A cool sea breeze whistled through the trees, as the Grecian sun beamed down on a bright-eyed group of yogis.
Among them – as a relative newbie to the practice – I tried to perfect my downward dog but, thankfully, the sound of the nearby waves crashing hid the cracks of my lower back.
As I let out a deep breath, I felt my shoulders drop, my muscles relax and my mind empty.
This is just what the doctor ordered – quite literally.
Just months earlier, blood tests revealed I was low in vitamin D, so I was told to start taking daily supplements. I live in a small flat in the heart of east London’s cityscape and my body was clearly burnt out after what felt like an unusually long, cold winter.
Enter, Sani Resort. Nestled along the Kassandra peninsula in Halkidiki, Greece, it’s less than an hour’s drive from Thessaloniki airport – and it was my answer to a frazzled city soul.
Over the course of four days and three nights, it felt like I experienced everything the luxury hotel had to offer – from tennis on clay courts and ziplining through trees, to bird watching in wetlands and yoga by the sea.
I stayed in Sani Porto, one of the five Sani Resort hotels spread out along the peaceful 1000-acre reserve that recently underwent a €30 million (£25.6 million) renovation. There’s also Sani Beach, Sani Club, Sani Asterias and Sani Dunes.
Guests are free to roam through all of the hotels – some with their very own spas, restaurants and bars – for whatever takes their fancy. And they did not disappoint.
The room I stayed in – a Junior Suite Private Garden (starting at £240 per night on a half-board basis) – was just the start of stress-less bliss. A huge garden with outdoor seating to soak in the sun, a king-size double bed and a freestanding bathtub that I may or may not have had a glass of bubbly among the bubbles one night.
After unpacking, it was time to explore and take the edge off a bit. First stop, one of the many poolside bars for an Aperol Spritz.
Speaking of alcohol, I fell in love with mastiha on this trip – a liqueur seasoned with mastic, which is a resin with a slightly pine or cedar-like flavour. Sani Club’s mastiha-laden Aegean Aroma cocktail (€17) feels so refreshing after a day of lounging by the pool in the Mediterranean sun, or you can have it as a shot (or two) with dessert.
Another local favourite is malagouzia, which is a type of soft Greek white wine made from a grape that was brought back from the brink of extinction. Pair this with the many seafood options on offer.
The lobster pasta (€135/kg) or lettuce leaves with crab and langoustine (€34.50) at Sani Marina’s Tomata are to-die-for, as are Porto Sani’s newly-opened restaurant Lima, which offers up mouth-watering crab tacos (€20) and sea bream ceviche (€24). Of course, fried squid at any of the seaside eateries are all fresh, but they’re particularly delicious at the Marina’s Psaroyannos.
Try the meat or veggie platters at Sani Dunes too, but definitely start each day with Porto Sani’s buffet breakfast — featuring everything from fry-ups to fruit. A big, hearty meal is definitely needed for all the activities on offer.
I found myself on a walk one morning through the local wetlands. A guided tour told our small group about the fragile coastal ecosystem before setting up a telescope in the middle of a sandy bank in the lake to search for cute coots and mellow mallards.
After lunch that same day, before I knew it I was zip lining through the forest via the six courses on offer. Sure, the resort’s great for kids, but adults can get among the fun too.
I was feeling so energised that I even worked up the motivation to go to one of the gyms for a quick workout one day, including the rowing machine while basking in the early morning sun.
One of the most impressive activities on offer is a tennis lesson at the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre (from €80 per person). The instructor was very patient with me as I ducked and dived across the clay court.
Don’t worry, it’s not a total heart-pumping sweatfest.
For a change of pace, I couldn’t recommend the seaside yoga enough. There’s also a complementary sunset cruise (but book in advance), where I sipped on a glass of fizz while seagulls glided along the sails with us.
But the highlight of the trip, for me, was the spa treatments.
One of the first things you’ll notice across all the spas is the revitalising Anne Semonin ‘Memoires D’ete’ scent, which is a mix of salty sea air and aromatic citrus groves. After checking in and waiting for my treatment slot, I soaked in the steamy sauna before reclining on a cool stone chair.
I then had a 30-minute back massage (€80) at Porto Sani Spa that felt like it got out every single knot. Then, a few days later – just before check-out – I treated myself to the Radiance Express facial (€95 for 25 minutes) and my face has never felt so refreshed. Perhaps it was the days of Mediterranean sun, but I looked and felt glowing (if I do say so myself).
There’s even a relaxation area to chill in afterwards, where I had herbal tea with a small selection of dried fruit. Truly heaven.
I couldn’t fault my four days at Sani Resort, including the hospitality, friendliness and professionalism of everyone working there.
As I flew out of Greece later that night, I felt a pang of sadness for the end of this long-overdue stress relieving holiday. But I’m sure the bottles of mastiha and malagouzia that I bought at duty-free will help me adjust back to London life.
James stayed in a Junior Suite Private Garden at Sani Resort’s Porto Sani, where rooms start at €275 (£240) per night on a half-board basis. Sani Festival and Sani Gourmet return to Halkidiki in 2023 at Sani Resort.
Flights from London Gatwick to Thessaloniki start at £90 round trip in off peak season with EasyJet (https://www.easyjet.com/).
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