Overview

At Kefalonia’s spa-enhanced Emelisse Hotel, every king-sized four-poster-boasting suite is decorated in soothing nature-hued neutrals. Chunky teak furniture and a subtle strewing of nauticalia tie the decor in with the stunning sea views outside, and the charming nearby port of Fiskardo draws a jaunty crew of yacht-set sun-seekers.

Highlights:

  • Panoramic sea views

  • Near the shops and bars of chic harbour town Fiskardo

  • Perfect for two-centre stays on Kefalonia and Ithaca

Smith extra

A bottle of champagne in your room, and 10 per cent off a massage treatment at the Elemis Spa (when the spa is closed in low season, dinner for two will be offered instead)

In the know

Also need to know:

Comfortable Spanish cotton bathrobes are provided – perfect for padding around your bedroom in. On yer bikes… borrow Emelisse Hotel’s cycles and pedal into Fiskardo for a spot of lunch. Horse riding and scuba diving can be arranged nearby.

Packing tips:

High-end sportswear for adrenalin junkies; sleek swimwear and straw hats for sunseekers. Binoculars will help you make the most of the fabulous panoramic views.

Dress code:

Softly draped jersey dresses will tap into Emelisse’s casual-luxe vibe: add sandals by day and gold statement jewellery by night.

Mr and Mrs Smith reviews

First up, an admission. The last time I set foot on Greek soil it wasn’t pretty. It’s taken a decade and a half to even contemplate returning, such was the fright that was a week’s clubbing in Zakynthos that marked the end of my A-level exams. Bargain-bucket cocktails, nuclear sunburn, neon agogo… But here I am, back in the Ionian Islands on neighbouring Kefalonia, and ‘pretty’ is the first word on my lips.

Pretty, because it’s been half an hour since Mr Smith and I left Kefalonia’s shoebox-sized airport and all we’ve seen is wildflowers. No tour buses, souvenir tat or even tavernas. It’s springtime, and greenery and buds are dotted everywhere along the coast road that leads to the Emelisse – a carpet of starry yellow daisies drops down to half-hidden beaches licked by piercing blue sea. There’s no two ways about it, Kefalonia is stunning. And stunningly quiet.

We pass through the odd village. Mr Smith rounds a bend and narrowly avoids taking out a stray goat. But that’s it. Nevermind neon – we’ve barely seen another sign of life. Our first tip? If you're looking for off-the-beaten-track luxury in Europe, this is your destination. Our second secret? Go in May. All those wildflowers are in full bloom, the sun is just strong enough to kiss your skin to glowing and you’ll practically have the place to yourselves.

And so to Kefalonia’s poshest hotel, the Emelisse. Perched above the little port of Fiskardo at the island’s most northerly tip, it’s the kind of establishment where things just tick along like clockwork. We’re transported from carpark to reception by chauffeur-driven buggy and while porters handle our bags, Mr Smith is handed a cold beer.

I should probably mention from the off that we’ve bought 10-month-old Baby Smith. It’s his first foray into luxury hotelville since crawling and – ahem – he is capable of making a bit of a racket. But we needn’t worry. Throughout our stay Baby Smith is treated like a rock star – cooed over by waitresses, spoiled with off-menu titbits from the chef and generally made to feel like the shore’s most significant arrival since Captain Corelli. Efharisto, Emelissians.

With 64 rooms, the Emelisse has all the facilities we’d expect of a larger hotel – a couple of open-air restaurants, two pools, an Elemis spa, tennis. But despite its size, it feels thoughtful and intimate. We can order a picnic and pedal bicycles down to tiny Emblissi beach; it’s possible to cosy up under starry skies to watch movies on the pool bar’s projector; and chartering the hotel’s speedboat to secluded coves for romantic beach barbecues à deux is another option. We’ve found out all of this from the manual in our suite. There’s plenty of space to lounge about in here among the four-poster draped in silky Italian cotton and roomy sofas. It’s pretty minimalist, making good use of natural materials – slate-tiled floors, teak furniture – and there’s a walk-in drench stocked with Korres goodies.

But really our room is all about what’s outside: the panoramic sea views from our balcony elicit a squeal of delight from Baby Smith so shrill that across seas somewhere in Corfu glasses smash. ‘Looooooook!’ he yells excitedly and I agree – it’s breathtaking, the views stretching for miles past the hotel’s olive trees and scented lavenders down to the sparkling shore.

Grabbing our attention most? The infinity pool. Spilling over to the open sea, it’s irresistible for a cooling flop, elbows propped over the edge watching sailboats ease by. Staff in Converse pad past serving drinks from the open-air bar; there’s even a set of steps leading down to a private pontoon from where you can plunge into the sea itself. At dusk we have an Ibiza moment, sipping glasses of fizz to a chillout soundtrack as the moon rises up over the water and staff light lanterns poolside.

While we’re talking pools, there’s also a separate kids’ paddling area underneath the main infinity number which means any over-excitable yelping (that’s Baby Smith again) is basically drowned out by cascading water. So should you have the misfortune to find your lounger next to some ghastly child-bearing couple (us), you’ll barely hear the bambino. (Hooray.)

It’s hard work leaving such a sanctuary but eventually we strike out, following the coastal road south for 20 minutes and braving the winding descent to Kephalonia’s best-looking beach, Myrtos. Lunch is at neighbouring Assos, a deliciously low-key affair comprising a clutch of tavernas such as Platanos. Sitting here, drink in hand, gazing at stupendously clear waters might eat up entire afternoons. Back near the Emelisse, Fiskardo is Kefalonia’s answer to Padstow, a semi-circle of restaurants set around a yacht-filled horseshoe bay. There’s even a Rick Stein equivalent in the shape of Tassia Dendrinou, the ‘Greek Delia’, whose restaurant Tassia has welcomed Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, among many a more pedestrian daytripper.

By now it’s our last night, and from our balcony we’re treated to the spectacle of a rare electric storm. Breakfast rolls around and the sun returns. We eat on the terrace overlooking Emblissi beach and it’s divine: figs, honey-drizzled yoghurt and the kitchen’s never-ending spread of homemade cakes, pistachio, apple, almond. From here we’re catching a ferry to Ithaca and the Perantzada, the Emelisse’s stylish little sister. Word is, it’s stunning and as we head out again along that beautiful coast road, I finally pack away my outdated notions of ugly 18–30s tourism. This corner of the Ionian Sea sure is pretty.

Accommodation details

Address:

Emblissi Bay, Kefalonia, Fiskardo, Kefalonia, 28084
Kefalonia
Greece

Location:

24.1 mi / 38.8 km from city centre

General facilities

  • Pool
  • Spa
  • Exercise gym
  • Tennis court
  • Restaurant

Dining information

Restaurant:

Hit the teak decking at Kinema, an all-day dining destination with slick lighting, day-beds for decadent Roman-stye feasting, film screenings by night and a great view over the infinity pool to Emblissi Bay. Reserve a table for the Mediterranean à la carte menu at smarter, open-air restaurant Votsalo, a candlelit treat for couples.

Top Table:

Curl up on one of Riza’s comfy terrace sofas for pizza and a movie or choose an open-air balcony table for a bird’s eye view of the sea, shore and stars. For drinks, we’d linger round the open fire bowl on the far side of the pool.

Last Orders:

The pool bar is open from 11am till midnight; the lobby bar is open 24 hours. Breakfast is served 8am–11am; lunch, 1pm–4pm; dinner, 8pm–11.30pm.

Room Service:

Snacks and dishes from the restaurant menu are available 24 hours a day.

Hotel Bar:

You can order ouzo round the clock if you wish: sip midday drinks or down sundowners by the swimming pool, or lounge till late in the laid-back lobby bar with seasonally flavoured cocktails.

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