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Santorini villas offer a slice of island paradise

An enchanting island paradise with an explosive past, Santorini is undoubtedly one of the Mediterranean’s most seductive islands

Forged of earth-shattering volcanic drama thousands of years ago, few places wear the mythos of their own formative history as explicitly as Santorini. And yet, for all the seismic tumult of its creation, a sense of soul-calming serenity now pervades the island, perhaps the best known of the Cyclades and a destination renowned for its stunning vistas and seductive, slow-paced Mediterranean atmosphere.

Santorini is essentially the remains of an enormous eruption that destroyed the volcanic Minoan island of Thera (‘Round Island’) in around 1628 BC. What remained after the eruption – one of the largest in recorded history - was no longer conventionally round; the core of the island collapsed into a caldera (a large volcanic crater), leaving a crescent of spectacular sheer cliffs behind.

Over the centuries, the aftershock of Santorini’s volcanic formation has gently matured into a stunning landscape of sheer, jutting cliffs decorated with a dazzling rainbow of volcanic rock and surrounded by the vivid cerulean blue waters of the Aegean sea.

Santorini villas – why rent?

There are many reasons why so many visitors to the Greek islands opt to rent a villa. For a start, all the islands, Santorini included, boast a wonderful choice of rental properties, ranging from well-located Santorini apartments in the heart of the island’s most appealing towns and villages, to expansive Santorini villas that offer a little slice of island paradise you can call your own for the duration of your stay.

Where to stay

What remains of Thera’s collapsed volcanic island is a rim of steep cliffs surrounding the caldera, essentially a vast rectangular lagoon. Several small islands form a fragmented periphery along the caldera’s western edge but the main island is to the east – this is where all Santorini’s main settlements and accommodation can be found.

When considering where to focus your search for Santorini villas, the first question you should ask yourself is whether you’d rather prioritise beach access or a stunning view across the caldera.

If you’re drawn to the former, two of Santorini’s most popular resorts, Kamari and Perissa – both situated on the east coast - stand out. Both villages offer long sandy beaches and an abundance of places to eat and drink. Once you get over the fact that the sand covering Santorini’s two most popular beaches is a few shades darker than you’re probably used to – a by-product of the island’s volcanic activity, you’ll discover warm, crystal clear waters, water sports and plenty of amenities.

The western rim of the island gazes down across the caldera from soaring, multi-coloured cliffs. It’s here that you’ll find the island’s most iconic views and Fira, its capital, arrayed precariously along the caldera edge. This beautiful, bustling village is a hive of stylish restaurants and bars, many of which offer soul stirring views across the caldera.

Further north is Oia, perhaps the island’s most picturesque village, which is going some considering the competition. Like Fira, Oia is perched on the cliff side overlooking the caldera and its exemplary whitewashed Cycladic architecture almost appears carved into the island’s steep volcanic rock face. Oia’s sunsets are legendary and its restaurants and accommodation largely cater to the luxury end of the market.

Set back slightly from the coastline, Pygos is no less magical. Thanks to its elevated position at the highest point of the island, Pyrgos – once a fortress settlement - offers breathtaking panoramic views across the whole island and an excellent choice of cafes and restaurants.

Food and drink in Santorini

For such a small island Santorini boasts a great choice of restaurants and bars, many of which offer stunning views across the caldera. The local cuisine makes good use of the island’s surprisingly fertile volcanic soil - delicious cherry tomatoes, uniquely sweet and juicy white aubergines and fresh seafood are the local specialities. Here’s our pick of the island’s gastronomic highlights:

  • Metaxy Mas (Exo Gonia)

One of Santorini’s best-loved restaurants, Metaxy Mas steers well clear of gimmicks and over-elaboration and delivers classic Cretan fare that perfectly matches the surroundings. The restaurant is housed in a classic rock-carved ‘yposkafo’, while the terrace offers fine views across Anafi. It’s a good idea to book ahead.

  • Selene (Pyrgos)

Perhaps Santorini’s most gastronomically sophisticated restaurant, Selene has elevated Cycladic cuisine to a new level of refinement – without trampling on the simplicity that defines it. Foodies on the lookout for a creative take on the local cuisine will find nowhere better on the island.

  • To Psaraki (Vlychada)

Widely regarded as the best seafood restaurant on Santorini, To Psaraki does an impeccable job of serving up the sort of dishes you really want to eat on a Greek Island holiday. Fresh fish dishes are accompanied by sensitively handled local ingredients and a gorgeous view across Vlychada’s picturesque quay.

  • Franco’s Bar (Fira)

This atmospheric Fira bar is probably the island’s most famous nightspot and there’s no denying that Franco’s delivers everything a discerning drinker might hope for from an enchanting Santorini evening. Offering an exceptional vantage point from which to take in a spectacular Santorini sunset, Franco’s soundtracks the view with stirring classical music and a fine local wine list.

Wineries

Wine has a long-established reputation as one of Santorini’s most revered local products. Over the centuries, the island’s unique volcanic terroir – known locally as ‘aspa’ – has proven to be an exceptionally fertile environment for the cultivation of vines and winemaking has thrived on the island since ancient times. This rich winemaking tradition remains a crucial part of Santorini’s identity, so much so that visitors can explore the local wine scene by stopping in at wineries and sampling their wares – rather like an Aegean Napa Valley.

  • Santo Wines (Pyrgos)

The largest winery on the island, Santo Wines showcases the modern face of Santorini’s wine industry and enjoys a spectacular cliff top vantage point – the perfect environment to sample some of the island’s finest wines at the end of an excellent winery tour.

  • Domaine Sigalas (Oia)

Open daily to the public for winery tours, Domaine Sigales is a fine example of Santorini winemaking that balances a respect for time honoured tradition with progressive technology and processes. The tasting room also happens to offer stunning sea views.

  • Gaia (Exo Gonia)

Housed in an ex-tomato cannery overlooking a dramatic black sand beach, Gaia Winery has brought new life to a relic of the island’s industrial past and now stands as a fine example of Santorini’s cutting edge approach to wine production.


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                                                                                                      Recent Reviews

                                                                                                      Spectacular, wonderful Villa

                                                                                                      5 of 5
                                                                                                      We booked this as a special treat for us as a family with two grown up children to get a long awaited family holiday together. It was truly fabulous. Exactly as the website described in every way. We arrived at the airport and were picked up by a taxi which had been arranged by the owner - free of charge. On arrival they met us and gave us a quick tour of the villa along with leaving us with a bottle of wine and water in the fridge. Fresh fruit was also left in the dining room for us to eat. We landed at 18.50 so by the time we got to the villa we were hungry and thirsty. Because it is on a hillside and a good walk into Kamari, especially after a long day of travelling, the owner arranged a lift into Kamari so we could get a meal and also brought us back to the villa when we had finished. One thing to note is that trying to ring a taxi from Kamari to the villa is probably impossible. The taxis's come from Fira and are unlikely to come to make such a short journey from Kamari to the Villa - or they could but would probably charge at least 40 euros. Therefore, a hire car is a must to get around. We hired from Ancient Thira Tours based in Kamari and they were fab. We would drive into Kamari on an evening with the hire car, park up, have a meal and some drinks and as long as we arrived back at the hire car office before 10.30pm, they would then drive us in our hire car back to the villa !!! Views from the villa and any of the several balconies were stunning and we had great enjoyment watching the landing and take off of all the flights into Kamari airport. Very spacious, fantastic decor, loads and loads of space. No end of towels for the sunbeds and showers. Lovely little extras of shower gels and hand washes. Big supply of soap powder and comfort for the washing machine. Board games and card available. A few nights before we were due to come home, Maria the owner's niece, texted and said she would love to cook the family a meal and what would we like? We said surprise us as we liked all Greek food. Maria came with a huge dish of moussaka and a huge bowl of Greek salad - wonderful. Truly memorable holiday that we will never forget not just for the wonderful villa, but the super hospitality of the owners, friendly Greek people and great restaurants in Kamari.
                                                                                                      • Review Submitted: Jun 24, 2017
                                                                                                      • Date of Stay: Jun 2017

                                                                                                      Wonderful, Authentic Villa - Wish we were still there!

                                                                                                      5 of 5
                                                                                                      Booked to stay in Christine and Marks property and WOW, it was even nicer than the photos! Myself, my partner and another couple decided to come to Santorini as we wanted to come to Greece and for it to be in a traditional setting. We decided on a 7 night stay as a group and then myself and partner booked to stay for an additional 4 nights beforehand staying in Oia. I was mildly concerned staying on such a small island for 11 nights but was in desperate need of some quiet time and relaxation however wanted enough nearby to visit other areas if we wanted to get out and about. This villa exceeded my expectations - it has everything you need from a huge terrace along with BBQ where we spent many nights enjoying each others company and playing cards. The villa is set in a quaint little village which has boutique shops, cobbled streets, plenty of tavernas and a lovely bakery nearby where you can obtain fresh bread each day. The bus stop is 5-10mins up the road where you can go to neighbouring villages/towns. The pool at the villa is awesome on hot days and is bigger than the picture looks. It is set in amongst a little cave which provides some shade when the sun gets too hot. Perfect for a sun worshiper like me as it gives you an opportunity to cool down. There is also a little ledge so that you can sit in the water with a glass of bubbles! I actually work in luxury travel and it was my first stay hiring a villa and I can honestly say that I preferred it than staying in a hotel! Must see's Black Beach, walk from Fira to Oia, wine tasting 15mins walk from the villa (overlooking the wonderful island) and visiting Parissa. Finally Mark and Christine really were the kindest hosts. Nothing was too much trouble and they looked after us in a professional and thoughtful manner. I would definitely stay at this villa again! Thank you for such a wonderful stay
                                                                                                      • Review Submitted: Jun 19, 2017
                                                                                                      • Date of Stay: Jun 2017