Fall in love with life, fall in love with nature….fall in love with Life on Ios.
It was a great privilege to be part of the #LifeOnIos project organised by Simon Lewis from Travel Concept Solution and Villy Magnolia of VillyVentures in collaboration with the LuxurIOS Island Experience who kindly hosted and were at the heart of this amazing project. The month long experience brought different members of the travel industry to the Greek Island of Ios to collaborate, create content and share ideas on how to make a positive and sustainable impact in travel for Ios Island. It finished with a meeting of travel influencers at the Travel Massive Island Unconference.
So where is Ios?
Ios is one of the lesser known of the Greek islands and is part of the Cyclades group which nestle in the Aegean Ocean between Mykonos and Santorini, about 4.5 hours by boat from Athens. The rocky terrain is peppered with white buildings which the sun reflects off and the numerous coves offer a haven of peace and tranquillity. It is quite literally the stuff dreams are made of. Yes, some who have heard of Ios may immediately think of it as a party island, but that couldn’t be further from the truth, if you take the time to explore what else the island has to offer.
Unlike many of its fellow islands, the slant that the LuxurIOS Island Experience project takes on tourism is a breath of fresh air; literally…
The Focus on Sustainable Tourism and Respect for Nature
I was lucky enough to spend some time with the wonderful Vassiliki Perridou; president of LuxurIOS Island Experience, who told me many beautiful stories of conservation on the island. I soon learnt how she refers to herself as ‘Mama-ger’ rather than ‘Manager’ and she really cares for all her employees and guests, as well as the environment around her.
The philosophy behind LuxurIOS is: “we do not have to damage the earth to accomplish our dreams.”
The environment is protected rather than destroyed and the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage is at the centre of every decision. Local stones are used, traditional construction techniques are kept alive (such as stones being carved by hand) and modernity is mixed with tradition to create a better future for the island and those who visit. Only 5% of the land LuxurIOS owns is being developed, which means the rest is left wild and undeveloped for future generations to admire.
One of my favourite stories Vassiliki told me was how her and her husband saved 183 olive trees from being cut down for firewood. Someone informed her husband that the olive trees would be destroyed to make room for a stadium in Pelonponese and they couldn’t bare the thought of this happening. A time-consuming but hugely worthwhile procedure involved paying to have the trees transported by trucks and then by boat to Ios, replanted and acclimatised to their new home. This consisted of cutting their branches, feeding their roots special hormones to help them grow and a lot of tender loving care.
Vassiliki promised to give each olive tree an ancient Greek name and is very affectionate towards the trees through stroking them and even dropping kisses on their branches. It’s one step up from talking to your plants, but as some of trees on Ios are over 300 years old and still going strong, who’s to say this extra love isn’t having the most positive effect in helping these ageing trees survive? Maybe we should all start treating our plants like this…
She even let me name one (Helena) and I am now officially her Godmother for life (another excuse to come back and visit!)
I loved hearing about Vassiliki and her family’s love of nature, her devotion to sustainable tourism and nurturing the things around her. As well as olive trees, Vassiliki and her husband have planted over 55,000 trees in total and have rescued donkeys and horses. Vassiliki even gave her husband a donkey for their 25th anniversary present!
When you spend time with this woman and hear about her conservation work it is hard to believe this gentle soul is also a businesswoman in charge of one of the leading luxury tourist brands in the Greek islands. So how does she combine both so easily?
She laughed when I asked her this and simply said that the two aspects meld together and her conservation philosophy is the foundation on which she has built the LuxurIOS brand upon. Vassiliki and Yiorgos Bourtzos (Managing Director of Luxurios Island Experience) both explained to me that the property I was staying at (the Agalia Luxury Suites) was designed to work with nature rather than against it. It greatly saddens them both to see traditional villages being replaced by sprawling mass tourism resorts that are as far removed from Greek tradition as you can possibly get and devoid of a unique identity, so that’s why they are so devoted to this project and preserving the beauty of Ios.
The LuxurIOS brand is helping Ios to retain its identity as one of the bastions of real Greece where food is sourced locally and exploration of natural surroundings is encouraged. Vassiliki and her team have pulled this off with style, not only with the Agalia Luxury Suites but the other premises the company has across Ios (all expertly designed by Vassiliki’s husband) which offer their guests a lot more than just fun in the sun.
The Agalia Luxury Suites
The famous Greek hospitality is evident from the outset by the greeting you receive from the wonderful staff at Agalia (like Theodore below) who ensure you are completely relaxed as soon as you arrive. The venue does not impose a dress code or any restrictions – it’s all about being who you are, and not trying to be what people expect you to be. Luxury is a much overused word in tourism, but when you enter your accommodation (which really is fit for royalty) it is one of the first superlatives which springs to mind.
The setting is absolutely exquisite with a 360° vista of the natural landscape surrounding the resort. The name Agalia translates as happiness/joy and never have I stayed anywhere where the name has been so appropriate. Local stone and marble is very much the order of the day in terms of décor and architecture, and a heady combination of modern luxury and traditional charm make this a very special getaway.
There are 14 suites in total with comfortable beds, neon mood lighting, large marble bathrooms, and a glorious 25m pool outside offering unparalleled views over the Aegean Sea. There are plenty of sun loungers for everyone, cosy little bolt holes where you can escape for some relaxing ‘me time’ and a restaurant whose fare will satisfy the palates of even the most discerning of gastronomes. The dishes are Mediterranean and traditional Greek recipes with a modern twist, inspired by top Greek chef Gikas Xenakis.
All the little touches make this place special – from the Greek beauty amenity kit, the cuddling animal plush toys on the bed, the shaded cabins to escape the sun and the complimentary fruit infused water. Everywhere you go, there are surprises to be discovered, such as the sister property, Free Beach Bar which offers swinging loungers, great food (I especially enjoyed the Greek salads and the fresh fish), live music and the popular Mylopotas beach.
Sunset Views at Pathos
If you’re looking for the perfect sunset spot – there’s only one place on Ios – Pathos (which translates as passion) cocktail lounge. A sunset lounge with space for 400 people, live music, famous DJ performances and an infinity pool – the photos (and video) says it all…
From watching the magnificent sunsets at Pathos Bar to dining on the freshest of fish, I love everything about this place. The cobbled streets of Chora, the 365+ churches, the music drifting from the tavernas, the unspoilt beaches, not to mention the laid back Greek lifestyle we would all benefit from embracing…
This video co-produced by Tim Pogo and I shows a glimpse of the things we saw on this wonderful island…
I am excited to see what the LuxurIOS Island Experience team create in years to come and am proud to have had a glimpse into their beautiful world of luxury, sustainability, creativity and love…
I can’t wait to return…
Many thanks to Simon Lewis from Travel Concept Solution, Villy Magnolia of VillyVentures and LuxurIOS Island Experience as well as Travel Massive, Visit Greece, Greek Travel Pages, Traveldudes and Aegean Airlines for their support.
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