There’s something enigmatic about Canaves Oia Epitome. Striking out on its own, you’ll find it not within the white-washed maze of Oia, but sequestered on a rugged cliffside overlooking the tiny bay of Ammoudi. An antidote to Santorini’s traditional sugar-cube towns, it nods to the island’s characteristic cave-like interiors but hints at an alter-ego with smoke-hued accents and bathrooms edged in ebony. Outside is darker still, where volcanic rock in sultry shades shroud serene lamp-lit courtyards and enchanting plunge pools where you can lounge like Persephone, presiding over your own scandalously luxurious underworld.
Get this when you book through us:
A welcome drink each by the pool on arrival; GoldSmiths get an upgrade to the next best room category (subject to availability) and two glasses of vinsanto wine poolside, once during their stay
Double rooms from £382.50 (€422), including tax at 13 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 0.5% per booking on check-out and an additional room tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include a superb à la carte champagne breakfast of fresh pastries, pies, Greek yoghurt with granola and made-to-order eggs on crusty sourdough with tomato and creamy feta. You’ll get a welcome bottle of wine and fresh fruits in your room.
From 20 October to 30 April, each year.
At the hotel
Gym and yoga studio, free Wi-Fi throughout. In rooms: iPod dock; Sonos speakers; WiFi; flatscreen TV; minibar; Nespresso machine; tea-making kit; Acqua Di Parma toiletries; free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
The private terraces in the Deluxe Suites are smaller but still have heated plunge pools, plus a picturesque outdoor dining area for feasting on room service spreads. For uninterrupted ocean views the Two-Bedroom Pool Villas are your best bet, but we particularly love the Epitome Pool Villas for their crackling poolside fire-pits.
Every room has its own heated pool or plunge pool. There’s also a large infinity pool by the bar – edged in dark, volcanic rock its aquamarine waters look extra irresistible.
There’s one treatment room for massages and facials, including signature treatments by Valmont and couples’ spa rituals.
A pair of Ancient Greek Sandals and, for Mrs Smith, a rich red lipstick to match Santorini’s fiery sunsets.
Rooms aren’t wheelchair accessible. An alternative is the hotel’s sister property, Canaves Oia Suites, which is well-appointed for wheelchair users and one of the only hotels in town with a lift.
Over-6s welcome. Extra beds aren’t available, but all rooms have a sofa bed and the Two-Bedroom Pool Villas can sleep up to five. Babysitting is available with three days’ notice.
Over-6s. Unlike other hotels around Oia that have lots of steep, narrow stairs, Canaves Epitome is fairly flat making it suited to families with young children.
The one- and two-bedroom villas offer reams of space for families, including a lounge, outdoor dining area and a walk-in wardrobe for stashing toy supplies and beach gear.
Children are welcome at the hotel’s main pool, but all rooms have either a full-size or plunge pool, too.
The hotel has no children’s menu but the staff is happy to adapt dishes.
Babysitting is available with three days’ notice; prices vary.
Ask for a table at the edge of the restaurant, closest to the pool, for front-row seats to the show-stopping sunset – minus Oia’s crowds.
Canaves Oia Epitome breaks out of Santorini’s pure-white mould and so should you. Don smart casuals in dusky shades and some sunset-catching accessories in bright copper tones.
The chef at Elements Restaurant, Tasos Stefatos, is no stranger to Michelin-starred cooking (his credentials include kitchen time at Vendôme in Germany and New York City’s Atera) and he approaches Mediterranean food with an éclat that befits the hotel’s naturally knockout setting. The menu doesn’t shy away from international options but the Greek fare – try the grouper en papillote with spinach and leeks or the expertly grilled seafood – is where Stefatos’ expertise, in both flavour and bold presentation, really shines. Dining-room decor is all about pale woods and a palette of silvery grey and rustic taupe, but outside is where you want to be: dramatic Aegean views dominate by day, and every evening the mythical sunsets are reflected in the decadent, gold leaf-adorned dishes.
A refreshing shelter from Santorini’s sizzling rays, Sunset Bar is awash in cool greys and soothing taupe with smoky, minimalist marble tables and sofas you can’t help but sink into. The hotel’s open-plan style means that interior spaces flow seamlessly from lobby to lounge and out onto the poolside terrace, where you can gaze at the ocean, cocktail in hand.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am in Elements Restaurant (or in your room). Lunch is from noon to 7pm and dinner is from 7pm to 11pm. Sunset Bar is open from 8am to midnight with a menu of bar snacks available from noon until 7pm.
The hotel overlooks Ammoudi, a postcard-perfect port within minutes of bustling Oia.
There are direct flights to Santorini from London Gatwick or Heathrow, or you could also fly to Athens and hop on a 45-minute flight to the island with Aegean Airlines or Olympic Air. The hotel is a 30-minute drive from Santorini International Airport and it’s best to book transfers in advance to avoid the laborious taxi queues that are particularly lengthy during summer. The hotel can arrange transfers for up to four from €90; additional passengers cost €20 each.
You won’t need a car to head into Oia – the hotel offers a free shuttle – but to seek out secluded coves and undiscovered sunset spots one might come in handy. There’s free parking at the hotel if you rent wheels at the airport.
Plenty of ferries operate between Athens Piraeus port and Santorini Athinios port but some routes can take up to eight hours. Faster boats tend to be smaller, which means a bumpier ride and no deck for taking in the views.
Worth getting out of bed for
In the prettiest parts of Oia you’re likely to find yourself vying for selfie space among the crowds – this is one of Greece’s most popular islands, after all – but this Jewel of the Aegean’s lesser-visited edges hide tiny villages and other-worldly beaches that are worth exploring.
The small port town of Ammoudi is home to one of the best places to swim on the island. Follow the rocky path leading away from the bay to find it: there’s no beach, but the water is almost impossibly clear and daring locals plunge into it from the craggy cliffs (swim over to the small island opposite for slightly tamer jumping-off points). Take a 45-minute road trip south to Red Beach – a striking coastal point that’s more Mars-meets-the-sea than it is Mediterranean sunbathing spot – and stop off at the nearby village of Akrotiri for lunch while you’re at it. Quiet and quaint, it’s one of the few places on Santorini that’s well and truly off the tourist trail, the sort of place where simple, family-run seafood joints take precedence over Instagramming your brunch.
At the village’s nearby archaeological site you’ll also find some of the country’s most spectacular and fascinating ancient ruins. Spend a day sipping Greek wines and nibbling meze on a tour of Santorini’s wineries, or get up close and personal with an active volcano on a boat tour that whisks you over to nearby Erinia Bay followed by a pit-stop at Palea Kameni island for a calming mud bath. Wander up to Oia Castle where you’ll find panoramic views of the town clinging to the cliffs below. The Byzantine ruins won’t blow you away but the sunset certainly will.
For jaw-dropping views and dressed-up Greek classics – including a wickedly moreish feta pie that’s encased in flaky pastry, topped with figs and smothered in honey – you can’t do better than Esperisma in the island’s capital, Fira. Over on the southern side of Santorini, and right on the beachfront, Terra Nera (+30 2286 771511) serves up towering plates of moussaka and bursting-at-the-seams gyros that are worth making the trip for. Closer to home, Sunset by Paraskevas tavern in Ammoudi has an unpretentious, port-side backdrop and hauls in fresh catches every morning for shrimp saganaki, grilled seafood and its famous lobster spaghetti. For an extra-special setting in an old Oia mansion and contemporary Greek cuisine, book a table at 1800.
Settle in at Vineyart, a beautiful café and unique boutique in Oia that has a magical little courtyard made for leisurely nights. For something a little flashier, Buddha Bar Beach Santorini is poised for panoramic views of the caldera – it’s just a few minutes from the famous Skaros Rock – with cocktails that live up to the spectacular vistas.
It feels like my sister and I are the last to visit Santorini, such is the extensive coverage I see of it on social media. So we longed to see the ‘little white houses’ (as my sister calls them), set against the beautiful velvety blue backdrop of the Aegean Sea, firsthand. And Oia, the picturesque town at the northern tip of the island, seemed destined to leave us with lasting memories.
We arrive at boutique hotel Canaves Oia Epitome in total darkness. It’s 6am, we’re tired, hungry and slightly dishevelled but full of anticipation and excitement at seeing the incredible hotel we’d peeked at online. We’re warmly greeted in the lobby by the front office staff, dressed head-to-toe in chic white uniforms, who inform us that check-in isn’t until 3pm and our room isn’t ready yet. Oh no. We had a good eight hours until we could see our room, and two hours before breakfast was to be served. So, in the meantime, we left our luggage at reception and set off to explore.
We found a courtyard, sheltered by rugged stone walls, where the aquamarine waters of the infinity pool and the bleached-white Cycladic architecture Santorini’s so famous for made a harmonious setting. Throughout the hotel’s luxuriously decorated with wood and wicker accents, marble floors and a soft-grey colour palette for the furnishings. The combination of earthy, natural materials with sleek modern furniture is exquisite and it's a look that makes the property feel peaceful. You can tell every single inch of the space has been designed to meet the guest’s needs. As we waited we witnessed one of Santorini’s lusted-after sunrises and a dazzling sea view unlike any we’ve seen before. Sunset promised to be even more spectacular. The hotel takes great pride in saying they’re the only hotel in Santorini where every room – not just the most expensive – has guaranteed sunset views.
Delightful staff member Maria notified us that we had been upgraded to a One-Bedroom Villa complete with a private pool. At this point, the euphoria we felt was real and not due to any lingering tiredness. Maria talked us through the amenities of the hotel, such as the spa, gym and restaurants, and ran us through recommendations for what to do and where to eat. She then very kindly provided us with an early-breakfast basket, full of fresh bread and pastries, the first of several free daily-changing, five-course breakfasts we would have delivered each day. She also offered us the opportunity to stay in an unoccupied room for a few hours until ours was ready, so we could catch up on some sleep. We politely declined so as not to be a nuisance to the hotel, but we greatly appreciated the thoughtfulness and generosity of the offer – things we’d become accustomed to over the remainder of our stay. We showered and freshened up in the gym’s changing rooms before returning to enjoy the rest of our breakfast. That first breakfast we spent in the open-plan dining room, watching other guests trickle in; our last breakfast we’d enjoy in the comfort of our villa while basking in the sun.
While planning our day we realised that we had starved our phones of charge and there was no way we could go out to the heart of Oia for the first time without taking at least a hundred photos – because if you don't take photos, were you really even there? Christina, the hotel's general manager, sensing the predicament we were in, approached us and offered us a fully-charged battery pack to use throughout our stay. Small details like this are what make a hotel stand out. Canaves Oia Epitome stands out from the slew of honeymoon-ready hotels on the island for the attentiveness of its staff and the unmatchable hospitality – something I will always have fond memories of. We took Christina up on her kind offer and were whisked up the hills into the bustling centre of Oia via the hotel's free car service. Our charming chauffeur George said he would collect us later, whenever we wanted. Oia is everything we expected and more. Along every winding path and lengthy stairway is a more beautiful view than the next. You’ll never want to put your camera down, just in case you miss a photo opportunity – but, don’t worry, another will be along soon, and really, it’s nearly impossible to take a bad photo here. We enjoy a spectacular lunch, sitting outside on a terrace overlooking the deep-blue Aegean sea. ‘Surely we have to try the seafood’, I said. My sister, not the greatest of seafood lovers, stood firm and had spaghetti, while I opted for grilled octopus, which was divine. While sipping mojito mocktails we concocted a plan for tomorrow – sadly our last day – and decided we would visit Fira, the island's capital and most cosmopolitan settlement. But, more importantly, we had yet to see our villa…
We arrive back at the hotel and are guided to our villa; I say villa, but it's more akin to a mini palace. High ceilings, marble floors, clean crisp sheets: it's luxurious yet cosy. The outside dining area, with it's natural stone walls, plants and grand arch over the pool and terrace, is perhaps my favourite spot. But, well, the private pool is definitely a highlight: L-shaped, with white mosaic-tiled stairs, it’s large enough for a fully extended swim. It’s also heated, so you can enjoy it in the evenings, which we duly did. There’s an alfresco shower, sunloungers and a sofa area to relax in as you gaze over the sea.
We visited Fira on our final day and enjoyed a leisurely walk along the cliffside trails overlooking the volcanic islands of Thirassia, Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni. No amount of scrolling through Instagram can compare to seeing this in real life. There are myriad shades of blue, perfectly formed islands, glittering waters reflected and a cloudless sky overhead, it’s at times like this when you truly appreciate the Earth’s beauty. We gazed into the distance and watched as cruise ships went by, and aside from their slow movements it was almost as if time was standing still. Afterwards we fit in some shopping before heading back to the hotel to catch our last Santorini sunset. True to its name, the hotel is the epitome of luxury.