Honeymooners should beeline for Marbella Elix for heart-stirring, unobstructed views where mountains meet the ocean and a laid back, poolside vibe sets the tone. And should cabin fever ever strike (which in our experience, it never did), the hotel is a stellar launchpad for exploring the Greek mainland time-warp villages, beaches and its surrounding islands on activity-packed day trips.
Marbella Elix is for those after a heavy contemporary dollop of luxury, without the pompous, stuffy air that can so often accompany a hotel of this calibre.
Alongside the reverentially modern architecture reflecting the hues and smooth lines of the surrounding landscape, one of the best features of this hotel is its tour desk, which curates adventures without the last-minute research stress and hastily booked trips. These excursions are cleverly tailored to couples’ whims and taste for adventure level of adventure, albeit hopping in small buses to marvel at vertiginously challenged monasteries clinging to the cliffs, or navigating rocky islands with a catamaran to reach mystically-charged blue caves. Those wanting to pootle around film-set ready streets and scoff traditional Greek pastries after a morning lounging by the pool can head to the picturesque city of Parga.
As tempting as these jaunts may sound, Marbella Elix’s sheer variety of facilities, food and uncrowded beach spots can make it difficult to ever leave the compound. Mornings can open with a strong serve on the tennis court, or a paddleboarding escapade along the still shallows, then afternoons can be drawn out in the spa, with right-on treatments and various pools and tubs to wallow in. Make sure to make the most of the sun beds on the beach with the Azure Beach Bar’s fruity cocktails a mere wave away.
Set the scene
Couples will wind their way up a pine-covered mountain to reach the hotel, sewn into otherwise unsullied scenery of sea, beach and rock sprouting various scrubs and herbs. A cavernous lobby engulfs new arrivals, pulling eyes out to the surreal blues of the Ionian Sea, all framed by a cathedral-like blonde wooden ceiling and rugged stone walls.
Here, the team appear with a glass of sparkling wine and beckon to one of the comfortable contemporary sofas scattering the lobby, and placed like theatre seats for the hair-raising sea views. A host of natural, organically-inspired materials is woven into elegant, smooth shapes – both in the design and architecture – which ensures the hotel blends seamlessly into its surroundings. The Ruby Bar’s wooden seating area, choreographed around a large stone fireplace, honours the traditional layout of the local houses. Outside, a pool, framed by sun beds and a stylish bar, has been carved out in trompe l’oeil fashion – as if hovering over the sea. Beyond it, the ivory-white sands and impossibly blue and balmy waters of Karavostasi beach are an easy lift away.
A pared down style keeps the focus on the spectacular sea views, with sleek modernist furniture complimenting the minimalist architecture and subdued shades. A towering woven headboard flanking a king size bed takes centre stage, and is framed by two suspended bronze pendants. Honeymooners can patter around his-and-her bathrooms, indulging late morning showers and mid-afternoon baths, (be sure to nab the rooms where windows are carved into the shower for an Ionian wake up call.
We’d recommend honeymooners book into the Deluxe Double rooms with their own private pool, sun beds and outdoor seating area. These offer the privacy of a villa with all the luxuries and clipped service of a top-drawer hotel – there’s even a fly screen that can be pulled across and allow couples to wake to that magical whoosh of waves curling along the beach.
If a blow-the-budget honeymoon is on the cards, we’d recommend the ‘ultra-all inclusive’ package, where truly everything – meals, drinks, daily activities – is covered and there’s no annoying creature in the back of your head ruining each and every experience with a painful reminder of mounting costs.
Food and drink
Marbella Elix’s headliner restaurant is the Pearl, with its knockout views over the Ionian Sea, stretching as far as Corfu and privileged position for golden hour. This restaurant may be compact but with its floor-to-ceiling windows, no diner is deprived of the views. Mop up olive oil and the freshest crushed tomatoes with warm bread and opt for the Kakavia fish soup as an appetiser. For mains, it’s all about the seafood – tender straight-from-the-sea fish piled into the centre of a bowl and drizzled in lemon and parsley oil. Options include the traditional Ionian sea bream with tomatoes and olive paté. Finally, round off the evening on a sweet note with thick Greek yogurt and citrus sorbet.
Lunch is a more casual, beachside affair at Azure, with its delicious chicken souvlaki and fresh Greek salads. Or head to Indigo’s chic pool bar for a slightly more elevated spin on the traditional Greek lunch, with its soft lounge seating, navy and white cushions, and vine-covered stone beams.
Couples should beeline for the Ruby bar as the sun begins it’s crimson decent, where spruced-and-sunkissed guests sip espresso martinis to live music.
The most recent addition to the Marbella Collection, this strikingly subdued hotel opened its doors in April 2022. Despite its run of 146 rooms, spread across 9 levels, they have managed to conjure a sense of intimacy. Nowhere ‘swallows you up’ and the team’s familiar approach mimics that of a boutique hotel.
The large framed traditional wear lining the main entrance are a nod to the traditional garbs and rituals that long governed the region. What’s more, the hotel’s own intimate chapel perched further up the hill can act as a Mamma Mia-ready elopement setting – should romance overwhelm any guests (or, indeed the cost and cantankerous politics of a large wedding).
As a family-friendly hotel, Elix is well-equipped for little ones of all ages with its child-friendly buffet, shallow covered pool area, and fun watersports suitable for teenagers, such as snorkelling and kayaking. The hotel also offers childcare services for parents who want time to themselves. The ‘Grasshoppers Club’ offers expertly supervised activities for children between the ages of 4-12 and a creche for toddlers between 4 months – 3 years. If parents are after a child-free evening, the hotel can organise a qualified, experienced babysitter to look after the tots, as they sip Greek wine on the restaurant terrace in peace.
The Elixir Spa is filled with a mix of ancient and forward-thinking post-wedding treatments to help couples unwind and pamper. Treatments leverage Greek and Mediterranean ingredients from the spa brand Ariadne Athens, one which promises soft, radiant skin. Choose between a range of facials, massages, full body experiences, and couples massages.
The ‘cocoon and revitalise your senses’ treatment is a stellar choice for lowering shoulders and enriching the skin with various herb-and-oil goodies. A sauna and steam room are on hand for those wanting to sweat out any toxins post-treatment too.
The hotel steers well clear of any ‘scene’ or busy roads to ensure its immense sense of peace, so it is best to hire a car or join the hotel’s well-curated daily jaunts for exploring the surrounding area. The nearest airport is Ioannina Airport, or if coming from Corfu Island, you can take a ferry across to one of the main ports, from which the hotel will organise breezy transfers. The local, blonde beach is mostly used by Marbella Elix hotel guests and makes for a romantic early evening stroll, along with some fantastic hiking routes around the hotel to work up a Greek-lunch-appetite and help get your bearings.
Doubles from £168 per night, on a Half Board basis.
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