Who Went Melissa Aiken, 38, from Colchester, her husband, Christopher, 40, and their daughters Bel, 6, and Cleo, 4
Mention of Greece and I’m immediately whisked back to my and Chris’s younger days when we spent a blissful summer hopping around the islands, bumming about on beaches and living life to the full on a diet of souvlaki washed down with the local retsina. A decade and a half and two children later, and we were keen to revisit this land of milk (or should that be yoghurt) and honey, but with just a half-term week to spare and a pressing need for some rest and relaxation (us) and fun activities (the girls), we decided that an easily accessible resort, with a suitable kid’s club, would best suit our needs. After a bit of research we settled on mainland Halkidiki as a good location, being a short drive from Thessalonki airport and famed for its glorious golden-sanded beaches, unspoilt countryside and fine gastronomy. Further investigation led us to Ikos Olivia, a brand, spanking new, all-inclusive five star resort, set amid ancient olive groves and manicured lawns complete with shimmering pools (four in total), leading down to the crystal clear waters of the Aegean. Throw in world-class cuisine, a state of the art spa and a British-run kid’s club and we were sold!
The Deluxe Bungalow Suites are stylish and spacious
The Resort An unfeasibly early flight (we were determined to squeeze the most out of our allotted time) had left the girls tired and grumpy, but thankfully our pre-arranged transfer was waiting at arrivals and in less than an hour we were entering the driveway of Ikos Olivia. Our immediate impression was one of “wow” as we stepped into the huge, white-marbled and gold reception area to be greeted by a stylishly attired concierge (the uniforms are incredibly elegant, yet understated with a distinctly Grecian vibe) who showed us to a seat before offering us refreshments – a delicious sparkling wine for the adults and fresh juice for the children. Such consideration and service was to set the tone for the duration of our stay. Everything about the Ikos Olivia is shiny, bright and immaculate, as evidenced by our Deluxe Bungalow Suite, which comes complete with its own private pool and garden! Beautifully designed, with no expense spared on fixtures and fittings, the spacious apartment, which has a separate bedroom and lounge for added privacy (Bel and Cleo slept on the super-comfy sofa bed), manages to blend the contemporary and classic to stunning effect. A gratis mini bar packed with drinks (both soft and alcoholic) and snacks, a Nespresso coffee maker and free wifi are welcome extras, and are typical of the Ikos Olivia ethos of providing everything guests could conceivably need, and then some! Beyond the environs of the bungalow, the resort has a serene, almost heaven-like quality – all modern white and glass buildings, pink bougainvillea, swaying Cyprus trees and winding pathways, with staff gliding swanlike from pool to bar, carrying all manner of delights on large silver platters. Bel spoke for us all when she announced: “This is lovely.”
The private pool and patio were a real bonus
What We Ate Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m a bit of an “all-inclusive” snob. Personally I prefer to pay for á la carte service, top quality food and premium brand beverages that don’t taste either like rocket fuel or nothing whatsoever. Ikos Olivia, however, has converted me. Here the food, drinks and service could seriously not be faulted. There are in fact five restaurants on site, four serving the most delicious á la carte fare (three courses, delicately-sized portions, all perfectly balanced and of such a standard that even super-fussy Cleo tucked in with gusto). The menus of the Greek and Italian eateries have even been created by Michelin-starred chefs, not that there was anything wrong with the Asian, French or indeed the buffet offerings, all of which we sampled and thoroughly enjoyed during our stay. We also tried the Dine Out experience where you eat at a participating local taverna at no extra cost – and where the girls fell in love with taramasalata and calamari while Chris and I feasted on the most mouth-watering souvlaki, just for old time’s sake!
What We Did From the moment Bel and Cleo entered the purpose-built, superbly well-equipped Heros Kids Club, complete with outdoor play ground (for children aged 4 to 11 years, with a crèche for babies and toddlers and a separate club for the teens) they were captivated, but even more importantly Chris and I felt instantly assured that they were in safe hands. Run by the highly regarded UK-based Worldwide Kid’s Club, Heros’ English-speaking staff members were charm personified and exuded a sense of mischievous fun. Suffice to say, the girls couldn’t get enough of it, and would have happily signed up for morning, lunch and afternoon sessions if they’d had their way. We limited it to just the mornings, however, as this freed me and Chris up to pamper ourselves at the spa, where we both indulged in amazing full-body ‘Aroma Energizer’ massages and made the most of the beautiful indoor/outdoor infinity pool with jacuzzi. We also visited the fitness studio a couple of times in a vain effort to stave off the effects of all that fine dining, while a couple of afternoons were spent out on the resort’s mountain bikes (Chris had a trail gator for Cleo) exploring the nearby villages and coastline. Aside from that the pool or beach was typically our domain, as we soaked up the hazy, late autumn sunshine (so much better for delicate young skin) while building sandcastles, eating ice creams and splashing in the water – just as a family holiday should be!
The spa’s beautiful indoor/outdoor pool
The Verdict My goodness, did we land on our feet at Ikos Olivia – beyond doubt it is the perfect family holiday resort, offering something for everyone however big or small. And it’s all done with such consummate professionalism and grace, it’s impossible not to be bowled over. Upon departure, the look on Bel and Cleo’s faces said it all. “Please can we stay a bit longer”, they begged in unison. If only we could, I thought, if only we could…
Essential Info 7 nights for a family of four at Ikos Olivia, Halkidiki starts at £7,118. Price based on 2 adults and 2 children sharing a panorama junior suite on an all-inclusive basis and includes return flights from London Gatwick (other UK departure airports available) to Thessaloniki and private transfers. For more information visit classic-collection.co.uk