Ikos Resorts have just opened their perfectly polished doors on the island of Kos, their fourth in a growing collection of luxury, all-inclusive hotels in Greece and the wider Mediterranean region. We flew over earlier this month to experience this brand new Kos resort from its debut on May 7th, to find out if the promise of fine dining, gorgeous scenery and five-star service would really place Ikos Aria among Greece’s best luxury hotels. Keep reading our first-hand professional review of Ikos Aria to get the lowdown.
Arriving at Ikos Aria
Our Ikos experience essentially began as soon as we emerged, wearily, from the baggage collection at Kos Airport, having just touched down late on the Tuesday night. As soon as we passed through the security doors, there was a warm greeting waiting at the airport in the form of two Ikos staff members, who presented us with chilled bottled water and an escort to the luxury Mercedes outside. Travelling in a top of the range Mercedes-Benz, all to ourselves, already felt like such a treat after a long (and noisy) Easyjet flight from the UK, though it wasn’t long until our driver pulled into the private driveway of the Ikos estate, ushered through by security guards. As the car wound gently down towards the main building, we peeked out the window to see the resort illuminated in glowing lights, and could sense it was special, but we had to wait until the next day to see it fully, in all its coastal glory.
Alighting from the car, we were then welcomed by porters with big smiles, and the word kalispera was offered for what would be the first of countless times over the coming week. In fact, every member of the keen Ikos team that we came across would greet us with a friendly kalimera or kalispera, which we much preferred to ‘good morning/afternoon’ in English; we were in Greece, after all. Guided into the lobby, another colleague offered us warm, lemon-scented towels, while someone else led us to a seating area and yet another promptly served us glasses of water and took our drinks order (sparkling wine, please). There was live jazz playing on the other side of the lobby, which we noted was adorned in earthy hues and textiles; the tables hewn from huge tree trunks, egg-shaped rattan chairs hanging from the ceiling, and leafy plants dotted here and there too. This was a design-lovers dream.
Having checked in, we were whisked away by golf buggy to our sea-view suite with a bottle of champagne to follow shortly after. A Deluxe One Bedroom Bungalow Suite with a garden, terrace, sun loungers and direct access to the beach was to be our private Kos home, a gorgeous guestroom that had a large floorplan of 60sq m, with plenty more perks on top of the amazing outdoor space. A super-king-size bed topped with lots of pillows; two flat-screen Smart TVs (one in the bedroom, the other in the separate living room); generous storage space; two bathrobes; Anne Semonin toiletries (the hotel spa is also by Anne Semonin); and a sumptuous en suite with twin vanities. Perhaps our favourite feature was the huge, deep-soak tub, with the walk-in rain shower enclosed in a separate space.
Our luggage was already waiting for us, as was a minibar stocked with miniatures and soft drinks, as well as a bottle of champagne kindly sent down from the lobby bar. We momentarily forgot that this – plus the room service we ordered (vegan focaccia, Caesar salad, and club sandwich) – was complimentary, included as part of our stay in this so far seamless Greek all-inclusive.
Infinite Lifestyle: all-inclusive dining, activities and more
Ikos Aria is a completely all-inclusive hotel, which they call ‘Infinite Lifestyle.’ This means that even the minibar, room service, snacks and ice creams (there’s a gelaterie onsite) are provided at no additional cost, as well as exquisite meals at eight restaurants and drinks ordered at any of the many bars. Additionally, there’s sports equipment to make the most of, such as tennis gear, mountain bikes and watersports, plus access to the fitness centre complete with an indoor pool, hammam, sauna, shower circuit, gym and daily fitness classes including yoga and Pilates each morning.
There’s also a nightclub and theatre venue at Ikos Aria, which was set to open later in May. Then, we learnt that there’s excellent childcare in place: a kids club (ages 4-12); teens club (ages 13-17); and baby and toddler amenities for little ones, plus kids menus at many of the restaurants. We did notice that there were quite a few parents with young children, and with so much to offer families – plus team members who were really sweet with the kids – we could certainly see the appeal. Another thoughtful touch is that there are adults-only and family-friendly zones in each of the restaurants, which will be a welcome gesture when the resort gets busier in high season.
If that weren’t enough, the Infinite Lifestyle concept allows you to dine out at three top island restaurants (one in Kos Town, the second overlooking the sunset at Limnionas and the third nearby in Kefalos, set upon a hill); there’s no cost to you as Ikos will pick up the whole bill and even arrange transfers for you! The team can then provide wine-tasting tours at a local vineyard, or there are bikes to borrow so you can head off and explore nearby at your own pace.
Discovering Kos with MINI Drive Adventure
Given these many opportunities to dine out for free at charming Greek tavernas and go wine-tasting too, we get the feeling that Ikos Resorts are keen to encourage guests to head out and explore the local area, not just stay cocooned at the hotel (although that prospect is equally as tempting). However, perhaps one of the most surprising things about Ikos’ all-inclusive offering is that this incentive to discover Kos is taken a step further with their MINI Drive Adventure scheme, whereby you can book a MINI car for the day and self-drive anywhere you like on the island – all you need to pay for is fuel.
On our second full day, we picked up the keys from reception and hopped in one of their brand new MINIs, which, we noticed, had only done 40 miles before we took it off for the day. Ikos had loaded the MP3 player with relaxing tunes and set a range of top destinations to the ‘favourites’ on a ready-to-go satnav, so we didn’t need to waste any time finding them ourselves. We were sure by then that their attention to detail was as good as flawless. So, having spent the day exploring Kardamena, bumbling past the lush farmland of central Kos, we stopped off at a petrol station conveniently situated just minutes from the resort’s gates to top up the fuel, and handed back the keys to George, one of the friendly valet guys.
Unlike so many sprawling beach resorts around the world, Ikos really does encourage its guests to venture out and experience the beauty of its hotel destinations: whether that’s Halkidiki (Ikos Oceania and Ikos Olivia), Corfu (Ikos Dassia) or, from next year, southern Spain (Ikos Andalusia). The fact that they cover these costs for you just makes it even more tempting, and shows the class that these resorts aspire to – and achieve.
Dining at Ikos Aria
Let’s go back a step though. We mentioned that Ikos Aria flaunts eight of its own restaurants, where you can feast to your heart’s content thanks to the Infinite Lifestyle, full-board arrangement. But this is no ordinary all-inclusive offering. Michelin-starred chefs have designed the menus here, so although the restaurants themselves do not have Michelin status (yet), the cuisine is of this incredibly coveted level. Every meal was one of the best we had ever tasted, so spending seven days at Ikos Aria (tucking into three meals a day), made for a week-long culinary extravaganza, that we will no doubt daydream about for years to come.
The restaurants at Ikos Aria
Ouzo – a beachfront, Greek restaurant; menu by Michelin-starred chef, Lefteris Lazarou
We loved: long lunches of chargrilled meats and vegetables from the outdoor BBQ, paired with a glass of chilled rose or ouzo.
Anaya – serving pan-Asian fare by Katsuhiko Hanamure; Executive Chef at Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants
We loved: the miso-marinated salmon with eggplant and black sesame, followed by roasted pineapple with coconut ice cream.
Fresco – Italian, overlooking the swimming pool; menu by Michelin-starred chef, Ettore Botrini
We loved: the seafood linguini with fresh tomato and basil, followed by the chocolate fondente with pistachio ice cream.
Provence – French, located in the main building with a menu by Michelin-starred chef, Anthony Jehanno
We loved: the beetroot salad with summer berries, fresh horseradish and homemade cow’s cheese to start, followed by the roasted chicken fillet with potato tart, green asparagus and morels sauce.
Oliva – serving Spanish cuisine, adjacent to Fresco with views of the swimming pool
We loved: ‘Los Piquillos’ pimientos stuffed with cod and fried parsley to start, followed by seabass fillet cous cous with curcuma, green vegetables and creamy white wine sauce.
Kos – Greek à la carte restaurant, located next to Anaya
We loved: a lunch of grilled swordfish with tomato salad, walnuts and pomegranate dressing, followed by the kadaifi with vanilla ice cream, sweet tomato from Kos and pistachio.
Flavors – the buffet restaurant in the main building, serving global cuisine
We loved: having so much choice, with a tantalising selection of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes, plus plenty of options to build your own salad.
Seasons – à la carte Mediterranean restaurant, exclusive to guests of the Deluxe Collection
We loved: tuna carpaccio, marinated with Yuzu and ginger and crushed avocado to start, followed by baked salmon with greens from Kos, mashed potatoes and truffle vinaigrette.
For the à la carte restaurants, you need to make a reservation for dinner and wear smart clothing, but this isn’t necessary for breakfast or lunch. We were in heaven each morning as we piled our plates and bowls with fare from the vast buffets (available at Flavors, Kos, Fresco and Seasons). The wait staff took our drinks orders while we helped ourselves to fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt, thyme-infused honey and different seeds and nuts (hazelnuts, chia seeds, walnuts, to name a few). There were pancakes, eggs prepared in various forms, slow-cooked cherry tomatoes, sautéed potatoes and vegetables, plus many different types of artisan bread and rolls (we loved the seeded and beetroot loaves).
Some of these restaurants then also offer à la carte options too, from healthy omelettes to scrumptious waffles with ricotta and crunchy walnuts. You can actually start the day with a three-course meal, before your multi-course lunch and dinner later on, if you wish!
Snacks and drinks
One day, too full for lunch after such a lavish breakfast, we felt peckish later in the afternoon, so ordered some ‘snacks’ as we sat in one of the outdoor lounges. These generously-sized dishes (Greek salad, superfood salad and seared-tuna open sandwich) were healthy and totally delicious, and seemed to go down very well with the expertly-crafted Bloody Mary cocktails that were also ordered. Essentially, there’s not an hour in the day (or night) that you can’t enjoy a good feast or hard-earned drink here at Ikos Aria.
What’s more, Ikos Aria boasts an array of drinking dens too, and you often don’t even need to go up to the bar to make your order. They provide beach and pool service throughout the day, so staff will bring you the food menu and promptly deliver that wonderfully refreshing pina colada; there was even someone offering to clean our sunglasses which made more of a difference than you might expect! The entire wine menu comprises around 300 varieties, depending on which restaurant you are dining at (they have been handpicked to pair well with the various dishes), as well as endless spirits, beer, cocktails, soft drinks and coffees. We wish we could have stayed longer to enjoy more aperitifs in the lobby lounge, or out on the all-white terrace; there were simply so many inviting corners to sit with a sundowner and enjoy the view, you just can’t fit it all in.
The pools, beach, and archaeological sites
It’s an impressive view indeed, since Ikos Aria is spread out along the beachfront in southern Kos, close to the laidback town of Kefalos and lapped by the cerulean Aegean Sea. Across the water, there’s a tiny islet which was once connected to the mainland, home only to the blue-and-white church of Agios Nikolaos which is illuminated at night. It’s a charming sight indeed, one that’s maximised from all corners of the resort, and you can even swim up to the island it’s that close. Then, right in the middle of Kefalos Beach, you can inspect the crumbling ruins of a 5th-century basilica simply known as Agios Stefanos, which is also to be admired while you relax atop a seafront sun lounger on the sand. For us, being so close to this ancient site was incredibly exciting; in fact, during the construction of Ikos Aria, another site was discovered and is currently being excavated in the middle of the hotel grounds!
Then there are the swimming pools – we actually lost count of them. Most are large, lagoon-shaped pools with stunning sea views, and there’s also a kids pool with slides, plus an indoor option with a lovely waterfall feature. What’s more, some of the best rooms here at Ikos Aria actually their own have private pools, which we noticed were much larger than the average plunge pool. The Deluxe Collection part of the hotel then boasts not one, but two large pools for guests staying in a Deluxe Collection guestroom, which will likely provide much-coveted space during high season, no doubt.
Deluxe Collection at Ikos Aria
The reception team very kindly upgraded us to the Deluxe Collection, an exclusive part of the hotel with its own pools, beach and restaurant. Unfortunately though, we didn’t know this until our last day, so we missed out on many of the perks. Deluxe Collection guests can enjoy a wide range of exclusive benefits such as dinner on the beach, a bottle of Tattinger on arrival, upgraded minibar, pillow menu, and much more. We did, however, get to indulge in a neck, shoulder and back massage at the Anne Semonin Spa, which again is complimentary for Deluxe Collection guests.
This was undoubtedly one of the best massages we have ever had, made all the more rejuvenating with a stint in the large wet spa, featuring a sauna, steam room, ice bucket, relaxation room and shower circuit. Access to the wet spa is actually included for all guests over the age of 16, so too the fitness centre with classes taking place throughout the day. Yoga and Pilates, led by Anthi on the outdoor deck each morning, was particularly good.
In 2019, it is extremely important that hotels adopt a sustainable approach. When we enquired at reception, we were informed that Ikos is committed to its own sustainable and environmentally-friendly initiatives – named the Ikos Green Programme. Looking into this further, we have learnt that the company has partnerships with Planet Agents (who lead environmental education programs in Greek Schools); Ornithologiki (a bird protection NGO); and Halkidiki Animal Rescue. Ikos are Greek Key-certified, and offer educational activities through their kids clubs. According to their website, they implement waste-reducing and water and energy-saving measures; such as recycling greywater, plastics, paper and more.
That said, we were slightly concerned to notice that many decorative lights across the grounds stayed on throughout the day, when it was unnecessary to do so. In addition, the use of plastic water bottles is widespread and we could not find any recycling bins. We hope that Ikos Aria addresses these issues by only switching on the lights when needed (at night, when they can be seen…) and considers the use of either reusable water bottles or makes recycling points much clearer. However, the fact that they are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint is commendable indeed.
Ikos Aria in a nutshell
Overall, we found Ikos Aria to be an exceptional beach resort. Never before has a luxury all-inclusive hotel in Greece delivered such a prized combination of high hospitality standards and genuinely warm service, exquisite dining, fantastic luxe facilities and thoughtful perks, plus that unbeatable location, all at excellent value for money. We can see Ikos Resorts going very far – throughout Greece and beyond.