Fringed by mountains peppered with lush forests and lapped by the waters of the Adriatic sea, MarBella Elix is the next destination to put at the top of your travel wishlist
Like so many who have never set foot in Greece, my expectations fall into two camps: the ancient, crumbling ruins synonymous with Athens and picturesque white villages of Santorini. If, however, you’re craving off the beaten track authenticity far from the madding crowds – put the little-know region of Parga on your bucket list. Fringed by mountains and lapped by the mottled topaz waters of the Adriatic sea, this secluded spot in north-west Greece is a natural beauty-lover’s El Dorado.
Even more reason to book your flights is MarBella Elix, a brand new five-star opening from the MarBella Collection. Built along a mountain side so that each room has infinite views of the sea, this is the third addition to the luxury group’s portfolio. With the enchanting and historic islands of Paxos and Antipaxos just a short boat ride away and miles of hiking and cycling to explore, there’s something to seduce every type of traveller. Best of all, if you need a complete escape with all the details taken care of (goodbye Zoom, googling PCR tests and messy home offices) – tour operator Olympic Holidays will seamlessly organise your flights, stay, and transfers from start to finish.
Here’s how get the most of the MarBella experience in the lap of Elysian luxury….
Hotel Review: MarBella Elix, Greece
First impressions here don’t disappoint. At the cool, contemporary entrance guests are treated to staggering sea and mountain views – which after five hours of planes and taxis is a well-earned breath of fresh air. This is the perfect place to rest and reset with cocktail before slipping off your sandals, turning off your notifications and sinking into the MarBella Elix lifestyle.
Bedrooms have a touch of Ibiza about them with boho textures, wet rooms and your own balcony and lounge to escape the heat. A truly magical touch is that every room is orientated for views of the sea (if you’re really lucky, you might even have your own private infinity pool to drift in with a cocktail), but it’s not likely you’ll be spending much time in them. As soon as I’ve dropped my luggage, the sprawling infinity pool overlooking the sea on the lower ground floor beckons. Here guests drift between the open air restaurant, floating in the pellucid pool or simply lounging in front of the staggering views with a book or a podcast.
That’s just a taster of the piece-de-resistance – Elix’s very own private beach. Accessed by a glass lift pod which floats you own the mountainside, this is the ultimate private paradise with a tranquil clutch of sunloungers and sandy cove curving around lagoon-like rockpools. In between paddling in warm shallow waters, there’s a laidback beach restaurant and bar to perch at for light bites and cocktails on tap.
Tearing yourself away from the charms of the hotel could be a challenge – but it’s well worth it in order to explore the treasures of the Parga region.
Pull on your boots and hike or cycle up through the dusty trails of woodland and into the dense forestry nearby, and you’ll be rewarded with pretty local chapels (like St Athanasios – one of the most serene spots in Parga) and twisty paths running alongside bubbling brooks and streams. Ready to venture a little further afield? The tiny and historic islands of Antipaxos and Paxos are a must-visit, and best explored by boat.
A quick 45 minute zip across the harbour will transport you to the fringes of these lost-in-time islands, dotted with tiny villages, buzzy tavernas and piers bobbing with fishing boats. In between wandering along cobbled streets lined with colourful faded townhouses, make sure you take a boat trip to the spectacular surrounding lagoons and tiny secret beaches dotted around the area.
Craving some rest and relaxation after all of that activity? The Elixir spa is a soothing sanctuary tucked away from the bustle of the hotel and the perfect place to shrug off the stresses of everyday life. Stop off here to rejuvenate tired muscles with a traditional massage, or smooth away those Zoom-induced frown lines with an expert facial.
Like Italy, every region of Greece celebrates food in its own unique way and Parga is no different. Feta (known as ‘white gold’) of this region is an especial treat, owing to the free-roaming sheep its produced by who graze the mountainsides on a wide range of flora and fauna. Bobota pie, Tyrokafteri (a dip made with feta, chilli and red pepper) and croquettes with fig jam are just a few ways to enjoy it – just make sure you’re wearing an elasticated waistline.
Gastronomes shouldn’t miss MarBella Elix’s brand new Greek Chefs Abroad series. Currently in guest residency is Yiannis Kioroglou, whose own brand of ‘Meditigrecian’ cuisine can be sampled in MarBella’s dedicated fine dining restaurant, Pearl, washed down with a wine pairing by local Metsovo producer, Katogi Averoff Winery. Nor does everyday dining disappoint – at MarBella’s other two restaurants, Saffron and Indigo you’ll be treated to dishes overflowing with the freshest local ingredients and meticulously showcasing the best produce and dishes of the region.
And if you want to escape the hotel for an evening and eat like the locals? Make sure you reserve a table at Fishbone in Perdika. Here you can feast on grilled talagani with fig jam, saganaki shrimps and vongol, all in the open air to the soundtrack of the sea. Best of all, if you don’t get the chance to try it all in your stay, MarBella Elix has its own Aladdin’s Cave of a shop, rammed to the rafters with Greek delicacies and treats to take home.
While your whole stay will be immersed in the height of five star luxury – MarBella Elix’s selling point is that it’s the perfect jumping-off spot from which to truly get to know the region. Day trips to local islands and buzzy tavernas and getting out and exploring the culinary delights and natural wonders of the area are all part of the package. This is the ultimate all-rounder.
Photos: Heinz Troll