Marie Claire's Kate Stephens visits Canaves Oia Hotel, Santorini - the stunning five star, luxury resort in Thira's most beautiful village...
It really is almost impossible not to fall in love with Santorini. In every way the archetypal Greek Island, from the white-washed buildings and wildflowers lining the roads as you journey from the airport through the steeply terraced landscape, to the piercing blue of the Aegean: Thira, to give it its official name, is just about as perfect as it gets.
And it’s the image of Thira’s most beautiful village, Oia, that paints a deeply familiar picture of azure domed churches, winding streets and a sunset so beautiful it draws in a crowd at the end of every single day.
Where To Stay:
If you are looking for luxury on a blissful island it’s here: Canaves Oia. In every way deserving of its five stars, Canaves comprises a hotel, suites and villas: all the epitome of boutique luxe and all with the most astounding views over the caldera.
We stayed in the Canaves Oia Hotel where the suites are carved in to the steep cliff-side – renovated products of Oia’s past and very much a defining characteristic of it. Whitewashed outside and in, the ambiance is calm and consciously luxurious from the second you step off the cobbled pathway into the reception.
There is a range of suites to choose from. The cheapest: the classic and junior suites, costing €365 and €435 a night, respectively (at the time of writing).
Fancy going all out luxe? Try the grand suite that comes with a king size bed on a loft elevation, a bathroom with hydro bath and a second double bedroom (€950); or go for the river pool suite that comes with a private veranda and the open air dining area too (€900).
Newly-weds (of which there are *many* in Santorini) can indulge in the honeymoon suite (€790), which comes with a private veranda (for those ‘intimate moments’), a plunge pool Jacuzzi and, again, an open air dining area.
We stayed somewhere in the middle, in quite a divine superior suite (€630) with a private plunge pool.
Light and airy, the suite becomes increasingly – and wonderfully – cave-like as you make your way in from the open sitting and dining area… head forward for the bedroom and then the bathroom; turn left for the dressing area and shower room – no, shower cave – complete with the most enormous rain-shower you have ever seen.
The staff are faultless, from the above-and-beyond waiting staff who run up and down the many, many stairs to cater for your every order and request, whether it’s a four-course breakfast on your private terrace or a cooling cocktail, to the charming hotel manager Markos, whose parents founded the hotel back in the ‘70s with only four canaves.
And did I mention the private plunge pool?
The food and drink at Canaves is delicious. Local tomatoes finish off the not-at-all-humble Greek salads perfectly; local fava and tzatziki are obvious but lovely staples and the rest of the menu is full of fresh fish and meats. If you do get the chance to book in for the Greek night at the Canaves Suites just 5 minutes away, do: a satisfying run of local treats (ending in baklava, naturally) served by candlelight, overlooking the caldera is just a lovely, lovely experience.
While You Are There:
First thing you absolutely have to do: see the sunset. Walk through Oia to the Northwest end of the village. You don’t need directions – just follow the crowds to the castle.
It’s an initiation and one that, fittingly, isn’t without challenge: the tiny streets through Oia are hideously crowded even out of peak season. But battle on, do your best to find a spot and just watch as the sun melts in to the sea, molten in to liquid with no clear point of definition.
And then bolt before the masses head back too…
While you are in Oia, do take some time to browse the ceramics, jewellery and clothing boutiques that line the winding streets: there are loads and you can find some really beautiful buys if you have room in your case to take them home.
Final must, must do: take a catamaran trip round the island. Tours are run by Sunset Oia (an extension of the Canaves family) and are a brilliant way to take in the island, the caldera and the sparkling Aegean.
We tried a 5-hour trip that took us first to the hot springs at the heart of the caldera. An over-crowded spot, the springs sit between sulphur-stained lava rock formations and a decent swim away from where your boat can anchor. If you don’t dive in (and don’t if you’re not a strong swimmer) it’s fascinating to think that you are floating above a volcano and one that shaped the island so dramatically when it exploded (and subsequently imploded, obviously), monumentally in the late Bronze Age.
Surrounded by thousands–of-years-old lava, look ahead to the island grown out of it and you’ll see a small hut where the local hermit lives. The local hermit who has both mobile phone and a TV apparently…
Then it’s out to open waters for a stunning view of Santorini in all its vertiginous glory. You’ll take in the red beach and black beach and, depending on the season and the conditions, jump in the sea for a spot of snorkelling. Then it’s on board for a delicious lunch at the dining table – the shrimp saganaki with feta was just divine.
When To Visit:
Canaves Oia is open from 1st April to 15th November. June to September are the hottest months with temperatures hitting 27 degrees; we visited in May when the days were a pleasing 20 degrees – so warm enough to sunbathe – and the nights we a little chilly (and great to sleep in).
To book and for all additional information go to Canaves.com. For more information or to book a catamaran trip check out Sunset Oia’s site at Sailing-santorini.com. You can also ask at the hotel or suites’ reception for more information.