The all-inclusive with a difference: a trip to Andalusia's Ikos

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A spot of al fresco shade (Ikos)

I’m standing, dazed and short-fused, on a fragrant balcony, looking down over a row of swimming pools fringed with shady palms. A smiling woman breaks my reverie by offering me a drink on a silver platter; a drink I haven’t fetched from the fridge or fished around for a clean glass from which to drink it. I want to cry. It’s taken almost two years and four cancellations to get to Ikos Andalusia, but already, it’s worth it. I’m in Marbella, bitches. And it feels as alien as Mars.

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I’ve been on an all-inclusive holiday before. It was enough to put me off forever. Ikos, which has four properties in Greece and whose Andalusian opening is its first in Spain, has not so much redefined them as ripped up the rule book. This is the Chanel of all-inclusives, and the plump day beds surrounding the seven pools (one of them perfumed) are accordingly dotted with Gucci and Vuitton totes belonging to a wealthy clientele who probably think that Airbnb is a type of inflatable mattress. Ikos describes its offer as ‘infinite lifestyle, infinite care’, a boast that isn’t hyperbole when you consider that several of the seven à la carte restaurants are helmed by Michelin-starred chefs. The kids’ club offers a football academy coached by Robbie Keane. For alpha types who can’t even relax on holiday, there’s yoga, tennis, watersports, a full-service spa and an impressive gym. If you want to explore the area, just ask for a Mini or a mountain bike. Cocktails? Take your pick. Champagne? Go for it. Rare Japanese whisky? Absolutely.

A well-stocked bar at Ikos (Ikos)

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The price is such that it excludes the kind of grabby, saucer-eyed people who take the mick by drinking Taittinger all day, but if you did, the friendly and attentive staff wouldn’t bat an eyelid. My daughters spent the first 24 hours reverently asking, ‘Is this free? Really?’ every time they ordered a mocktail, a feeling of wonderment that never left me the entire week. If you’re the sort of person who trills, ‘Have the pudding! You’re on holiday!’ while privately feeling anxious at the spiralling cost of every meal, then Ikos is for you. And if you’re the sort of person who’s still struggling to cope with new levels of anxiety in a post-pandemic world, then Ikos is as low-stress a holiday as it gets. PCR tests are available on-site, staff are tested daily and only guests are allowed within the 21-acre grounds. Even the hotel’s private beach is guarded.

One of Laura Craik’s daughters enjoys another mocktail (Laura Craik)

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Everyone wants different things from a holiday. My thing is a munificent breakfast. On this, Ikos delivered in spades. Or rather, tongs. While most of the à la carte restaurants cook to order, we kept returning to Flavors, because it offered the breakfast buffet to end all breakfast buffets. Every kind of egg was here along with the usual components for a full English, plus manifold cheeses and hams, every fruit under the sun, a cacophony of yoghurts, a symphony of spreads, more cereals than Waitrose, exotic juices, French toast, smoothies, pancakes, waffles, scones, churros, three types of doughnut and a bread and butter pudding made with croissants.

Thanks to the cheery staff, surfeit of leisure activities and resident ice cream cart making the rounds all afternoon, Ikos is a children’s paradise. But it’s also an adult’s, whatever your predilections. Fashion lover? The on-site hotel shop sells Mary Katrantzou. Instagram obsessive? The mirrored oval bar is made for photographing. Foodie? Asian restaurant Anaya is sublime. After all this luxury, coming home to find a hole in the ceiling and plaster all over the living room floor from a water leak felt extra-jarring. Ikos is the closest my family has ever come to living like Kardashians, or ever will.

Double rooms from £341 (ikosresorts.com)

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