This new hotel in Agia Paraskevi, Greece, is great for families looking for a fly and flop

ajul luxury hotel and spa review 2024
A family-friendly fly and flop in Agia ParaskeviAjul Luxury Hotel and Spa review / Emma Gritt

Nearly two hours after we were collected from Thessaloniki airport, we began the ascent to the newly opened Ajul Luxury Hotel and Spa.

It had been a long, dark drive, but as we finally reached the top of the private road which snaked deep into a pine forest on top of a hill in Agia Paraskevi, we saw what would be our 'home' for the next three days. Like a giant UFO in a clearing, the hotel's massive atrium, which is the heart of the complex, came into view, drawing impressed gasps from both my friend and I.

There's something really exciting about a brand new hotel, and this one is almost as new as they come. The sprawling resort - which has 171 rooms and holds 450 guests at full capacity - first opened its doors last summer. The hotel is beautifully finished, but when we visited, we felt it was slightly understaffed and was let down by some easily rectified teething issues - most notably, lacklustre food and irregular cleaning schedules.

In daylight, it was easier to appreciate the outstanding natural beauty which surrounds the Ajul. It's on the opposite side of the Halkidiki peninsular, and just a 9km drive from the more established holiday destination of Pefkochori, a vibrant fishing village with numerous bars and restaurants.

The remoteness and lack of distractions means that if you're coming to Ajul, you're going to find it easy to relax and switch off. Fancy being active? On site you'll find padel and tennis courts, five outdoor pools and, at the bottom of one of the steepest roads imaginable, a private, pebble beach. Feeling a bit stiff after the flight and shlep to the hotel? Book in for a relaxing massage using all local products at the on-site spa. On a mission to tan? If your room doesn't have its own private pool, there's plenty of very comfy loungers around the main one.

What's the accommodation like?

ajul resort executive bungalow private pool
Our room had a private pool like this one Zeus

We were staying in a 2-bed Executive Bungalow at the bottom of the resort. There were just thirty steps between my beautiful four poster bed and the swimming pool. It was perfect for a spontaneous morning dip, and the location meant we had plenty of peace and quiet.

My friend and I loved having our own rooms, and this set-up would also be fantastic for families, giving parents some privacy and a chance for a drink on the terrace once the kids have gone to bed, or for just having relaxed fun and tanning by the pool. The bungalow came with a kitchenette, including a fridge which was restocked with a few drinks each day as part of the all-inclusive offering.

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The beds were insanely comfortable, with Egyptian cotton linens, and the showers were incredibly powerful - definitely up there with the best hotel showers I've ever had - and perfect for blasting off sand and seawater after a beach day.

Ajul Luxury Hotel and Spa is great for families

This is definitely what I would categorise as a family hotel, with loads for children of all ages to do. There's a kids' club to keeps youngsters entertained long enough for their parents to enjoy some time in the spa, a nice leisurely lunch, or just a snooze in the sun, and during our visit, a new waterpark was just days away from being opened, with towering waterslides overlooking the sea below. There's also an outdoor cinema set up by the main pool, with family-friendly films shown every night.

What was the food and drink like?

Despite being touted as a 5* luxury resort, there is one key area which, in my opinion, hovers around the 3* mark - the food and drink.

If the hotel wasn’t so remote this wouldn’t be an issue as you’d be able to go out and easily mix things up some nights. But on the other hand, if you’re paying for all inclusive, you don’t usually consider that you might want to eat elsewhere.

Guests are served their breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet style in the Infinity Main Restaurant, a huge, cavernous dining room opposite the reception with a wonderful view of Aegan Sea. Try to go as early as possible, especially for breakfast. As the room fills up with families and scores of kids, the acoustics are intense. At the buffet, there's plenty of choice for all dietary requirements, and kids will love the fresh pancakes and array of pastries at breakfast.

If you fancy a change of scenery, for an extra fee guests can book into two a la carte restaurants. I was interested to see if these would be of a similar standard to what I have enjoyed at other 5* hotels - sadly not.

For one lunch we are ate at Thimari, described as an on-site Greek taverna. I was really excited about this. Apart from two brief stops in Corfu and Santorini on a half term cruise last October, this trip was my first time in Greece, and I was really excited about eating some traditional cuisine.

In my mind, I was picturing a mezze spread. In reality, the vegetarian option I pieced together from the limited menu consisted of tzatziki, chips, and a Greek salad. My friend ordered the fresh sea bream which he said was very good.

For dinner, we ate at Ambrosia, the resort’s traditional Italian restaurant, which is touted as a fine dining experience. Sadly, I don’t agree with that description, again the options for vegetarians were limited, and the menu itself was predominantly pizza or pasta. The starter, asparagus with parmesan crisp, was poorly executed, with limp asparagus dished up with slabs of melted and re-set cheese.

Another gripe, we were only given one set of cutlery for both the starter and the main course. However, the live Greek music that played during dinner was fantastic, and added a beautiful ambience to the outside dining area.

Not ready to call it a night? The Ananas Bar is open from 6pm until midnight, perfect for a drink after and/or before dinner - but service was slow, and the music (Spotify, with ads) very loud.

Explore the wider area

We were inspired to get out of the Ajul compound and see what the local area had to offer - and ended up having an incredible lunch at an absolute gem of a restaurant just 15 minutes up the road.

At Aggirovoli Seafood Restaurant in Nea Skioni, we got stuck into huge portions of tzatziki and fried courgettes, ate halloumi and Greek salads and enjoyed freshly caught prawns and octopus which were grilled and seasoned to perfection. The food was divine, and including an alcoholic drink (white wine for my friend, a Radner for me), came to just €37 each. It's definitely worth a trip out of the hotel.

Also nearby is the Thermal Spa Agia Paraskevi, whose naturally sulphuric waters have attracted visitors for centuries. Similarly, the Chapel of Panagia Faneromeni, which was built in the 1600s, is a must visit - least of all to see the icon of the Virgin Mary who locals claim weeps when something bad is about to happen. There were reports that she wept prior to WW2, and before the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Go there!

Ajul Luxury Hotel and Spa, double room with sea view from £326 per night in peak season and £208 per night off peak BOOK NOW

Ajul Luxury Hotel and Spa is a 90 minute drive from Thessaloniki Airport. Flights with British Airways BOOK NOW or search for a flight with SkyScanner BOOK NOW

Check available dates with Luxury Escapes BOOK NOW

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