Fabulous Porto Heli getaways with Luxury Retreats
Where do in-the-know Athenians go when summer in the city gets too hot to handle? The answer is Porto Heli. This chic harbourside town on the northeastern Peloponnese coast is often referred to as the Greek Riviera, where the well-heeled residents of Greece’s capital city come to relax and enjoy the sheltered coves and bays of the crystal-clear Aegean Sea. The hillsides are peppered with handsome properties, and even a former king of Greece, King Constantine II, has a home in the area. It’s only a 3-hour ferry from Athens (or 25 minutes by helicopter), but it sees fewer tourists than many of Greece’s well-known islands and has held onto much of its old-world charm.
The port, with its large marina, attracts pleasure boats and yachts in the summer, and the harbourside cafes, bars, and restaurants have a lively cosmopolitan buzz. Close by on the mainland you can visit atmospheric ruins telling stories of Greece’s great classical civilization, while the coastal location gives easy access to the Aegean – ideal for exploring the surrounding waters and islands.
If you want a taste of how ancient Greek society spent its leisure time, then head to nearby Epidaurus, only an hour away by car. One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, it’s famous for its wonderfully preserved Ancient Theater. Built on the side of a mountain in the late 4th century BC, it overlooks the sanctuary of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, and once hosted ceremonial events in his honor. Surrounded by lush greenery and with spectacular views out across the valley, it’s a hugely impressive (and just plain huge) structure, with 34 rows of seats divided into 34 blocks by stairs and walkways, all wrapped in beautiful symmetry around a central 65-foot stage.
For centuries hidden beneath a swathe of trees, the theatre was uncovered in 1881, when a series of excavations began to reveal its splendor. Its acoustics are renowned and, with seats for 15,000 spectators, since 1955 it has been one of the venues for the Athens & Epidaurus Festival. Every Friday and Saturday from the beginning of July to mid-August you can see ancient Greek drama, with tragedies and comedies performed by Greek and international theatre groups (with English subtitles). Even when the performers are not in town, this magnificent living monument is still very much worth a visit, and the seaside village of Ancient Epidaurus nearby is a charming addition, with a couple of small beaches and some local tavernas.
Set sail for the islands
Even if you’re staying on the mainland when in Greece, that’s no excuse not to grab a boat and get out on the water. Porto Heli’s wide natural harbor makes it a magnet for seafaring vessels of all kinds, and a wonderful way to spend a day is to charter a boat and set off in search of the coast’s many sandy coves and bays. What could be better than dropping anchor and diving into the sparkling waters, before climbing back on deck to dry off in the sun, refreshing slice of watermelon in hand?
And of course, if you’ve got another day to spare (take your time, you’re on vacation!), then you might want to explore one of the things Greece is deservedly famous for – its islands. Idyllic, sun-soaked spots, their beaches lapped by the gentle waves of the turquoise Aegean, it’s easy to see why their reputation precedes them. Close to Porto Heli (there are regular crossings on the local ferry if you don’t have your own boat) is the small island of Spetses, named the island of spice by the Venetians, because of its position on a major trade route. The words on the island's flag, "Freedom or Death", date back to the island’s involvement in the 19th-century Greek war of independence, when the independent kingdom of Greece was created in a split from the ruling Ottoman Empire.
The island is proud of its history, and one of the main visitor attractions is the Bouboulina Museum, the onetime home of Spetses’ most famous daughter – seagoing commander Laskarina Bouboulina, one of the fiercest fighters in the war for independence. The mansion house was converted into a museum in 1991 and now acts as a cultural and historical center telling the story of the revolution – entry is via 40-minute guided tour.
The museum is located in the port town of Dapia, which is overlooked by whitewashed houses and has streets lined with cafés and boutiques. Cars are banned, so you might see a horse-drawn carriage pass by as you sit and sip a glass of cold Greek white and nibble on some olives.
Experience the luxury of our Porto Heli villas
If you want to be close to the beautiful blue Aegean, the quiet coves of the coast and the impressive cultural treasures the mainland has to offer, then our Amanzoe villas are just what you’re looking for. Aman resorts are famous for both their breathtaking design and their unrivaled luxury. Echoing the temples of Ancient Greece, the villas at Amanzoe feature graceful columns and clean lines, their spacious pools and sun terraces offering hilltop views across slopes of olive groves to the sea.
Choose from villas with 4, 5 or 6 bedrooms, with daily breakfast included, as well as access to shared resort pools, tennis courts, yoga and Pilates studios and a gym, and transportation to the resort’s beach club. Spend the day drinking in the view, sip a glass of champagne and watch the sunset, then head to one of the resort’s delicious restaurants at the end of a perfect day.