IconicSantorini’s cave-sheltered rooms, pergola patios and sun-drenched terraces tumble down the cliffside in Imerovigli village, the highest point on the island. This traditional caldera-facing setting has been transformed with a perfect pool, an intimate spa and lashings of bright white and blue.
Double rooms from £452.95 (€495), including tax at 13.5 per cent.
Rates include a Continental breakfast.
The smallest design details have been considered here; whether its a pillow embroidered with traditional Grecian folk patterns in your room, a complementary assortment of plants arranged in the pots lining the pools, or the key fobs emblazoned with letters of the Greek alphabet. All the more reason to do several sweeps of your new surroundings.
1 November to 30 April.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, lounger-lined terraces, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, iPod dock, JBL sound system, Aesop toiletries. The Caldera Suites and higher categories have jetted private pools.
Our favourite rooms
With French doors opening onto a private terrace and separate Juliet balcony, the Cliff Suite is bright and airy, with a rather special indoor grotto pool; sink into the rocking chair outside to take in splendid sea views. If you want to make a splash, book the Iconic Suite, with its two pools (one indoor, one outdoor, both with powerful jets) and day-bed-strewn terrace overlooking the sea. It was once the village bakery, and still houses the original bread oven. Each room, named after a letter of the Greek alphabet, sports laid-back and tactile decor: polished cement and volcanic rock floors, decorative headboards made from branches and vast Coco-mat beds for a naturally blissful sleep.
On a decked sun terrace, the 11-metre heated saltwater infinity pool is sheltered under an arch at one end and seems to melt into the Aegean at the other, where a whirlpool section offers front-row seats for dazzling caldera views.
Have those last travel knots and tensions eased in the snug spa, housed in an atmospheric cave hewn from the bedrock. There’s a small heated whirlpool in the grotto and an intimate treatment room for holistic massages using locally produced oils, best enjoyed à deux.
Colour-match with some nautical-inspired swimwear. Glamorous shades are a must for the sun-blessed terraces.
Over-14s are welcome, but the cliffside location is best suited to adults.
The charming private dining room is housed in a cave, with small windows looking out to sea; book ahead for a romantic candlelit dinner.
Linens and flat sandals will keep you cool and comfortable while tackling Iconic Santorini’s flights of steps.
White tables for two with traditional taverna chairs and blue banquettes sit in the shade at Pergola Restaurant, looking out to sea. Chef Kostas and his team rustle up typical Greek dishes and Mediterranean-inspired fare, using fresh herbs and produce from the garden, and will happily welcome you into the kitchen to watch them work their magic. Plates of freshly fried Greek cheeses, fava bean purée and cherry-stuffed, nut-crusted croquettes are easily shareable; linger over traditional dishes such as moussaka and tender veal in Santorinian tomatoes and aubergine. Light lunches are served poolside; the menus change depending on what's been purchased fresh from the market that day. Don’t miss breakfast, a feast of fresh-baked bread, locally sourced honey, home-made jams and marmalades, creamy Greek yoghurt, seasonal fruit and a range of hot dishes.
The restaurant’s caldera views are to die for, particularly when the moon is out; sip on local wines to chilled Café del Mar beats under the pergola.
Breakfast can be enjoyed at any time of the day; lunch is served 12.30pm–4pm; dinner 6pm–10pm.
Breakfast, snacks and salads for lunch, and dishes from the restaurant’s dinner menu can be enjoyed on your terrace from 8 am to 11pm.
Iconic Santorini is a short walk from Gali Square in the picturesque caldera-facing village of Imerovigli.
International flights to Santorini usually connect via Athens, though some airlines also provide direct flights to the UK, particularly in the high season from June to September. On request, the Smith24 Team can book flights or transfers for you; call on 03333 318 506 24 hours a day.
A stay at Iconic Santorini is perfectly enjoyable without a car (Thira, the capital, is a 20-minute walk away). If you plan on exploring further afield, there’s secure public parking a three-minute walk away from the hotel (€2 for 24 hours).
Athinios port can be reached by boat from Athens/Piraeus 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 the sweeping vistas from Iconic Santorini’s terraces aren’t quite enough for you, follow the steep trail to Skaros Rock, a short walk away from the hotel. Locals say this spot, on the ruins of a 15th-century fortress built to protect Santorini from pirate attacks, has the most romantic sunset views on the island. The capital Thira, with its boutiques, jewellery shops and museum, is just a 20-minute walk away. If you want to explore further afield, the hotel will happily point you to the best local hiking trails or arrange sunset winery tours and boat trips to the volcano and hot springs.
Anogi may not have a sea view, but this buzzy neighbourhood restaurant is always bustling with locals. Book ahead to share platters of chargrilled octopus, sticky mustard chicken and pork in a plummy Vin Santo sauce. Argo’s airy, elegant dining spaces sprawl over three floors nestled on the steps to the old port on the caldera’s cliffside. Chef and owner Constantinos Chatzopoulos freshens up classic Mediterranean flavours with a dab hand: try the aromatic octopus flavoured with mastic and caper leaves or the feta-stuffed calamari. Cosy blankets are at the ready, should the sea breeze prove a little too chilly. Foodies flock to Selene, a Pyrgos eatery overlooking the local vineyards. The kitchen makes the most of the island’s fantastic produce in dishes such as a creamy sea urchin risotto, succulent langoustines served with courgette flowers and slow-cooked lamb with smoky aubergine. Stop here to refuel on tempting meze and a glass of crisp white wine after a visit to the mediaeval village, or stay the afternoon for a cookery course. Located on one of the highest peaks of the islands, Metaxí Mas has magnificent views over Pyrgos village and Anafi island. Cretan flavours shine in dishes such as a spinach and pomegranate salad, and pan-fried feta. Keep a watchful eye on your glass – the potent spirit Raki flows freely here. With its cluster of whitewashed houses tumbling down the hillside, fishing boats bobbing gently in the water and strip of restaurants right on the bay, the little port of Ammoudi makes a postcard-perfect setting for a romantic dinner. The lobster spaghetti at Sunset by Paraskevas is something to behold: a generous dish of parsley-flecked pasta topped with a gargantuan whole lobster fresh from the sea.
Pull up a chair in Mousiko Kouti’s picturesque courtyard (+30 22860 85282), tucked away in the village of Megalochori. This laid-back rustic-chic tavern dishes up spicy Smyrnan specialties such as smoked sagnaki cheese with a paprika crust.
I’m in a cave Jacuzzi; sunlight is dancing across the whitewashed roof, and below it I’m floating happily in bubbles, post massage. My skin is soft, and my head is light with the scent of lavender, grown in Greece and blended into oil by a holistic company called Aptiva, which means ‘life of the bee’...
There aren’t many bees in Santorini – or so our waiter tells us at breakfast as he serves us exquisite honey made by the few bees that do live on the volcanic island. That morning we’d woken in the cosiest bed imaginable; made from coconut fibres and covered in soft, downy pillows with crisp white cotton sheets. We’d called reception to say we were awake – ‘Great! Breakfast is on its way’.
Opening the door of our suite we had been greeted by dazzling sunshine, the deep-blue Aegean and all shades of cerulean. I wrapped myself in the soft silk-and-linen sarong draped over a chair in our room and took five steps from the bed, to our balcony decorated with olive trees, pots of lavender and sun beds decked in navy cushions and white umbrellas. I gazed happily around me.
Herodotus says Santorini was originally called Strongyle, meaning round; later it was called Kalliste ‘most beautiful’. In 1913 BC it was blown apart by a volcanic eruption and parts of the islands crumbled beneath the Aegean, leaving the island in its current crescent-moon shape. In the middle is the ocean, dotted white billowing sails and tips of the now hibernating volcano, which peek out as islands. This blue lagoon is called the caldera, and the first time I saw it I felt as though I was in a new dimension. We can’t stop looking at it all holiday.
The waiter enters our blue world, laden with perfectly poached eggs, croissants with homemade jams, delicious Greek yoghurt and precious Santorini honey, which is rich, sweet and the colour of sunshine. It goes perfectly with nectarines and strawberries.
Mr Smith paces the balcony assessing wind and weather conditions: we decide to go out sailing on the caldera that afternoon. I while away the morning with a massage and lazing about in a cave hot tub, until we join a honeymooning couple from New Jersey and jump aboard a catamaran. We kick back on deck as our captain sets sail in search of swimming spots around the island; we go for the Red beach (so called due to its colour from the iron), and the white beach (because of the limestone) and a dip in the hot springs near the volcanic islands.
The only person living on the islands is a hermit, who lives with his sheep and chickens and is said to offer massages to passing day visitors. I want to go there, but our captain says, ‘I wouldn’t!’ He also tells us the hermit sometimes turns up with goat’s milk and swaps it for a beer.
As the sun sinks towards the ocean we drop anchor and our crew cook up a delicious traditional supper of grilled fresh prawns, calamari, Greek salad and lots of crisp white wine.
We look up at the villages of Santorini, 300 metres above the ocean, spread on top of the dark volcanic rock. They look like icing sugar on top of a cake. Iconic is now just a speck on the cliffside in the village of Imerovigli, about half way around the bow of the island.
It is dark by the time we got back to our cosy room. We go for a quick splash in our private grotto pool dug out of the rock below our bedroom. Mr Smith is particularly enamoured with the remote-control candles.
Upstairs in bed I read some of Aesop’s Fables – the hotel has left a copy of the book in our room. They must like the philosopher, because as a nightly treat they leave biscuits alongside one of his quotations (we got ‘When all is said and done, nothing is said or done’) and the bathroom is stuffed with Aesop products in his honour.
The next day we sunbathe and swim in the saltwater infinity pool. Sometimes we sit in two seats, in the water, at the end of the pool, with fresh watermelon juices in hand. I usually read piles of books on holiday, but in Santorini I feel like I’m missing out whenever I pick one up.
At dusk, I walk through the village to Skaros, a rocky peninsula that juts out of the island. It was a mediaeval fortress back in the day, until a series of earthquakes destroyed it. Now there is only one church (one of 365 on the island), and a tiny chapel just beside the path that leads onto the rock, where I saw a bride having her photo taken. Santorini seems to be the place for weddings or at least being papped in your dress. I climb the rock to watch the sun go down; where to watch it is much debated on Santorini – it’s as sunset-y as you can get all over the island, but it’s fun to get new angles on perfection.
Sunset fully appreciated, I walk back to Iconic and notice how many people have written their names on the rock – I decide to join them. I write a big ‘THANK YOU!’ too because truly, Santorini is incredible. Do go, right away. The moment you arrive at Iconic and see the view over the caldera, your soul will start dancing with pleasure.