Zak Smith finds an elite Hellenic enclave that's bucking the recession
Greece may be in the midst of one of the most cataclysmic economic crises for decades, but as the helicopters and blacked-out Mercedes wafted along the winding roads and open blue skies from Athens to what is known as the 'Greek Hamptons', I began to realise there was an exciting, extravagant project underway, one which could finally give the embattled European nation a shard of good news.
Porto Heli is a coastal enclave for the glitterati, where shipping barons, tycoons and royalty maintain perfectly manicured compounds in an area more known for privacy and sedateness than the raucous partying its latest inhabitant, Nikki Beach, suggests.
Dolphin Capital, a Greek-backed real estate investment company, have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the regeneration of this small town. Sitting pretty two hours outside of Athens, it is a quick trip from the capital, and for the first time, is now being opened up to a clientele beyond its traditional local elite.
Dolphin Capital's first project was backing the ultra-luxe Amanzoe, a decadent, elegant and sophisticated cluster of suites, pools and buildings in the hills above the beaches, and they have recently opened the Nikki Beach Hotel, a first European outpost of the fun-loving lifestyle brand.
Nikki Beach has a reputation for hard-partying, with the likes of Naomi Campbell, Hollywood celebrities and British moguls often spotted quaffing champagne and magnums of Domaines Ott at parties as they inhale sushi, so the first question is why open in peaceful Porto Heli?
The area itself is stunningly beautiful, with coves, rugged hills and crystal clear waters, less jaw-dropping than the likes of Mykonos and Santorini, but no less enchanting and, most importantly, without an airport, which keeps the area exclusive. With beautiful fishing villages like Ermioni nearby and the gorgeous island of Spetses just a quick boat ride away, Porto Heli offers far more variety than most Greek summer destinations and gives the area a more sophisticated feel.
The area has huge potential and with all the development you can feel a buzz in the air, particularly on weekends, when the Athens elite come to play. When I spoke with Silia Potioudi, the marketing manager for Nikki Beach, she told me that 'this is a destination for a more mature Nikki Beach crowd, who want to have fun like we do best, but also explore somewhere new.'
The hotel has 66 rooms and suites, all with full-frontal sea views; the suites are all connected by a floating private swimming pool, where you can sit and survey the beach and crowds below. With a diverse crowd, the hotels restaurant attempts to cater for all types, and while there isn't abundance of Greek options, the fabulous sushi dragons more than make up for it.
To top it off, the hotel has a magical roof bar, where it hosts parties and events throughout the summer.
The hotel is just the start of the transformation of the Greek Riviera and I hope it will have positive effects for the wider Greek economy. Porto Heli, together with its neighbouring towns and islands, represents a fantastic new weekend destination: unspoilt, uncrowded and varied. Nikki Beach may just be the one party you want to turn early too.