My first visit to Halkidiki, in Greece’s mainland, 3 years or so ago was pretty great – a part of the world I had heard very little about but really liked from the moment I arrived.
When Sovereign Luxury Travel challenged me to go back, and explore the brand new Sani Dunes, I obviously said yes because a) I love Greece, b) Sovereign has always picked really great hotel choices in all our trips (10+ by now, but who is counting) and c) Sani and Ikos (where I stayed on my first trip) are part of the same company, who really know what they are doing.
Getting to Sani Dunes
As per my previous trip, I flew direct from London Gatwick to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city and the flight was about 3h30 minutes. And worth mentioning that if you fly British Airways like I did, this trip earns you a sweet 160 tier points (instead of the normal 80 for short Euro hops – because Greece isn’t a short hop!).
At the airport, as I was flying BA anyway, I just used BA’s (very decent new) lounges at Gatwick south terminal (but if you chose to fly with another airline or flew economy and had no status with BA, Sovereign would still sort out lounge access for you on departure as they do for all their guests). And worth noting that after asking for almost a year, BA now finally opens the First lounge (for passengers flying First to long haul destinations and BA Gold / Oneworld Emerald cardholders) at 5.15am so you can now use this lounge too on flights that depart from 6am onwards.
On arrival, I was met by Steph who was my assigned Sovereign concierge on this trip (more on how amazing she was later) and Keith (who is the area’s head concierge and was my concierge on my previous trip to Ikos, which was a nice touch). Our pre-booked private transfer – which is included on every Sovereign trip when you buy both flights and hotel with them – was waiting for us and an hour or so later, we arrived to Sani Dunes.
The Hotel and Check-In
To give you a bit of background, Sani Dunes is the latest hotel opening within the Sani Resort – which is one of Greece’s longest family running hotel operations. With 5 quite different five-star hotels, there is something for everyone – from more family friendly options to adults-only, and from traditional hotel rooms to suites with private pools.
Sani Dunes is aimed more at adults and families with teenagers – smaller children are absolutely allowed, but other hotels will have the kids club and other facilities more easily available than Sani Dunes.
The resort is nothing short of beautiful and is also home to Sani Marina, the heart of the resort (which is really really well designed).
The outside entrance was quite unassuming, but I learned that it is something that this hotel group does – but worry not, once you step inside, you are rewarded by lovely design pieces and in this case, a very civilised sit down hotel check in and a welcome cocktail.
For once in my life, I had a daytime express martini (it was almost 1pm local time, and we woke up at 3am that morning) – because I really needed it.
Our Suite at Sani Dunes
A buggy was ready to take us to our suite – the distance was quite short and we only used the buggy once more during our 5-day stay as it was nice just to walk around.
The room was decorated in various shades of beige with some blue accent colour touches – and I cannot fault it in any way.
Lots of storage (and hangers), which isn’t always the case with some newer hotels for some reason and super tech-friendly: sockets (euro-plug, of course) in all the right places and also USB ports.
Besides the bedroom with a king-sized bed, we had a lovely bathroom with a walk-in shower and separate bath (and Anne Semonin large-sized toiletries which are always a delight).
And as the name suite implies (I am very strict with this definition), we obviously had a separate living room.
We have zero complaints about the room and turn-down always took place at convenient times for us. Also worth noting that we had a quite large outside area with sun loungers and a separate sitting area. As this hotel has two-floors only, if you get a room on the ground floor, you will get a little garden area instead. If upstairs, you get ‘more views’ and a little bit more privacy.
The beach and hotel grounds
It wasn’t a long walk to the beach, as you can see from the images above. And despite the pool looking lovely, my friend Lauren and I, who came all the way from Boston to spend some time with me, never used it once. Why? Because the beach was fabulous and we couldn’t get enough of it.
Service was also lovely – we appreciate the staff always making sure everyone had water at all times (complimentary) and also coming round with fresh treats – from watermelon to ice cream and smoothies, every day was different.
The ‘beach boys’ as we called them were really pleasant and chatty and we also liked their service where they came round and cleaned your sunglasses. We then suggested they cleaned our phones too and they did everyday. Quite handy!
Worth noting that each hotel was its own separate beach area and they do check your room number a few times a day. Ours had no children – but Porto Sani next door did, and plenty of staff to entertain them.
Eating and drinking at Sani Resort
This is a part which requires a bit of explanation and where I am going to start mentioning Steph, our Sovereign concierge quite a few times.
When we had booked the trip, I understood that there would be some dining options to choose from and wasn’t really too worried about it. But a week or so earlier, Steph got in touch to ask what we would like her to book. We then used the Sani app to pick some options – and she gave us loads of suggestions and basically she made sure we had all the bookings sorted before we arrived (and saved us some time if we had it done with the hotel’s concierge). It meant we went everywhere we wanted to and at the time we wanted as well.
If you book your stay at Sani Dunes with Sovereign, it will come with breakfast and half board included. Breakfast at Sani Dunes was exceptional and I think it served the best lattes I have ever had at a hotel. By day 2, I was however hooked on the frappes, the Greek version of ice coffee.
For lunch, there are restaurants at every hotel – and you can order at the beach or pool of course, but we found great options at the Sani Marina, which is located 5 mins walk from our beach loungers, if that.
Each day we tried a different place – either for salads, amazing fish or a naughty pizza by the sea. The food was really excellent. Lunch was around 20-40 Euros per person (depending on what you ate, of course).
I think I have been to Greece 7-8 times now and my language skills are limited to a few polite words and, of course, ‘barbouni’ which is Greek for red mullet, my absolute favourite fish in the world (I think I had it over 3 times, but I could be lying and being conservative).
Dinner had the same concept – and we were pre-booked into all the restaurants, thanks to Steph. Also, whenever we wanted to change the times, we just emailed her and she would do that. (and she did a few times – the 24/7 concierge via email or text is so useful, I cannot tell you).
I said earlier that bookings through Sovereign come with half-board, which is quite interesting. Either you go to a specific restaurant and they have a menu for you, or you just go a la carte (like we did) and you have a 25 Euro credit per person (50 Euros per room on double occupancy), so bear this in mind when comparing prices.
We were also very lucky in terms of our timing – every Summer, Sani organises a food festival called Sani Gourmet, where Michelin-starred chefs from around the world come and cook for a week at the hotel. We were treated to a lovely dinner by chef Joel Castanyé from La Boscana (Lerida, Catalonia, Spain), paired with local Greek wines. The latter, oh my, really have come a really long way in the past decade – we then actually tried to have only Greek wine during our stay and the adventure went quite well.
After dinner, we always had a drink afterwards at the (really quiet) hotel bar – and that was before we actually found a bar at the marina. May I also say that we discovered the delights of Mastika, which ‘is a liqueur seasoned with mastic, a resin gathered from the mastic tree, a small evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region.’ It is very nice (I am no fan of ouzo), so we tried a few.
We actually went out for dinner one night – with the Captain of the cruise ship and his wife and friends. Does it sound a bit random? It was, but it was lovely. However, I have no idea where we went (a local village nearby) – but we got to eat at a real Greek taverna and having not chosen a thing to eat, we tried some new things (like the incredibly delicious cheese-stuffed mini peppers).
Getting out and about
The plan was just to stay put and relax. But Steph, our Sovereign concierge really proved her worth when we said ‘she was going to book us in for a boat swimming trip’. Each hotel has first dibs on a boat one day per week (or something like that) and you can go on a 2-3h swimming trip (you obviously don’t have to swim) which is complimentary.
We thought it was a lovely touch and I even flew the drone from the boat (was terrified but it all went well!).
We were very lucky as it was just us and a family of 4 on that day (not everyone knows about this, see?) and everyone was very excited about the drone.
We also went on a complimentary sunset cruise. Why? Because Steph, Sovereign’s concierge said we should and booked us in. Again, we wouldn’t have known (but you can see it on the Sani app now!)
And because of the drone and the fact that we turned up twice in a day, the captain took a liking to use and then invited us for dinner with his family the next day.
Also, Sani Dunes has a partnership with Volvo (‘the official car of Sani Dunes’) and you can also pre-book a 2-hour ‘chauffeur-driven adventure’. We went around the resort and actually LOVED seeing what was out there. As it turned out, one of the villages we stopped in was actually where we had been for dinner with the captain.
Steph gets extra points for sorting this out – and for letting us change the time again and again as we naughtily wanted to maximise beach time on our penultimate day.
Shopping at Sani Resort
I am making a reference to shopping, as there really were some great options. The resort is very well conceived indeed. There was a handful of boutiques with lovely beachwear (and the token fur shop for the Russian guests which I still do not understand), shoes and more. There is also a very well stocked supermarket (we went for ice cream and candy a few times and also at the end to get some ‘Greek’ items).
The Sani Marina was a really nice feature of the resort and we spent quite a bit of time there.
The Anne Semonin Spa at Sani Dunes
I had a spa treatment during our stay (I wanted another one, but it was really busy!). My choice was the Aegean Delight, an 85-minute treatment (costing 180 EUR), which includes a “sea salt exfoliation of the back and a warm blended oil massage followed by a tailor made exquisite facial which includes an intensely soothing scalp, hand and foot massage designed to release any deepstress or tension leaving you with a flawless complexion”. That was spa talk of course. It was lovely.
The return to home leg of the journey was a bit different than normal – but Steph (the fab concierge) warned us: Thessaloniki airport is different from most airports (I wonder why!) in the sense that after checking in, you personally need to take your bags to be x-rayed and sent away. To say it was chaotic would be the understatement of the year – and needless to say, every passenger from every airline flying out goes to the single queue. What softened the blow? That Sani had its own airport lounge, which was a really nice touch.
I really enjoyed our stay at Sani Dunes – it was during the hotel’s opening week and I was expecting some things to not be great.. but they really were. (Also, I went to Ikos Olivia when it first opened and it was the same thing – these guys know how to open hotels).
I have sent quite a few friends and readers there who were blind – in the sense that they hadn’t read this review (which is taking place 9 months after my visit). I had done a live social media campaign during my stay and they trusted me and went throughout the Summer. Everyone said the same – the hotel is really well kept, the whole resort concept works a treat and the beach setting is just perfect.
If it seems that I am being ‘over-enthusiastic’, it is actually true – service was excellent, the rooms were beautiful. I cannot fault it in any way. It is good value too and so easy to get there from the UK – I seriously recommend it.
Disclaimer and Fact Box: I was a guest of Sani Dunes on a bespoke trip organised by Sovereign Luxury Travel. No one has seen my review prior to me posting it – opinions are my own.
Sovereign Luxury Travel (Tel +44(0)1293 832 459, ) has a seven night holiday to the five star Sani Dunes, on a Half Board basis and includes complimentary breakfast in bed on the morning after arrival, a complimentary Anne Semonin welcome gift pack, private resort transfers and return flights from London Gatwick with British Airways. Based on departures May 2018.
- Deluxe Junior Suite with private garden and seaview from £1,699 per person, with economy flights with BA or £2,199 in business class.
- Deluxe Grand Suite balcony and sea view from £1,829 per person, with economy flights with BA or £2,335 in business class.