IT’S impossible not to be fascinated by the Greek Islands.

Go on, try it. You’re sat there, enjoying your poolside cocktail, letting the sun soak into your skin as you look out onto the world-famous crystal waters of the Aegean, spying the neighbouring islands and distant Turkey. But then your mind wanders.

Was this the view the gods of legend Apollo and Zeus saw, after they rescued Patmos from the sea? Did St John step foot here when he was exiled to the island?

Its current incarnation as a holiday destination is but a speck in the long history of these islands. But for its inhabitants, it is their home and their livelihood, and a place where they welcome those fleeing the fast-paced modern world.

Patmos is cove after cove of perfect beaches and winding roads begging to be explored. Venture inland (though there’s not many places where you can’t see the sea) and you can visit the very place where St John is said to have had a vision, inspiring him to write the Book of Revelation. Regardless of what you believe it’s a place with an almost tangible atmosphere, although it looks vastly different now.

The original cave, not a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has had walls built around the open mouth, though you can still see the spot where it is said St John heard the voice of God, and where the cave roof split in three, representing the Holy Trinity.

Elsewhere too, there are places to explore Patmos’s history. The Monastery of St John the Theologian, founded in 1088, is not far away and there’s a fascinating museum telling the island’s story.

But it’s the people that make Patmos special. Within a day of arriving at Petra Hotel and Suites we felt like part of the family. It is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) brand and, enjoying a breakfast of hot coffee, feta and tomatoes, fresh fruit and honey pastries on a balcony overlooking the sea makes visitors feel they have discovered the most tranquil place in the world.

There is something that brings people back – many of the younger islanders we met live in Athens and come back frequently for holidays, or have lived abroad, but moved home. Yes, it’s a ferry journey from the nearest airport on Kos but it’s all part of the adventure – and somehow it adds to the other-worldly atmosphere of this beautiful island.

Kos too has adventure and relaxation – but in a whole different way.

Forget the all-inclusive post-university holidays and explore the real island, the one where you can visit archaeological digs and see the tree Hippocrates sat under to give lectures, the minarets ravaged by time and war, the ancient healing temple at Asclepion and the dozens of small, family-run restaurants punching well above their weight in their delicious offerings of meat and fish and salad.

We sat one night at the edge of the beach, watching the sunset and eating seabass carpaccio, mussels, spinach and pine nut salad and – the main event – salt-baked monkfish and dragonfish.

The food is so good you’ll need to do some exercise to burn it off and at Erika’s Horse Farm we rode through fields to the beach, spotting flamingos in the distance and giant white egrets, before letting the horses splash in the blue water.

We stayed at Aqua Blue Boutique Hotel and Spa, another in the SLH collection boasting real, top-end luxury (some of the rooms have their own swimming pools). It’s barely a 30-second walk to the beach but with the stunning facilities including an excellent spa and a restaurant with its own Michelin-starred chef, it’s hard to find a reason to leave the hotel.

Whatever you are looking for, the Greek islands are truly the place to go. And the locals know it.

As our guide in Kos, Helene, told us: “When the world was created, God gave land to each of the peoples. But the Greeks were late and, by the time they had arrived, God had given away all the land. But they looked so sad that he gave them the land he was keeping for themselves. And over the years there have been many invasions because everybody wants this land. But we have it, and suffering is the price we pay for it.”


THE trip was organised by the Greek National Tourism Organisation ( and Small Luxury Hotels of the World - Enjoy life’s small luxuries by joining INVITED, SLH’s new loyalty programme, at

Book a stay at Petra Hotel & Suites with Small Luxury Hotels of the World from €125 on a B&B basis (

Book a stay at Aqua Blu Boutique Hotel & Spa with Small Luxury Hotels of the World from €200 on a B&B basis (

For transfers from Patmos see A1 Yachting

From Kos: Dtskos