Daios Cove delivers exactly what it says on the tin: this is a classic horseshoe-shaped cove and, even better, it’s all yours. Rugged mountains drop into a dark blue sea with other promontories and islands in the distance. When you sit on your deck – and all the rooms here have one as well, usually, as at least a plunge pool – you look down on the pools, the beach and the gardens of the hotel built over five levels into the mountainside. The only sound is water pounding against rock. If you want a place you can relax completely, this is hard to beat.
My first stop – for even more relaxation, obviously – was the spa. GOCO SPA is a cool, contemporary space with a hydrotherapy section including two saunas (hot, very hot), a steam room and a Mediterranean sauna – somewhere between a sauna and a steam room. There are walk-through showers (cool to cold), an ice fountain and one of those buckets of water that will literally take your breath away when you stand underneath and pull the rope.
It’s all based on the alternating hot and cold principle – by continually changing between the two, you stimulate the circulation and the immune system. The other part of the spa is a big pool with a variety of underwater massages where you can spend a very happy playtime and there’s also a second indoor pool just for swimming. Outdoors, there’s a third pool with seawater.
They have an extensive spa menu with some quite unusual treatments such as the Cryo Time Freeze – a facial that uses the effects of extreme cold to firm the skin. I decided, though, to go local and chose the Cretan Renaissance Ceremony which lasts for two hours and uses essential island ingredients – salt from the sea and grape seeds (plus local herbs such as rosemary, lavender and oregano). Grape seeds are both detoxifying and nourishing, my therapist Constantina explained. And this became clear right from the start with the peel. It felt very dry and rough as it was applied, scrubbing off old skin and giving me a thorough polish. But when I got into the shower to wash it off, I found my skin covered in a film of oil that remained there even under the water.
When I came back to the bed it was covered in tin foil for the next part of the ritual. This was a wrap with a paste made (somehow) from red wine – very cold (no room temperatures rules here then) when it is applied initially but afterwards I was wrapped in my foil and covered in blankets. I cooked gently for 20 minutes while Constantina gave me a long head massage that left me drifting into a state of deep relaxation until it was time for another shower.
I wasn’t the only thing cooking, though. When I next came back to the bed, it was covered in towels again and next to it was a steamer containing boluses. Let me explain. A bolus is Latin for a ball and in therapy terms it is generally a large pouch (about the size of a man’s fist) made of linen. You can fill it with just about anything – perhaps my strangest experience of bolus massage was with oats. The resulting smell makes you feel like you’re being massaged with porridge (strangely relaxing in fact). This time, though, it was crushed grape seeds and herbs that made a heady mix with the nourishing oil from the Anne Semonin product range. The boluses are pretty hot and release a kind of aromatic cloud – the overall effect is deeply relaxing.
Daios Cove is, in fact, a pretty relaxing place altogether. It has a perfect natural setting – and there are quite a few little luxuries thrown in. Our room, for instance, is more of a suite with a terrace looking out over the cove, the cliffs and the sea past our very own infinity plunge pool. In the evening, there are lights dramatically placed in the cliffs and in the morning you can have breakfast served on your terrace for a pleasantly slow start to the day.
Alternatively, you can go to the main restaurant Pangea – by a very unusual route. You get there on a funicular. Daios has its own “train” service that goes from beach level up to the top (fifth) where you find the main entrance and the lobby. This is a fun mode of travel – your sliding glass box has fantastic views across the cove and you’re also very aware of the mountain itself: in some places it’s even “framed” as a feature between beautiful columns made of local stone.
As well as Pangea, there are two a la carte restaurants. Taverna is on the level closest to the beach and it’s Greek with a twist. So my scallops came in a delicate basil sauce and the lamb was slow roasted like a kleftiko then served with tabbouleh and the creamiest of tzatzikis. Meanwhile the Ocean restaurant has a cool, contemporary look – terms that can equally be applied to the cooking. Not surprisingly, given its name, this restaurant features a lot of fish (fine by me) cooked to perfection.
There’s also a beach bar but it’s far more than that – I had some wonderful fresh sardines with aioli – and the beach itself has very comfortable loungers, tables and sunshades facing out across the cove to the islands beyond. There are plenty of water sports including diving and the spa has an extensive gym and classes such as fitball and yoga. If you can tear yourself away from all of these delights, there’s an amazing island to discover out there, too.
Nightly rates at Daios Cove are from €230 (£202*) in a Deluxe Sea View Room on a half board basis. To book visit: daioscove.com or call +44 20 3807 1418. *Prices in pound sterling accurate as of today’s exchange rate