Words by Jonathan Chambers
The archetypal Greek island fantasy for many, Santorini attracts countless visitors each year, drawn to its seductive, photogenic prowess. This in turn has given rise to countless luxury hotels, from which you must choose wisely. Iconic Santorini is a boutique ‘cave’ hotel that delights its fortunate patrons with authentic local hospitality and resplendent rooms. A tranquil haven that allows you to enjoy this enchanting destination in total relaxation.
The Cycladic isle has been coined ‘The Balcony to the Aegean’ and Iconic Santorini is seemingly a literal incarnation of this description; the whitewashed rooms and suites are practically hanging from the volcanic cliff face! This guarantees exquisite views over the sea below from every angle. You’ll find the hotel nestled in the village of Imerovigli: two kilometres north of the island’s capital, Fira, making for a more peaceful setting, away from the throng of the main tourist hotspots.
Staying here gives a genuine taste of historic Santorini life while delivering on the luxury hotel comforts. All buildings have been painstakingly carved into the rock in the traditional fashion, extending the floor space considerably and giving a cosy, semi-subterranean flavour to a stay here. The hotel layout is connected with winding steps and passages that playfully link the abodes together. At night, the hotel takes on another fantastical personality as the buildings are illuminated by candlelight, with the great void of the sea stretching out under the stars beyond.
There are 19 rooms and suites, tiered across six levels descending down the sheer cliff face. Each comes with a personal veranda with envy-inducing scenic views, and most have their own private or shared plunge pool for a necessary cool-off during a day of sunbathing. Iconic Santorini characterises itself as a ‘boutique cave hotel’ and indeed many of the rooms are partially underground, burrowed into the rock. Upon opening the doors though, there’s a surprisingly generous amount of space (a bit like entering the Tardis): the rooms are enclosed but not dingy or dark; a good amount of natural light still floods through to the whitewashed walls within.
The enormous and supremely comfortable beds immediately catch the eye: there’s ample room even to lie sideways! The modern conveniences are all there, as well as a lavish array of bathroom products. Throughout the interiors there is a recurrent tasteful ode to traditional Greek aesthetics, with natural wooden furniture and embroidered pillows. Endearingly homely, but still, refined.
The most impressive suites conceal enormous underground heated jet-pools for truly indulgent luxury. Outdoor lounges are well sheltered from the unrelenting sun with sail-like awnings. Each room is represented by a letter from the Greek alphabet making for a playful and educational twist.
Facilities and service
With an exclusive label (and exclusive price tags) the expectations on service and facilities will be justifiably high, but Iconic Santorini is equal to the challenge. Part of the ‘Iconic’ boutique hotels group, staff are assured with perceptive eyes for detail and will welcome you warmly. Despite its seemingly small footprint, the hotel manages to pack in a well-equipped gym and spa / wellness centre with an underground pool and massage room. A beautiful bespoke infinity pool is the natural heart of the property, which sits alongside the hotel restaurant and bar as well as a communal outdoor lounge area. The pool’s design itself nods to the cave theme, partly being covered by the upper restaurant terrace.
You don’t need to worry about scaling the many steps to the restaurant for mealtime though; the food comes to you, served on your own private veranda. That goes for breakfast as well: simply call reception whenever suits and, in but a mere moment, your order will be outside waiting, as delicious as the landscape. The menu changes daily with whichever fresh ingredients have been sourced by the chef for that morning.
Although Imerovigli is a quieter spot, you don’t feel withdrawn from the action. There are a good number of restaurants and shops in the immediate vicinity, and you are only a five-minute taxi from the bustling Fira. It’s 20 mins to the picture-perfect (but borderline claustrophobic) Oia, and the international airport and main ferry port are a comparable distance. Transfer services are available from the hotel.
Imerovigli is also the starting point of a three-hour hiking trail that laces the western cliffs to Oia: a worthwhile excursion if you fancy a little respite from the crowded towns. There are a number of chapels and landmarks along the way for plenty of intimate moments to take in the scenery by yourself.
In terms of the famous sunset: Although the positioning of the village means that the evening sun passes over land rather than setting over the water, you instead have a unique aspect of the southerly cliff faces as the last rays saturate the vivid colours of the volcanic rock. A wondrous sight!
In a nutshell
Guests at Iconic Santorini are treated to outstanding hospitality with impressive rooms that are equal to the majestic views. A luxury hotel with plenty of character.
Deluxe rooms start from £331 per night, with the most expensive suites at £1002 in low season.
Address: Iconic Santorini, Imerovigli, Santorini 847 00, Greece
Phone: +30 2286 028950