First impression: It’s hard to tell where the sea meets the sky
Staff: Friendly and to the point
Food and drink: Sprinkled with herbs plucked from a bush behind your table
Bed and bath: A treat of polished concrete and rock
The crowd: Couples with immaculately behaved babies on an Athens escape, young couples on a romantic trip
Sustainable credentials The restaurant menu is constantly changing, with ingredients sourced according to what’s in season on Sifnos and its neighbouring islands
In a nutshell: A serene retreat with some of the best views on the island
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Set the scene
With 235 churches across the island, Sifnos has a blue dome or white bell tower at practically every turn. From the peaceful restaurant terrace of Verina Astra hotel there are views of Kastro, an ancient town with traditional white homes cascading over a little hill, and the shockingly situated Church of the Seven Martyrs, which juts into the sea on its own rock. Windmills also dot the landscape, and on a clear day, Amorgos island defines the horizon. There’s a sleek stone-lined swimming pool surrounded by wood-carved double day beds covered with cushions and chic, grey-and-white-striped loungers. A 10-minute walk down the hillside (beware the sweatier 20 minutes back up again) leads to a bamboo-cloaked path opening onto a quiet rocky outcrop with access to the clear teal water.
What’s the story
Gorgeous couple Miltos Selemis and Isadora Chandeli own the hotel and know the isle inside out. Trekking paths, secret beaches, the best saganaki and nights out are sorted by Selemis, while Chandeli is in charge of the place’s serene aesthetic. Huge urns filled with wildflowers, artisanal fish-shaped ceramics and an autumnal canopy of leaves on the restaurant ceiling are down to her meticulous eye. The hotel fits effortlessly into the scenery and there are beautiful details everywhere.
What can we expect from our room?
They are seamlessly stylish without anything to grumble about – but truth be told, you’re unlikely to spend much time inside. Each of the 14 bedrooms has its own terrace, which means there’s no need to get up early to scramble for the best loungers (though the two double day beds beside the pool do keep the sun all day). Whitewashed rock walls and bamboo ceilings are strung with rattan lampshades and there are ceramic vases and piles of puffed cushions. The rooms have sitting areas with day beds and sliding doors, ideal for young children. And bathrooms are big – sweeping polished-concrete walls punctuated with ladders, more wildflowers and a shiny, shallow stone sink.
How about the food and drink?
The restaurant is fanatical about the ingredients, all of which are sourced locally. You’ll see waiters scurrying past the restaurant tables to pick rosemary, thyme and oregano to add flavour to plates moments before they are served. Rocket is almost mutant, unlike anything you could find in a supermarket: thick, wild and so flavoursome you’d be happy with a peppery plateful of it. Burnt aubergine comes with walnut vinegar and smoked octopus – there’s a smoking hut on-site – while fresh, homemade spaghetti is simple, with parsley and bottarga. For breakfast, there are mounds of Greek yogurt with nectarines and plums, plus slices of rosemary-and-olive-oil cake and stacks of fluffy pancakes with thyme honey or tahini cream. In the making is a second restaurant which will be open to the rest of the island.
Anything to say about the service?
Almost all of the staff have grown up on the surrounding islands and sing the praises of both Sifnos and Verina Astra. They fit into the sleek aesthetic in all-white, and are always keen to help.
What sort of person comes here?
Glamorous weekenders from Athens – the ferry from the capital takes about three hours, making this a fairly easy trip – as well as British couples settling in for the whole week.
What’s the neighbourhood scene like?
Kastro, and its legendary rum-toting Kavos Sunrise bar, is a 30-minute walk along the coastal path. The winding alleys with tumbling bougainvillaea and the Mamma Mia-famed Church of the Seven Martyrs are the stuff of fairy tales. The island’s most famous restaurant, Omega3 in Platis Gialos, has just launched its first sibling joint, Cantina, in a tiny cove behind the hilltop town. Less than a mile away in the other direction is Artemenos, which looks like a typical Greek-island postcard with yet more churches and cafés churning out fried shrimp, sesame-coated cheese and chickpea balls.
Anything you didn’t love?
The excess of plastic water bottles.
Is it worth it?
Yes: this is the most elegant hotel on Sifnos and one of the best in Greece.
Address: Verina Astra, Poulati, Sifnos 840 03, Greece
Telephone: +30 697 686 7641
Price: Doubles from £122
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