Kinsterna encompasses everything eco and everything chic that Greece has to offer and then some. The drive from Athens took around five hours by way of Tripoli and Sparta and whilst scenically absorbing by the time we arrived in Monemvasia night had fallen, and by the time we conquered the dusty dirt track and been buzzed in through Kinsterna’s electric gates around 10pm, we were shattered. Our bags were loaded onto one of the many Kinsterna buggies servicing the grounds and we were swept up the snaking paths and gently deposited in our suite with a quiet explanation that we would be given a tour in the morning after we had rested. The combination of fatigue meant that all we could do was off load our bags and climb into bed – not without sampling the fresh fruit, water and wine that had been laid out for us as a welcome, a taste of the attentive care that was to follow over the news few days of our stay.
Still, it was impossible to ignore the grandeur; the delicate room partition by way of a slide-in curtain, the rich and authentic cream and dark wood carved furnishing, exposed stone wall to floor showers with the gargantuan shower heads, polished slate and marble (expense has clearly not been spared here) – Korres brand lined the bathroom shelves – and crisp pristine sheets as we sunk into coco-Mat beds. A later tour of some of the twenty something rooms – of which over 15 are suites – revealed pop out features like an original Ottoman fireplace, a beautifully intricate lace feature wall, be sure to take a swing on the wrought-iron chair suspended low from the giant eucalyptus tree!
It was only after the following morning that I awoke to realise we would spend the next 5 days in essentially paradise, a luxury 5 star hotel located in Monemvasia Greece, the legendary medieval castle city of Peloponnese to be exact. Healthy greek cuisine pulled from a Mediterranean menu at the rock-facing cistern was served as we sat on tables so close to the cliff edge they seemed to hover if you didn’t look down. Overlooking olive groves, lustrous gardens and the sparkling Aegean when it comes to luxury features Kinsterna has it all, including a well stocked library, complete with piano, a sweet smelling dark wine cellar full of a range of delicate wines, including Kinsterna’s own and a fully functional spa complete with outside patios with sun loungers, massage table and citrus fruits hanging nearby.
The local alchemist at the bar treated us to homemade brew after brew – we would often see him wandering off into the grounds to pick a fresh herb or lemon from the garden only to come back and whip up something he was just trying out ‘each cocktail more delicious than the last’. Kinsterna consistently operate within a sustainable framework, using the Hotel’s own crop of wine and olive oil whilst the restaurant uses herbs and vegetables plucked straight from the garden. Many a sunset by the citrus groves in the courtyard or after dinner in the up-lit column flanked grand restaurant had me counting my lucky stars that it had only taken a mere four hours to get to this Grecian paradise.
The element of magic that runs through the Kinsterna for me came from the natural spring running down from a small cave alongside our room, it made an appearance throughout the Kinsterna including beneath glass panels embedded in the floor on the way to the spa. It’s not all peace and quiet at Kinsterna’s bar is always full – with guests and locals treating themselves – and shuts at 2am. Peaceful hospitality is synonymous with the effortless feeling of being at home at Kinsterna. Ask any of the staff members for a history of Kinsterna and they will whip out the chunky Kinsterna home album to talk you through the renovation process with passion and pride, and they are entitled to do so, the hotel has come such a long way from being built up from the rubble. One hand certainly knows what the other is doing at Kinsterna, and the team work cohesively together; plates are cleared swiftly, rooms turned around in no time and as the night staff replace the day, the change over is full of warmth and lively conversation – the people are happy here. On our first morning our breakfast consisted of crêpes, homemade cakes, mini-croissants, freshly-squeezed orange juice and fruit salad – on our last evening we enjoyed a full spread at the Taverna. All the local fruits and vegetables growing in the garden or the nearby fields – from wild asparagus and cherry tomatoes to pomegranate and quince – are artfully introduced into the restaurant’s dishes and desserts. Our night at the Taverna included vegetable dishes (my mother enjoyed the well-seasoned meat on the skewer) whilst for me the hearty cucumber-garlic-yogurt (tzatziki) and mouthwatering potatoes were unforgettable.
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Bread is made in the outdoor stone oven every Saturday – take part, and you’ll get to try some and take some back to your room and dip into the olive oil (freshly squeezed on the grounds…of course). The olive press is in action from late November until March so guests can watch the estate’s oil being made. After a visit to Monemvasia’s castle, check out the fortress town’s bars, boutiques and restaurants. Nearby beaches include Gefiras, Pori and Ampelakia and when it comes to activities, the hotel can help to arrange scuba-diving, horse riding and, in summer, hanging yoga.
Kinsterna is hidden, tucked away, off the beaten path and that is exactly as it should be, my only tip would be to go soon to the little-visited spot before the unforgettable 13th-century manor becomes overrun with tourists just as keen to experience the magic. I stayed at Kinsterna during one of the roughest times for Greek citizens, withdrawals were limited to 60 each day, but what I saw was a huge sense of pride and compassion in history. You can easily find things to do outside of the Kinsterna and might want to occasionally as restaurants in Monemvasia are a welcome cheap alternative – at the same time why would you want to leave once you are there? Members of staff take your feedback graciously, and quickly action any discomfort you might be experiencing straight away. Kinsterna truly deserve its certificate of excellence is the people – when I left, I truly that a little piece of my heart remained here in Greece. No, Kinsterna is not easy to find but why would you want it to be?