And it doesn’t just look pretty from the outside. The interiors were designed by Vangelis Bonios, whose stylistic handwriting isn’t dissimilar to that of Belgian designer Axel Vervoordt’s. Accordingly, our suite was a melange of organic shapes, earthy colours and natural textiles, topped off by utterly original, equine-inspired light fixtures by our bed. Every piece of furniture or decoration had a reassuring sense of being substantial rather than superficial, a quality that contrasted elegantly with the many more delicate details – from linen fabric worked in between layers of glass in the bathroom to a wicker-like ceiling accentuated with bamboo canes. Above all else, our suite was sensual, soothing and balm for the soul. We immediately felt at home.
It was, in fact, only upon walking up to the hotel’s main complex for breakfast in the mornings, that we were frequently reminded of just how distinctively Eastern Mediterranean Kalesma is. That’s because any amount of time spent outside entails at least a noseful – or several – of the fragrant scent wafting around the hotel’s grounds, an olfactory kaleidoscope of rosemary, basil, lavender, red sage, pampas grass, jasmine and pomegranate plants growing among prickly pear cacti, fig trees and no fewer than 100 olive trees (this is Greece, after all). Its landscape architecture is arguably one of Kalesma’s greatest achievements, beckoning guests forth from their private dwellings to mingle around the property.
But that wasn’t the only thing that lured us outside. From Pere Ubu, the hotel’s outdoor restaurant, guests can view the sun rise and set from one and the same spot. To watch the sun move around the property as the day goes by is an exercise in observation: look long enough and you’ll see beams of light encroach from behind every corner, casting gentle shadows over whitewashed walls. It all adds to an unmistakably Cycladic allure, but we found the dance of the sun also had a near-hypnotic quality that encouraged us to slow down, unwind and be present.
You’d be well advised to be present when eating here, too, for Pere Ubu’s gastronomic offering is quite simply outstanding. We dined on stuffed courgette flowers, fennel carpaccio with black olive paste, spicy cauliflower ‘steak’ and almond-based cheese with rosemary straight from the restaurant’s wood-fired oven (‘it’s the future’, said one of Kalesma’s co-owners, whom we raved to about the hotel’s innovative, plant-based dishes). The ingredients, many of which are grown on-site, are often used in unexpected ways – think traditional Greek salad, but refined with blueberries, figs and a lemony poppy seed dressing. Every dish we tried felt light, local and loved by the careful hand that put it all together. Moreover, it felt rooted in the region’s culinary codes.
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There are no fancy Japanese or trendy Peruvian options on the menu, as either would clash with Kalesma’s mission to revive a more sincere and authentic side to Mykonian hospitality, one that receded as the island gained cult status. To us, this was a blessing. Despite all the luxury conveniences, from private experience concierges and iPad-operated in-suite entertainment systems to yacht charters and helicopter transfers, the hotel actually excels at – wait for it – understatement. And therein lies its charm: Kalesma is all about gathering around a table, sharing mezze and having one too many glasses of ‘vinsanto’. During its weekly dinner parties, which bring together guests in an intimate setting, people feel at ease to reach beyond the edge of their table, make friends with others and speak without reservation.
We’re not saying this place is a spiritual retreat (although the name is conveniently chantable: ‘kaaa-lesss-maaa’), but it does bring people together in a way you wouldn’t readily associate with Mykonos. In conversation with our fellow guests, we found ourselves surprised by how cordial, honest and even vulnerable we sounded. Spend a few days here and you’ll find Kalesma provides a cushion for the mind and a safe space for your feelings. It’s a place to unravel thoughts, recalibrate, cultivate relationships and create synergies. For all of us, who were forced to live inside our sometimes claustrophobic selves as planes were grounded and borders closed, the hotel constitutes a return to something more human, and humane.
Eagle-eyed guests might even spot a ruin or two on nearby Delos while sipping on a drink at the hotel’s sunset lounge. The French archaeologists of the early 20th century would’ve loved this view. What they found on the tiny islet were remnants of a society that was permanently settled: many who were born on Delos never left. But their houses featured inner courtyards to entertain guests and the island’s amphitheatre radiates a sense of community to this day. It points to one simple truth: the Cycladic people of yesteryear hardly had the privileges we have today – but they had one another.
Luxury travel experts Black Tomato can arrange your entire journey to Mykonos for you, including four nights in a Kalesma suite, flights and private transfers. Booking with Black Tomato’s ‘State of Flex’ gives you the company’s most flexible terms available. Wherever possible, this will include fee-free postponements and 100 percent refunds, should any Covid complications arise between booking and travel, up to 30 days prior to departure.