A 19th-century seminary revamped as an elegant 21st-century hotel, with fabulous views and an utterly serene ambiance”
It is located up a steep road fronting onto the sea, and the views over the curved bay and twinkling lights of Kavala are reminiscent of Menton overlooking Monte Carlo. Fountains play and a small swimming pool graces an inner courtyard. There's around 3,000sqm of internal flora and marble arcades, reflecting the charm of the original Islamic gardens.
Why would one go to Kavala? Partly as a stopping off point en route to points further East (it is infinitely preferable to Thessaloniki). But more importantly as a starting point for visiting the site of Philippi or the mausoleum of Vergina, tomb of Alexander the Great's father and one of the best monuments in ancient Greece. And, of course, Imaret itself is a rare example in Europe: a masterpiece of late Ottoman architecture.
- A unique restoration of a Muslim seminary, encompassing the charm of an early 19th-century building with the comfort of the 21st century
- An oasis of peace and calm in a modern bustling city
- The detail of the furnishings in the bedrooms; exquisite
- Fabulous views, especially from the dining room terrace at night
- We loved the traditional hammam with its excellent massages
- In keeping with the character of the rooms, the lights are dim and it is not easy to read in bed
- There has been mixed feedback about the quality of breakfast and it isn't included in the rates
- The plumbing seems early 19th-century in places and basins don't drain easily
- Very expensive for Greece, but a unique experience and most agree it is well worth it
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Historic Hotel
- 23 rooms
- Restaurant + bar
- Over 12s only
- Open all year
- Plunge Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
The hotel has 23 rooms; doubles (Treasure or Domes), and suites (Treasure, Mekteb, Water Garden or Imaret). Each room is different, and all have a wow factor. Furnishings are sumptuous - rich velvets and silks, handmade oriental carpets, French linens - and Bulgari toiletries and Molton Brown candles provide a luxurious touch. Comfy beds (doubles or queensize in the suites) are turned down at night, and as all rooms are surrounded by gardens and marble arcades, it is beautifully quiet. We stayed in a double room and a suite and slept like logs in both.
One feels generally very cosseted. Staying here may be an expensive treat, but the level of detail is extraordinary. Our only criticism would be that, while massive thought has gone into the choice of furnishings, less thought has gone into their practicality. Wonderful baths with tropical downpour showers lead to flooded floors; toothpaste doesn't drain away from the basins.
- CD player
- Central heating
- Internet access
- Plunge pool
- Safe box
The best part of the dining experience was the view over the bay - dinner was worth it for that alone - and the rich oil painting collection, leather armchairs and original antique pieces dotting the restaurant. Much of the fruit, vegetables and herbs used in the dishes are from the hotel's own organic garden.
Presentation was impeccable but we felt it was a shame that the emphasis was on seasonal European, rather than Greek, specialities. On the upside, the wine list is extensive.
There's a dedicated room serving a large selection of Fortnum and Mason teas, as well as Le Chat Noir bar, which sits under a glass facade, serving an astonishing range of malts, cognacs and champagnes. Guests can also take an intimate dinner here in the summer, or opt for private dining in the gardens and terraces (remember to arrange this at least two days in advance, and it's only available in hotter months).
When we visited, breakfast took 90 minutes to arrive on our second day but was a pleasant enough spread: freshly squeezed juice, fresh pastries, honey and marmalade, a boiled egg, a selection of local cheeses and coffee or tea.
- Room service
- Vegetarian menu
- Kavala is one of Greece's prettiest harbour towns: stroll around the port, once very busy but quieter now that the Greek tobacco industry, of which it was the centre, has declined; wander the narrow lanes of the old Panagia quarter near the hotel; or admire the 25-metre high aqueduct built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1530, and still largely intact
- The Byzantine castle above the hotel is worth the climb and has spectacular views
- Within easy driving distance is the site of Philippi, where Brutus was finally defeated by Mark Anthony, and St Paul was imprisoned. His tomb is still there
- There are good sandy beaches around Kavala - Iraklitsa is very close, Nea Peramos has lovely dunes
- Further west is the triple-pronged peninsula and beach-mecca of Halkidiki (or Chalkidiki): it's an hour's drive to Hrissi Akti - the first of the "golden sands" - and 2 to Ouranopolis, which is the gateway to the mountainous monastic enclave of Mount Athos (male visitors only)
- Hop on a ferry across to the island of Thassos (90 mins' sail from Kavala, 30 mins from Keramoti) which still has some lovely swimming spots and clear waters, despite the forest fires of 2005
- There's fantastic hiking, rafting and canoeing along the snaking Nestos River Gorge, 50km east of Kavala - ask the hotel about local guides and outfitters
- It may be 2+ hours away but make sure you work Vergina into your itinerary, as the site of Philip II of Macedonia's tomb. His son Alexander laid on what was regarded as the greatest funeral in antiquity - and the tomb remained undiscovered until 1970. Just his gold wreath takes the breath away
- And after all that exploring, relax in the hotel's hammam or book a massage - all spa treatments use natural Hungarian products made by Omorovicza
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Well being
This is really a hotel for adults. There are no family rooms or extra beds, and only children over 12 are accepted, and charged at the adult rate.
Teens (over 12)
Imaret is set in the historical part of Kavala, in northern Greece. It's 140km east of Thessaloniki.
Kavala (Alexander the Great) Airport is the closest (36km), but has limited connections: daily flights from Athens, and charter flights in the summer from various European cities.
Otherwise Thessaloniki Airport (150km) has scheduled and charter flights from most European capitals.
From the Airport
The hotel offers a transfer service - see Rates - or you can take a taxi (from €35) or hire a car (see below).
There are good road connections with all the large towns in the region. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach Kavala by car from Thessaloniki. There is valet parking from 8am-midnight; outside these times guests will have to park their own car and it is not easy to do so here as much of the city is pedestrianised. See our car rental recommendations.
It's unlikely you'll be arriving by ferry, but there are regular connections with the North Aegean islands of Thassos (just 90 minutes away), Samothraki and Limnos, as well as seasonal links to other Aegean islands further south.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Greece and getting around
- Alexander The Great International 36.0 km KVA
- Thessaloniki International 150.0 km SKG
- Beach 0.5 km
- Shops 0.5 km
- Restaurant 0.5 km