This might just be the most luxurious Covid bubble in the world. Unfolding along a secluded private bay in the north-east corner of mainland Greece, Sani Resort could be the answer for anyone who hasn’t set foot on a plane for two years.
Sani, on the wild Halkidiki peninsula (45 minutes’ easy drive from Thessaloniki airport), managed to stay open last year with not a single Covid case.
Every guest is tested on arrival. The staff are checked regularly and they wear masks. Meals can be taken outdoors and all you have to do in between is drift from pool to forest walk to tennis court to spa.
Sani Resort, pictured, unfolds along a secluded private bay in the north-east corner of mainland Greece
Plenty of families, mine included, have swapped gym memberships in the past year for exercising outdoors — and Sani is like a giant outdoor gym where you can walk, swim, cycle or run. Or do nothing at all.
Our family of four, including two teenagers, stayed in Sani Club, a dreamy collection of spacious rooms and villas that tumble down a hillside to a private beach across a stretch of water from Mount Olympus.
The hotel has switched from offering a big buffet breakfast in a hall to dining outside, which means we could order a la carte while gazing across the bay.
One morning we got chatting to a family from Northampton. Grandad and Grandma were at one end of the table tucking into coffee and pastries. Mum and Dad were in the middle — and, perched at the end, three grandchildren who had hardly seen their extended family for a year and a half.
The eco resort is 45 minutes’ easy drive from Thessaloniki Airport. Pictured is the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle in Thessaloniki
This, they said, was the perfect chance to gather the clan and spend some of the money they’d been saving.
Their idea was clear: if your family’s been scattered to the winds by Covid and lockdown, then plan an extended reunion by going away together.
Ah, you might say, but what about the carbon footprint of those flights in these eco-conscious times? Well, a trip to Sani might almost make Greta Thunberg feel virtuous.
According to Mark, ‘all you have to do in between [covid tests] is drift from pool to forest walk to tennis court to spa’ at Sani Resort. Pictured is one of the resort’s pools
Guests at Sani Resort, pictured, can waterski and take banana-boat rides
It was crowned World’s Leading Luxury Green Resort at the world travel awards last year, and was the first carbon neutral resort in Greece.
They take it all very seriously, with the Sani Green programme meaning the five small hotels strung along the bay making up Sani Resort are powered by renewable energy, and the majority of the produce served in the 24 restaurants dotted around the bay is sourced from within 100 miles.
Single-use plastic has also been reduced by 80 per cent in recent years.
There is an olive tree planting programme which we found surprisingly touching when we joined in one morning — having sensibly left the teens to their chow.
We had a teach-in on the cultural history of this unique plant from the resort’s resident eco-boffin as we gazed at a gnarled old specimen — an olive tree, not the expert.
There is a Dine Around programme covered by half or full-board, which allows you to eat at just about any of the restaurants, as well as in the very swish, yacht-studded marina.
So our two teenagers pored over menus online, booked tables via the resort app, and set about demolishing the pork belly at Pines, the souvlaki at the Vosporos Grill House, prosciutto pizza at the Market, and the sea bass at the Cabana on the beach.
Pictured is Sani Club, which Mark describes as ‘a dreamy collection of spacious rooms and villas that tumble down a hillside to a private beach’
Seven nights’ half-board from £7,849 for a family of four at Sani Club over half-term May 2022 with flights and transfers; book by October 31. Or seven nights’ half-board for a couple from £939 pp next May with flights and transfers, book by October 31 (destinology.co.uk, 01204 874 435). Further information: sani-resort.com.
Me? Well, I developed a taste for the Sani Grand Reserve Chardonnay (at £9 a glass), while my wife went for a mixed-grape rose. We resisted the urge in one restaurant to order the 2014 Bourgogne for a cool £29,325. Which gives you the sense that if you want to live high at Sani, it can be a very luxurious experience indeed.
But it has none of the brash ostentation of Monaco or Nice, and for British families like ours, it’s a holiday worth saving up for.
The children adored the indulgence of calling up a chauffeured golf cart to whizz us around. The staff are largely young, multi-lingual and more than pleased to see British tourists flooding back.
The resort is fairly remote, so no one tends to explore far outside its borders. But if it’s solitude you want away from the paddleboarders, the waterskiing and the banana-boat rides, then you can take a stroll through the forest that stretches inland into 250 acres of the resort’s wetlands.
We set off early one morning to beat the heat, and relished the pines standing sentinel as we ambled along shady paths.
Just when the children decided they’d had enough, we arrived back at the beach.
Diet Cokes and ice were sunk at the ultra-chic, white-painted Bousoulas Beach Bar while we fantasised about chugging out to our superyacht moored offshore, and cracking open a bottle of that 2014 Bourgogne.