Luxury Travel Consultant Jessica Rizzolo recently returned from a trip to Greece. She shares her wellness journey and her experience on the island of Paros with us.
A wellness retreat on the island of Paros with one of my favorite yoga instructors was the source of inspiration for embarking on my recent journey to Greece. Like many travelers, I had always been drawn to Greece for its’ iconic white washed buildings, ancient ruins, alluring mythology, dramatic scenery, and fabulous cuisine. I knew immediately upon confirming my space on the retreat that I could not travel all the way to Greece without exploring the top highlights and uncovering a few untrodden treasures.
My journey began in Athens with an overnight stay at the Athenswas Hotel; a boutique design hotel perfectly located between the Temple of Zeus and the Acropolis. I was impressed by the views of the Parthenon from the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, especially in the evening when the entire Acropolis is illuminated. Being located on the edge of Plaka, Athens’ oldest neighborhood, I spent the evening popping in and out of shops and wandering the narrow streets. There are plenty of great hotels in Athens but for a quick overnight stay, the Athenswas Hotel is a hip and trendy option in the heart of the city.
From Athens, my voyage continued to Paros which is accessible by a short flight or 4.5-hour ferry. Paros is a laid back island with small villages and lovely beaches. It’s also a great jumping off point for exploring its neighboring islands by boat. In between my morning and evening yoga classes, I had ample time to navigate the island and took full advantage during my week long stay.
I was fortunate to be based in Santa Maria, a quiet beach town located on the Northeastern tip of the island. Santa Maria is home to a plethora of stunning beaches and a quick drive to Naoussa, one of Greece’s most beautiful seaside villages. Perched on the coast with sweeping views and charming streets lined with independently owned boutique shops and restaurants, Naoussa is not to be missed!
Due to the fact that there are less travelers and traffic on the island, renting an ATV or motorbike is a fantastic way to traverse Paros. In fact, a highlight to my trip was an ATV excursion that I took to Antiparos, a small island located less than a mile off the coast. The ferries that run back and forth allow you to drive your vehicle or in my case, ATV, straight onto the boat. As I drove off of the ferry, I turned left onto a winding road that hugged the coastline. I had heard from locals that if I took this road for about 30 minutes, I would see a sign for St Giorgio where a secret beach with turquoise waters could be found. For some reason, I was surprised to find a beach that perfectly met that description when I arrived. It was a nice reminder to embrace the unknown and let the unplanned moments of my trip reveal their treasures to me. Before hitting the beach, I enjoyed lunch at Captain Pipino’s, a family owned seafood tavern serving up freshly caught local fish with a boho vibe complete with clothing lines of octopus drying out over the sea. A truly fantastic day trip for the adventurous traveler.
When it comes to accommodations, Paros does not offer the same level of deluxe accommodation choices as some of the more well known and populated islands. With that said, Ker & Downey loves Hotel Seven, an intimate boutique hotel with only seven rooms and one villa located steps from Santa Maria Beach. My favorite restaurant, Siparos, is also walking distance from the hotel which is a major bonus!
If navigating quaint cobblestone alleyways, swimming in untouched ocean coves, and off the beaten path adventure is up your alley, head to Paros! Since most travelers prioritize visiting Mykonos and Santorini, Paros often gets left off a Greece itinerary. However, what I have found is that in addition to some of the more iconic sites, clients do want an authentic counter balance to the busier islands.
With that said, most travelers, myself included feel very compelled to visit Santorini so following a magical week in Paros I boarded a ferry to the isle of white and blue. Santorini is nothing sort of awe-inspiring. The city sits atop a crescent shaped caldera with views for days of the crystal blue waters below. Oia, is the most well-known of Santorini’s villages and a very popular stop for travelers, especially during sunset. There is no shortage of shops, café’s and restaurants and the town seems as though it’s been dipped in white with blue capped churches that blend in with the sea. It’s worth a visit without a doubt but with the large crowds of visitors that flock to the island, it can be difficult to have a genuine experience on Santorini. In an effort to provide clients with a memorable journey while keeping authenticity in tact, Ker & Downey curate’s experiences that take clients to unique locations on and around the island.
My favorite excursion was a private sunset cruise that made stops at a hot spring, the volcano and both a red and black sand beach. Throughout the cruise there were opportunities to swim, enjoy local beer and wine and indulge in a personalized BBQ lunch. Taking in the views of the caldera from the water provided a completely different perspective and the cruise ended with unobstructed views of Santorini’s iconic sunset without the crowds!
For accommodations in Santorini, Canaves Oia is a mini oasis. The views from the restaurant and rooms are unparalleled and it provides an intimate and quiet escape when you’re not out and about on the streets of Oia. For honeymooners or clients looking for a quieter atmosphere both inside and outside of their resort, the Grace in Imerovigli is a dream. Located a short drive from Oia and close to the shopping and nightlife of Fira it provides a central location with cliffside views that rival even the best lookout hotspots on the island.
With clusters of over 6,000 islets and islands dotting the sea, there’s a sense of discovery and adventure when traveling through Greece. If anything, my recent visit has inspired me to take another trip back as soon as possible to explore new islands, uncover more secrets and revisit the places that made me fall in love with this special corner of the world.