Land Of Legend & Love

It’s no myth. Southern Greece is the perfect destination for a rejuvenating break,
as Momtaz Begum-Hossain discovered at The Kinsterna Hotel & Spa 

Posted: 23.01.13

One of the benefits of arriving at your destination when it's pitch black is that the view, in this case the picturesque hilltops of the Peloponnese region of Southern Greece, remain a mystery until sunbreak. Not that I was intending to arrive after restaurant closing time. According to AA, the map, the PR and the hotel's website, The Kinsterna Hotel and Spa is a three-hour drive from Athens airport. Eight hours later, the hire car chugs along, climbing up slopes, sounding even more hungry than me. I didn't get lost, take any wrong turnings or stop for fresh air; it's just that somewhere the calculations for getting around this part of Greece seem to be worryingly wrong.

At 11.20pm I ring the doorbell. A metal gate creaks open, but it's at the top and I'm at the bottom. This is when it sinks in that hilltop hideaways may be romantic, but they are hard-work to get to. After several attempts the car makes it and after parking up I am met by a golf buggy that transports me instantly into what feels like a parallel universe. I wonder if the lengthy journey was actually due to the fact I passed through a time warp?

Built on the grounds of an Ottoman Manor, Kinsterna may be disguised as a boutique hotel but the  modern facilities are superficial; block them out and it's like I've arrived in Ancient Greece. My bedroom has exposed walls revealing stalactites, ancient wall engravings and the remains of a cooker. It's a bit like a cave; less Flintstones and more Batman. Dark grey walls create an eerie atmosphere...but then again, I am checking it at night. 

It's not until the sun rises the next morning that I finally get to witness the views. The hotel is surrounded by the vast blue Aegean Sea, but the landscape has an arid, desert quality about it due to the sandy coloured grounds. It's spectacular and I take full advantage by posing for selfies.

Below the main complex where breakfast is served is a long-winding swimming pool from where guests can keep an eye on the hotel's resident white horse, who spends its days munching through the fruit of the orchards that surround the lower valley. 

The centre of the estate, is an ancient cistern that supplies fresh water to the surrounding land. It trickles through to the main dining area and is lit up at night with candles. Kinsterna is set amidst 15 acres of private land and I took several opportunities to wander through its vineyards, olive groves and fragrant orange trees but it was the figs, served at breakfast that I was most eager to track down. They were the best I've tasted in my life; soft, creamy and flavoursome, though they are an Autumnal delicacy. Kinsterna grows all its own produce, so depending on the season, one can be tucking into organic asparagus, colourful peppers or soft and delicate aubergines; it all sounds delicious to me.

Breakfast and dinner are served alfresco, overlooking the sea. The wine is pressed on site and every meal comes with freshly baked breads to be dipped into Kinsterna’s own olive oil. The menu includes delicate pumpkin ravioli and warm cheese parcels, generous portions of langoustines and steaks of tender dentex fish. On the first night despite  arriving late the chef was happy to oblige by opening up the kitchen especially for me. Just as well as Kinsterna has no neighbours so there wouldn't have been anywhere else to go. Phew!

Throughout the complex over the next three days I stumble across vegetable patches, bamboo structures holding up bean plants that remind me of my dad's old allotment and brightly coloured shoots from root vegetables which later become supper. 

 By day two I'm in awe of the mythological landscape (the white horse is so calm, I'm convinced it's actually a unicorn), and decide that it has made the the trek here worthwhile. But travelling eight hours just to stay in a hotel, isn't the way I generally like to my spend time. Thankfully a short drive away is Monemvasia, a tiny Medieval castle town on its own little island. It's so secluded that the only people who can see it are guests at Kinsterna. After taking so many photos of it from a distance, I finally decide to explore it. 

The waters that surround Monemvasia are warm and littered with swimmers, well-deserved after embarking on a climb to the top of the island's highest peaks. To reach them I have to walk through a walled door which leads to a quaint storybook town filled with cake shops, kitsch cafes and quirky restaurants alongside art book shops and boutiques brimming with collectables. But this is the new town. Character filled and colourful, many choose to leave satisfied with these memories. The braver (i.e. me) take the hike up to the old town.

Derelict, dilapidated and not made for flip flops, the course's brick path winds it's way higher and higher upwards, into the heavens, opening out into a ghost town where few visitors or locals can be found. Below the sea calls, but it's too high to leap from here, as appealing as it looks, so I take some photos then wander back down slowly, before I can finally relieve my aching feat in the refreshing, calm waters.


Back at Kinsterna after my fill of walks, views and poolside cocktails I pay a visit to the spa. I strip off and unwind in a purifying Paradise cabin then drift away in the spacious indoor Jacuzzi where bottomless warming cinnamon tea is served with a platter of fruit and bowl of nuts. This is the closest I'll ever get to being treated like a Greek goddess. 

Like the cuisine, treatments are seasonal, depending on local availability of ingredients. During my visit, the divinely scented Grape Expectations is the speciality of the month. Made from crushed red grapes from Kinsterna’s vineyards, the fruits are blended to create a softening and exfoliating scrub and wrap with an intoxicating, fruity fragrance. While I normally spit pips out, here grape seeds are rubbing against my skin, making it feel instantly silky smooth. It's a pleasure to receive a spa treatments that's so individual to the surroundings rather than the usual menus offered at major international hotels and this is without a doubt, a reason in itself to make the trip here. Just be prepare for the long drive back to reality. 

Kinsterna Hotel and Spa
www.kinsternahotel.gr
How to get there: Kinsterna is a three-eight hour drive from Athens Airport and is best accessed by car. Contact Avanti Rent-A-Car who will arrange for a car to be delivered as you land. Email: info@avanti.com.gr or call 00+ 210 9233919 / 210 9247006

 

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