UPDATED AUG 2022
I admit it: Paleros Beach Resort has stolen my holiday heart. I’ve never booked the same hotel two years in a row, and I’ve certainly never left hoping for a third.
We were lucky to first visit Mark Warner's 5-star beach resort in Paleros in summer 2021. It was 100% worth navigating all the PCRs and passenger locator forms during the Covid travel restrictions; but our second visit confirmed just how easy this resort is to get to (via a Mark Warner charter flight from Gatwick) and how quickly families can exhale once they arrive.
Mark Warner Childcare Clubs run from age 4 months (Baby Club) to 17 years old (Indy Club) and are set up to make sure your family holiday actually feels like a holiday. Activities are perfectly pitched for each age group so our kids are brilliantly entertained, and parents get to indulge in the kind of holiday pasttimes we thought we'd left behind when we had them. Remember reading by the pool uninterrupted, swimming a few lengths without dodging inflatables and sipping a G&T in peace? All are perfectly possible at Paleros – even on the same day.
The resort sits on the edge of the Ionian sea on the Greek mainland but has a luxe, laid-back island feel. In fact, you can see the islands of Lefkada and Meganisi on the horizon while the Acarnanian mountains add the most stunning backdrop. The mountains are cool grey in the morning light; warm pink by late afternoon; and deep red as the sun sets. The views combine perfectly with the soft low-rise lines of the resort to make it one of my favourite ever places to stay.
For me, however, favourite places are as much about the people — and this is so true of Mark Warner Paleros Beach Resort. The Greek hotel staff, effortlessly kind and warm, are led by Natasha Psihogioy, the wonderful Resort Manager. The immaculate rooms and gardens reflect her eye for detail. You arrive; you instantly relax. This place has a woman’s touch.
The watersports, scuba diving, cycling, tennis and fitness instructors are all British, and expertly led by Mark Warner Operations Manager Jamie Barker. Childcare staff are highly qualified UK nannies and trained youth leaders. The best advert for how much they love being here is that you often see them in the hotel on their day off. My older son is currently planning his gap year and dreams of joining the Mark Warner teen activity team. Who wouldn't want people looking after their kids who think it's a dream job?!
My teenage boys’ smiles became pretty much a permenant fixture for the two weeks we stayed at Paleros Beach resort – even if their company was not. They headed off at the first opportunity to Kids Club (10-13 years olds) and Indy Club (14-17 years olds) respectively, and spent most daylight hours in activity bubbles with new mates.
Mark Warner is famous for its award-winning childcare but it’s not just younger kids who benefit from the all-inclusive activities. In fact, the Indy Club ranks as one of my best holidays for teenagers. My boys were familiar with the routine of checking the daily planner for activities from previous Mark Warner holidays and knew they could sign up for as many, or as few, things as they wanted to. Paddle boarding, beach volleyball, kayaking, tennis, windsurfing and sailing were all on offer, as well as evening dinners, quizzes and games.
Truthfully, you either LOVE the idea of your kids being endlessly occupied all holiday long – or don’t. I am firmly in the first camp. After three lockdowns and the long winter ban on sports and PE, I couldn’t have been happier that my boys were taking part in the complimentary activities. They could dip in and out and spend time in the room watching YouTube if they wanted to – but they didn’t. I have never experienced less cajoling to get hormonal lads out of bed and off their phones than on a Mark Warner holiday.
Part of the appeal of clubs is that they are run by British-trained activity staff, and all of them have an infectious give-it-a-go enthusiasm which seems to cut right through any teen eye-rolling. My sons gained real confidence in a range of the waterfront sports, and it was amazing to see how quickly they picked up things like windsurfing when the conditions were perfect and they had mates to learn with.
My older son had previously gained his Level 2 RYA sailing qualification at Mark Warner's resort in Rhodes and this time relished the freedom of being able to sign out dinghies and skim along the shore of the resort with friends.
My younger son, who I’d struggled to motivate to do daily exercise when all his beloved team sports had been cancelled due to Covid, was so busy bombing around the resort with his Kids Club mates that he didn’t even realise his fitness was being seriously reset. This was stealth PE at its finest.
The unexpected star of the holiday show, however, did not involve any sports kit. It was the social interaction. It was an absolute joy to see my children make new friends once again after months in dark bedrooms during Covid lockdowns talking only to screens. All the old rituals returned on the first morning: the sussing out, the eyeing up, the tentative monosyllabic teenage chit-chat and, finally, the banter. In the wide-open spaces of the resort, where every activity except for sleeping is done outside, they could be themselves once again. Mark Warner lets kids be kids.
Rather brilliantly, however, it also turns out that mums don’t have to be mums. This mum relished every second of NOT having to cook (there is a fantastic buffet for breakfast and dinner); NOT having to clean (housekeeping staff even dealt with the teenage floordrobes); and NOT having to nag the kids to exercise/eat healthily/do something that didn’t involve Snapchat.
What this mum DID do was swim, snooze by the adult pool, read, go on a cycle ride, take a HIIT class, sign up for sunrise yoga and progressed from sitting on my middle aged knees on a paddle board to standing up. I even developed a new skill of which I am exceptionally proud: ordering a banana slushy from the pool bar with NO MUM GUILT WHATSOEVER. Bliss.
Remember holidays pre-kids: reading by the pool uninterrupted, swimming a few lengths without dodging inflatbles and sipping a G&T in peace? All are perfectly possible for mums and dads at Paleros – I even managed all three on the same day.
So, now for the picture postcard bit: sun, sea, sand and a little bit more about this stunning 5-star resort. Fully refurbished in 2019, it’s a beautiful single storey hotel nestled right next to a private sandy beach. I’d describe it as low-key, laid-back luxe. Parents feel spoilt but don't have to worry about their kids ruining the furnitiure.
The rooms are all situated in low slung buildings with whitewashed walls and traditional Greek dry-stone accents. Terracotta roof files glisten in the sun and rooms are separated by white laser cut panels that look like they are straight out of the pages of an interiors magazine. Doors and pathways are strewn with hot pink bougainvillea and deep green Yucca plants, and palm trees and olive trees mix effortlessly across the lush gardens. Without doubt, it’s one of the most beautiful and comfortable places I have ever stayed. It’s modern and spacious with just the right amount of Mama Mia to make you feel like you want to pinch yourself.
The tennis courts, bike centre, fitness studio and spa are all within a minute or two walk of each other. The waterfront centre, where you can take out sailing boats, paddleboards, windsurfers, canoes and kayaks (all included), has its own dedicated area on the beach and there's also a section of sun loungers and tropical-style rattan parasols – all with easy access to the beach bar for ice cold drinks and snacks.
Beyond the resort – should you actually be able to drag yourself away – the local town, Paleros, is an unspoilt gem with a really lovely mix of traditional tucked-away tavernas and stylish little bars right on the beach. It’s a 20-minute walk or 5 minutes (7 Euros) in a taxi, and visiting was a real holiday highlight. My boys and I sat on bean bags at the Paleros Yacht Club and ate gyros under a dappled canopy while we watched the boats in the marina come and go. Resort-based holidays are superb, especially when safety is such a huge consideration with younger children, but a visit to Paleros satisfied my old school wanderlust and made me feel like I’d experienced a little bit of real Greece.
"At a Mark Warner resort, kids can just be kids. While my sons loved all the sport and activities, the unexpected star of the holiday show was the social interaction. It was an absolute joy to see my children make new friends again after months in dark bedrooms talking to screens during lockdowns."
Mark Warner flies from London Gatwick to Preveza every Wednesday and Sunday. Paleros Beach resort is a 30-minute transfer from Preveza airport. For more information on the all the facilities and room types at the resort including interconnecting rooms, family rooms and suites, visit Mark Warner Holidays or call their friendly travel experts on 0330 3114 989. Victoria paid for her own travel to Mark Warner Paleros Beach Resort and had a discount to stay at the resort.
Healthy, fresh Greek food in the restaurant
The beach bar
Fantastic Paleros Beach resort staff including Operations Manager,
Jamie (far left), and hotel Manager, Natasha (second left)