Santo Maris Oia: Inside our favourite Santorini hotel for late-summer sun

·3-min read
Photo credit: Santo Maris
Photo credit: Santo Maris

Greece may have hundreds of islands but few of them know how to lure the crowds quite like Santorini. This croissant-shaped Cycladic isle was blown apart by a volcanic eruption circa 1600 BC to dazzling effect – the result is the caldera (or crater), one of the biggest in the world.

Now, the half-moon coastline curves around the caldera and the sparkling Aegean, with the other three landmasses, once a part of Thira (confusingly, the Greek name for Santorini), visible – including Thirassia, or little Thira. This small, sleepy isle can be crossed over to on day trips, especially advisable for anyone in search of the 1950s (perhaps you’ve recently read A Theatre For Dreamers, Polly Samson’s unforgettable account of life on Hydra, half a century ago…).

For a late-summer escape, Santorini is the perfect destination, reached by direct seasonal flights from the UK within a few hours and still balmy into October. Plus: sunsets. As for the best Santorini hotels, Santo Maris, just a 20-minute drive, and on the edge of Oia, is the ideal place to stay, especially if you’re only visiting for a few days.

First impressions

Santo Maris is the model Cycladic village of your dreams: smooth, glossy concrete, stone walls and whitewashed dwellings with curved roofs, all with a backdrop of dazzling Greek blues (sea and sky) by day, with some bougainvillea thrown in for good measure. The rooms, more like compact, standalone villas, are each named after a Greek island – they are separated into archipelagos (Ionian, Cyclades, Sporades and Dodecanese), and each cluster has its own pool to share.

As well as being somewhere you’d happily spend your entire time on the island, the hotel has a handy footpath, taking you up to Oia in a matter of minutes. This is where the crowds congregate every night for the famous Santorini sunset, but your private (plunge-pool-enhanced) terrace or the hotel’s cocktail bar Akratos are a far more advisable location.

Checking in

The hotel has a very slick, international feel in its efficient, all-cream reception. After a delayed EasyJet flight, it felt like quite the contrast to be sat on a spotless sofa with an ice-cold drink as we checked in.

The spa

Guests can head straight down from the breakfast buffet to the cavernous underground Anassa Spa. You can book Cretan massages, mud masks, avocado facials, private yoga or just enjoy a swim in the pool.

The dining

Santorini is honeymoon and proposal central, so its restaurants are practically implored to be romantic. This means fine-dining is the flavour of the day – for a more laid-back (but equally delicious) take on the concept, Alios Ilios is the supper setting for you. We swapped French fizz for Santorini-made sparkling wine and were not disappointed. The amuse-bouche set the bar high for the signature tasting menu and the next course of grouper ceviche was even better.

The extras

If time-travel is calling, head back to a sleepy Greek island of yore with a trip over to Thirassia, where there are just 150 residents (but more than 20 churches). The hotel team can arrange cycling and hiking while you’re there, as well as picnics.

Or if you’ve had a hectic summer and want a little peace and quiet now the kids are back at school, sign up for a stay in Santo Maris’ serene Wellness Suites, which were designed in partnership with British spa expert Suzanne Duckett. The package includes peaceful day trips to Thirassia. These are also a fabulous choice for a babymoon.

Suites at Santo Maris start from about £250 per night, including breakfast.

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