Sunday, 9 September 2012

Santorini - Greek Islands

Where? Santorini, Greece
Exactly? The Grace in Imerovigli and
                Mystique in Oia 
When? August 2012
Why? Greek summer holiday

Santorini - What to wear when you're there

Me wearing 2nd Day blue dress
Style in Santorini is chic and minimal, just like the architecture of this stunning Cycladic Island. What to pack? Flat sandals are a must! The streets and roads are very steep, even getting to some of the beaches involves a climb up volcanic-rock hills (Red Beach). It's hard enough walking to your hotel room (if you're staying cliffside), there's no need to complicate things with extra inches on your feet. Santorini is extremely stylish, but don't go bling, think elegant and sophisticated. Bold bright colours look stunning against the white-washed surfaces.  For men, crisp white shirts, canvas Tom's shoes and tailored shorts are de rigueur. The tourists and locals here have an eye for fashion, the key is to look like you've just stepped off your million pound yacht, whether you have or not!

Evening in Thira Town
Clockwise from left to right: Sunglasses - Bottega Veneta, Blue dress - 2nd Day, Deco clutch - Lara Bohinc, Marble ring - Bvlgari, crystal bracelet - Swarovski Crystallized, Jewelled sandals - Bertie, Sun necklace - Emma Chapman jewellery, Concealer - Bobbi Brown, Superliner eyeliner - L'Oreal

Day on the yacht:
Clockwise from left to right: Sky blue bikini - Melissa Odabash at, Galaxy print vest dress - Christopher Kane (last season), White marbled sunglasses - Prism, Neon pink nail polish - American Apparel, Chakra bracelet - Daisy Jewellery, Star biography bracelet - Astley Clarke, Charka necklace - Daisy Jewellery, Turquoise ring - Dorothy Perkins

Day at the Spa
Clockwise from left to right: Hooded towel dress - Heidi Klein, Ring - Emma Chapman Jewellery, Daily moisturier - Cowshed, Light hair oil - Morrocan Oil, Factor 15 sun screen - Clarins, Sandals - Ancient Greek Sandals, I-pad - Apple.

Ring - Emma Chapman

Mr Style Traveller wears:
Clockwise from left to right: Blue shorts - River Island, Printed Shirt - Tommy Hilfiger Promise Collection, Sunglasses - Rayban, Smartphone - BlackBerry, Shoes - Tom's at Office, Hair gel - Label M.

Street Style
beach boho
monochrome chic
Kalia looks beautiful in a printed kaftan and wedges
Mix feminine crochet with dressed down denim shorts
Loving the pale blue chinos and canary yellow clash
Be bold with colours, they're offset perfectly by the white backdrops

Santorini - Sunbathing, Sightseeing and Eating

One of the Cycladic Islands off the south-east coast of Greece, Santorini is largely regarded as one of the most picturesque of all the Greek Islands. It's small so you won't need more than a few days to see the sights. A great way to get around is to hire a car as the road routes are easy to navigate. I went for a week which is the perfect length of stay for sight seeing and allowing plenty of time for sunbathing.

The main places to see and visit are:

It's the capital city and the main commercial hub of the island. Filled with shops, bars and cafes, many of the islands best restaurants are here, it also has a port so lots of cruises and boat trips set sail from here.

Santorini is a popular wedding destination

Boat trip to the Caldera 
Charter a boat and visit the volcanic Caldera. Trek to the top of the volcano, stop off for a swim in the hot springs and have lunch prepared for you by the skipper. Boats leave the port of Thira every morning, but think about chartering a yacht of your own for the day. Its more expensive, but totally worth it. 

The Beaches
One of Santorini's unique points is that the beaches have different coloured sand due to the volcanic nature of the island. 

Black Rose suites and pool bar
Black Beach
Formed from volcanic ash and rocks, yes you guessed it...the sand is black! Black Beach spans a large section of the south-east coast of the island. I stumbled across a great place for cocktails, the Black Rose Suites in Perivolos. It faces onto the beach, but behind it huge imposing hills make for a very surreal setting. I highly recommend the frozen margaritas!!

Red Beach
Is a small cove beach south-west of the island. It gets very busy in high summer and the walk to the beach is a mini trek over some rocky terrain. An easier way to get to it is on the boat cruises that take you to all the beaches. It's a nice enough beach but don't be too upset is you don't have time for it in your schedule. It is near the ancient archaeological site of Akrotiri.

Santorini is a culinary island, there are so many fantastic restaurants here. Be warned it can get really expensive though, so make sure you check the price lists before you sit down. There are hundreds of Greek style traditional tavernas, I highly recommend these as most are cheap and delicious. Here is a run down of some my favourite restaurants in Santorini.

Set on a cliff side in the tiny village of Exo Gonia, Metaxy Mas is the ultimate traditional Greek Taverna, with a view. Frequented by locals and intrepid tourists alike the prices are low, service fantastic and tastes sensational!

Amoudi Bay, Oia
Restaurants in Oia
In Oia you must visit Amoudi Bay, a tiny inlet housing 4 or 5 restaurants at the bottom of the cliff. Get dropped off at the top of the hill and walk down the cliffside, visiting quaint shops and galleries on the way, or just drive to the sea front. Pick your favourite restaurant, they are all delicious. Sunset is a lovely time to visit, you can watch the fishing boats return to harbour whilst sitting by the sea edge, dipping your toes in the water with a chilled glass of Santorini wine. 

Me in Amoudi Bay

Hailed as the Heston Blumenthal of Santorini, Nikos Pouliasis' restaurant Koukoumavlos is renowned for its experimental menu. Think crayfish in white chocolate sauce, with ginger, lime, anchovy caviar and green apple carpaccio or try the Kataifi of cheeses, which is fine Greek white cheese, wrapped in hair angel pasta, flavored with rose petals in a watermelon sauce with mint and cucumber jelly. 
Note, it is expensive and make sure you book in advance, but it's definitely worth a try!

Santorini - Sleeping

The infinity pool at The Grace (I loved it so much, I made it the banner for my blog!)

Hotels and Where to Stay in Santorini
The main areas to stay in Santorini are - Thira (the capital)
- Oia and Imerovigli, small villages made up of buildings carved into the sides of cliffs
- Megalochori, a tiny rural village surrounded by vineyards is also a lovely (less hilly) option. 

Oia and Imerovigli are the 'picture postcard' Santorini, with incredible views of the Caldera (sunken volcano), but be warned the hillsides are ridiculously steep and not suitable for anyone who has walking difficulties or is unfit! I go running two or three times a week and I was struggling at times! 

In my opinion Thira was a little too busy and commercial for a relaxing holiday, so I wouldn't opt for that, unless you're with a group of friends and want to be in the thick of it. In truth though the island is tiny, you can see all of the main sites in two or three days, so the area you stay in doesn't make a huge amount of difference.

I've been lucky enough to stay in a few incredible properties each in different areas, so I could get a real feel for the island. The beautiful boutique hotel Vedema in Megalachori is surrounded by vineyards and picturesque countryside. Mystique is a fantastic design hotel built into the side of the cliffs in Oia and The Canaves in Oia is also beautiful. My favourite of all the hotels is The Grace in Imerovigli. I love this hotel! So much so that I used the image of the infinity pool as the banner of my blog.

The Grace in Imerovigli
With an award winning chef and the most spectacular views on the island, it's hardly surprising that The Grace is part of the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List for 2012 and was voted Greece's best boutique hotel in the World Travel Awards 2009 and 2010. The service is impeccable and the whitewashed minimal-modern architecture is stunning. If you can afford it it's definitely worth getting one of the rooms with its own plunge pool, its perfect for romantic special occasions. The Grace is an incredible hotel, I can't recommend it enough.

The infinity pool at The Grace at sunset
Mystique in Oia
Mystique in Oia
With breathtaking sea views of the caldera, the Mystique in Oia is all about laid back luxury and style.  Incorporating driftwood and natural raw materials into the furnishings and decor, gives the 22 rooms and villas a traditional homely and rustic feel. This hotel oozes charisma and the chic poolside is divinely tranquil.

Bye Bye Santorini.

Santorini - Map

View Santorini in a larger map