Summer doesn’t officially end until 23 September and air and sea temperatures in October are still very pleasant on a Greek island. Plus, there are far fewer crowds. At the tip of the northern horn of Santorini is Ia (or Oia), the island’s second largest town and the Aegean’s most photographed village. Here, some of the island’s most spectacular sunsets can be enjoyed. The landscape is in two halves, the black of the volcanic cliffs and the white of the marble high street, churches and cave houses, many of which have been transformed into luxury hotels that are painted four times a season to keep their white curves sparkling.
Ikies, a boutique hotel on the edge of Oia, is an excellent choice as it’s close to the village but its discreet location means it is quieter than other hotels. The hotel has thirteen villas and suites. The Honeymoon suites have steam rooms and there’s also one very private two-bed villa with jetted plunge pool at the top of the complex. All the attractive suites look like they have been sculpted out of the cliffs. Fresh white staircases connect the various suites built in the traditional Santorini style. The suites all have generous terraces and private hot tubs looking over the Caldera (the crater in the center of the island formed by one of the strongest volcanic eruptions about 3,000 years ago). At night you can watch the elegant catamarans and sailboats make their way into the bay for the spectacular sunsets.
The suites at Ikies respect the scale and design of most multi-level hotels in the area. Like lego blocks, each suite or villa seems to build on top of one another. This does mean that there isn’t much privacy as terraces for each villa are side by side. However they are generous in size and the views are incredible, plus there’s a small pool tucked away on a lower terrace for all guests. The rooms are well designed in the traditional white décor but with contemporary styling. The rooms have high ceilings and the overall feeling is fresh and breezy, especially in the mornings and evenings.
The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant but they’ve recently introduced in-room/al fresco dining featuring a varied menu from talented young chef Socratis Maligani who dishes up his delicious take on local food. The generous breakfast featuring Greek yogurt, nuts and granola served with tahini and pastries or Full English is also served on each guest’s terrace. Lunch includes traditional Greek or Santorini salads.
Great service is often what makes a hotel stand out and the staff at Ikies are excellent, ensuring that guests’ needs are met at all hours. George single-handedly served dinner, put up umbrellas and tended to the hot tub with a single request.
A path from the hotel leads past the lovely blue-domed church and through the boutiques and shops in picturesque Oia but getting out onto the water is essential to fully appreciate Santorini. A sailing trip around the volcano on a catamaran which departs from either the marina at Ammoudi Bay just below Oia or a private boat excursion are both good options.
There are a plethora of boat companies on Santorini, many of which pack people aboard and race between beauty spots, not allowing enough time to enjoy anywhere properly. Two companies that really stand out from the crowd and are highly recommended are Water Blue Travel for leisurely catamaran trips with a delicious lunch and no more than 12 people or, for a really private trip, a speedboat excursion with My Blue Cruises will take you close to scenic places that the larger boats can’t access. Both companies will take you to swim in the volcanic springs.
For a special meal outside of Ikies, on the other side of Oia village, the exquisite tasting menu at Canaves Elements Restaurant takes local gastronomy to the next level. Executive Chef Tassos Stefatos has created four fantastic tasting menus that blend modern European cuisine with Greek touches. Flavors are simple yet complicated, with an element of surprise key to the experience. The world tasting menu features duck and turbot, the Greek menu includes Sofigado, a delicious beef stew, the signature menu is seafood based with King Crab and langoustines while the vegetarian menu features a delicious pithivier pie.
Ikies Santorini, Oia, 84702 Cyclades, Greece. Suites start from 500 euros per night, including breakfast.