Gundari Resort: The New Jewel Of Folegandros

By Ellie Smith

1 month ago

Inside one of Greece's buzziest openings of 2024


Yearning after a summer sojourn to Greece, but can’t bear the crowds? Just a 50-minute ferry ride from the well-trodden port of Santorini lies Folegandros, a tiny, remote island characterised by its historic villages, romantic sunsets and quiet beaches. Up until now, it has managed to remain something of a secret on the Cycladic map – but the island is no doubt about to attract a fashionable new set thanks to the launch of its first five-star hotel, Gundari Resort. 

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Review: Gundari Resort, Folegandros, Greece

STAY

Worlds away from the polished, glitzy vibe of Santorini, Folegandros is a picture of authentic Greece – and Gundari blends seamlessly into its sleepy, rugged vibe. Helmed by Australian founder Ricardo Larriera, the hotel is themed around raw luxury, accessed via a rocky dirt road and set across 80 acres of land on the cliffside. This is a place of understated yet breathtaking beauty, where donkeys roam amid the sun-baked land, and you’re pretty much always in view of the glittering Aegean Sea.

There’s a real sense the resort was designed to fit into the landscape rather than the other way round, with 27 bio-climatically designed suites and rooms – all with their own solar-heated infinity pools. Designed by Athens-based architectural studio, Block722, bedrooms feature a minimalist aesthetic, with natural materials and a neutral colour palette of beiges and browns, setting the hotel apart from the signature blue-and-white Greek aesthetic.

Gundari Resort

Photo by Anna Santl

Rooms are south-facing, protecting them from the northern winds, and many of the suites are set inside caves nestled in the cliff, offering direct views of the sea. All feature roomy showers (some open-air), and are kitted out with Olive Era products, while the cave suites boast large double sinks, walk-in wardrobes and living areas. 

You’ll find a speaker in every room, with some benefitting from vintage Pioneer turntables, plus a curated selection of vinyl albums – a nod to the slow living theme, which pervades throughout the hotel. Two cliff-front villas are also currently in the works, one three-bed and one four-bed, complete with large heated pools, jacuzzis and plenty of outdoor living space.

Gundari Resort

Photo by Anna Santl

DO

Gundari is a place to come to relax and unwind. You could easily while away hours getting stuck into a book while lounging beside the central infinity pool (particularly considering the arrival of the swim-up bar). 

There’s also a small but dreamy subterranean spa, which again overlooks the sea, and is designed to evoke feelings of calm and tranquility. Three treatment rooms offer a selection of Greek-inspired rituals, many of which incorporate native herbs from around Folegandros. Wellness practitioners will also offer yoga, meditation and sound healing sessions, and there’s a large, well-equipped gym.

It’s worth tearing yourself away, though, to explore the island of Folegandros. Gundari offers complimentary transfers to the various hotspots, or you can hire one of their Electric Fiat 500e Cabrios and cruise around on your own. 

Chora, Folegandros

Photo by Yiorgos Kordakis

Head to the pretty village of Chora, which is all whitewashed walls, meandering alleyways, blue shutters and pink bougainvillea. One of the oldest medieval towns in the whole of the Cyclades, it has an interesting history, which you can learn about on a walking tour with the lovely Poly. She’ll take you to places like the Church of Panagia, set high on a hill and offering impressive views (especially at sunset), and the Kastro castle, originally built back in 1215 to protect the town from pirate attacks. Have a traditional Greek dinner at Chic, seafood at Barbounaki, or small plates at Eva’s Garden, followed by cocktails at BeRaki – named after the Cretan drink, served here warm with honey. 

Folegadros is also home to some beautiful, low-key beaches which can be accessed via short coastal paths, including Agali and Karavostasi. Stop by Papalgi or Pasithea for lunch with views of the ocean. Gundari can also organise boat trips around the island, where you’ll sail to hidden bays, caves and beaches, with the opportunity to snorkel in pristine turquoise waters.

Folegandros beach

Photo by Yiorgos Kordakis

EAT

The hub of Gundari is its restaurant, Orizon, set beside the main pool. Headed up by esteemed Greek chef Lefteris Lazarou – who secured a Michelin star for Varoulko Seaside Restaurant in Piraeus – the eatery focuses on contemporary Mediterranean fare, made using seasonal produce from the Cyclades (including some from Gundari’s own organic garden).

For breakfast there’s a buffet alongside made-to-order dishes such as green omelette with kale, goat’s cheese and sunflower seeds; pancakes with maple syrup; and orange pie. Come lunchtime, enjoy fresh and tasty poolside fare: a club sandwich made with organic chicken and grilled artichoke, spaghetti with prawns, or the signature Greek salad, crafted to perfection with feta mousse and carob rusks. 

The evening menu, meanwhile, offers an elevated dining experience, with a focus on seafood. Begin with sea bass carpaccio with cucumber ice cream, and grilled squid with black raisins and pine nuts, ahead of mains of prawn orzo, croaker fillet with parsnip textures, lobster with wild mushrooms, and flank steak with grilled vegetables.

Cocktails come from renowned bar Line Athens (named in the World’s 50 Best Bars list), offering twists on classics. The Mango & Cherry Spritz is made with Aperol, prosecco, cherry soda and mango blossom, while the Green Smash is a refreshing, herbal drink blended with elderflower, Tanqueray gin, cucumber and black peppercorn. 

Another farm-to-table restaurant is also in the works – a project from the team behind the aforementioned Chic – alongside a small wine bar, which is being built inside a repurposed shack on the farm. Plus, guests will soon be able to book traditional Greek cooking classes, organised through Gundari.

Restaurant at Gundari Resort

ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURES

Preserving the island’s unique landscape was a pivotal part of the creation of the hotel. Prior to construction, over 600 seedlings were collected, then returned to regenerate the land with indigenous brands. All the hotel’s stonework was made using rock excavated on-site, and Ricardo has helped establish a conservation project for the threatened Eleonora’s Falcon, which is native to Folegandros and one of the fastest birds in the world. Gundari is also a member of EarthCheck Certified, a science-based environmental certification for the travel industry. 

THE FINAL WORD

If you’re looking for a restorative holiday that feels off-the-beaten track, Gundari is sure to fit the bill. However frazzled you are when you arrive, you’ll soon settle into the slow pace of life the hotel encourages – helped by kind and welcoming staff, and that all-healing sea air. With the ambitious phase two (launching in 2026), set to include 14 new rooms, a larger wellness facility and a second swimming pool, it feels like just the beginning of an exciting journey for the Gundari brand.

BOOK IT:

gundari.com