A holiday of two halves, this week-long trip will see you exploring the fascinating wine region of southwest Bulgaria before driving south to Halkidiki for a stay at one of Greece’s finest hotels.
Flying in and out of Thessaloniki, with just three hours between two very different destinations, this is an easy and interesting way to see Europe in just a week. Starting at Zornitza Family Estate, Bulgaria’s new rustic-luxe hotel, you will explore this rural and tourist-free area, rich with culture, enjoying its foodie pleasures. Onwards to Danai Beach Hotel, located on the pine scented Sithonia coastline, for a few days of relaxation with excellent food and wine and a gorgeous beach to laze on.
Burgeoning Bulgaria, Zornitza Family Estate
Heralded as ‘Tuscany without the crowds’, Zornitza, just one and a half hours from Thessaloniki, occupies a pretty part of little-known Bulgaria called Melnik. It’s a land of undulating rural beauty as far as the eye can see, from the neat rows of vines that surround the hotel, the dense forests of the nature reserve on to the jagged peaks of the Slavyanka mountains. This area has been virtually undiscovered by tourism – explore early Christian monasteries, lost-in-time villages and climb Melnik’s sand-pyramids.
Back at Zornitza, take a picnic and find a shady spot on the estate or relax in the spa with a treatment using grapes from the estate. One of the most interesting things about Zornitza is its access to Bulgaria’s burgeoning wine scene: Zornitza itself has 50,000 square metres of vines and one of the best cellars and sommeliers in the country. If you want an introduction to Bulgaria’s flourishing wine, here is the place to do it.
Back to Greek, Danai Beach Resort, Halkidiki
In just three hours, the rocky terrain of southern Bulgaria and northern Greece will give way to pockets of pine forests with a backdrop of the deepest blue Aegean Sea. Drop down into the Sithonia peninsula, the middle of the three Halkidiki ‘fingers’ and you’ve almost arrived at Danai Beach Resort. Gleaming marble and assured service will greet you at this calm and luxurious resort. Suites are expansive and furnished with gold-gilded antiques passed through the family who own Danai, and the villas are sensational and very private, offering jaw-dropping extras such as roll-back roofs, swimming pools that appear to hover over the Aegean Sea and breezy terraces that face the sunset.
The silky sands and padded loungers at the beach are a great lure, but many of the guests (including royalty and A-list celebrities) hide out in their villas emerging at dusk to eat at the award-winning and deeply romantic, candle-lit Squirrel restaurant. Before dinner, take a tour of the cavernous wine cellar. It’s Greece’s largest with over 1700 fine wines, some covered in a light dust – they’ve been here for decades. With the guidance of a skilled sommelier, choose a bottle for dinner, and under an ancient pine tree enjoy a menu curated with lobster, sea bass and foie gras. Danai is a rarefied pleasure.