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Avoid the Crowds and Discover Greece Off the Beaten Path

Greece, which is gradually opening to tourists from throughout the world, offers an almost limitless number of lesser-known destinations which possess all the unique natural beauty that you would find on the much busier islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes or Corfu.
In the era of the coronavirus, when most travelers are a bit on edge when mingling with crowds, these quieter, but equally beautiful places offer an attractive and safe alternative to more populated areas.
Aria Hotels, a family-owned boutique chain, has several hotels and villas in exceptional destinations. The locations are carefully chosen to appeal to discerning travelers looking for the perfect secret hideaway.
The hotel invests heavily in the regions of Greece which are less often frequented by tourists, such as Kimolos, Kardamili, Crete, Sifnos, and Zagori.
“This is what people want. We have observed a move away from predictable, formulaic holiday destinations. Increasingly, people want to have an authentic experience of their host country,” Makis Pantazatos the Chief Executive & Financial Officer of Aria Hotels, tells Greek Reporter.
Pantazatos is extremely proud of the new addition to the hotel chain in Agios Nikolaos on the island of Crete.
“This year we are opening the largest of our hotels, on a self-contained peninsula in Agios Nikolaos on Crete. But it is still small by international standards: discreet and charming, having just sixteen rooms, each with décor with a theme from a different Greek island. We call it the ‘Island Concept’. Ιt is like a tour of the best of Greece all under one roof,” he says.

Aria Hotels’ “Island Concept” hotel on the island of Crete. Photo courtesy Aria Hotels

The hotel is the embodiment of quiet luxury and undisputed Greek hospitality. Its private beach offers spectacular, breathtaking views along with a once-in-a-lifetime luxurious holiday experience of diving into the region’s azure crystal-clear waters, walking barefoot on the soft, sandy beach or simply enjoying a private sunbath session.
Aria Hotels has a different philosophy about hosting vacationers. “If they went to a popular chain hotel on a beach, they would be faced with ‘international’ décor, generic cuisine and everyday experiences. They might struggle to remember which country they are in when they wake up each morning! An authentic holiday begins with an authentic, unspoiled locality, where guests can live as Greeks live,” Pantazatos says.
View from one of the Island Concept Hotel’s outdoor dining areas. Photo courtesy Aria Hotels

“That is the main criterion for selecting our properties. And lesser-known does not mean less beautiful – in fact, we believe we have discovered some hidden gems, that easily surpass the most popular Greek destinations for beauty,” the hotelier adds with pride.
Take the volcanic island of Kimolos for example — one of the lesser-known Cycladic islands — where Aria Hotels owns eight exceptional properties. 
The Windmill Kimolos Hotel, Kimolos. Photo courtesy Aria Hotels

Among them is the “Windmill Kimolos Hotel,” dating from 1852, which remains one of the few traditionally-restored windmills in Greece today. It has been recently renovated again to create an elegant hotel with all the modern amenities and facilities.
On the island of Sifnos, Aria Hotels has a distinctive property called “Patriarca.” Built in 1650, Patriarca is a true monument of Sifnos since it is so closely connected with the island’s rich history. Once home to Patriarch Grigorios VII of Constantinople, this beautiful boutique hotel is located in the heart of Apollonia.
The Patriarca Hotel, Sifnos. Photo courtesy Aria Hotels

On Sifnos, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful islands of the Cyclades, you will see the unique traditional architectural style of that archipelago, with pristine white buildings and narrow stone-paved streets.
In the era of coronavirus, social distancing is of paramount importance to many travelers. Aria Hotels has invested in properties that guarantee plenty of space, as well as privacy. “At the heart of coronavirus prevention is social distancing. So, yes, lesser populated resorts mean less likelihood of encountering other people,” Panatazatos tells Greek Reporter.
He warns, however, that “every staff member and every guest should carefully observe infection control measures. There is no room for complacency.”
A prime example of such a hotel is located in Kardamyli, in the Southeast Peloponnesian Peninsula. The Patrick & Joan Leigh Fermor House is considered one of the most beautiful properties in all of Greece. It is set into an idyllic Mediterranean garden of cypress and olive trees, fragrant white oleander shrubs and wild flowers rolling down the slopes to the sea.

Some travelers may fear that visiting the more remote areas of Greece during the coronavirus era might be a concern, since access to health care can be more problematic in such places. The owners of Aria Hotels, however, have taken all the necessary steps required to protect their valued guests.
“We have been fortunate in Greece to suffer one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 in the world. But that is not an excuse for complacency. We are now preparing for an influx of tourists from all over the world and are acutely aware of the heightened risks,” says Panatazatos.
“We trust the authorities to restrict travel from areas of high incidence. Meanwhile we are highly protective of the remote areas in which many of our properties are based and will work to ensure that our staff and guests act responsibly. In particular, we shall ensure immediate isolation of anyone showing symptoms,” he adds.
The Kipi Suites, Epirus. Photo courtesy Aria Hotels

Zagori, a mountainous area in the heart of the Epirus region, is another lesser-visited region of Greece. And Aria Hotels’ “Kipi Suites” is yet another gem for travelers who make their way there, located near deep valleys, gorges, steep mountain slopes, streams, rivers, alpine lakes and forests in one of the most beautiful areas of the country.
The National Park of Vikos – Aoos maintains and preserves the stunning natural beauty of the area.
Pantazatos tells Greek Reporter that the group’s boutique hotels and villas offer vacationers authentic Greek hospitality and the ultimate in the simple, effortless charm that the country is so well known for.
“We shall continue to seek out properties that add diversity of location, architecture, and experience to our collection,” he says.
“What we want to provide the traveler with above all else is choice – from apartments in the beating heart of a city, to homes steeped in history, to wine tourism, to remote beach huts. Whatever the mood, whatever the objective, we seek to provide for it within the Aria Collection.”

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