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The Amanzoe In Greece is a Hellenic High Temple of Escapism with a Truly Fascinating Backstory
June 26, 2023 Nicolas Shammas

ABOVE: All 38 pavilions are the same size, the only thing that varies is the size of your plunge pool (6 or 12 metres) and of course the vistas. The inside space measures 100sqm, outdoor space is 110sqm, the décor is modern, with pale walls, natural stone features and a touch of pine. We loved how you get his and her bathrooms with a shared shower and bath area between. Prices are 1,900 EUR off season and 3,700 EUR during peak season.

Amanresorts currently boasts 34 properties around the world, but for Aman Junkies looking for a getaway in Europe that’s got most of the flavour of the original Amanpuri of Phuket, then there’s only one place to go – the Amanzoe in Greece. Why? Because the group’s other two properties in Europe – the Aman Venice and the Aman Le Mélézin in Courchevel – are on a Venetian canal and a snowy Alpine mountain. The Amanzoe however, with its palatial ambience, elevated vistas, gorgeous beach, and luxurious Parthenon-style pavilions that seem to crop up from an olive grove, wasn’t just created with the original formula in mind, it was also conceived in collaboration with the founder of Amanresorts, Adrian Zecha, and the group’s original architect – the late, great, Ed Tuttle. Little wonder then that it feels so authentically Aman.

The story of its inception is an interesting one: in 2000, an ambitious, young, 27-year-old Greek-Cypriot called Miltos Kambourides – a graduate of MIT no less, who had previously worked at Goldman Sachs’ real estate private equity department before joining George Soros’ real estate fund – had a chance meeting with Adrian Zecha in London. He confided in the 67-year-old legendary hotelier that his dream was to create an Aman property in Greece. Auspiciously, Zecha shared his enthusiasm and the two agreed to begin scouting for potential sites. But, the single-minded Kambourides wanted to do the deal under his own steam, so he quit his job and established his own real estate fund (Dolphin Capital Investors, which at its peak raised over 1.2 billion EUR from shareholders and owned the One&Only on the Greek island of Kea, and the Amanera in the Dominican Republic before it suffered a serious fall from grace and had its assets stripped in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.)

Nevertheless, back to happier times and the founding partners determined that a lesser-known part of Greece, a hidden gem on the eastern side of Peloponnese called Porto Heli, beloved for its natural beauty among those in the know, like Greece’s former King Constantine II, would suit the bill and in late 2006 Kambourides found just what Zecha had asked him for: a site consolidating the best characteristics of the Greek landscape, combining breath-taking views, lush greenery, access to an idyllic beach, tranquillity, and – above all – privacy. As soon as Zecha set foot on the proposed Agios Panteleimonas hilltop, he turned to Kambourides and exclaimed, “This is an Aman site!”

From that point on, it took just over five years and 100 million Euros to open the Amanzoe and what a job it was. Sure, the hotel has almost certainly not made back the investment, at least not on its own, but the adjoining 12 private villas (that range in size from a one-bedroom to a massive nine-bedroom mansion, which was featured in the movie ‘Glass Onion’) have almost certainly delivered a very healthy ROI (and that’s before factoring in the capital appreciation on the property’s sale to Grivalia Hospitality in 2018). Amanzoe’s business model follows the Amanpuri one: build a hotel as a shop window, and to provide all the staffing and services to the much more lucrative villas, which in turn are sold off plan and therefore require no working capital from the hotel. As a prospective villa owner, you get to choose your plot, how many bedrooms you’d like and your ideal floorplan, but the material selection, build and management is all handled by the Amanzoe. What’s more, the Amanzoe can rent out your villa whenever you’re not using it (the nine-bedroom Villa 20, for example, rents for 235,000 USD a week).

ABOVE, TOP LEFT: The circular terrace is the best spot to enjoy a sunset drink. ABOVE, BOTTOM LEFT: The Beach Club is located five kilometres away. You can get there via the hotel’s complimentary shuttle, one of their bikes, or do as we did and cycle there but get a shuttle back. ABOVE RIGHT: If all the lavender and olive trees get you in the mood for connecting with nature, you can also visit one of the neighbouring farms where they let you feed the animals before serving you some delicious farm-to-table treats.

Getting to the Amanzoe isn’t that straight forward though. You have four options after arriving at Athens International Airport: you can take a 40-minute helicopter ride for 2,325 EUR, you can hire a driver for between 500 and 700 EUR each way (depending on the car), you can take a regular taxi for 250 EUR, or you can rent your own car. We chose to hire an electric Fiat 500 (for just 120 EUR for four days) and felt very happy with ourselves, even more so when we realised that we could stop and take pictures at the Corinthian Canal and have an exceptional meal by the edge of the sea, at Kavos 1964, along the way. Arriving at Amanzoe is a breath taking experience though so don’t leave it too late. This is the single largest Aman property in the world, and you’re made aware of its scale by the fact that the drive along the edge of the property seems to last forever. Once you enter through the main gate, you see how inspired Tuttle was by classic Greek architecture. Okay, so the recurring nods to the Acropolis are a little hammy but what keeps the aesthetic in balance is the stunningly maintained landscaping that refuses to be upstaged by the monumental architecture. Additionally, the sloping nature of the location allowed Tuttle to optimise the views so that every single one of the 38 stand-alone pavilions with their flat, planted roofs supported by graceful colonnades, comes with perfectly unobstructed panoramas – while offering a sense of flow and openness between the external and internal spaces.

You enter your personal sanctuary via two doors, one that lets you into your own little fragrant garden, the next into the pavilion, which encompasses a bedroom, a sitting room, and a huge bathroom with ‘his and hers’ dressing rooms and separate bathrooms that flank a shared bathing space featuring a sunken marble bathtub, and a magnificent sky-lit double shower from which you can gaze outwards at your large, tiled terrace and green marble-lined infinity pool. There’s enough grey and white local marble here to empty a quarry and there’s also enough space to rival the Cheval Blanc Randheli’s record-breaking 240 square metres (you get 210 sqm to be precise). The high ceilings and cold materials are tempered by warm oak accents, and the fusion between Asian minimalism and Hellenic monumentalism is impeccably well balanced.

ABOVE: The beauty of this resort, like most Amans, is the isolation it affords you and peace and quiet you are afforded. Nevertheless, if it’s company you’re after then head here at sunset, as this is where everyone gravitates towards in one of the many distraction-free daily rituals of life at Amanzoe.

Service, as you’d expect from an Aman is top-notch and, for the most part, invisible: for example, you never see housekeeping, yet they still manage to always do their thing the moment you step out for a meal. Speaking of which, the food at this Aman is surprisingly good. Our favourite of the three dining options was the Beach Club, which is a 20-minute downhill cycle ride away and offers such treats as rib-eye tacos, udon noodle vongole and freshly baked triple-chocolate cookies.

Should you somehow become bored of the sea, as well as the two huge pools at the Beach Club, there are another two pools up at the main property that are nearly always empty. As is the delightfully unnecessary library. In fact, the only time you might ever see other guests at the Amanzoe is at dusk, when everyone gravitates toward the circular terrace, which floats on a reflective pool, to admire the smooth collusions of sky burst red and yellow in the night’s calm. Then again, the beauty of Amanzoe lies in its isolation – in the stillness of the landscape and the complete absence of distraction and, for that, we must thank Zecha, Tutle and Kambourides.

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