Halkidiki, the Greek region where Eagles Palace Hotel is located, lies on mainland Greece somewhat north of the usual Grecian holiday destinations. We are big fans of the islands, but we relished the opportunity to spend some time exploring the mainland.
The Halkidiki region protrudes into the northern end of the Aegean, its narrow peninsulas pointing south like a giant three-fingered hand, although apparently the Greeks refer to them as legs. It is a highly scenic area with rocky peaks that poke through hills of scented herbs and pine, that drop down to a rocky coast interspersed with some wonderful sandy bays. Access is via flight in to Thessaloniki and a pleasant 90 minute transfer.
The Eagles Palace Hotel occupies a stretch of unspoiled coast on the third peninsula that takes its name from the seven-thousand foot Mount Athos that sits close to its tip. Most of this area is closed off to the public as ‘an autonomous monastic community’, home to religious communities for well over 1000 years, and unique enough to have a UNESCO World Heritage status.
Notoriously only males are allowed to visit – and even then with limited access by prior reservation. The restriction incidentally not only applies to human visitors but also members of the animal kingdom, although the rule conveniently excepts hens that supply fresh eggs for the Monastic breakfast tables.
Fortunately for the curious there are boats available locally at the attractive Ouranopouli village. Enjoy a meal or drink along the row of pleasant tavernas that line the harbour or visit the 13th century Byzantine tower, now with a religious museum, before jumping on one of the daily excursion boats that cruise along the peninsula. Skirting the coastline (at the permitted 500 metre distance) you get wonderful views of the ancient monasteries which often cling precariously to the sea cliffs and soaring mountains.
Some boats welcome onboard enterprising groups of monks who zip over in dinghies wearing their decorated black robes bringing a few ancient relics for the curious to examine. At the same time they set up sizeable stalls of local handicrafts, plus potions & lotions and pots of excellent mountain honey. Attracting an enthusiastic and free spending tourist clientele, we immediately cease to wonder how they maintain themselves in such a sparse landscape. Besides worship, the monks choose which vocation to dedicate themselves to, which can include anything from carpentry to homeopathy. A wonderful documentary to watch is Netflix’s Athos which is all about the area and the lives of the monks who live there.
Just a few kilometres from this remarkable and unique region the Eagles Palace Hotel sits looking over the coastline behind an efficiently manned security gate. A separate drive accesses a series of private villas and suites, many with private pools, that stretch up the hillside beyond. One of these is the famous presidential suite, a favourite apparently of Maria Callas who was a regular visitor.
Located on a low hillside it is arranged such that the expansive marble-floored lobby is on the 5th floor. Two floors of accommodation sit both above and below this level with lifts taking you to down to the spa, indoor pool and lush gardens that lead down to the beach a few yards away. The raised location means that all the hotel public areas and most rooms enjoy spectacular sea views across to local islands to Sithonia, the next of the Halkidiki peninsulas.
One of Eagles Palace Hotel’s biggest selling points is the hotel beach – it is private, largely sandy and gently shelving. A nice plus point is the opportunity to select your preferred atmosphere: at one end is a well-equipped (non motorised) waterspouts centre adjacent to a ‘chill out’ area with a nice cafe, a bean bag lounging area and good music that ranges from Ibiza to Motown. Other beach areas will appeal more to couples and families, with finally a large’ quiet zone’ for some peaceful sun bathing.
All beach areas have plentiful deep-cushioned sun loungers with tasteful thatched style umbrellas and a handy service button for drinks and snacks from the bar whilst on a terrace above lies a very large irregularly-shaped pool with overhanging greenery, a pool bar plus adjacent children’s pool.
Eagles Palace Hotel rooms are good sized, bright and modern with light coloured wood, white furnishing and walls, light curtains offset with touches of colourful pastel spot colour. They are air-conditioned and include expected extras like toiletries, fridge, safe, robes, espresso machine, mini hifi and minibar but lack any ‘luxury’ extra touches. Bathrooms are slick and modern although with minimal toiletries.
We enjoyed excellent sunset views from the small balcony whilst admiring the acrobatics of the hundreds of swallows that call the hotel home. Happily the birds are also highly efficient natural insect controllers snapping up any mosquitos that dare approach.
The modest upgrade from superior garden view to sea view rooms is well worth it, unless you are in a larger family group where the Junior and two bedroom suites might worth considering. We would also recommend rooms in levels below the reception which have a slightly better view, and are closer to the beach & spa.
The typical arrangement here is half board with access to an exceptional buffet set up in the Melathron restaurant. Breakfast always had the range of typical choice with beans, eggs, bacon range but alongside this were always a variety of tasty Greek local specialities, fish, salads, breads and cheeses. You could also help yourself to fresh juices and smoothies whilst trying to avoid being tempted by too much from another big table that heaves with delicate mousses, fruit salads, jellies and cakes. At the omelette bar have your preference cooked to order.
The quality was really of the first order considering the broad variety on offer and is maintained for the evening service. Alongside a broad and ever changing pick of meats, seafood and fish, many of them presented in appetising baked dishes, was a long array of inventive mixed warm or cold salads that might include fresh leaves with peach and cream cheese, zucchini with tomato & mint, eggplants with caramelised onions, mushrooms stuffed with briam, ragout butter beans with egg-plants, plus middle eastern and greek dips like imam baldi, hummus and tzatsiki. The variety and buffet arrangement that vegans or vegetarians would never feel lacking in choice.
The desert table came replete with a similar choice to that available at breakfast and a selection of local and imported cheeses there for anyone who could manage to squeeze any more courses! For any more variety other dining options include a beach side fish restaurant open lunch and evening, a steak restaurant and another with Asian cuisine.
The hotel includes impressive creche and child care (tested and highly recommended), linked with the luxury tour operator Scott Dunn and a popular choice for families. Despite this there is plenty enough varied public space to ensure it never felt busy or crowded and those seeking calm can readily find plenty of peaceful spots to enjoy a quiet meal or a sunset cocktail on the lawn.
An excursion desk is available to book car hire or excursions. Other than the Mount Athos they include a trip to the pretty local village of Arnai or a visit to the park and ancient ruins at the birthplace of Aristotle, the local celebrity. For the ultimate peaceful day bathing the hotel offer their own boat trips to a private beach on one of the tiny uninhabited Drenia Islands about 15 minutes hop away.
A small but good quality hotel spa is on the beach level with steam, jacuzzi, treatment rooms and a small indoor pool. There is an extensive treatment menu and other activities like yoga or tennis can be booked with some free daily morning yoga sessions and a weekly tennis tournament.
If all this sounds like a vast impersonal hotel complex stretching over untold acres, the miracle is that the 170 room hotel is actually quite a modest size and it neither feels overly sizeable or too busy. A thoroughly enjoyable stay and we look forward to returning.
For more information and to book visit Eagles Palace Hotel
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