It’s not every day when you arrive at a seven star hotel that the owner herself greets you with a pet sheep complete with glittery turquoise collar, but Calilo is no ordinary resort, and – as we came to discover – Vasso and Angelos Michalopoulos are no ordinary hotel owners.
Nestled between Santorini and Mykonos Ios is surely the jewel in the crown of the Cyclades, still relatively untouched with boundless natural beauty and a population of just over 2000.
Calilo, which translates to ‘Create A Life You Can Fall In Love With’, is the newest brand in the Michalopoulos’s 14 year project on the island.
This formidable yet humble husband and wife team have invested endless time, money and resources here on Ios in a venture borne out of love and a genuine passion to protect and preserve this unspoiled stunning landscape and protect it from going the same way as its overdeveloped neighbouring islands.
Over the years, the Michalopoulos’s purchased around 25 per cent of the island from around 624 independent owners to develop a range of high-end luxury bars, hotels and resorts, all the while insisting on eco and sustainable construction at great expense.
When you meet Vasso, she is jaw-droppingly hands-on with a huge remit, overseeing all of the brands within the project while juggling a hectic schedule acting simultaneously as chief of staff, brand ambassador, hostess extraordinaire and regional leader of all six of their LuxurIOS island projects incorporating hotels, restaurants, bars and an ultra high end beach bar. On top of all of this Vasso still manages to find the time to take care of her rescue donkeys, dogs and of course their adorable pet sheep.
Vasso has a warm and self deprecating manner. When I ask her what her favourite marathon is she says, ‘any one where I can cross the finish line’, but in reality she runs athletic times and is clearly in great shape and oozes a healthy glow (essential given her punishing schedule).
Her husband, Angelos is the artistic brain behind the brand. He is Greek American having grown up in Athens before moving to the US to study at Cornell and then working for 18 years as a Wall Street Trader, before moving back to his beloved Greece and making the career change to world famous artist and author.
A true creative genius, Angelos is responsible for every single piece of art, furniture and the entire design of Calilio from every individually designed chair to quirky marble luxury in the suites.
There are no rooms at Calilo, only suites all featuring private outdoor areas complete with cabanas (comfortable enough to sleep outside should you wish) swimming pools, jacuzzis and waterfalls. Inside, the suites include statement pieces such as huge sunken marble baths and the softest robes and towels by Guy Laroche.
The project takes pride in using in using materials excavated from the site wherever possible, ensuring that the burden on the environment is minimal.
But their drive for sustainability doesn’t stop there. When the couple discovered some 480 Olive trees in Sparta were to be chopped for firewood, they began a huge salvation project moving all of the trees (one of which was 800 years old) to Ios and replanting them across the various resorts. In this precarious venture they lost only five of the tress while the others were replanted and thrived! The five that perished were paid homage by being erected on pillars to make creative works of art, giving the lost trees pride of place in the fabric of the project.
How do you reach the island of Ios?
The resort delivers the highest standards of luxury whilst still being child and pet friendly meaning well-heeled families can holiday here alongside glamorous couples with tiny dogs in tow.
Ios isn’t easy to reach directly but that poses little problem as Calilo has its own Helipad and the amazing reception team can happily help you arrange helicopter transfers from the mainland or other islands. For those who don’t wish to hop in on the chopper Ios is also easily accessible by boat from Athens, Santorini or Mykonos.
Laid back style
Calilo has its own botanical garden meaning lots of what you eat in the restaurant is home grown produce. The resulting menu is refreshingly simple yet brilliantly executed and full of delicious meat and seafood dishes from the spectrum of flavours the island has to offer and all served in laid back style by the outstanding front of house team who take pleasure in ensuring that your every need is met.
Built into the mountainside on the cove of Papas beach, Calilo delivers complete privacy the beach just yards from the suites comes complete with rope swings mounted cabanas with ultra comfortable mattresses and attentive beach service (just press the buzzer and your drinks order will be taken and promptly delivered by discrete staff who melt into the background until you need them).
The huge pool which is also built into the beach is filled with salt water and white sand where you can float your days away on luxury in-pool loungers.
To say it is detail oriented is an understatement, even the ceiling in the reception is decorated in sand painstakingly applied from the local beach.
Pathos beach lounge
During our stay we were also invited to Pathos, their beach lounge offering near the capital. An ultra high end swanky lounge complete with infinity pools a VIP area, a VVIP area and large restaurant area with a capacity of 3500! Pathos is THE place to watch the sunset in Ios along with contemporary DJ House beats which give way to dramatic operatic overtures just as the sun dips below the horizon when the DJ once again enthrals the young, beautiful crowd with a great bass hook.
The cornerstones of Calilo are Luxury, Privacy, Culture, Environment and Fun, there is no denying that Calilo and the whole of Ios has all of these in abundance thanks to the vision of this amazing husband and wife team.
For the 2020 season Calilo, the secluded 5-star coastal estate on the unspoilt and little-known Greek island of Ios, is to open a further eight super-luxury, totally secluded suites on picture-perfect Papas Beach. Also introduced will be 8kms of newly prepared, signed walking trails punctuated with shady places to rest, and a sensational collection of 20 sunken rock pools, all hewn from a rocky promontory, which allow guests to lounge while connecting with the sea. Extending its offering to guests in the forthcoming season, there will be new facilities for private lounging on the nearby beach of Kalamos, perfect for snorkelling in its crystal clear waters, and guests will also have access through Calilo to three other small neighbouring coves.
The resort re-opens on 1st June and closes at the end of September.