From the sunken fire pit, guests can watch the sun setting over the neighbouring island of Delos. Gold, amber and peach streaks are scrawled across the sky, like an angry toddler has raided the crayon box.
The smoke rises up, making smudges, like dirty fingerprints across the sky. A few decades ago, this outdoors spot – known as an aloni – would have been the heart of the home that once stood here. Different generations of the family – toddlers included – would be seated around to eat, chat, and admire the views. Now, it’s the focal point of cocktails before dinner, or perhaps nightcaps after, at Kalesma, one of Mykonos’s newest and most interesting hotels.
“That welcoming feel of a family home is what we wanted to recreate here,” says coowner Makis Kousathanas, whose family once owned what was a small holding on the site. “We wanted to capture the way that people used to live on the island,” he says.
“When the first tourists came to Mykonos, for instance, they used to stay with locals in their homes, eat with them and be immersed in a Mykonian lifestyle. There’s something pure and magical about that, which we wanted to tap into. ‘Kalesma’ means ‘to invite’ and that’s the essence of the hotel.”
With just 25 suites, the hotel, found on the north-west of the island, feels incredibly intimate. The architecture, by Greek design company K-studio, is based on a traditional Mykonos village, with myriad references to historic or cultural aspects of the island. Wall lights in the lobby, for instance, use creamy horse hair in their structure, to allude to the fact that in Greek mythology this area of the island – called Aleomandra – is the place that Greek god Apollo kept his horses.
Many of the walls around the hotel are fashioned with lattice-work to reference the dovecotes that most houses used to have on Mykonos and, particularly, the nearby island of Tinos. (It’s a feature also seen at the new Mykonos airport, which K-studio also designed).
Each suite resembles a tiny whitewashed house, with their curved corners and flat roofs, giving a nod to the heritage of the Cyclades islands, of which Mykonos is one. Inside, interior designer Vengelis Bonios’s slick approach sharpens up the rustic vibe.
Located in the centre of the room and with a curved bamboo headboard, the bed is a statement piece in its own right. It faces a wall of glass, which opens out to an infinity pool and outdoor living area.
Before you go to sleep, leave the shutters open, and you can awaken to see the turquoise waters in Ornos Bay shimmering in the distance. It’s utterly seductive. This is ‘thoughtful luxury’ at its best. Black lava-stone platters and rattan-lined ceilings give tactile touches to the all-white decor, and the bathroom is like a mini-spa with indoor and outdoor showers.
A sunken bath is placed under a picture window for glorious ocean views. The room also has exactly the type of beauty products you wished you’d packed – from full size magnolia-scented Frederic Malle shower gels to blue ‘ocean’ sea salts; from exfoliating scrubs to make-up remover towels. There’s even hand-weights for in-room workouts (perfect for easing the guilt if you’ve consumed the traditional pastries and bottle of local rosé left by your bedside).
As well as a small chapel – offering lowkey weddings – there are two standalone villas, which are ideal for families or gatherings of friends. These come with their own gardens, pools and outdoor dining areas and feature the same beautifully curated interiors. While the suites and villas feel cocooning and restful, there’s a friendly buzz to be found in the central hub of Kalesma – made up of the restaurant, bar, pool and fire pit.
Aiming to replicate the success of the owner’s popular Athens restaurants is Pere Ubu, which offers relaxed dining with a modern twist on local traditional recipes. Fresh bread is baked daily in the brick oven, while most of the ingredients are sourced across Mykonos and the neighbouring islands. Greek meze is the way to go, with a seemingly endless array of dishes arriving ‘neighbourhood-style’ as and when they are ready. Highlights are the roasted octopus cooked with black garlic and mussels with Mykonian sausage and fennel.
Guests can eat inside in a small dining room – cosy if the island’s famous breezes pick up – or outside next to 100-year-old olive trees (replanted from the original farm that was once here). For something light, opt for lavraki to start – sea bass ceviche with olives, mint and tomato aioli – followed by the catch of the day, such as scorpion fish, which is roasted with potatoes and local tyrovolia cheese. And make sure you leave room for the hotel’s speciality curcubito dessert, an oven-baked doughnut with honey and vanilla-pumpkin cream.
The hotel continues its celebration of all things local with a series of insider-access experiences for guests. Tables can be booked in tiny tucked-away tavernas in the old town, while trips to secluded beaches and hidden coves are a delight and show off the unspoilt side of the island.
A boat across to the island of Delos – the uninhabited, mythical birthplace of Apollo – is a must. Here, archaeologists have worked tirelessly for over 20 years to unearth many ancient riches – including an amphitheatre, houses with stunning mosaics and a marketplace as well as the famous Terrace of the Lions, a row of stone lions standing guard dating back to 600 BCE.
Later this year, the hotel is planning to open a small spa, which will offer treatments based on age-old customs using locally-sourced ingredients (think: thyme-infused oils and lemon balms). They also plan to collaborate with local artisans to sell their homewares, such as crockery and basket-ware – which guests will spot around the hotel.
Also in the works are even more locally-fuelled experiences, so guests can get under the skin of the island. “We want our guests to feel like they are staying in a friend’s home,” says Makis. “If you did that, you’d eat truly local food, you’d visit their favourite places, and you’d discover the real Mykonos.”
Need to know
Black Tomato (blacktomato.com) can arrange four nights in a Kalesma suite from £2,975 per person including flights with BA, private transfers and breakfast. Black Tomato’s ‘State of Flex’ includes 100% refunds and fee-free postponements, where possible, should any Covid complications arise between booking and travel, up to 30 days prior to departure.