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.
Double rooms from £314.04 (€375), 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.
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.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this heavenly hotel in the Greek isles and unpacked their sun hats and sandals, a full account of their Aegean escape will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Canaves Oia Epitome in Santorini…
On an island characterised by white-clad caves, Canaves Oia Epitome’s brazen refusal to conform is beguiling. Away from the sun-bleached domes of Oia, the hotel’s setting feels wild and secluded, its suites and villas exclusive. Private terraces are concealed behind walls of volcanic rock, fire-pits flicker by pools and glowing lanterns illuminate quiet courtyards. It’s impossible not to fall for such rugged charms. Indoors, interiors are lighter but accented with shades of squid ink and smoke that allude to a dark side, enticing you to embrace you own; tempting you to taste the pomegranate seed (or, in this case, a plate of impeccably grilled lobster and a glass of Greek champagne).
Days here pass in a haze of deep soaking tubs, sun-soaked strolls through Oia and afternoons spent discovering dreamy swimming spots. They end, inevitably, with another blazing pink sunset to drink in over dinner.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Canaves Oia Epitome’s Guestbook below.
The uninterrupted views of the sunset, the laid back vibe, the amazing breakfasts, the excellent service and the professional friendly staff.
Lots to do for young children.
Stayed on 27 Jul 2019
The beautiful hotel and breathtaking scenery, which probably goes without saying in Santorini. The real delight of Canaves was the staff, all of whom were extremely friendly and attentive. The airlines lost our baggage and the front desk went above and beyond to ensure our stay was perfect despite our setbacks, calling the airport, laundering our clothes and easing the pain with a bottle of champagne. We stayed in the honeymoon suite, which was elegantly decorated, with comfortable beds, and a very private terrace (seemingly a rarity in Santorini by the looks of other hotels in crowded Oia) with a decent sized plunge pool / hot tub. The infinity pool provides a perfect setting for the insane sunsets, but is also a perfect daytime venue to enjoy the sunshine with great tunes playing in the background, and free iced water and chilled hand towels.
Cheap drinks. The only drawback we could find was the very expensive bar menu - we would've spent far more had the wine list been a little more accessible!