Meet Helen Marakis, the owner and creator of ELaiolithos Boutique Hotel. Helen is Greek, a New Yorker full of energy and passionate about her native island Naxos.
We sat down and talked with her about her childhood, her move to New York, and of course, her return to Greece to realise her lifelong dream of creating an eco-friendly hotel where guests can enjoy the simplicity of mountains life. In her words, ELaiolithos is ‘a fairy tale oasis in the very centre of Naxos island, and we couldn’t agree more.
Lifelong dreams of ELaiolithos Boutique Hotel
Born and raised in the small village of Moni, in the Cyclades, located just above where ELaiolithos now sits, Helen is no stranger to rural Greek life. Most of her youth was spent in nature, helping her father make local products and cheeses. One of her first jobs was gathering olives, in which she was proudly the fastest child in her whole village.
During these playful times, Helen gained an of life that would stick with her for years to come. She moved to New York to study, and here she stayed for the next 30 years. Yet, her deep connection to nature and the simplicities of life pulled her back to Naxos.
Her Boutique Hotel is born from the belief that more people should experience the tranquillity of Naxos. When looking for the perfect name for her boutique hotel, Helen turned straight to her childhood. ELaiolithos was the millstone used to grind olives, picked from the same groves that now surround her eco-friendly hotel.
An eco-friendly hotel in new and exciting ways
Helen designed the hotel herself. The building’s natural stonework and whitewashed walls blend harmoniously with the surrounding environment. Inside, the design incorporates modern touches with colours and textures inspired by the Naxos’ landscape.
My inspiration is ELaiolithos’ pure nature, and the tranquillity of the surroundings. The mountains of Naxos are raw and open for a simple living. Meditation occurs by default – such a peaceful environment here.
Helen’s runs the hotel with the same sustainable philosophy. All ingredients served come from within six kilometres of ELaiolithos, and you can be assured Helen knows the name of every farmer in the region.
Looking around, you’ll notice the many ways Helen works with locals to ensure her property reflects the energy of Greece. Local art is on display around the property, and most products come from the surrounding villages. You may be inspired to wander through the local villages and experience for yourself the fascinating local culture and friendly neighbours.
Your stay is a gift to Helen
Time simply unfolds under the caring eye of Helen Marakis. You can always count on utmost peace and tranquillity. You may find yourself spending hours sitting around the lunch table chatting about all the good things in life with her.
Guests remember the genuine hospitality. We don’t see hosting them as a job but we consider their stay as a gift, and we are very thankful for the gift.
While Helen has many unique concepts brewing for the future, she keeps her lips tight on what they may be. No matter what, you can count on all her ideas to stem directly from her surroundings, the local culture, and her three wonderful children. As guests, you can always count on Helen to put a smile on your face and a bounce in your step.
What is your favourite moment of the day? Any time throughout the day when guests and I share a moment or when I see them having a lovely time on the terrace.
What do you love about hospitality? I believe few things in life are as transformative as the people and places we encounter when we travel.
Favourite memory with your hotel’s guests? I was fascinated by a guest who painted ELaiolithos boutique hotel. They paint the way they feel here. It’s amazing.
Favourite meal in your restaurant? I take pride in our vegan dishes, especially our salads that are unbeatable in presentation and taste.