Greek isles offer new options for travelers

The view from Calilo, a new resort on the Greek island of Ios.
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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Before the coronavirus virtually halted travel globally, one of the unexpected trending hot spots for the year was Greece.

Islands like Mykonos and Santorini, of course, have long been popular, particularly among the young, jet-setting and celebrity crowd.

For those seeking a little more solitude, however, there are -- fortunately -- some new options.

On the island of Ios, for instance, a family that bought up 35% of the island with the idea of developing just 1% of that property has opened a second resort.

The 38-room Calilo Beach Heaven had a soft opening last year, joining the 16-room Agalia Luxury Suites. Calilo  recently finished eight of those suites along with five miles of walking trails and a variety of new sunken rock pools.

The hotels are part of the LuxurIos sustainable hospitality company that husband and wife team Vassiliki Petridou and Angelos Michalopoulos started after falling in love with the island on a family sailing trip years ago. They then set about buying up as much land as they could.

Petridou, who goes by the nickname Vasso, said the idea was to preserve and protect the island from over-development while offering visitors the chance to enjoy the unique combination of privacy, luxury, culture, environment and fun.

"It's an island that has been quite misunderstood because it has always been a little bit laid back," she explained in a recent telephone interview. "I call it the spring break of the world. It's a destination where most kids who graduate from high school come to discover the world."

She said that they never want to change that, but with their properties they offer private, luxury alternatives about 12 miles from town. That enables people to both enjoy and escape the bustle.

Similarly, on Mykonos, a new 25-suite hotel called Kalesma is set to open in June, offering guests a 5-acre private estate just 2 miles from town.

If pre-Covid 19 travel trends resume when the crisis ends, the properties should see huge demand.

Earlier this month, Avanti Destinations reported travel advisor bookings for FIT clients going to Greece were up more than 70% over the same time last year, putting Greece into Avanti's top five best-selling destinations for the first time.

"In response to this surge in demand, we've introduced some smaller, less-touristed islands and mainland destinations, perfect for anyone looking to escape the crowds," Avanti CEO Paul Barry said in a release, distributed before the U.S. and other countries virtually shuttered travel. "We are also introducing quite a few new tours and experiences in these more off-the-beaten-path places, such as a pottery workshop, hiking, truffle hunting and cooking lessons in a local's home."

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