Greek Island’s New Luxury Hotel Is All About Its Insane Pool
The popular island of Corfu has a new five-star hotel, and its star attraction is perfect for the Instagram age.
The best way to describe Singapore-based Banyan Tree’s first foray into Europe, Angsana Corfu, is that it’s a hotel built around a pool. And, really, if you’re ever going to build a hotel around a pool, this would be it.
Sparkling sapphire, the pool that covers maybe a quarter of a football field and fans out in an arc that disappears into the sea before forming, on a clear day, a horizon of blue broken only by the mountains across the strait, the occasional boat, or another guest swanning around in an attempt to get an epic selfie.
The hotel itself is perched on the hillside of Corfu’s eastern coast—a massive L-shaped structure of wood, concrete, and glass with villas cascading down the slope to the shore below. It is also the latest selection for our series on exciting new hotels—the New Room with a View.
Corfu is the seventh-largest of Greece’s islands and the hotel is roughly 20 minutes by car from the island’s airport, which has direct flights to a number of major European cities. Corfu is part of the Ionian Islands, located in the sea of the same name just off the coast of northern Greece and Albania. It was once the destination of choice for royals and celebrities. In fact, just a 40-minute walk (down the hill and back up it again) from the hotel property is the iconic palace built by Sisi, the Empress of Austria whose already tragic life was ended by an assassination at the age of 60 in 1898. The palace is called Achilleon and was an homage to Achilles, whom Sisi admired for his beauty and strength. It’s impeccably located on an outcropping of a mountain’s foothills with staggering views out to the sea from a number of terraces. (It makes a nice threesome with the similarly perfectly sited palaces of her similarly tragic close relatives—brother-in-law Maximilian’s in Trieste and cousin Ludwig’s in Neuschwanstein). It was subsequently bought by Kaiser Wilhelm II before changing hands throughout the 20th century and falling further and further into disrepair. While currently in a terrible state, it’s still worth the quick visit if you need your culture fix.
The hotel’s main building has 159 rooms ranging from 330-square-feet rooms that face the hillside, similar sized ones that face the sea, mid-size suites overlooking the ocean, to four corner suites that feel as if you’re floating out over Benitses Bay. The rooms in the main hotel have their design aesthetic influenced by the hotel group’s Singapore roots (think dark browns and greys and angular minimalism) whereas the 36 villas ranging from one to four bedrooms are more traditional Greek in their aesthetic (think iron railings, earthenware, light colored stucco, and soft minimalism). The villas each also come with their own pool.
As anybody who goes to Greece in the summer knows, finding a spot on the beach can be a chore. Angsana has its own private beach club at the base of the hill where you’re only competing with fellow guests for a chair. And here’s the second, albeit lesser, virtue of the hotel’s insane pool. Most guests seemed to want to spend their day up at the pool, meaning that the beach was half-empty. (One note about the beach is that the food menu is pretty limited—perhaps because of COVID—but the nearby town a 10-minute walk away has lots of options including a great gyro stand.)
Which brings us to another reason folks might stay up at the main pool—it’s surrounded by the hotel’s main restaurants. Sofrito is the hotel’s Greek taverna-style eatery open for lunch, while Koh is its Asian-fusion dinner spot (Asian-fusion seems to be a must nowadays for any resort complex, which, no complaints here!). The highlight of the culinary offerings is Botrini’s, a brand new sister restaurant to Ettore Botrini’s one-star Michelin spot in Athens (while the menu changes, if the mushroom macarons are on the menu, try them despite all your instincts).
In the morning, breakfast is served buffet-style, but again the star is the pool as the light reflects off of it and ripples and twinkles all over the ceilings and giant glass windows that open up onto the terrace.
In case you haven’t realized yet, the hotel complex is big so it’s not for those travelers looking for that quaint Greek getaway. But because it’s big, it also means it has things like a full spa overlooking the ocean and a full gym (the largest on the island) and indoor pool for the colder seasons. But if you really want to escape the other guests, just wade out into the pool and look out—all you’ll see is the sea which Lawrence Durrell once described as “like the heartbeat of the world itself.”