Vassilis Dracopoulos was attempting a career in banking.
His father and his grandfather both owned and operated hotels in Corfu, Greece, and Vassilis sought to carve his own path. But, when Vassilis’ father retired early, the powerful reigns of destiny pulled him back into the family business, running what is now the MarBella Collection of luxury Greek hotels.
In 2018 Vassilis oversaw the opening of MarBella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas, a resort hotel with a stunning view of the Ionian Sea and traditional Corfiot (Corfu-style) architecture.
When visiting any Greek Island, the quality of the water, light, and landscape guarantee a recharge of the senses. But many islands do this. Something unique about Greek Islands though is that, for the most part, they maintain their sense of self. The best Greek islands have a sense of personality, place, and history. They’re not oversaturated or hastily developed. The uber-wealthy and international celebrities sunbathe next to a gaggle of local kids, eat at the local tavern. The new fancy gift shop is next to 400-year-old fortress. A well-designed, great hotel should embrace and enhance its location and community.
There are 227 inhabited islands in Greece to visit. The seventh largest is Corfu, and it offers a few distinctions. The beaches here are amazing, even by high Greek standards, and especially on the calmer east coast where MarBella Nido is located. Patches of sea grass called Posidonia dot the waters and help keep the sea remarkably clean. The architecture in Corfu is also unique with heavy Venetian influences and buildings and villages you won’t find elsewhere.
When MarBella invited me for a visit I admittedly was a bit skeptical—the all-inclusive nature of the program (in my experience “all inclusive” is interchangeable with “mediocre”) was a red flag. But, given the hotel’s fantastic reviews, its membership in the Small Luxury Hotels of the world, and its Green Key certification (a sustainability ranking for hotels) I packed my camera and my bags.
Visiting Marbella Nido Suite Hotel & Villas
Historically Greek Islands were constantly invaded, resulting in the best architecture and most valuable locations being built inland and uphill. This is great for wartime self-defense but not so much for the jet lagged tourist lugging a 50-lb suitcase. My brief moment of panic subsided when I spotted a small fleet of golf carts awaiting to whisk me (and my luggage) up a steep hill for a welcome cocktail and a view of the sea.
As I bobbed around in the cart the property felt more like its own small village versus a hotel. Each suite is constructed like its own home with private terraces, gardens, and pools.
The flawless landscaping at MarBella makes for a scenic backdrop as you stroll to the pool or dinner (which turned out to be quite good). Kumquats, prickly pears, and butterflies dot the grounds. Right across the very busy main road the hotel maintains its own stretch of beautiful beach where towels, loungers, umbrellas, and a serving staff await.
The hotel’s location is a perfect launching pad to explore the southeastern side of the island. A few miles south is the village Cholmos, stacked full of brightly colored 13th century Venetian homes. I found the exceedingly steep and rocky drive to the mountaintop village thrilling (though coming home at night was a different story). The village is a maze of cobblestone streets, friendly locals, and quaint taverns. I had dinner at the Balis Café, which is perched at the very top of the mountain and offers a balcony view of the island far below.
Continuing south and rounding over to the western part of the island is the beach club Mikro Nisi in the sleepy agricultural town of Lefkimmi. The ocean is different here, a bit less tamed, the landscape more rugged, the beach more sprawling. The vibe is slow and relaxed and the food fantastic—the oven baked sourdough raisin bread was a highlight.
Visiting Cook’s Club and Corfu Town
For visitors who may find southern Corfu slightly too sleepy, Cook’s Club Corfu offers a solution—an all-inclusive party vibe located just 15 minutes north of Corfu Town, the island’s center.
I arrived for the soft launch of the hotel when it opened in June 2022 (I was the first guest to sleep in my room). It is the brand’s 10th hotel, and owner Panos Rokas calls the club a destination for “chic boho living, where like-minded people can feel at home, connect, and embrace the energy and vibes of the island.”
The nicely designed hotel caters to a younger, stylish European guest looking for finely crafted cocktails, free-flowing beer and wine, an outdoor DJ booth, and a centralized pool to “see and be seen.” Despite the party vibes and opening day jitters Cook’s Club Corfu delivered a controlled mix of socialization and relaxation.
After I recovered from an all-inclusive (mainly liquid) evening at Cook’s Club I visited the ancient city of Corfu. There are temples dating back to 610 BC to see, no less than 37 impressive churches to view, bars, restaurants, shops, and absolutely wild nightlife to enjoy. Greeks, and their visitors, know how to enjoy themselves.
If a calmer evening is what you need, a short drive north of Cook’s Club is Lucciola Garden a casual Greek restaurant with friendly service and scenic outdoor seating. An amazing sunset can be seen from the top of Kaiser William II Observatory directly west on the island. Kaiser William II was the Emperor of Germany and lived on Corful. He built this observatory in 1907, and it offers an amazing view and some unusual history.
Corfu is relatively small, but there’s a lot to see and hundreds of secret beaches and local spots to explore. For more info visit cooksclub.com and marbella.gr.