The spectacular volcanic island rising sheer from the Aegean is a high-end hedonists’ summer playground
Nowhere encapsulates the Greek islands like the slick Cycladic gem of Santorini. The island group is the caldera of a once mighty volcano that blew its top 3,600 years ago (some say giving rise to the legend of Atlantis). Today, Santorini is again attaining mythic status as a romantic retreat but, we report, some men do escape it having managed not to propose. But if you actually want to pull the trigger, we can’t think of a better place to do it. Tom Barber is a founder of the award-winning travel company originaltravel.co.uk
Santorini has several top-notch hotels peddling an identical vibe — whitewashed walls, rooms carved into cliffs, plunge pools, killer views, eye-watering prices — so the choice comes down to service. Canaves Oia comes up trumps as it has got hospitality down pat; it clearly works as it’s now opened Canaves Oia Suites and Villas. canaves.com
Yes, it’s busy; yes, you’ve seen 1,000 photos on Instabrag; but exploring Oía is great all the same. The perfect Greek trilogy of cloudless bright blue sky, glistening deep azure sea and white-painted houses is no better exemplified than here. Throw in the odd bluedomed church for even greater dichromatic definition.
You’ll spend much time on Santorini taking in the awesome views of the caldera from high on the rim-top settlements. To get down near the water, head to Armeni restaurant in the bay of the same name, below Oía town. Book a boat ride from nearby Ammoudi port and then it’s standard long, summer Med lunch procedure at your table on the sand. Shrimp saganaki and lobster are good with a fresh Santorini white wine made, ideally, with the local Assyrtiko grape. Take the boat back or brave a donkey ride up the 300 steps into town. armenisantorinirestaurant.gr
Santorini’s famous sunsets are best enjoyed well away from the masses in Oía, while nursing your “rakini” cocktail (basically, it’s a caiprinha with raki, the Turkish take on ouzo, in place of cachaça) on the balcony terrace meze bar of Katharos Lounge above the beach of the same name. Only 20 minutes’ walk away, you’ll find friendly staff, good music and a great atmosphere. Katharos beach, Oía 847 02, Greece
Ambrosia is the food of the gods, and the restaurant of the same name has a setting that would have the most discerning of deities nodding in approval. Perched precipitously overlooking the caldera in Oía, this must be the most romantic spot in a supremely romantic place. Beware if travelling with your lover, as you may feel the urge to drop to one knee. The contemporary Greek food ain’t bad, either. restaurant-ambrosia.com
If you forget to pack stylish staples such as linen shirts, make an excursion to Ecru sited on Oía’s main street to replenish the wardrobe with Italian-designer clothes elegantly displayed inside a former mansion house.
End your night/early morning in the town of Thira at Tango Bar. Relax, it’s not a clue to the skin tone of the clientele, rather this is the go-to spot for hip locals and clued-in off-islanders. Expect house beats, cocktails and for it to “go off”. tangosantorini.gr
Rent a 69ft motor yacht with three-man crew for an afternoon cruise exploring the caldera; there are a number of operators. Ask the skipper to moor off the central island before turning through 360° to view what was once the crater rim of the huge volcano. Then sail slowly back to see yet another sunset, this time from your private boat’s deck as the hoi polloi in Oía look on enviously.
Thira town when there’s a cruise ship (or five) moored down in the harbour. The small town’s tiny lanes and chic boutiques and cafés will be seething as over 10,000 passengers can disembark on some days in high season.
See the island from a different perspective, and work off the ouzo OD, on a wander between Oía to Imerovigli. It’s a two-hour walk (plus inevitable photo-opp time) along a well-signed path and a great way to explore the island’s rural aspect.
Because this popular island destination is showing signs of creaking at the seams. Go before they burst altogether.
Clockwise: the view from Santorini, looking towards the volcanic island Therasia; the blue domed church in Oía; shellfish at Ambrosia restaurant; a sea view room at Canaves Oía hotel; motor yachts provide stunning day cruises Tortoiseshell acetate sunglasses, £125, by Polo Ralph Lauren at David Clulow