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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

                                                                                                      Quiet villa, but in small town easy walking to tavernas and minimarkets etc

                                                                                                      5 of 5
                                                                                                      Santorini a bustling busy island even in October. Possible to find quieter sights and beaches on East and South of island. Main towns have to be visited and the caldera views. Interesting archeological sites, much more extensive than we expected and prehistoric museum worth a visit to complete the story.
                                                                                                      • Review Submitted: Oct 16, 2017
                                                                                                      • Date of Stay: Oct 2017

                                                                                                      Interesting accommodation - great pool

                                                                                                      4 of 5
                                                                                                      This is a very unusual house built into a cave. We went there (a couple and a single friend in our 60s) for a week at the beginning of October. The transfer from the airport went seamlessly and the owner could not have been more welcoming and friendly. The village has some tavernas, bars and supermarkets and it is worth exploring up near the church - some lovely little streets. Buses to and from Thira and Parissa go through the village and we visited Thira, Parissa, Oia. Beware if you want to go somewhere else en route as many of the buses are “express” and do not stop at other places. We did not hire a car but in retrospect it would have made life easier. The swimming pool was great - though unheated so it was pretty cold by the start of October. The decor of the house was in keeping and it looked authentic and interesting. It was clean and the kitchen was well equipped. The double bed was not very comfortable and bedside lights and some chests of drawers would have been useful. In general we had a very good time. The thing we want to point out, which was not made clear, is that this house is completely open plan so although it is marketed as a two bedroomed property there are no doors except for the bathroom, and the bedrooms are in very close proximity in alcoves. There is no privacy. We managed because we are pretty laid back and have a sense of humour but it really wouldn’t work for many as you were really sharing a room! Also it is worth pointing out that there are about half a dozen ginger cats constantly trying to get into the house so the doors had to stay shut. They belong to the farm next door so it would be difficult for the owner to do anything about them but they were a bit much. We would recommend this property for a couple, or a couple with small children - not teenagers!
                                                                                                      • Review Submitted: Oct 15, 2017
                                                                                                      • Date of Stay: Sep 2017