Santorini can be utterly captivating in its elemental beauty, with its violent red and blackened volcanic soil, craggy mountain hinterland and wildflower-studded landscape. However, you may not ‘Wish You Were Here’ if you happen to be stuck in the main town Fira, late morning, on the hot cobbled maze of alleyways behind the surge of cruise-ship day-trippers streaming past the eateries with their brash laminated images of hamburgers and hotdogs. The only way to get a real taste of the sophisticated side of Santorini is to choose somewhere to stay away from the town center, at one of these new hideaways…
This is that rare beast – a brand new destination spa that welcomes families, too. While many of Santorini’s boutique hotels are space-challenged, Andronis Concept eschews the usual blinding-white cubist design: this modernist, low-lying ochre dome is replete with three swimming pools (including a cave pool with artificial waterfall), vineyards and a vast spa with a comprehensive roster of treatments and therapies. The light-filled bedrooms and suites, boasting private plunge pools suspended over the cliff, will take your breath away. As will the menus, which include child-friendly choices for the small people, who will slot right into the relaxed vibe of the place, with its alfresco cinema nights and tennis challenges. Older children can join the complimentary yoga classes that take place every morning on the stunning terraced platform.
Unusually for Santorini, this exclusive-use hotel-cum-party-pad (for up to 10 adults and four children), built on the edge of a towering cliff, is open all year round. Your day here begins as the subtle gears of daybreak bleed through the shuttered blinds of the monochrome Paola Navone-designed bedrooms. After that, choose from the vast swimming pool terraces, the hammam, the temperature-controlled cave wine cellar in a bunker or the open-air cinema with bean bags to fill your day. The incredibly attentive on-site staff can also organize all kinds of island experiences, like hiking up to remote monasteries, sailing trips, vineyard tours and wine tastings – and you’ll never have to encounter the tourist hordes.
Located on one of Santorini’s distinctive black pumice stone shorelines, the latest boutique opening from Design Hotels is the perfect low-key retreat, with sleek, minimalist interiors, an enormous swimming pool, a boho-style spa and a good beach hangout for long, lazy lunches. The 12 suites all look slightly different but all offer private terraces with hot tubs or pools and gardens, so the place always feels like an oasis, even in high summer when vacationers parade up and down the boardwalk and the faint base note of a beach bar cuts across the silence. It’s the ideal location to ride a bike or hike up to the Monastery of Profitis Ilias and its chapel wedged into the mountain summit, which towers over this lively stretch of Perivolos beach.