A luxury foodie road trip through the Greek islands
Take in all the Aegean Sea has to offer on these legendary islands
One thing they always say is that you can’t buy time, seemingly the most luxurious and sought after commodity in the world. Yet spend 4 days making your way around the Aegean Sea and you’ll understand that everything on these tiny islands runs a little slower - suddenly you find that you have all the time in the world.
It makes sense that the people here aren’t too concerned with the fast pace of metropolitan life, as their roots date back to the very beginnings of human civilisation. And in that time it’s fair to say they’ve mastered a few things - one of them being food, as we discovered on our epicurean road trip around Mykonos and Santorini.
We landed in sunny Mykonos a few hours after leaving a decidedly drizzly London, and went straight to the private shuttle service that whisked us to the gated resort of Santa Marina. If you prefer to make a more glamorous entrance, guests can also land on their helipad or dock at their very own jetty.
Santa Marina is located on the south-west side of the island and is sprawled over a peninsular all of its own. It’s made up from traditional whitewashed buildings connected by cobbled walkways that can take you from your room down to the only private beach on the island.
After settling into our rooms, all of which come with a sea view as standard, we hopped back on the bus and headed into town for one of the tourists’ favourite pastimes on the island: watching the sunset with a cocktail in Little Venice, against a romantic backdrop of wooden balconied buildings lining the seafront to one side and Mykonos’ famous windmills on the other.
Mykonos might be known to many as a party island, but if you don’t fancy clubs and all night raves then the small town of Ornos Bay is perfect for you. Its winding cobbled streets hide an abundance of luxury boutiques choice eateries. Perfect then for our first taste of Greek food on this gourmand road trip.
Greeks don’t seem to know the meaning of the word moderation when they’re entertaining. The plates are big and they just keep coming. Cold starters, warm starters, mains that seem to go on for hours and then three different desserts. And to say no to any of them would with spark a serious case of FOMO.
Once we were all finally done eating, it was time to stagger our way through the back streets to the shuttle waiting to whisk us back to the resort. Little did we know that this first meal (which probably provided enough nutritution for the whole trip) was just a sign of what we were in for as the experience went on.
The next day, we set sail for the ancient island of Delos. The supposed birthplace of the Greek sun god Apollo and moon goddess Diana, it was once a hub of civilisation in the ancient world. If you want to learn more about the history, have the hotel concierge organise a tour of the Unesco World Heritage site. Our guide, George, is probably one of the world’s leading experts in the island, having been an archeologist there for 40 years. His flawless knowledge of the history is matched by his warm personality and I can’t recommend this experience highly enough.
Then it was time to board our boat and head to the neighbouring island of Rhenia for something loosely labelled a Bohemian cooking experience. We had no idea what to expect until we arrived and saw what looked like a floating kitchen jutting out from a deserted beach and our chef, whose red shorts and a t-shirt made him appear more like a surfing instructor at first glance.
What followed was among the highlights of the trip, with Chef Tèo preparing fish caught earlier that day for our delectation. Every plate that was passed around seemed so simple yet with incredibly complex flavour profiles. And enjoying this food while knee deep in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea is an experience like no other.
Once we’d had our fill, we hopped back on our 17m boat and sped back to Santa Marina, where we enjoyed spa treatments in their glorious Ginko Spa, possibly the most tranquil spot in the Cyclades islands.
Then it was time for cocktails and dinner at the hotel’s very own Buddha Bar. If you’re familiar with other Buddha Bars around the world then you’ll have some idea of what to expect. But the setting of this one is particularly glorious, overlooking the private beach.
If you’ve never been to Santorini, you’ll likely recognise its white-washed buildings with blue domed churches from your Instagram feed. But if you’re looking to escape the crowd of perpetually posing tourists, then the place to stay is the luxury resort of Vedema.
Located in the quiet village of Megalohori and surrounded by vineyards - Santorini is known for its wine, of which more later - this is the place to be for seclusion and privacy on your visit, making it a favourite with A-listers. That evening, however, we jumped on a shuttle that took us to the more bustling town of Oia.
Built into and on top of the cliff this is the Santorini you see on social media. There are a couple of picture-perfect spots where everyone and their camera phones gathers to capture the sunset, but more astute travellers will find their way to a rooftop bar, where you can enjoy spetacle of the glorious sunset colours dancing off the white washed walls of the town below.
Once the sun had set we made our way to Mystique, another hotel in Marriott’s Luxury Collection, for a pre-dinner wine tasting in their secret wine cave. A side-note on wine from the island: it is incredibly mineral-rich thanks to the volcanic rock on which the vines grow, which may or may not be to your taste - but if you ask me, their dessert wine in particular is rather nice.
After so much eating, the next day it was finally time to try our hand at cooking something. A short walk from Vedema, you can attend a Greek cooking class in a traditional cave house that survived an otherwise devastating earthquake in the 1950s. Here we were expertly guided through classic recipes like tzatziki and moussaka, all while head chef George shared his little tips and tricks. Obviously, after this you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour, washed down with a few glasses of Greek wine on the roof terrace.
Our final stop was Vedema’s Nafsika Estate, a private villa located a two minute drive from the main hotel. This five-bed home is one of the most exclusive ways to spend your time away, set back from the road and, of course, with its own helipad. But the real luxury of this villa comes from it’s own butler, there to cater to your every need. And if you have a group of friends or family to share the villa with, suddenly living like a the rich and famous doesn’t seem so out of reach. Although be warned: once you’ve gone on one holiday with a butler, you may not want to go away without one.
A long dinner by the pool of Nafsika Estate as the sun set over the Aegean Sea was the picture-perfect way to end our epicurean trip. If you’re looking to taste and see the very best of the Greek islands and make the very most of your precious time, there is no better way to do it.
To book an Epicurean Road Trip, visit TheLuxuryCollection.com/EpicureanRoadTrips. Packages are subject to availability, and price is available upon request.