Scattered over the rocky heights of the southernmost tip of Oia, the cloistered quarters of Mystique, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Santorini, will not only appeal to the ‘no cameras’ contingent but also to those wishing to step out in style. The mood is one of laid-back luxury; the only thing to distract you from the tranquility of the sea is the mind-blowing vista of the caldera cliffs.
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Wine tasting in the 'Secret' wine cave for each adult
Noon. Depending on availability, late check-out can be arranged but is subject to an additional charge.
Double rooms from £329.91 (€396), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include a lavish American à la carte breakfast, a glass of a local liqueur each, welcome fruit platter on arrival, and entrance to the fitness centre.
The imaginative minibar is a favourite feature: champagne, Metaxa, digestifs, pink lemonade and more.
Annually from 5 November to 14 April.
At the hotel
Spa, valet and butler service, private dining, DVD/CD library, free WiFi throughout, air-conditioning, gym. In-room: plasma TV, iPod dock, DVD player, minibar, daily fruit platter, Ex Voto toiletries. The Secrecy Villas each have a private plunge pool and the Mystery Villa has a private infinity pool.
Our favourite rooms
All Mystique’s suites are spacious and airy with camera-pleasing private terraces overlooking the sea. Room 16’s generous terrace provides the most impressive view, while snug and slinky Room 7’s harmonious layout is a visual delight. If you’ve forgotten to freeze your gym membership, plump for a spa-inspired Spiritual Suite. These deluxe pamper-zones are kitted out with fitness equipment (Jacuzzi, exercise machines and spa bed), while the two villas offer a sense of seclusion that is perfect for honeymooners and seasoned romantics alike.
The stylishly curvaceous infinity-edged pool overlooks the caldera sea. You can sup a smoothie or a cocktail from the Aura pool bar, admiring the oceanic panorama from the comfort of your calico sunlounger. There’s a second, unheated pool – open 8am to 8pm – by Captain's Lounge.
The Asian Spa has two elegant treatment rooms, where guests can be pampered with a therapeutic massage, cleansing scrub or rejuvenating facial. There's a fitness centre with fantastic views and ample equipment to get your pulse pumping, including treadmills, bikes, benches and fitness balls.
Heidi Klein swimwear and comfy shoes to negotiate Oia’s cobbled alleys. Keep something warm in reserve in case the evenings get gusty.
Over-14s are welcome. An extra bed can be added to rooms (€100–€150).
All tables have the essential caldera panorama. Nab one of the indoor spots when the wind picks up – the ultra-wide glass doors still allow for jaw-dropping views. For a very special occasion, book the Secret Wine Cave for a candlelight dinner.
Blend in with the furniture in cool, crisp linen.
The linen-clad tables of the Charisma restaurant offer uninterrupted views of the sea and the refined Mediterranean menu nods particularly to Greek cuisine, focusing on luxuriant combinations of local ingredients. Asea Lounge Restaurant's tables are dotted around an immaculate, minimalist terrace – a perfect spot to sample the day's catch in delicate sushi form. Set in a newly converted mansion, the Captain's Lounge dishes up light lunches and heady cocktails in a laid-back spot by the pool. The hotel's breakfasts will have you leaping from your remarkably comfy bed; the promise of salmon with champagne, hearty crêpes, fried Greek doughnuts and some superlative smoothies to wash them down is too good to miss for a lie-in. The hotel's private dining option is really rather special – an old cavern used for storing water has been turned into a wine vault, but guests can request a candlelit table be set up in there.
Make a beeline for Aura, the dinky pool bar, at sunset and order the speciality – a secret concoction known as the Mystique. Alternatively, meander down to Secret, the ancient atmospheric wine cave, to taste some intriguing local potions. In Charisma the cocktail is king, with a long list of classics, drinks fizzing with a slug of champagne and a few original creations. The Tears of Santorini, with vodka, lime juice, agave syrup and grapes will more than likely put a smile on your face.
Charisma opens from 8am–midnight, Asea from 7pm–11.30pm. The Captain's Lounge serves food 8am–4pm and cocktails till 8pm.
You can have dishes delivered to your room around the clock.
A short stroll from Oia's boutique-lined streets, Mystique is perched against the cliffside above Santorini's tranquil caldera.
Santorini airport is well served in the summer from European destinations, with direct flights from London Heathrow and Gatwick. Connecting flights from Athens take about 45 minutes. The Smith24 Team can book flights on request; call on 03333 318 506 around the clock. Arrange semi-private transfers between the hotel and airport for €25 a person each way, or private transfers for up to five guests for €100 each way.
Mystique is a half-hour drive from both the airport and the port; take the twisting ‘high road’ if you want to see views on both sides, or the ‘low road’ to follow the coast. Once you arrive in Oia, park for free at the town hall or post office.
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. Arrange semi-private transfers between the hotel and port for €25 a person each way, or private transfers for up to five guests for €100 each way.
Worth getting out of bed for
Stretching across the northern tip of the island, Oia is a picturesque village of pastel-hued houses clinging on to the cliffside. A genteel jumble of souvenir stalls and chic boutiques lines its central marble-paved pedestrian street. While away an afternoon stocking up on luxe linen separates, delicate handcrafted jewellery and quirky presents to bring home (basement hideaway Atlantis Books(+30 22860 72346) publishes classics in designer covers). Come dusk, the village buzzes with crowds flocking here to catch the spectacular sunsets; pick your spot early to nab a seat on a terrace or clamber onto the castle ruins for uninterrupted views. Staff will happily offer advice on exploring further afield: try a private cruise across the caldera for dramatic vistas and a chance to swim in the volcanic hot springs, or a trip to Perivolos beach, a stretch of jet-black sands a 40-minute drive away. History buffs should check out the capital's Museum of Prehistoric Thira (+30 22860 23217), which houses Neolithic pottery and delicate frescoes, or the ruins of the Venetian castle in Pyrgos.
Strolling through Oia's streets to pick a promising pit stop is one of the joys of staying in the village, but for a guaranteed feast book a table at Ambrosia, where tables are set on two terraces facing the caldera (+30 2286 071413). This fine-dining destination makes the most of Santorini’s sun-kissed produce in dishes such as veal mille-feuilles, delicately grilled sea bream and truffle-infused shrimp risotto. If you're after a roof terrace from which to watch the sunset, and Petro (+30 22860 71263) is a tempting option; don't miss the spectacular lobster linguine at the latter. Lapped by gentle waves, nearby Ammoudi is a fishing village turned romantic eating spot. Dimitris (+30 2286 071606) serves some of the best seafood in town in a cheerful waterfront taverna.
After sunset, follow the crowds back to the capital Thira for balearic beats and exotic concoctions. Trendy Tango (+30 697 449 8206) has day-beds, pillow-stacked nooks and expertly mixed Mediterranean cocktails. Late-night revellers should head to Casablanca Soul Bar(+30 22860 22740), which hosts international DJs spinning everything from soul and jazz to house and electro.
A chauffeur was waiting to whisk us to Mystique, the latest A-list establishment perched on the rim of Santorini’s caldera, with uninterrupted views of volcanic cliffs and the sparkling sea. Arriving from Athens at dawn, delirious with fatigue, the glasses of champagne greeting us at this boutique hotel in Santorini were slightly redundant, sadly, but a nice touch. We wanted a bed to sleep in right away, but nobody checks out at 6am so we made do with a gorgeous breakfast by the pool and a snooze on the sunbeds for a couple of hours. As other guests awoke and staked out their spots for the day they must have thought two travelling tramps had invaded their immaculate and pristine world, dishevelled as we were from flying and surrounded by tacky plastic duty free bags filled with copies of Grazia and Vanity Fair. We soon put that right later on when we had freshened up and slipped into our finest swimming togs.
This was my third trip to Santorini, the volcano island that three and a half thousand years ago erupted, its heart sinking beneath the sea and leaving a crater (caldera) 10km in diameter. Ever since, the island’s history has been linked to the fabled city of Atlantis. In 1956 nature intervened again when an earthquake led many Santorinians to pack up their donkeys and call it a day – then some clever clogs bought up the ruins on the caldera rim and turned their old dwellings into small hotels. Bingo. With the arrival of the cruise ships Santorini became a firm fixture on the globe-trotting hot-list. Even today Americans seemingly can’t get enough of the place, and navigating through the tiny streets of Oia (where Mystique is located), the northernmost town and by far the most chic, can be like a Fourth of July parade at times. But you don’t come to visit this Greek idyll simply for the tranquil ruins and local culture – you come for the jawdrop-spectacular views of course.
Hugging the edge of the crater, Mystique sticks out from the other dwellings, having been painted cream rather than the blinding fluorescent white of its neighbours. A later conversation with the owner’s wife (a very glamorous lady called Kalia who if she wasn’t a recent Miss Greece should have been), alluded to some turf wars in Santorini – so perhaps our gang wanted to stick two fingers up to the cranky old neighbours, who knows – but Mystique stands out, that’s for sure.
Given that the hotel shares its name with those so so so scandalous Mis-teeq girls, we thought perhaps our suite would be named after another defunct girl group (Spice Girls Villa?). But of the eighteen rooms carved into the cliff face, we had the so-called Vibrant Suite. It has a definite touch of the Flintstones chic about it. Cream, clean soul-soothingly neutral tones blend with original art on the walls and locally-quarried limestone on the floor together with some clever use of driftwood creates a Robinson Crusoe ‘island style’ which this pair of Smiths loved. Our room was surprisingly airy, considering space is at a premium on the caldera – as I learnt when I leant over our veranda only to catch a glimpse of the guest below, whose white robe was perhaps a little more open than he was aware of. He had nothing to be ashamed of, as it turned out, and was none the wiser about my eyeball intrusion, thank goodness.
We'd heard whispers that the Spiritual Suites have treadmills and fitness kits – though we were secretly pleased not to have exercise equipment in our suite to feel guilty about neglecting. Tackling the vertiginous steps down to the infinity pool was work enough for me. In fact the potentially hazardous geography means that children below the age of fourteen are not welcome. Fine by me, as screaming kids would certainly kill that sundowner cocktail.
That evening, we ventured into Oia, plumping for a meal at 1800 restaurant. Tucked away in a captain’s mansion, this eaterie boasts such a knee-bucklingly beautiful sunset view that my other Smith half immediately thanked me for planning supper around the sun-burning ceremony so perfectly. (I, of course, did not correct this assumption.) Managing to bagsy a table on the rooftop garden, we ate a gorgeous fig salad, fresh seafood pasta and drank lots of red wine as the sun slipped below a blue horizon.
The eye-squintingly bright Santorini sky seeped through our shutters the next morning, waking us up and pushing us down the stairs towards the poolside alfresco Aura Bar. I resisted my knee-jerk breakfast reaction (eggs and bacon) and, anticipating my imminent need to squeeze into swimmers, instead opted for something far healthier (a fruit smoothie). Settling down for a read and a simmer in the sunshine (turning occasionally for full deep-frying), my fellow sun-worshiper and I took great delight in not having to move from our loungers when having lunch. Tip: the non-bloating herby chicken with a zingy salad comes highly recommended.
Alternating food with sunshine for most of the day, we finished off with a G&T on our terrace before heading down for dinner in the hotel’s ‘secret’ wine cave. As we worked our way through (deep breath) leek soup with salmon eggs, shrimp and saffron risotto, beef fillet fricassee and chocolate grapes, a different wine was brought with every course. Reaching the finishing line of our menu marathon, and in dire need of a breather, we joined a rather overexcited American couple outside for a nightcap at the pool bar. Soon suitably sozzled in the Santorini evening air, we decided to cap the night off with a nightcap at Enigma: Santorini’s famous nightclub, a 20-minute drive away in Fira. (Although our new American friends couldn’t be tempted, despite countless “C’mon you’d love it” prods from us.)
Although chocka with flatscreens, DVD and CD players and WiFi waves, something about the suites of Mystique steers you clean away from technology. Personally, I can’t wait to escape from the whirring din of my laptop or the constant beeping of texts (‘r u on facebook?’ seems to be the query du jour), leaving my state of relaxation in tatters. And herein lies Santorini’s USP. Maybe it’s because you are transported onto a mythological fairytale island, but this place is reassuringly anachronistic and eerily other-worldly. In fact it all felt very Agatha Christie Evil Under the Sun – with me as Hercule Poirot obviously – acting as detective and discovering all the naughty secrets of our fellow guests. Fortunately no murder took place on our visit, but looking for one last time at that staggering caldera vista you could almost believe that somewhere down there Atlantis lives under the sea.
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