Many head to the Greek Islands to bask in the sun, bathe in azure seas and dine alfresco on tasty cuisine amid nature’s splendor. A delightful getaway – were it not for throngs of visitors on crowded beaches, in tavernas and just about everywhere especially in the busy summer months. If only it were possible to experience the islands without the crowds.
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Great news! Brand new Calilo, the first 5 Star Resort on picturesque Ios – one of the Cycladic islands in the heart of the Aegean just north of Santorini – delivers an unrivaled paradise away from it all. It’s delightfully remote, a 30-minute drive from the main town Chora and the lively nightlife the island is known for. Opened this July, the stunning beachfront resort hotel with winding stone walls, the owner’s fetching signature sculptures and whimsical designs throughout, turquoise curved swimming pool as well as mini mosaic pools, palapa daybeds, and thatched cabanas fronting the sea – feels like a true Utopia.
This fantastical wonderland is the brainchild of Angelos Michalopoulos and his wife Vassiliki Petridou. The Greek native couple lived in New York and decided to move back to their homeland to bring up their children. They immediately fell in love with Ios, it’s unspoiled landscape and pristine beaches and bought about one quarter of the 40-square-mile island around a decade ago in order to preserve its natural beauty and protect it. Their plan incorporated transporting more than 60,000 trees including 550 ancient olive groves, saved from becoming firewood on the mainland and earmarked 99 percent of their land for conservation. And now, they will share Calilo with lucky guests seeking a celestial refuge to kick back, relax and enjoy the best of Ios with the utmost privacy.
The super-luxe retreat is ideally situated on pretty Papas Beach. Set in a valley, it’s surrounded by over 1,000 acres of untouched terrain with hillsides of yellow rock and green flora punctuated by winding trails and groves. The environmentally friendly resort, mainly built of local stone and materials quarried on site, reflects the original style of dynamic duo husband and wife team Angelos and Vassiliki who are conservationists, developers and artists.
When I first arrived at Calilo I met the friendly gardener and his adorable pet sheep that follows him everywhere. Entering the large reception area, the evocative figurines, colorful geometric shapes and vibrant wall designs (all crafted by the owner) set the tone for an imaginarium. Proceeding outdoors, swings suspended over the pool, in-water tables and splendid rescued, replanted trees create a delightful feast for the senses.
Speaking of feasts, guests enjoy superb Mediterranean cuisine with vegetables, fruit and herbs from the resort’s organic garden at the scenic open-air restaurant. Some of the many standouts included luscious grilled octopus salad, tastiest linguine with seafood, freshest local fish of the day and mouth watering ribeye black Angus
Suite-sized rooms are airy with supremely comfortable king size beds surrounded by floors, walls and ceilings meticulously carved from thousands of pieces of Greek marble in beautiful hues of black and white. Every piece of furniture at Calilo is distinctly sculpted and all of the fanciful motifs on headboards, wardrobe doors, tables and chairs are designed by the owner and made here, along with the illustrated books in your suite. Gorgeous bathrooms done in marble from head to toe with huge round stand-alone tubs would have delighted Cleopatra.
Outside: you have your own private outdoor living space. My open air playground featured a large marble pool, multi level ponds with a waterfall, yet another pool on a raised platform with an in–water sunbed, comfortable loungers, outdoor shower and an elevated space with a lamp and covered bed should I drift off to dreamland.
In addition to water sports and boat excursions there are miles of coastline and walking trails with unblemished scenery and a spa wellness center is being built. Many prefer to unwind in their serene Calilo sanctuary, relaxing on the secluded golden sand beach gazing out at the blue Aegean.
If you want to leave paradise and check out the social scene in Chora with its traditional whitewashed houses and windmills, the resort offers transfers by car or boat. I visited some of Angelo’s and Vassiliki’s other venues on the island, all constructed with the environment in mind, and recommend them. These include: excellent rooftop dining at Agalia Luxury Suites, boutique hotel near town; Pathos Sunset Lounge and Restaurant – the island’s coveted ‘in’ spot; stylish Free Beach and Bar Restaurant; and Erego Beach Club and Restaurant on Koumbara beach which looks out towards the owner’s own private island of Ethousiasmos reached by a man-made causeway. Their spectacular house, which they have rented out to movie stars and celebrities, boasts the biggest, most glamorous pool I have ever seen.
Getting there: Ios is a 45 minute ferry ride from Santorini and the resort also offers transfers by its private boat.
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