THE neatly manicured grassy steps, bordered by fuchsia pink flowers, remind me of a stairway to heaven.
From the top, they draw your gaze down to the white columns surrounding a serene infinity pool. And then to the glorious horizon, palm trees contrasting against the sparkling Ionian Sea.
Yes, holidays in the “new normal” may involve pesky tests and admin . . . but this view alone is worth it.
The picture-perfect Mandola Rosa on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula knows just how to welcome back pandemic-weary travellers, even offering free antigen tests on-site.
The 5-star resort sits alongside a 2km private sandy beach and is spread over a 500-acre wooded estate in Kyllini on the Greek mainland’s western coast.
The resort’s 54 suites and villas take full advantage of this stunning coastal view — the islands of Zante and Kefalonia shimmering in the distance.
And there is so much more, with the boutique resort linked to three neighbouring hotels — the Riviera Olympia Thalasso, the Olympia Oasis and Ilia Palms.
But it is the Mandola Rosa that steals my heart. The name itself means pink almond tree.
And the theme continues with peach-coloured buildings flanked by classic white Grecian columns.
Take your pick from suites in the main property — an Instagrammer’s dream of pastel pinks and oversized plants — or the private villas, complete with infinity pools.
After the past 18 months there is nothing I want to do more than lower myself on to a sunbed and soak up those rays.
Choose where to go on the beach — the Mandola Rosa has an adult-only area — or relax by the freshwater pools.
When you can summon up the energy to leave that sunbed, there is plenty to do, from tennis to the offerings of the water-sports school, which include sailing, windsurfing, water-skiing, canoeing, wakeboarding and aqua aerobics.
After an afternoon soaking in the rays, it is time to refuel.
Half-board plans include the chance to dine at the 20 restaurants and bars across the hotels.
But Mandola Rosa’s Cap Voyage is a highlight, serving up sophisticated Greek cuisine with a cosmopolitan twist.
Lobster corn soup and the pineapple and passionfruit ravioli are among my favourites.
For those looking to pamper themselves, the hotel’s spa provides a wide range of massages, facials and treatments.
But the jewel in its crown is the Aqua Elixir Thalasso Pool with its bubble seats, canons, shower jets and nozzles.
The spa is the perfect place to relax after splashing around in the resort’s adrenaline-pumping vast Olympia Aqua Park.
The on-site waterpark has everything from high-adrenaline slides like Looping Rocket, which blasts its way dozens of feet into the sky, to white-water rafting ride the Black Hole.
A mini Olympia Aqua Park sees scaled-down versions of cascades, waterslides and a volcano that erupts water in a 13,000sq ft paddling pool, perfect for younger children.
For those who aren’t too keen on water activities, as well as the tennis academy there is basketball, archery, mountain biking, horse riding, trekking and paintball.
And when you do decide to leave the resort, there are tons of historical and cultural attractions to check out, including the famous archaeological site of Ancient Olympia.
Or you can even visit a nearby mud bath, which has been popular with locals and visitors for years. But I must warn you, it does have an overpowering sulphuric smell.
The only issue with the resort is getting there, because heading to the western tip of the Peloponnese peninsula isn’t the most straight- forward journey in the world.
Fly to Athens and you will have a four-hour car journey to reach the resort. But if you can get a flight in to Kalamata International Airport, 95 miles south of the resort, the car journey is only two hours.
Another option is a one-night stopover in Athens so you can rest and explore the stunning city before heading to the resort.
One thing is for sure. Once you get there, you will be happy you made the journey to the mesmerising Mandola Rosa.
GETTING THERE: Kalamata airport is a two-hour drive from Mandola Rosa, Athens is four. Return flights from London to Athens on Aegean Airlines.
STAYING THERE: British Airways Holidays has seven nights’ B&B at 5H Grecotel Mandola Rosa from £1,249pp, travelling on dates between September 16 and 30.
Book by September 21 at britishairways.com/kalamata.
MORE INFO: See rivieraolympia.com/mandolarosa.
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