By Rachel Howard
This story originally appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.
There’s a good reason why Santorini is one of the world’s must-see destinations. As author Lawrence Durrell said, “the reality is so astonishing that prose and poetry will forever be forced to limp behind.” The landscape is pure drama: a flooded volcanic crater enclosed by towering cliffs in every shade of red, green and gray – no wonder it’s a contender for the lost city of Atlantis. Brilliant-white villages teeter on the cliff tops, like seagulls poised for flight. Many of Greece’s finest hotels and restaurants are hidden in the tangle of alleys, a photogenic playground for honeymooners.With a wealth of antiquities, rainbow colored beaches and award-winning vineyards, there’s plenty to explore on this cosmopolitan island. But the caldera has a hypnotic pull – days drift by in a lazy haze, like the cruise ships floating across the horizon. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, that view never fails to blow you away.
Bespoke is the watchword at this fully staffed villa, where everything is tailored to your whims. Aqua yoga in the infinity pool? Iced tea delivered to your floating sun bed? Movies by moonlight? Check, check, check. As well as heartfelt, can-do service, guests enjoy the luxury of absolute privacy: This is the only place on the caldera where nobody will see you skinny-dip. Paola Navone’s playful design, in a calm palette of gray, black and white, feels timeless but totally now.
Accessible by speedboat or helicopter, this waterfront villa is marooned on its own black-sand beach on Thirassia, a castaway island three minutes’ boat ride from Oia. Daringly spare interiors – low-slung beds, hot-pink cushions, a Jacuzzi for eight – allow the giddying views of Santorini to take center stage. If you’d rather be close to the action, stay at the Perivolas Suite in Oia, with an indoor–outdoor pool spilling over the horizon.
Suites cascade down the cliff at this hip showstopper in low-key Imerovigli. Champagne cocktails are served by the pool, and the food at Santoro is cutting edge: fava-bean gyozas or seared octopus with truffle and lime honey. The Concept Store is a trove of Cycladic inspired trinkets and kaftans. The Bespoke by Grace service offers tailor-made excursions and a choice of pillows, room fragrances and toiletries, personal training and an in-room cocktail kit.