This summer like everyone else (whether they care to admit it or not) I eagerly awaited the release of Mamma Mia! Here we go again. The Abba packed feel good cheese-athon sequel, which saw the old gang head back to the fictional Greek island of Kalokairi. Amid the high octane dance numbers and more sequins than I would care to count were flashbacks of Greece in the 70’s. Nostalgic scenes, which were more rustic tavernas, olive laden donkeys and unspoilt scenery than the polished tourist packed destinations I am familiar with. Having been lucky enough to visit some of the big hitters in the Greek tourist industry, I thought I knew what to expect from the blue and white isles. But did you know that the Greek sovereign lands includes over 6000 islands (disclaimer only 227 are inhabited), because I didn’t. There is so much more to see off the beaten track, I was determined to find if this idyll still exists. So feeling wistful for times gone by I set off on the (Greek) road less travelled to find my own little taste of Mamma Mia inspired unspoiled Greece.
Alonnisos was calling. Never heard of it? Me neither and that was the start of the charm. Invited by the Santikos Collection team, the masters of Greek luxury, I flew into Skiathos airport and was met by the team and taken to the ferry port to board the hour long ride to Alonnisos. As the most easterly island of the Sporades, the island has a population of under 1000 and is mainly used as a holiday destination for those from neighbouring islands, those ‘in the know’. So far so good.
Poolside cool with Marpunta resort Alonnisos
A world away from its origins as a fisherman’s village following a huge renovation last year, Marpunta resort offers a modern approach to luxury. Disclaimer: just because I am venturing away from the typical tourist traps doesn’t mean I am willing to forgo any of life luxuries. The pool area is particularly divine, sending out Ibiza-esque vibes with its design led aesthetic and high end finish. Thankfully, it’s worth noting the poolside is gloriously bereft of house music, it’s all about relaxation from here on in.
As for its setting, forget your arid archetypal Greek rocky terrains, Marpunta is set back in a dense pine forest, the smell of which combined with the fresh sea air is nothing less than heavenly. As is its seclusion, occupying the whole of islands peninsula, Marpunta is the only development in eye line, so there is no light or sound pollution. You can almost convince yourself it’s a private island.
I must warn you that the majority of their rooms are set at the top of the hill, with the pool, reception, restaurant and lobby at the bottom. Be sure to ask when booking to be in the lower rooms should you have any mobility issues. I took the view that the walk afforded me another poolside cocktail and huffed and puffed my way up. The rooms of which there are 104 are modern and tastefully designed crisp white spaces with uplifting colour pops. The hillside setting affords amazing views over the forest edged beaches, thus making the walk worth it.
Crisp modern suits with pine forest and sea views
Marpunta’s isolation provides a serenity that is hard to find in the overcrowded prime spots in Europe. Indeed, this break was a lesson in how to holiday, there are no 6am towel wars at the resort, and you can saunter down to the beach after lunch and find a secluded spot without sitting on your neighbours lap. The resort offers 3 private pebbled beaches, each an oasis of calm steeped in a raw type of natural beauty. You are also surround by Greece’s first national marine park so a great spot for snorkelling. Scuba and boat trips available on request from the resorts team for those active holiday types.
The raw beauty of Marpuntas beaches
The main poolside restaurant offers a select menu and daily specials, which ensures there are no dud dishes so there is no need to have fear when ordering. Relish the fresh home style cooking with an abundance of sea food and local specialities. The outdoor dining experience is completed with seating cut into the stony terrain and spruced with eclectic artisanal scatter cushions, providing a great spot to enjoy a gin and tonic and watch the sun set over the waves.
Dining al fresco at Marpunta Alonnisos
Should you be able to drag yourself away Alonnisos does need to be seen, when venturing out rent a moped from reception and head to Cristi Milia beach, a personal favourite, a quiet spot set back in a beautiful cove. With the winding mountain roads and hilly terrain moped or quads really are the best way to get about, so forgo the car and grab your helmet.
The port village Steni Vala is worth a visit solely to experience Tassia’s Cooking, a restaurant set in a harbour side warehouse, the rustic industrial accents of your setting have been reclaimed by abundant wild greenery. Enjoy incredible traditional home cooking and the largest portion sizes you have ever seen. All winning points in my book.
Marpunta also offers regular transfers to the ‘Old Town’ which is everything you could hope for in your Mamma Mia flashback inspired holiday aspirations. Set on a hillside, wear flats and tackle the walk, stopping at gift shops, churches and of course tavernas on your way up and again back down. Gloriously light on tourists even in peak season, it affords you the indulgence of exploring the rustic charm of the town at will rather than feeling pushed around by the crowds. The views of the island from the top are unrivalled as is the islands traditional cheese pie, not a delicacy to be missed.
‘I have a dream’ of the Greek idyll heavily inspired by the Mamma Mia franchise and I am pleased to confirm it does still exist for those happy to explore a little further afield. On Alonnisos, quiet beaches, traditional flourishes and understated luxury are the ‘name of the game’.
Abba puns almost over and out I promise, all that’s left to do is for me to urge you to ‘take a chance’ on Marpunta Alonnisos. Sorry I have no self-restraint.
- Olympic Holidays (www.olympicholidays.com, 0208 492 6868) is offering 7 nights at the Marpunta Resort, Alonnisos, Greece from only £650pp based on 2 adults sharing on a B&B basis travelling on Wednesday 8th May 2019. This also includes a £50 saving.