Let’s talk about the word ‘resort’… If playing the word-association game, I’d follow it with ‘all-inclusive wristband’ or ‘karaoke night’. Before Avaton, it conjured images of Mr Smith queuing for an omelette at the breakfast buffet, and me slowly banging my head against the table. Thank goodness, my ‘resort’ fears were very, very wrong. Perched on the peaceful, caldera-side of Santorini, the sheer cliffs drop so dramatically into the water that a daily stream of camera-clutchers pass to capture the view. Although Imerovigli is close by and Oia a mere few minutes’ drive away, Avaton feels secluded. The only sounds you are likely to hear? A splash as someone plunges into the glittering pool; a request for tanning lotion; a sigh of contentment as someone lowers themselves onto the geometric loungers.
In short, it’s as far removed as can be from my less flattering idea of traditional holiday resorts. Utterly exclusive and stylish, Avaton is a bijoux cluster of nine rooms around a perfect turquoise infinity pool. After the postcard-perfect arches and smooth, curved white stone of the traditional luxury hotels on Santorini, Avaton’s sleek dark concrete and designer furnishings are beyond cool. Design buffs will appreciate an Eames bucket chair here, a vintage Tribu seat there, while traditionalists will love beds and sofas, hewn from the Santorini rock.
This pair of Smiths have a ground-floor superior suite – the luxury rooms above have balconies, but as Mr Smith points out, we have the advantage of no stairs to climb. Possibly the two most immobile holidaymakers under the age of 90 (through laziness, not disability), we consider stairs bad. Flat is good. Another bonus? We’re feet from the pool. And once the door is shut, our room feels as private as can be.
Quiet and perfectly cooled, our suite also has fast WiFi, a flatscreen TV and free mineral water in the (silent) fridge. The considered layout has areas for lounging, dining, working and sleeping. Simple touches abound: fresh flowers wrapped in bolts of vivid fabric, organic Apivita bathroom unguents, bowls of ripe, exotic fruits. I move a huge bouquet of flowers from near the bed for the final test: a quick bounce. With the quality of the mattress established, we retire, slightly smug, to the terrace for the afternoon.
Mr Smith dives straight into the still blue water and takes up position at the infinity edge – his book on dry land, his body submerged. Clearly he aims to remain here for the foreseeable. I, on the other hand, am peckish. Eating arrangements are informal and flexible with meals and snacks available all day. Nice. Take them in-room, next to the pool, or in the restaurant. Even nicer. I peruse the grazing, order, and promptly fall asleep with my hot face pressed against the menu. I awake to plates of creamy tzatziki, crispy fries, a fresh colourful salad and an iced banana milkshake. (And a semi-permanent tattoo on my face reading ‘Greek Salad, €9’, but this I don’t discover until much later.)
As the sky turns slowly from cobalt blue to vermilion, violet, coral and citrine, Avaton becomes all the more magical. I realise, gazing at the horizon, that the entire resort – rooms, pool, restaurant – is angled to face the most heart-stopping, cinematic view of the caldera. It’s like an Imax theatre. Mr Smith and I grab towels and the bottle of red wine from our room and take positions on the warm stone wall beside the pool. Behind us, those with balconies are seated waiting for the show to start. Spectators in the tiny restaurant have ordered special sunset cocktails and even sharing-platters of meats and cheese.
Ever wondered why the sun is redder at dusk? There’s nowhere better to muse over that than here. (Maybe don’t ponder out loud with Mr Smith in earshot unless you want to hear ‘blah blah Rayleigh scattering blah particles the size of the wavelength of visible light blah.) After all traces of any glow (and explanation) have faded, we pad the few feet to the restaurant. More alchemy and surprises await. Santorini staples are made Michelin-worthy: a regal shrimp cocktail arrives with unexpected fruit courtiers, a generous portion of lobster with papardelle is fresh as can be and dessert is presented in a bowl fashioned from filo pastry.
Now, for those happy to shift their derrières more than 50 yards a day, there is an excellent taverna in Imerovigli, we discover. Ravenous from skipping lunch (thanks to a huge breakfast set up outside our room before we were even awake), and feeling intrepid, we venture to Anogi the following night. I would give you more details, but that Greek wine on an empty stomach is a devil.
Baking in the sun the next morning – and a tad hungover – I suggest a treatment in the Avaton Lifestyle Spa. After much silent contemplation, Mr Smith declares that he could have a half-hour massage because, and allow me to quote him, ‘an hour is too long’. Fast-forward to Mr Smith floating back from the volcanic-rock sanctuary to sunlounger, post holistic rub-down, appearing as though he has just hiked the Himalayas. Easing himself back into a horizontal position, he murmurs, ‘It was brilliant, but I could have done with twice as long.’
My sentiments about Avaton. Action-seekers can go further afield: the path to Oia runs directly past the pool, so you can do all without a hire car; turn left for Imerovigli and Fira, the bustling capital, or turn right for a scenic hike to Oia, for colourful tavernas, donkeys ambling up alleys and fishing boats bobbing in the old port. But for sloths such as Mr Smith and me, the resort is enough. Only thing? We could have done with twice as long.