It's hard not to talk in clichés when describing Santorini, but the whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches, cobbled streets and magenta sunsets really do mean this Greek island deserves all the hype it gets. Celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Heidi Klum, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé have all ticked Santorini off their luxe holiday list – and if you can, you really should too.
It may be less of a party island than its sister hotspot Mykonos, but Santorini is just as much of a tourist magnet. It's a top destination for honeymooners and couples; the winding streets, cliff side boutiques, caldera views and cosy corners scream romance. The droves of visitors may feel overwhelming at times, but once you get over the crowds and learn to embrace the fellow tourists, Instagram husbands and dress-up brides, you'll see just how magical the island is. And after packing in a day of sightseeing and shopping, there's no better place to escape the hustle and bustle than Canaves Oia Epitome.
All 24 villas at Canaves Oia Epitome offer either a private or plunge pool
The exclusive resort, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, is located in the northern part of Oia, which is by far the prettiest and most upmarket town in Santorini. It's the place to stay on the island, where you can relax and recharge but without getting bored. Having opened in May 2018, the resort rightly calls itself Canaves Oia Epitome. It is the epitome of luxury, romance and Greek hospitality. Guests are invited to experience "the finer side of life" and trust me, you really will live like kings and queens during your stay.
The hotel décor is inspired by traditional Cycladic architecture
All 24 villas offer either a private or plunge pool with undisturbed views of Oia's famous sunsets. While the hundreds of tourists flock to town to jostle for a place to watch the sun go down, you can't help feeling smug knowing you have your own private view from your room. We were lucky enough to stay in the Aqua Retreat Two Bedroom Pool Villa, whose master bedroom overlooks a decent-sized swimming pool and spacious terrace, complete with outdoor dining table and deck chairs. Downstairs you'll find the second bedroom, which is even more spacious and has a separate bathroom, walk-in shower and gargantuan bath that has views into the swimming pool. Whichever room you stay in, there really is no chance of drawing the short straw.
The hotel décor is inspired by traditional Cycladic architecture, whereby the modern design compliments the natural and earthy look of the villa. Each suite is kitted out with state-of-the-art equipment, from rainfall showers to Nespresso coffee machines to SONOS speakers. There's always a full-stocked mini bar, you won't be able to resist the fluffy robes and slippers, and the Canaves branded beach hats and bags are guaranteed to put you in holiday mode.
The hotel has an outdoor terrace, Elements restaurant and lounge bar
One of the selling points of the hotel is the exceptionally high level of service that staff provide. Everyone from the front to the back of house are professional, welcoming and embody that warm Greek hospitality. Nothing is too much to ask of the staff, who go above and beyond to make sure you have the best stay possible. The turn down service in the evening means your room is sparkling clean by the time you've come back from dinner, and you're left a little sweet treat on the coffee table to devour. Every detail has been thought of, from having pillow spray on your bedside, to keeping your charger cable tidy with a Canaves branded Velcro strap. There's a butler service and 24/7 room service, but if you're feeling extra fancy you can even opt for the VIP butler option.
Lounge at the resort's infinity pool
Although it will be very hard to leave your luxury villa and private pool, the hotel has a range of facilities that you should definitely make the most of. The spa offers couples' massages where you can truly unwind and be pampered with your loved one, or for the more active, there's a small gym and fitness centre where you can do your workouts in tandem. The main infinity swimming pool is also one of the best spots to relax and grab that Instagram-worthy shot of the Aegean sea.
Grab that Instagram-worthy shot of the Aegean sea
It's impossible not to feel totally zen at Epitome. The villas provide maximum privacy for guests and offer exquisite caldera views. The resort is a five-minute drive or 15-minute walk from the centre of Oia, which boasts dozens of restaurants, boutiques and shops, so it may not be in the thick of the action, but there's a complimentary shuttle service. Simply ring the hotel whenever you want and they'll drive you back and forth to the town. We found that the more secluded and serene location of the hotel was actually a very welcome break to the crowds in Oia. The hotel is also equidistant to Ammoudi, a pretty-as-a-postcard fishing village that boasts the finest seafood tavernas. It's even more quaint and picturesque than Oia, with tables dotted along the bay, and octopus and other fresh catch are put on display outside the restaurants.
Oia town is the place to stay in Santorini
While Santorini has a wealth of eateries to choose from, you have to experience at least one meal at the hotel's Elements Restaurant & Bar. The fine dining restaurant specialises in European cuisine with Greek touches and has its own take on some of the island's most famous dishes, including tomato croquettes. Stand-out plates include the 'Sofigado: Letter from the Ionian,' which was chunks of pork cheek slathered in onions and burnt cream and literally served from an envelope, and the '24 Carats' for dessert, a bar of heavenly gold caramel and carob.
You can expect the same level of quality at breakfast, which is full-on and is guaranteed to set you up for the day. It's an American-style breakfast – read, lots of courses. Every morning starts with the most epic bread basket packed with muffins, pastries and cookies, followed by three typical Greek dishes, such as spinach pie, meat pie, eggs in all different ways and some kind of dessert to finish off with. There's also lashings of Greek yoghurt, granola and fruit on offer, plus freshly squeezed orange juice, for a healthier option. And to top it all off, champagne also makes up part of your breakfast. Cheers, darling.
Start your day right with a mouthwatering bread basket
After a day exploring in one of the Cycladic villages like Oia or the even buzzier capital, Fira, the hotel is a peaceful haven you'll gladly go running back to. Canaves Oia Epitome's friendly staff, plush suites, serene surroundings and unbeatable spectacular sunsets make it a true gem of the crescent-shaped paradisal island.
Rooms at Canaves Oia Epitome start from €1,700 per night. For more information, visit canaves.com/canaves-oia-epitome.