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2024-05-16 00:00:00 Avenue Magazine What's the hottest hotel in Mykonos?

What's the hottest hotel in Mykonos?

Mykonos moderne

I hadn’t visited Mykonos — the ruggedly rocky Greek island and, since the 1960s, the picture-perfect party playground for the international jet set — in over a decade. Summer after summer, I endured serious social-media FOMO as posts of fashionable friends posing pretty by white-washed buildings with sea-blue window frames or whooping it up at a fancy beach club flooded my Instagram feed. Most everyone who travels to Mykonos in the summer rents a villa, as, until recently, five-star hotels were as scarce on the island as an affordable lunch. But things are changing fast on the “Island of the Winds.”

Enter Kalesma (which means “invite” or “calling” in Greek), Mykonos’s most luxurious and stylish boutique hotel. Perched high on a hilltop, it affords guests with 360 views and overlooks Ornos Bay to its east, where billionaires like to dock and flaunt their tricked-out big-boy boats.

After a blessedly direct flight (a ferry from Athens can take anywhere between one and a half to five hours), I zip over to the off-the-beaten-track Aleomandra neighborhood on the southwest side of the island. The discreet entrance to Kalesma, a collection of 25 private suites that resemble mini villas and two grand houses for families or big groups, feels like entering a shipping tycoon’s private Greek compound. In the lobby sits a Rick Owens “Double Bubble” sofa and pieces by Serbian artist Aleksandar Vac. The open-air flow of the resort, outdoor restaurant, and infinity pool, all by Greek designers Studio Bonarchi and K-Studio (the architects behind the new Mykonos airport, which opened in 2021), used local artisans and organic materials like wood, marble, sandblasted stone, and osier to create a new take on traditional Cycladic style. Call it “Mykonos Moderne.”

The leveled walk down to my hilltop suite is scented by bougainvillea. Kalesma’s five acres have been meticulously landscaped with over 20,000 plants, including 60-year-old olive trees, fuchsia and tangerine vines, and fragrant herbs sprouting up everywhere. My suite is massive, with a 970-square-foot patio and a plunge pool hidden from prying eyes by a long stone wall and strategically planted bushes and trees. The walls are white-washed with stone floors and ceilings crafted in an old-world Greek style with chestnut and bamboo. Surprising details are everywhere, from the sconces wrapped in horsehair by the studio Apparatus, to custom metal clothing hangers with equine-shaped hooks — both nods to the Greek myth that Apollo once stabled horses here. Floor-to-ceiling French doors open to a view of the glowing bright blue Aegean Sea. My suite seems so secluded and intimate it’s hard to imagine bothering to leave and explore the island.

“Perched high on a hilltop, it affords guests with 360 views and overlooks Ornos Bay to its east, where billionaires like to dock and flaunt their tricked-out big-boy boats.”

The next day, I reluctantly pull myself from the king-size bed. Kalesma treats all guests like VIPs and will chauffeur you anywhere. I book a car and check out Solymar beach club on the sandy shore of Kalo Livadi. Beach clubs on Mykonos cost money, so be prepared to pay a hefty fee for a chair and umbrella by the water. Sur la plage, a million and one different languages seem to be spoken at once. There’s the Italian couple in matching Fendi swimwear and gold Rolexes that I overhear arrived via helicopter from nearby Santorini and landed at Solymar’s private helipad just two minutes from the club. Wading waist-deep in the sea, a well-tanned Russian guy, a scaly snake tattoo spiraling around his bulging bicep, sips a cocktail and barks what sounds like a big bank transfer into his iPhone. The scene is flashy and fun.

For dinner that night I book a table at Alemagou, which is like a loud party where most guests start eating under the thatched roof at 10 PM. I order the sea bream carpaccio and the fresh house salad of tomato, tamarix, and Mykonian sour cheese. At midnight a DJ blasts house music and everyone hits the dance floor — or dance on top their chairs as coffee is served.

The next night, I angle for a spot during sunset at the insanely popular Scorpios on Paraga beach. It’s the hardest reservation to book on the island — but the concierge at Kalesma has magical connections and makes it happen in minutes. A rambling beach club with massive wicker sculptures that double as impromptu VIP rooms, Scorpios exudes a tribal-like vibe. Think Burning Man without the dust and car exhaust. As the sun sets, everyone puts down their cocktails and snaps the view from the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea. Then, after posting their sunset pics and tagging Scorpios, the music pumps up, arms get thrown in the air, and literally everyone starts wildly moving to a DJ accompanied by a row of live drummers.

Through a well-connected friend, I snag a table the following evening at Nōema, which is in the heart of Mykonos town (or chora, as Greek villages are called). The narrow streets around Nōema are packed. Stores selling evil eye pendants, as well as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Dior, stay open until midnight. The restaurant is tucked away in an open-air courtyard. A band plays Greek pop music, and everyone table-hops. It’s a chic scene, but the food is the real star. The menu by culinary director Athinagoras Kostakos follows Cycladic cooking techniques and uses all locally harvested ingredients. The charcoal-grilled lamb chops come with a raw relish of tomatoes, capers, olives, oregano, and fresh mint and are perfect with a side of spiced feta with olive oil and crispy bread. Also delicious: the burnt Dover sole in a white wine sauce with fennel and garlic. For dessert, I decide to pig out and order both the carob and Greek coffee tiramisu and the crispy meringue with cardamon cream and citrus fruits.

“The ideal time to dine at Pere Abu is right when the orange sherbet sun starts to sink behind the nearby island of Delos (an archeological wonder that is worth spending a day exploring).”

Perhaps the best meal I experience on the island is at chez Kalesma at the hotel’s restaurant, Pere Ubu. The ideal time to dine here is right when the orange sherbet sun starts to sink behind the nearby island of Delos (an archeological wonder that is worth spending a day exploring). Pere Ubu is open air, bordering the pool with a long bar and fire pits bustling with a young, crazy-attractive crowd. Dinner is a decidedly family affair as huge mezze platters (homemade hummus, tzatziki, smoked eggplant) arrive at long tables with plates of seaweed pancakes, smoked sardines, lardo, sea urchin butter, and dried fig leaves. The grilled scallops come with a carrot vinaigrette, trout roe, and Mykonian sausage. For dessert, I have the kataifi: chocolate and hazelnut mousse stuffed with shredded phylo, Greek coffee molasses, and orange caramel. “We are genuinely passionate about the hospitality that centers around the dining table,” Aby Saltiel, who owns the hotel with partner Makis Kousathanas, tells me. “The idea was inspired by the customs surrounding the family homes in Mykonos, which on many occasions are opened to gather and feast and drink in good company to honor a member of the household or a patron saint.”

The authentic cuisine, the Rick Owens sofa, the beautiful-people social scene — all are reasons to never want to leave the Greek oasis that is Kalesma.

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