On an island crammed with luxury hotels, Iconic Santorini, a boutique hotel with suites tucked away in caves on the face of a caldera, scores high for astonishing views, blissful pampering, attention to detail and sheer, unadulterated indulgence.
Iconic Santorini reveals itself gradually. There’s no imposing façade, no glamourous public spaces. Instead, short flights of grey painted stairs, hugged between brilliant whitewashed walls, zigzag down through a maze of terraces and caves, revealing, every now and then, the sparkling turquoise of a pool, some bright blue ceramic tiles on a table, the slatted-bamboo roof of a pergola.
And everywhere, the view of Santorini’s caldera dominates your attention, its arms encircling an Aegean lagoon more than 1,000 feet below. In its centre, an innocent looking black island leeches currents of yellow sulphur into the sea. That’s Nea Kameni, the tip of Santorini’s not quite dormant underwater volcano (it last erupted in 1950, creating the island).
Accommodations and facilities are located behind glazed, soft grey doors and even when the hotel is fully booked, you’re unlikely to see more than one or two other guests during your stay.
Romantic couples, loved-up honeymooners and guests celebrating special anniversaries.
The Santorini caldera is laced with caves that once housed local people and sheltered passing sailors and fishermen from the islands winter winds. At Iconic, these caves have been turned into cool and spacious, white-washed two and three room suites arranged over five levels.
Each suite is individually designed, furnished in a simple and traditional Cycladic style. Super king-sized four-layer beds are built of all natural materials and the furniture suits each cave’s individual layout.
Bathrooms have walk-in showers and thoughtful non-slip tiles. Each suite has “dedicated” use of its own, furnished terrace (some are not entirely private) overlooking the volcano and most have jetted plunge pools. The most luxurious suites have both outdoor plunge pools and secret, indoor jetted plunge pools in their own, original, hand-hewn caves.
Guests are supplied with generous terry robes, high powered hairdryers, full-size Aesop toiletries, natural sponges and loofahs. Bedside tables have multiple outlet USB charging ports. At night, a small glass dish of handmade goodies is left in the room – sweet biscuits, sesame chews – something different every night.
Food & Drink
Breakfast, ordered the night before, is laid out on your terrace while you sleep. A wake up call announces it’s ready for you. Not only is it served whenever you like, it also consists of pretty much anything you want. There is no breakfast menu, you simply ask and it is provided. Or, you can ask the chef to surprise. On our first morning, that’s what we did and we awoke to four boiled eggs, a basket of bread and viennoiserie; a platter of cheeses, meats and olives; chocolate yogurt, a small, lighter than air smoothie and a bowl of fruit salad.
Light lunches, omelettes, fish and Greek salads are served poolside, on a shaded pergola or on your terrace.
The dinner menu changes daily, depending upon the chef’s shopping, and leans toward modern interpretations of Greek classics – pork with rosemary, octopus and seafood, salads with haloumi and Santorini’s giant, grape-sized capers. The wine selection always includes some of Santorini’s highly regarded vintages.
A smallish spa area, in another suite of caves, has some gym equipment, treatment beds and a generous plunge pool for hydrotherapies and aquarobics. There is also one of the larger outdoor pools on the caldera, long enough and deep enough – at two meters – for a decent swim. One end of it is jetted.
Yes. Free throughout
Suites in season range from €995 to €3,495 per night. A few rooms without plunge pools start at €795 per night.
Fira, the island capital and main cruise port, is three kilometres downhill and can be reached by a clifftop path, by taxi or bus. It’s the main shopping with all kinds of retail therapy from international chain stores and designers to local boutiques and craft shops.
Also in Fira, the Archaeological Museum holds finds – pottery, sophisticated frescoes, jewellery – excavated from Akrotiri, Santorini’s Minoan settlement currently being excavated.
There are direct flights, in season, from London to Santorini airport, about a 15 minute taxi ride from the hotel. Outside of the main season, which runs from mid May to mid October, several airlines operate connecting flights through Athens and other European capitals.