There aren’t enough words to describe the island of Santorini. The hilltop location of each town makes for the most jaw-dropping views you’ve ever seen: sweeping, expansive vantage points of the Aegean Sea and the floating islands in the caldera, tiny little boats casting lines into the waves below, blues on blues as the sky meets the sea.
There’s a ghost-like quality to the mornings here: a touch of fog here and there, a few patches of sunlight breaking through the clouds, a certain calm before the island stretches its arms and comes to life. At night, you cast your eyes over an expanse of darkness from the cliffs to the sea, illuminated by the sparkling lights of the town and stunning pops of turquoise glowing from the plunge pools.
We stayed just steps away from the town of Oia at the famed Canaves Oia Hotel, thanks to our friend Markos and his incredible hospitality. It’d be an understatement to say we simply stayed here: we experienced the property from top to bottom, from breakfast to dinner, from spa to room service and everything in between. We especially experienced the sangrias by the pool bar, which are a must.
We stayed in a River Pool Suite, which was perfection, and we were thrilled to learn it’s the most Instagram-med room on the property thanks to the magnificent pool that snakes its way from the bathroom to the patio (you can enter from either location, an incredible layout that I’ve never before seen at a hotel).
While there are certain destinations where you might argue that the hotel experience doesn’t matter, Santorini is far from one of those. Each hotel has something unique to bring to the table, but Canaves Oia stands, to me, as quintessential Santorini. With its charming staff and perfect location not too far down the hillside and not too far from town, it’s the embodiment of the island’s spirit. You feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook with bright pink and red bougainvillea climbing the stark white walls.
The property is a true five star experience and, while I’ve seen some fantastic boutique hotels during my time in the industry, I’ve never seen such a high caliber family run hotel until Canaves Oia. Spending time with Markos and hearing the stories of the property gave me a new perspective of supporting local hotels, both as an agent and a consumer.
As much as my heart flutters at a solid fancy pants big-name brand, there’s something really special about the soul that a family puts into their property and it’s not hard to grasp that at Canaves Oia. It’s a great trend that our entire society is turning to, as well, with the past few years of supporting small businesses. The current tagline is to shop local, but I’m hopeful to see a resurgence of staying local, as well.
As of three weeks ago, with the opening of the Sunday Suites, Canaves consists of three separate hotel sections, all perfectly situated throughout the town of Oia. Sunday Suites have made a splash in the industry already and, after seeing them firsthand, I can tell you why. Canaves has managed to bring to life a vision of slight whimsy, with the bright white donkeys perched along the poolside and at the restaurant, without sacrificing any of the spirit that makes the property so special and so luxurious.
That same whimsy is laced throughout the entire town of Oia: for all of the manmade sites, from the famous blue-domed churches to the layers and layers of buildings alongside the hill, the destination manages to remain light and airy and ethereal.
Even the story we were told upon arrival about the island’s heritage is a bit whimsical. Our driver, so kindly arranged by our friends at Eclectic Greece, informed us that the hilltop villages were originally painted white so that they would look like snow-capped mountains to confuse passing pirates.
I don’t know how historically accurate that is since we were also told white was just the cheapest paint color (because it was once made from ASBESTOS before anyone knew any better – eek!), but I’m choosing to believe the pirate story since it makes the island that much more endearing to me.
As we spent the day sailing on Sunset Oia’s nicest catamaran (the sailing tours are a must to begin with and it’s totally worth it to spend a little more and go on the 560), I kept glancing at the city from the sea and agreed that if I were a pirate, I’d definitely be convinced that those were snowcapped mountains. I would choose to invade elsewhere, to leave Santorini as the dream that it is.
Truth or fable, the story stuck with me, as did the island. Santorini is such an otherworldly experience that you’ll be questioning whether or not it’s all truth or fable – you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.
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