Arriving in Santorini in the middle of the first rainstorm the island had experienced in 6 months wasn’t the most ideal introduction. After all this is a destination rated amongst the most beautiful and romantic in the world. Indeed my subsequent journey through vast barren landscapes on windy mountainous roads led me to wonder what it was that enamoured visitors to this place so much.
It wasn’t long though before all was unveiled. Arriving at our first villa – Ikies, www.ikies.com nestled in the North West area of Santorini, Oia – we stepped out to a breath-taking scene. This was the same image portrayed on a thousand postcards and fridge magnets around the world, and yes I can confirm it’s even better than the marketing brochures.
Thousands of little white villas are cobbled together, set on the black volcanic rock that makes up the island’s foundation. Interconnected by a labyrinth of hand carved steps and windy passageways. The view, a spectacular bay featuring black rock islands, yachts and that deep blue water that provides the backdrop for those infamous Greek sunsets.
Ikies, which is set apart from the main tourist hub – where one can find designer fashion boutiques, I spotted Wildfire, Hugo Boss and even Michael Kors – is a hidden diamond. The staff are incredibly lovely, welcoming you with smiles and Greek wine. Our villa was typical in style, white curved walls reminiscent of Gaudi architecture with bright blue doors and window frames. Big on style, but with a laidback authentic feel. Each villa has its own private jacuzzi and patio, providing the perfect location to watch the sun set and rise each day. The beauty of Ikies must surely owe much to its location, set at the end of a cobbled path ensuring maximum privacy. It allows one to escape the throngs of camera-laden tourists and the multitude of brides in the centre of Oia. In fact if you’re spending time there don’t be surprised to see up to five wedding parties a day – there’s a reason why this Greek island is revered as the most romantic on earth.
For a chic dinner, try Canaves Oia, just a short stroll from Ikies. Sit by the pool and let Christos suggest some local wines. The Watermelon and Haloumi salad is a stand out. www.canaves.com/santorini-oia-gourmet-gastronomy.php
If you’re looking for something a little more luxe, or you’re in the mood to fall in love, then please head straight to Firostefani and book into the Tsitouras Collection. It’s a boutique hotel made up of five houses, each named after a different work of art, material or element: winds, sea, porcelain, nureyev, portraits. Each house is infused with a distinct personality, different to anything you’ve experienced before. www.tsitouras.com
The hotel decor is beyond exquisite, set upon a classic Santorini, white building, cliff top. You’ll find accents of colour everywhere, antique furniture and the hotel’s signature gold wreath that adorns items from plates to pillows. It’s all very Versace chic. The family-run hotel also houses the most incredible collection of art – from Fornasetti to archaeological Greek artefacts – all under lock and key behind glass. The experience is like visiting a boutique museum where you’re the VIP guest. Very inspiring. It’s easy to see why Tsitouras Collection is a rumoured favourite of Jean Paul Gaultier. The absence of tech equipment allows the hotel’s music – strictly jazz or classical – to seep through the wall from outside, providing a very pleasant accompaniment to the sounds of the island. Breakfast – an extravagant affair, consisting of fruit, pastries, teas and coffee – is served on your own private terrace, complete with vintage silverware. We had a piano in our room and views over the volcanic island mountains in the distance. Finish that off with a swim in the newly built, infinity pool and you have just found heaven on earth. Tsitouras is an experience that I can’t rate highly enough.
I’m already plotting my return, and a new bikini to go with it – something Versace of course.
Not to miss at Tsitouras Collection: one of head barman Mongi’s sunset cocktails by the pool. It’s a secret recipe he won’t tell.
If you are looking for an open-air restaurant in Santorini or moonlit cocktails then look no further than Grace Santorini. With its magnificent sea view, dining at Grace Santorini provides one of those cinematic moments of sheer holiday bliss. Mediterranean fusion cuisine is created by the hotel’s talented chef, Spiros Agious, who is more than happy to create the gastronomic treat of your choice. The hotel offers Champagne breakfasts every day and fine dining by starlight. www.gracehotels.com/santorini/dining-bars/restaurant-imerovigli#sthash.4J1m1FCW.dpuf
For an authentic meal at a local restaurant don’t pass Akanos, one of the oldest Trattorias on the island. Barely holding more than 10 guests inside, this little rustic gem reminds you of the age of this island. The food is of a standout quality, easily challenging the kitchens of its larger hotel rivals. Try the eggplant bake, drool worthy.
My Greek fashion essentials:
- Nike free run – a must have for climbing all those stairs and rocky ledges
- Swatch watch – Easy to use, waterproof www.swatch.com/en_au/
- Cotton scarf – from poolside to dinner table in one throw, this is a Santorini fashion essential
- Pared sunglasses – these blue-mirrored lovelies were all I needed on my trip. Maximum glare protection and heavy enough to feel weighted to my face on breezy nights. I love the mirrored effect. www.pared.com.au/