Hotel Astra Suites is a gorgeous Greek isle getaway perched above the brilliant-blue Aegean on the cliffs of Santorini. High-ceilinged rooms, cave-sheltered interiors and bold splashes of colour make for a quintessential Mediterranean holiday. You'll be sorely tempted to stay in, though, thanks to superlative his and hers showers, decadent four-poster beds and private pools or Jacuzzis in most suites.
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A bottle of cava and chocolates, served before sunset on the second evening
Noon, but the hotel has a hospitality suite which can be used by guests who arrive early or check out late. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $237.59 (€211), excluding tax at 13.5 per cent.
Rates include a hot à la carte breakfast of tempting freshly-baked treats, meats, cheeses, traditional Greek offerings and strong coffee – even frothy chocolate milk. Guests must stay for a minimum of two nights.
If you're itching for a workout, the village's basketball court is just around the corner.
10 November 2017 to 1 March 2018.
At the hotel
Spa treatment room, steam room, Jacuzzi, book exchange, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: a bottle of Santorini wine, flatscreen TV, CD/DVD player, minibar with daily free bottled water, Apivita toiletries. Deluxe Suites also have a Nespresso machine and Bulgari bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All suites have outdoor terraces or balconies with memorable sea views but, if you don’t want to be overlooked by your neighbours, opt for the Senior or Superior suites, located on the hotel’s higher floors (204 has a private terrace and great views of Skaros Rock). Honeymoon Suites, with their private, recessed Jacuzzi and jaw-dropping caldera views, are perfect for canoodling couples; for all-out luxury, opt for a Pool Suite so you can bask in your own crystalline pool while admiring the sunset over the Aegean.
A crystal-clear shade of palest blue, the slim infinity pool has a bar and spectacular views of the caldera. Several of the suites have their own Jacuzzi or small pool; if you feel left out there's an extra Jacuzzi in the spa available for all guests, too. All are heated throughout the cooler months.
Astra's spa may be bijou, but its steam room, indoor Jacuzzi and treatment room will make short work of any lingering tensions and aches. Its exotic massages (eg 'cranial sacral balancing') from world-class experts are sure to turn the de-stress dial to max. For head-to-toe pampering, book an aromatherapy facial, a Thai massage and a pool-worthy pedicure. You can also book out the Jacuzzi and hole up in there with a bottle of champagne, fresh juices and snacks – oh, and your beloved, of course.
Leave the heels at home: elegant leather sandals (with a practical good grip) are de rigueur on Santorini's cliffsides.
Infused with honey and fragrant herbs grown in their own organic farms and apiaries, Apivita toiletries are quintessentially Greek and unashamedly indulgent.
All ages are welcome. Under–sixs stay free in their parents' bed; some suites can fit a baby cot for €15 a day. Extra beds (€100 a night) are available in some rooms. The hotel can arrange English-speaking babysitters (€20 an hour).
Astra means 'stars' in Greek; linger beneath them at night with a table on the terrace. Or have the staff set up an intimate meal on your balcony or terrace. Have breakfast in-room for a Skaros Rock-facing seat.
A clean-lined, white-on-white space showcasing the island's freshest local produce, Astra Restaurant, naturally, faces the sea. From most of the tables on the terrace you'll get an impressive eyeful of Skaros Rock and the sunset. Tuck in to creative Greek and Mediterranean dishes such as grilled octopus and linguine with fresh prawns, and sample some of Santorini's fabulous white wines.
The all-white pool bar may have just a few perches, but it's an unbeatable spot for top-of-the-world sundowners.
The restaurant is open until 11.30pm; grab a nightcap at the pool bar until 11pm.
A full menu is available from 7pm to 11.30pm; light snacks such as club sandwiches, dakos salad and souvlaki can be ordered from 12.30pm to 11pm.
Astra Suites is on a quiet path in Imerovigli, a quaint tranquil village at the highest point of the island.
In the summer, Santorini airport serves direct flights from London Gatwick and Heathrow, as well as many other European destinations. Connecting flights from Athens take about 45 minutes. There are limited taxis on the island, so it’s best to organise transfers in advance. Or ask the Smith24 Team to arrange transportation for you; call anytime on 03333 318 506.
The hotel is two kilometres out of Thira and a 15-minute drive from either the port or the airport, along the coastal road. There is a municipal parking lot close to the hotel.
Athinios port can be reached by boat from Athens' Piraeus port and other locations such as Mykonos or Crete; see www.gtp.gr. The fast boat from Piraeus is three-and-a-half hours, but others are slower, so it’s definitely worth looking at the timetable.
Worth getting out of bed for
If you can stomach jaw-dropping plunging views, follow the trail to Skaros Rock; its 15th-century-fortress ruins are said to have the most romantic sunsest views on the island. The capital Thira, with its boutiques, jewellery shops and museum, is just a 20-minute walk down the hill; you'll be rewarded with sweeping views of both sides of the island and perfect spots for smug selfies. If you want to explore further afield, the hotel can arrange a sunset cruise to the volcano on a traditional schooner.
Local eateryAnogi is a popular meeting spot in this otherwise quiet neighbourhood. Book ahead to share platters of chargrilled octopus, sticky mustard chicken and pork in a plummy Vin Santo sauce. On the village's plaza, Avocado dishes up moreish Greek staples – roasted white aubergine, squid stuffed with Naxos Island cheese – from its cheerful wind-sheltered terrace. Head down to the wharfside at Oia where there are several fantastic fish restaurants, perfect for lunch or dinner. Dimitri’s has delicious seafood, and its view of the sunset over the caldera is unobstructed by the rocks. If you want a traditional Greek taverna serving a range of excellent local specialities, Aegeoncomes highly recommended by the hotel and is just five minutes’ walk away. Pretty Pyrgos Village is a 15-minute drive away, where dinky eatery Cava Alta dishes up excellent Mediterranean; spill out onto the terrace for sunset views. Simple yet superlative Grecian fish dishes are served up at Psaraki by Vlychada Marina.
There’s a sense of magic about Santorini, the biggest island in the mini-archipelago of the Cyclades. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed its lava-baked mass to be a result of the volcano that destroyed the lost city of Atlantis. Other rumours say it was once infested with vampires. For us, though, one of its most magical (and unexpected) elements of our stay at the Astra hotel was the outstanding wine (or oenus, if we’re getting native).
Let’s face it. When a free bottle of wine is left in your hotel room, it’s usually only suitable for clearing troublesome plugholes. Yet this Santorini-born wine, along with the bottle that followed it, was one of the freshest, driest whites we’d ever enjoyed. Our obliging room-service chap informed us that it was made from the celebrated Assyrtiko grape of Santorini. We called it nectar in a bottle.
As introductions to accommodation go, this was a good one. Super-luxe hotels can keep their personal butlers, hot-towel assistants, sunglass-cleaning technicians and other trappings of nanny-like pampering. What we want is a funky room with a world-class view and a jaw-droppingly good bottle of wine to help us enjoy it. If you’re of a like mind, then this boutique abode delivers in spades. Hugging the island’s postcard-perfect cliffs like a particularly pretty limpet, Astra’s apartments provide a level of satisfaction that would be surprising in a five-star big-city hotel, let alone a place perched on a quiet corner of a Greek island.
Even an attempt to be blasé about it falls flat. Let’s try. The view from the balcony is of your standard volcanic islands, surrounded by the requisite turquoise-blue bay and flanked by the usual twinkling lights of the nearby villages sitting flush on the cliffs. See, it just doesn’t work.
With its high ceilings, arty ornaments and candles – so many candles – perched on every available surface, this is clearly a room to spend some time in. Add in the giant his ’n’ hers whole-body shower, a four-poster bed and an outrageously comfortable sofa in the separate lounge area and you have a ready-made excuse for permanent room service. Call it sad, call it unadventurous, call it what you like – so entranced were we with this room that, on the first night, the call went out for a delivery. Mezze. Hummus, pitta, skewered meat and all manner of Greek exotica appeared a short while later, along with another bottle of that amazing Santorinian wine.
At this point we made our only mistake. Just outside the bedroom is a private pool. Now, in the daytime, this is a thing of luxurious joy. The sun is beating down, your skinny white body is crying out for respite, and right there in front of you is a cool, clean waterworld all of your own. Perfect. At one o’clock in the morning, however, it’s the coldest plunge pool you’ve ever jumped in. Take my advice and do the baby-bathing elbow-dip first. If nothing else, it’ll save waking up the neighbours with your wussy yelps.
Our equilibrium was restored by a breakfast delivered to our room at no extra charge. While laying down the yoghurt, breads and cheeses on the terrace table, our waiter tactfully ignored the empty wine bottles and glasses sitting around the edge of the pool. Clearly, slightly sozzled guests who fancied a bracing midnight dip were nothing new to him. A hefty tip recognised his Jeeves-like aplomb. Thanks again, my friend, and sorry about the wine bottle floating in the pool.
Although gazing from our terrace at the beauty of the deep-blue caldera (underwater volcano crater, to those without geology degrees) held us entranced for some time, it’s worth taking the 20-minute walk into the town of Fira. There’s a fair bit of nightlife in high season and some excellent food to be found at Imerovigli, a traditional Greek taverna a short walk from the Astra hotel. If you manage to push the night on long enough, as we did, you’ll find that Corner Crepes provides all your late-night munchy needs.
Like a siren call, though, Astra begs you to come home, offering you a midnight view of the three facing volcanic isles of Thirasia, Palea Kammeni and Nea Kammeni. To complete the picture, cruise ships slowly pull into dock, their onboard lights throwing the massive cliffs of the nearby islands into sharp relief.
Like all the best holidays, Astra has us wondering how we can possibly wangle staying here forever. Is there a gap in the market for event-organising experts? What about penniless writers – do they have enough of them? In truth, though, Santorini and the Astra apartments should remain a place for temporary visitors because no one deserves this level of spiritual uplift all the time. Perfect happiness can only be savoured in small doses.
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