You’ve seen the pictures on the postcards; the famous white-washed buildings, blue domed churches and winding streets that make Santorini a bucket list destination for people around the world. Celebrities – Angelina Jolie, Beyoncé and the Kardashians have all visited – and honeymooners alike flock here for the sweeping views, sensational sunsets and romance that this magical, volcanic island conjures up.
So when we were invited to check out the hottest new hotel on the block, HELLO! didn’t hesitate to pack a bag and jet out to Greece to see what all the fuss is about. Firstly – believe the hype. Oia, the island’s most famous town, is breathtakingly beautiful, chockablock with elegant boutiques, and has to be seen to be believed. It’s impossible to take a bad photograph here, and there’s an Instagram-worthy photo op around every corner. (The only downside is that everyone knows it. Prepare to sharpen those elbows and jostle for position if there’s a particularly fantastic viewpoint!)
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Secondly, the newly-opened Canaves Oia Epitome is where it’s at. The property is the sister hotel to the already-renowned Canaves Oia Hotel and Suites (on the map in these parts for being one of the most luxurious properties on the island with fans including Jennifer Lawrence and Peter Andre, who whisked his wife Emily away on honeymoon here).
This new property is located in the northern part of Oia so it’s slightly removed from the (sometimes-exhausting!) droves of tourists and their selfie sticks, and is more peaceful, spacious and secluded. And from the moment we were handed a welcome cocktail (a refreshing and decadent combination of passionfruit, vanilla and champagne) and shown into our private villa, complete with its own swimming pool (and I mean proper swimming pool, not plunge pool!), we knew we were onto a winner.
Like all the bedrooms in the property our two-bedroom private pool villa had an impressive vista over the Aegean from its terrific terrace, with one seating area flanked by olive trees, comfy sun beds rising up out of the pool and an earthy, relaxed ambience thanks to the neutral colour scheme and natural stone decor. So once we’d freshened up we settled down in our outdoor eating area and ordered room service for lunch. (We highly recommend the Rucola salad with tomato, plum and goats cheese. Divine.)
All the food we ate at Epitome was delicious, in fact, but it wasn’t all typical Greek cuisine. Breakfast, for example, was a set menu consisting of three courses (we sampled poached eggs on toast, spinach pie, chicken pie and a french fry omelette) plus a basket of pastries. By the way, breakfasts here include champagne as standard. Cheers to that idea!
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So for a classic Greek meal (think a tzatziki starter followed by freshly-caught swordfish) we decided to take a short walk down the (rather steep) hill to the pretty-as-a-picture fishing village of Ammoudi, one of the only places on the island where you can eat at sea-level, and well-worth a visit. There’s a number of tavernas at the water’s edge – we loved the service at Katina – where you can while away an evening and wash your meal down with a bottle of delicious local wine.
It would be a gruelling hike back up the hill to the hotel – so for people like us who don’t want a thigh-burning trek on the after-dinner agenda, there’s a shuttle service. You just call the hotel and they’ll dispatch a driver to come and collect you. Perfect – and just in time to enjoy a nightcap next to the stunning floodlit infinity pool.
This part of the island isn’t renowned for its sunlounger-style beaches, but the next morning we decided to take a five-minute stroll to nearby Katharos beach anyway. With its black sand, large boulders and crashing waves it felt like something from a film set and we whiled away a lovely couple of hours having coffee in the chic, open-sided Katharos lounge and meze bar, with its rustic wooden chairs and polka dot scatter cushions, perched halfway down the cliff and boasting views of the volcanic sands below.
There are plenty of excursions to take from the hotel – whose friendly front-of-house staff will happily recommended nearby wine tours and an array of sailing cruises. But, in the mood for making the most of a relaxing, rejuvenating break, we had our sights set on spa treatments rather than too much exploring.
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The brand new, state-of-the-art gym at Canaves Epitome wasn’t yet open for business when we visited (but our villa was so big we did a HIIT workout in an outdoor seating area, and we’re not really ‘work out on holiday’ types anyway), and there’s no spa in the resort at the moment (though in-room massages are available) - but that’s no problem. You can book a treatment at a sister property in the heart of Oia and they will drive you there, free of charge. It’s less than five minutes – traffic permitting.
The spa at the Canaves Oia Hotel is built into the cliff side, Santorini-style, and its traditional cave setting is lit by relaxing candles. We decided to combine a heavenly, 55-minute deep tissue massage (€135 well spent) with an afternoon of sipping pina colada cocktails and sunbathing next to the impressive infinity pool – Instagram heaven!
By the end of it all we emerged totally zen and ready to experience a meal at the fabulous Veranda Restaurant in another of the Canaves properties, Sunday Suites, just a short walk from the Canaves Oia Hotel. Blessed with an elevated position in the centre of the cosmopolitan village, it is one of the only restaurants offering a 360 degree panoramic view of Oia – and, crucially, the sunset, which looked spectacular as we tucked into our dinner of delicious prawn tempura with sweet chilli-wasabi mayo followed by mouth-wateringly-good spicy lobster spaghetti, rounded off with a banoffee dessert and washed down by a bottle of local red.
After dinner we hit the boutique shops – it’s an altogether more pleasant experience doing shopping when it’s a bit cooler and quieter in the evenings, we found - and stocked up on baklava to take home with us and remind us of our unforgettable time in dreamy Santorini.
The lead-in rate for a Deluxe Suite with Plunge Pool per room, per night (2 people sharing) is £450, inclusive of signature champagne a La Carte, or room service breakfast and a complementary bottle of wine with fresh fruits upon arrival. The lead-in rate for a One Bedroom Pool Villa per night (can sleep 3) is £750, inclusive of signature champagne a La Carte, or room service breakfast and a complementary bottle of wine with fresh fruits upon arrival. For more information visit Canaves.com.