of Rudolf Nureyev in the House of Nureyev. The Nureyev, with a raised, shaded veranda overlooking the caldera, is the most private of the main houses. But the most private on the entire property is the two-year-old Tsitouras family villa. Built farther down the hill, this three-bedroom house, with a swimming pool, contains the most prized pieces of Tsitouras' collection. Rates, $660-$930; $3,430 for the Tsitouras Villa. 30-22860-23747; www.tsitouras.com.
Zannos Melathron This 1885 mansion, atop a hill in the untouristed village of Pyrgos, is a model of restoration: Every ceiling painting, wood floor, tile, and door has been meticulously returned to its original condition. The problem here is location. The simple authenticity of Pyrgos is quite charming, but from the tables of the small open-air dining room you look north, and the caldera, the unmistakable focus of a visit to this island, is far off in the distance. To make it worse, only one room, Rolandos, has a view of even that. Combine a stay here with one of the hotels farther north. Since it is the closest to the airport, and the road to Oia is pretty hairy, it's also a good choice if you have a late flight in or an early flight out. Rates, $380-$1,040. Pyrgos; 800-480-1100; 30-22860-28220; www.zannos.gr.
IN OIA Greeks are opinionated and completely contradictory when it comes to their taverna recommendations. There are five on the waterfront in Ammoudi, ostensibly serving the same menu—fresh grilled fish and an assortment of Greek appetizers and salads. Opinion splits passionately between, Dimitri on one side (closer to the steps), and Katina on the other (closer to the road). We stuck with Katina and had fabulous meals—sea bass and snapper (you pick the fish, so choose wisely or you could wind up spending $100-$200, as it is priced by the kilo), eggplant, and not surprisingly, a Greek salad. Go for a lazy, late lunch (anything before 3 p.m. is early by Greek standards), or just before the celebrated sunset. Dinner, $80. $ 30-22860-71280.
1800 At the opposite end of the scale from the tavernas of Ammoudi, this formal, beautiful restaurant in a sea captain's house has a new chef turning out contemporary, high-style versions of Greek standards: eggplant mousse with vegetables and goat cheese in yogurt, basil, and parsley sauce; grilled prawns with star anise on cucumber salad; rack of lamb with olive oil, apples, and tea sauce. Marring the experience slightly is the sometimes overly elaborate presentation. Our starters were served on platters so big they had to be placed in the center of the table, forcing us to be more communal than we had intended. Dinner, $90; 30-22860-71485.
Ambrosia Owned by Tony Mosiman and Panayiotis Vassilopoulas, the same team who has Oia's Café-Restaurant, this spot has a view overlooking the caldera and is romantically candlelit. The fish soup is excellent, as is the guinea fowl in a sweet-and-sour sauce with tomatoes and herbs, and lamb chops with fresh mint and red-grape sauce. Dinner, $90. 30-22860-71413.
Oia's Café-Restaurant This place does not have the best view, but the food is so good you forget. It's the panoply of familiar Greek standards, but with a couple of embellishments: grilled mushrooms with garlic, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil; potato salad with capers grown on the island; and pork tenderloin sautéed with ginger, raisins, and red wine. Dinner, $65. 30-22860-71504.
IN FIRA Giorgos and Evelyn Hatziyannaki of Selene and Chrysanthos Karamolengos of Domata may have pioneered the "new Santorini cuisine," but lately "best on the island" goes to Nicos Pouliasis at Koukoumavlos. The raves may be premature: Having a meal here means negotiating a minefield of ill-conceived dishes such as his trademark crawfish with white chocolate, lime, and ginger. We left with our food uneaten and went to a nearby restaurant, Ampelos, for a late second dinner. Koukoumavlos: dinner, $80; behind the Atlantis Hotel; 30-22860-23807.
IN FIROSTEFANI Vanilia One of the prettiest restaurants on the island; its salmon-pink walls are framed with leaves and bougainvillea blossoms dotted with white lights. Standouts include a roasted tomato stuffed with local fava beans and grilled calamari and a flowerpot chicken with smoked tomatoes, sweet onions, and balsamic vinegar. Dinner, $75. Main Square, Firostefani; 30-22860-25631; www.vanilia.gr.
Aktaion As a counterpoint to Santorini's upwardly mobile, creative cafés, this 80-year-old restaurant is the place to sample reliable dishes, debate politics, and see everyone you have met on the island. Dinner, $50. Main Square, Firostefani; 30-22860-22336.
Replica The gimmick here, as the name suggests, is that most pieces are reproductions—of frescoes, classical Cycladic marble sculptures, or ceramics in the warm orange color popular in the fifth century b.c. From $35 for a small ceramic glass dish to $930 for a painting. Oia Village; 30-22860-71916; www.replica-artwork.gr.
Bezant The walkways of Oia are lined with jewelry shops, but this one stands out with its artisan designs that use large semiprecious stones such as tourmaline and lapis, diamonds and enamel. Pieces can be custom-ordered. From $45 for a simple enamel ring to $5,680 for an 18-karat gold and diamond necklace. Oia Village; 30-22860-71679.
THE GUIDE TO BOOK Kalli Alevizou has been a tour guide for 16 years and is extremely knowledgeable and very passionate about history. She is the one to walk with through the Museum of Prehistoric Thira and Akrotiri. Rates: $115 for Akrotiri, $230 to visit both. $ 30-69743-70127.
FOR A PERFECT BOAT Ted Stathis is an American expat of Greek descent, who spent summers crewing for his cousin's yachting business in Greece and finally moved over to skipper one himself. Now he's the captain of a 41-foot lagoon catamaran perfect for an afternoon day sail, fishing trip, or overnight charter. He also does an extraordinary lunch of salads and pastas to go with the fish, prawns, or chicken that he grills to perfection on deck. Rates: $725 for half day, $1,365-$1,645 for full day or overnight charter. $ 30-69442-41162; www.santorinisailing.com.
SWIM AT Perivolos Beach is a black pebbles-only affair: This is, after all a volcanic island. There's a wide stretch of clear water and good tavernas (the local favorite is the Italian restaurant Svago). Perivolos also attracts the most sophisticated social scene (stick to the right side of the beach facing the water to avoid the teenage circus on the left).
TO SEE SANTORINI AS IT WAS visit Akrotiri and the Museum of Prehistoric Thira. Excavations of the city of Akrotiri, settled in the fourth millennium b.c. and buried in a volcanic eruption in 1600 b.c., began in 1967 and are still yielding results. The best way to appreciate the civilization is to start with the wall paintings, pottery, and other artifacts at the three-year-old museum in Fira. From there, walk through the ancient city and imagine where the exhibits once stood. Museum of Prehistoric Thira, Mitropoleos Street, Fira; 30-22860-23217. Akrotiri; 30-22860-81366. Both are closed Monday.
Where To Find Greek Chic
Hydra, Patmos, and Spetses are the islands where sophisticated Athenians have weekend homes and continue their social seasons. They're not exactly unknown—note the daytrippers in Hydra and Spetses, as both are within two hours from Athens by hydrofoil; and in Patmos, you'll find followers retracing the steps of St. John the Divine. Still, the core of these islands, is the rarefied experience of staying in one of the distinguished houses available for rent, mingling at cocktail parties that house-hop, and joining in late-night international conversations in village cafés surrounded by famous faces no one seems to notice.
Hydra "You should have been here about thirty years ago when there were none of these stores," is the common complaint of longtime residents of this particularly picturesque island in the Saronic Gulf, 90 minutes from Athens by hydrofoil. But behind the main harbor, it is quiet on the steep streets that climb the hill. And because cars are banned, it always will be—except for the occasional sound of horses and donkeys. "People relax here. There is no noise, no motorcycles," says Christina Nevros, who is the owner of Bratsera, the premier hotel on the island. "The island is a community, even the foreigners feel it."
Staying Put In Style
Bratsera A former sponge factory founded in 1860, has been converted into a charming complex of 23 rooms with stone walls and white urns scattered throughout. Steps away from the bustling port, it's a whole different world. There is a pool, a garden of cypress trees, oleander, and jacaranda, and an open-air restaurant. The room that you want is the Virani Suite, on the top floor with an ironwork bed and hand-painted friezes. Rates, $130-$225. 30-22980-53971.
Hotel Orloff A Russian diplomat built the house in 1796, and it was sold to a Greek family almost a century later. After many summer vacations here, one of them turned it into a nine-room hotel. But it still feels like home, and it's still filled with the family's antiques, gilt-framed paintings, and mementos. Room one is the largest, has the prettiest mix of furnishings, and a good view down the street. There's no pool or restaurant, but there's a beautiful back garden planted with lemon trees and jasmine, whose fragrance inspired one early guest, perfumer Jean Paul Guerlain, to create his legendary Lemon Fresca. Rates, $150-$180. At 9 Rafalia Street; 30-22980-52564; www.orloff.gr.
Houses To Rent
The villa overlooking the port owned by Athenian interior designer George Petrides will be available for rent for the first time ever this year. It's a classic beauty, furnished with an 18th-century French cherrywood table, Turkish rugs, French crystal chandeliers, a brass bed from the island of Chios, and has its own large pool. Price upon request. Fax 30-21036-35411.
Gitoniko Restaurant This island favorite, wins additional fans for the sweetness of owner Christina Manolis. I've never before had a restaurant owner refuse to sell me a bottle of water because she only stocked large bottles. "That would cost too much," she insisted, preferring to pour me some of her own instead. Still, if the classic Greek dishes and the grilled fish hadn't been so good, I wouldn't have gone back again and again. Dinner, $55. $ No real directions—just ask for Christina; 30-22980-53615.
Moita "That's different food, just go to Christina," was the answer I got when I asked for directions to Moita. I can understand the locals' resistance; this white-on-white restaurant (set in a garden with whitewashed walls, off-white banquettes, gilded mirrors, and waitresses in white linen), could pass for some joint in Soho. The menu is sophisticated: swordfish carpaccio with fennel and mango threads; filled pasta malfetti with eggplant and tomato; pork fillet with caramelized endive. Each dish was better than the last. Dinner, $100. Next to the OTE building behind the clock tower; 30-22980 52020.
FOR DRINKS ON THE WATERFRONT go to The Pirate Café, a mecca for visiting yachties that also serves breakfast and ice cream. Yes, ice cream! $ 30-22980-52711.
Elena Votsi Hidden among the forgettable shops on the waterfront, this boutique showcases Votsi's dazzling designs in precious and semiprecious stones and a variety of asymmetrical shapes in gold. From $35 for a small pendant to $28,400 for an 18-karat gold necklace. Ikonomou Street; 30 22980-52637.
Patmos A combination of the glamorous and the divine, this island in the Dodecanese chain in the eastern Aegean is the home to writers and artists and the late Aga Khan. It's also the site of the famous Monastery of St. John the Divine.
STAY AT Patmos House, the 18th century house in the upper town of Chora, owned by a Greek artist, with an arched terrace overlooking the main town and furnished with pieces from local artists and artisans. "I wanted this to be a Patmos house—not a pretty French or Italian house," says the owner. So the kitchen table comes from the local refectory, and the 19th-century wrought-iron beds are framed in century-old lace hangings. Simple and very, very stylish. Rates, $6,300 a week. Contact Villas and Apartments Abroad, 212-213-6435; www.vaanyc.com.
EAT AT Benetos. Patmos-born Benetos Matthaiou grows his own vegetables and creates dishes you won't see anywhere else on the island: house-cured salmon with wasabi sauce, split-pea purée with fresh figs, and herb-crusted seared tuna. Book well in advance. Dinner, $45. $ Sapsila; 30-22470-33089. Open June through October.
MINGLE WITH LOCALS at Pyrgos Bar in Chora and Kafe Aman in Skala.
SWIM ON Psili Ammos beach, on the southwest corner of the island and reachable on foot (a long hike) or by boat. The wooden boat Aphroditi, can be rented through Astoria Tourist and Shipping Agency for $455. $ 30-22470-31205.
Your own private Greece
If luxury is space and privacy, isn't it even better when it also comes with a private beach? All beaches in Greece are public by law, but some estates here have such remote beaches or access to the sea that they are, for all intents and purposes, private. Here are a few of the best houses that can be listed publicly. There's a practice in Greece called "renting black," which means a villa is on the market by word of mouth only, and is never identified by name. Ask if there's "anything else." Chances are the best of the villas won't be on an agency's listing or Web site.
ON ITHACA Villa Skinos, a 400-acre estate, founded by shipowner Panos Gratsos, a contemporary of Aristotle Onassis, has a rare setting—on a secluded bay with a beach not far from Vathy, the island's main port. Ari and Jackie stayed here, and Charles and Diana docked in the bay on their honeymoon. For additional exploration, there's the 40-foot teak caïque Allegro, skippered by veteran sailor, storyteller, and distinguished cook Tassos Vigliaris, in which to venture into the clear blue-green waters of this out-of-the-way Ionian island. The house itself, built in 1961 and hardly modernized since, is less beautiful than the setting—furnishings are quite modest and very old-fashioned, and the bathrooms are almost primitive. But the setting and the house staff more than compensate. Price upon request. For further information and reservations contact Villas and Apartments Abroad, 800-433-3020, 212-213-6435; www.vaanyc.com.
ON ANTIPAROS The island of Paros is an absolute nightmare of ferries, crowds, and cheap hotels. But a ten-minute ferry ride delivers the quiet island of Antiparos, which is dotted with windmills, lovely estates, and very few cars. There, on a secluded pebbly beach are two perfectly Cycladic houses that can be rented as a compound or individually. A six and a seven bedroom, both are furnished with rustic antiques such as a painted breakfront and carved-wood bedframes, and each has a private pool. Rates, $5,060-$6,300. $ Contact Ileana von Hirsch, 44-20-8422-4885; firstname.lastname@example.org.
ON MYKONOS A classic example of renting black, this newly built seven-bedroom house has its own beach and an ideal location, well outside the noisy, overcrowded main town of Mykonos. It's a beauty, and a secret worth finding out about. Price upon request. $ Contact Ileana von Hirsch.
ON SPETSES Two hours from Athens and a half hour from Hydra, Spetses is a magnet for Athenian cognoscenti, many of whom have houses here. Few have locations as good as the Koutsis Estate. Set on six acres, with its own calm bay of pristine water reachable by walking a few steps down to the rocks. The five-bedroom house is furnished simply, with a few good antiques and contemporary pieces designed by the owner of the house. The big attraction, again, is the setting: no neighbors and glorious views of the water on both sides. Rates, $13,365 a week during summer season, with a three-week minimum June through September; $12,695 a week off season. $ Contact Evi Aidonopoulou, 30-69455-53327.
Athens Survival Guide
Athens isn't the easiest city to negotiate, nor, for some people, to fall in love with. Still, the city, feverishly renovating for the Olympics, is worth a stop for a day or two before heading out to the islands (don't do it afterward).
Athenian taxi drivers make New York's look like diplomats. Have your hotel book a radio taxi instead. Better yet, book one of these two cordial, reliable English-speaking drivers: Panagiotis Stathacopoulos (30-69766-51213) and George Brellos (30-69470-71904).
Where To Stay
HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE A $70 million makeover finished in March has restored the grandeur to Athens' premier hotel. Designer Chuck Chewning has succeeded in making it feel like a royal palace again with ornate gilded antiques sourced at Sotheby's and Christie's. The Royal Suite deserves the name: 4,300 square feet with its own sauna, exercise room, dining room for 16, and a private wine cellar. The 16-series suites have the best views of Parliament, the Changing of the Guard, and the Acropolis. At the very least, get one of the 02-12 rooms, facing Constitution Square with Acropolis views. Rates begin at $455 (to $10,795 for the Royal Suite). 800-325-3589; www.grandebretagne.gr.
HILTON ATHENS Yes, the lobby looks like a convention center, but overall the renovation, finished this year, has given the place a fresh, modern style. The restaurants are also a draw, notably the ground floor Byzantine (with a very good buffet, particularly at lunch) and the rooftop Galaxy Bar. Suite to get: The Lycabettus is only a one bedroom (with handcrafted leather furniture), but it's sexier and cozier than the larger, more classically impressive Presidential. Rates, $260-$5,500. Lycabettus Suite: $2,660. At 46 Vassilissis Sophias Avenue; 800 445-8667; www.hilton.com.
AVOID THE ST. GEORGE LYCABETTUS HOTEL Dated '70s decor, despite a recent renovation, and rude, hostile service.
Athens has quite a booming restaurant scene with chic new places that would not look out of place in London or New York and creative, international-leaning menus. Among the city's best:
ARISTERA DEXIA Steel-gray and minimalist with the best wine cellar in town and a tapas-style menu. $70. At 3 Andronikou Street; 30-210-342-2380.
RED In Athinais, a stylish complex that was formerly a silk factory and now houses the Pierides Museum of Ancient Cypriot Art, this restaurant is known for its plush red couches and dishes like crab salad with cumin, mango, and lime. Dinner, $70. At 34-36 Kastorias Street; 30-210-348-0000.
BALTHAZAR This hot spot near the American Embassy is housed in one of the most beautiful neoclassical buildings in the city. In the summer, there is a gorgeous garden in the back. Dinner, $120. At the corner of D. Soutsou and Tsocha streets; 30-210-641-23009.
The Next Great Place?
Costas Spiliadis, owner of Estiatorios Milos (in New York, Montreal, and opening this month in the Athens Hilton), first visited the Ionian island of KYTHERA five years ago. Now he goes every chance he gets, bringing back Kytherian fish, olive oil, sea salt, capers, and spoon sweets to serve at his restaurants. Here is an insider's tour of the island that people are calling the next Patmos.
After the half-hour flight from Athens, I get off the plane to a warm breeze, scented by the abundant thyme and fennel found all over the island. Tassos Venardos, the proud and energetic owner of VENARDOS HOTEL (30-27360-34100), in Agia Pelagia (the busy port town about 20 minutes from the airport), is waiting for me with a glass of the most delicious juice using fruit from the second, late fruition of the orange trees of the northern town of Karava.
At exactly 10 a.m. the next day, Tassos knocks at my door with a platter of freshly picked figs, and goats' milk cheese made by Kyria Stavroula who lives just down the hill, and whole-wheat paximadia baked in a traditional wood oven of the only bakery in the neighboring village of Potamos.
You eat well in Kythera. Take for example, FILIO (30-27360-31549), tucked in the village of Kalamos, about a half-hour drive from Venardos. The owners grow their own vegetables and herbs. They also have a small vineyard, where they grow the indigenous grape, Arikara, for a very characteristic red wine. Filio, the mother of the young couple that runs the restaurant, does all the cooking: zucchini flowers stuffed with different local cheeses; eggplant with xinochontro, a type of Greek couscous; slowly cooked wild goat with roasted rosemary potatoes; and unbelievable olive bread. There's extraordinary, locally caught fish at MANOLIS (30-27360-33748) on the waterfront in the busy port of Diakofti, where hydrofoils arrive daily from Athens; at the Ouzeri of Manolis' uncle, right next door, where you can have beautiful meze (small plates of Greek appetizers); at SOTIRIS (30-27360-33722) a taverna in the picturesque seaside village of Avlemonas, a 20-minute drive from the hotel; and at MAGOS (30-27360-31407), in the bustling southern village of Kapsali, whose popular beachfront is lined with cafés and restaurants. The dish to order is kakavia, the Kytherian version of bouillabaisse. For traditional food, using the best of locally grown products, there is TOXOTIS (30-27360-31780). In the village of Mitata, 15 minutes from Venardos, MICHALIS (30-27360-33626) serves some of the most savory pies and local alaniari, free range rooster in tomato sauce with Greek pasta. Nothing beats the main square of Milopotamos for homemade desserts and coffee; it is a must in late afternoon after visiting the waterfalls and old Venetian fortress nearby.
Make sure to visit The Exhibition of Modern Photography at the Cultural Center in Potamos, and sit in the most beautiful square of the town, right across the road. Listen for the sounds of the Philharmonic, practicing on the second floor of the building where Mr. Theodorakakis, the band leader, has his souvenirs store.
The beauty of Kythera, at least for now, is that when you get to know people like Tassos, you will also be directed to some of the most unspoiled beaches in all of the Greek Islands—places like KALADI, KAKI LAGADA, PALEOPOLI, LYCODEMOS, or FYRI AMMOS. (They say that Aphrodite was born out of the sea in Kythera.) If you don't mind a bit of adventure, visit the remote beach of Ochelles and swim around the rocky formations.
Accommodations in Kythera are limited. The best run of the small hotels on the island is the Venardos. There are also a few archontica, traditional, beautiful homes available for rent. Tassos, from Venardos, can arrange this, since he manages a few of the best.
Greece: A Practical Guide
Where To Go Next
HOTEL EMELISSE, a striking 64-room resort in northern Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian islands and the setting of Louis de Bernieres' Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Emelisse, owned by Haris Tsimaras, who has created sharp design-driven boutique hotels in Ithaca and the port city of Patras, is in the fishing village of Fiskardo, a one-hour drive from the main town of Argostoli. Plans are underway for a private luxury villa with the same contemporary design lines as the hotel, on an adjacent beachfront property facing the island of Ithaca. Look for it next season; price still to be decided. 30-26740-41200; www.arthotel.gr.
To Rent a Villa
Contact Ileana von Hirsch, daughter of a Greek shipowner and founder of 5 STAR GREECE, a new company specializing in luxury travel in Greece that benefits from von Hirsch's vast network of family and friends. 44-20-8422-4885. Two other possibilities are Villas of the World.Com (888-728-4552; www.villasoftheworld.com) or Villas and Apartments Abroad (212-213-6435; www.vaanyc.com).
To Rent a Yacht
While membership in the European Union means that European flagged yachts can now sail in Greece, the complexities of sailing these waters make a Greek captain a very good idea. Greek yachts vary in quality. Top of the line are the 138-foot, six-cabin motoryacht O'Pari ($125,000 a week) and the 100-foot five-cabin Perseus ($56,000 a week). A perfectionist who can be trusted to arrange it all is Cindy Brown of ULTRA MARINE: 888-858-7212, 212-423-9280; www.ultramarineyacht.com.
For Inter-island Travel
Private charters are the way to go. For smaller islands that can only accommodate prop planes, it's EUROAIR, which uses the Embraer EMB 110P and a Robinson R44 helicopter. Prices vary depending upon time of year, number of passengers, route. Call Sergio Petridis, 30-210-353-3715; www.euroair.gr. For larger planes: INTERJET has Cessna Citations and Dassault Falcon 2000s, as well as several helicopters. 30-210-9612-050; www.interjet.gr.
For More Information Read
Insider Magazine (previously called Inside Out), which covers the city and the country in an incisive way, offers suggestions of where to go and what to see for English speakers. Available on newsstands and in most hotels. A website for checking details of traveling in Greece is www.gtp.gr.
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