Santorini Island Guide

My paternal side of the family had been reproducing within the confines of Santorini island for 500 years by the time my grandfather had the good sense to move his life to Athens. Now in his early 90s and a widower, he suffers from Marquez-esque pangs for his home island, and waxes wistfully of the many hardships he had to endure to survive on the rock.

For my family, visiting Santorini meant sleeping in traditional island-beds, which amounted to no more than a coffin with a mattress in it, and being stared down by portraits of female mustachioed ancestors that hung on the walls of the island home. (Thank god for laser.)

All this being said, Santorini is a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list, if only for its quality of food, unique geographical composition and Cycladic architecture. A visitor will enjoy what comes out out of the island’s volcanic soil and inky waters and drink local varieties of wine – sweet vinsanto, thick-as-blood mavrotragano, crisp assyrtiko. The mornings will be spent exploring ancient archaeological sites and the afternoons swimming in the cool, dark waters of the island. The nights are for one thing only – taking in the crescent-shaped skyline and all of its glittering lights.

If this guide can achieve just one thing, it is to finally convince my family to visit Santorini for pleasure and not for pain.

Insider Tips:

Bring sunglasses This might seem intuitive but a person without sunglasses in the white-washed streets of Santorini is a person who simply cannot see. Wear flats If you try wearing heels here you will fall and people will laugh at you.  If you’re feeling adventurous (or short), bring a pair of mid-heel wedges. Stop for the old winemakers with stained fingertips If you at any point pass an old couple selling vinsanto from the side of the road stop and buy some. There are several locals who sell homemade vinsanto dotted throughout the island, but the change locations with every season. Try the cucumbers Try the local variety of cucumber, called katsounia.

Feature image Courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Smith Special thanks to Alexandra Karageorgiou and Elena Andreou

To Stay

Canaves

Canaves is made up of beautifully converted 17th-century cave houses that were traditionally used for wine fermentation and storage. They’ve carried over the traditional decor with creamy coloured walls and dark wooden furniture. A twisting design of tunnels and caves offer plenty of romantic spaces to get lost in. Rooms are very spacious by Santorini standards, and since the owners have been there long enough to have seen the second eruption of the volcano (well, almost), you’ll get plenty of insider tips.
Rooms from €350/£280 per night

Zannos

For an alternative hotel experience, stay at Zannos, an 18th century mansion in the traditional village of Pyrgos. You will not have the dramatic views of the caldera, but the sunsets are no less beautiful, and 360-degree views of the island are nothing to complain about. Forget about white-washed walls and blue roofs, here you’ll find rich wooden furniture illuminated by soft, golden light and rough, castlelike stone walls. Dine in rustic caves lit solely by candle light and then, back in your room, fall asleep beneath embellished ceilings.
Rooms from €311/£250 per night

Kapari Natural Resort

Cool, bright and clever. This 300-year-old group of dwellings has been updated to the 21st century with smart-control systems and modern architecture but still maintains its simple island roots. An interior neutral palate of whites, creams, beiges and splashes of duck-egg blue against a caldera view is easy on the eyes, while the hotel’s location in the quieter Imerovigli, which is between Oia and Fira, will soothe any nerves frayed by Santorini’s crowded streets.
Rooms from €300/£240 per night

Iconic

Santorini is said to be one of the most romantic places in the world, but often the pressure put on the island to be the be all and end all for any amorous affair results in a saccharine imitation of true love. Iconic, with only 20 individual rooms overlooking the caldera, and turquoise pools spotted throughout the property, is the newcomer for genuine intimate visits to the island. Located at the highest point on the island, and with all the 5-star amenities a guest could dream of, Iconic is perfect for a romantic getaway. Tip: Book the cliff suite for its indoor grotto pool.
Rooms from €495/£396 per night

Canaves

Zannos

Kapari Natural Resort

Iconic

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