It’s not just in Shakespeare’s Tempest or Homer’s Odyssey where islands are a place separate from the real, civilised world, where the imagination can let rip and strange things can take place. You only have to look at the debauchery that takes place in the Med each summer to know that isles are often a land where normal rules and restrictions seem not to apply, providing a valve for everyday frustrations to escape. In the case of Santorini, you can safely leave any fears of Faliraki-style madness on the boat.
A more discerning type of traveller drops anchor here every summer, drawn by its myth-evoking beauty. From as early as 3,000 BC, the island developed as a sophisticated outpost of Minoan civilisation, until some time between 1647 and 1628 BC, when the volcanic island erupted and its heart sank beneath the sea leaving a crater 10km in diameter. Ever since, the island’s history has been linked to the fabled city of Atlantis. Vampires have also been said to live here over the centuries, but we chose not to focus on that, much preferring the idea that somewhere at the bottom of the sheer black cliffs of the caldera, there lies an ancient civilisation.
There are a number of A-list establishments perched on the rim of the crater (the caldera), each offering amazing views, but the delightful Homeric Poems is hard to beat. Clinging to the cliff’s edge in Greece’s most prestigious patch of real estate, just off Firostefani, this unique hotel is a collection of original peasant dwellings connected by a rather hairy selection of vertiginous steps, terraces and roofs. If uninterrupted views of endless azure water, blue skies and blindingly whitewashed buildings are what you hanker after, then this is the place to be.
Homeric Poems is all about booking one of their brand new suites, turning into a hermit and sharing the view with your lover. Authentic interiors mixed with all the mod cons (a Bang & Olufsen TV that turns itself to face the sofa when its switched on) create an unpretentious feel, and antiques raise the style bar. The lovely manager, Margarita, came to our aid when we couldn’t work out how to get the CD working (it wasn’t very complicated), and was always contactable on the mobile if not at reception. As some of the balconies from the next-door hotel have a prime view of our room’s sun terrace, when we were in the mood for utter privacy we retreated to our very own pool, with its own little grotto built into the rock. There we splashed around like otters without a care in the world – rock stars indeed.
While the breakfasts are fit for that god of good times, Dionysus, those who go a little stir crazy when faced only with the company of one other to keep entertained, will welcome the opportunity to venture out for other meals. And if you’ve ever wished for better-sculpted legs, you’ll be grateful for the work-out you’ll get in doing so – everything is up or down some steps, and you’ll soon have toned-up pins. For lunch, we loved Archipelagos for its stunning sea views looking out to the volcano and surrounding islands. Then, for an early supper we’d head down to the bustling fish restaurants on the beach below, although our most romantic supper was at Vanilia, located opposite the old church, high on the cliff in Firostefani. It’s only a few minute’s walk from the hotel – and don’t forget a shrug or scarf; it can be a smidgen chilly. Clambering upstairs to the romantic candlelit open-air terrace, perched Mary Poppins-like among the rooftops, we discovered that even the most bickerish couples can soon find their love simmering again in this divine environment.
Gazing out to sea is all very well and good but, for us, an amazing boat experience on our own Sea Ray Sundance Cruiser made our collection of mental Kodak moments complete. Landlubbers may be happier staying on terra firma and sampling some of the island’s beaches. Choose from black, white and red sands, depending on how hot you want to get. The black beach was a tad toasty on the toes, and frankly why sweat it out with the ‘civilians’, as Elizabeth Hurley likes to call us non-celebs, when you could be paddling about in your very own private pool? As the sun began to set we could usually be found sinking into the mammoth Jacuzzi with a chilled bottle of bubbly, focusing on very little other than that sunset.