Santorini, named for St Irene, is one of Greece’s most popular islands, and from June through to September hotels, all unforgettable for so many reasons, are jam-packed. The most exclusive are in Imerovigli, at 1,000 ft up, the highest point in this Cyclades island. Think of a 3-D jigsaw and this is how hotels here are packed in, one bit of land protruding into its neighbour, but no-one minds. To get to Iconic Santorini, for instance, after leaving the car there is a ten-minute walk, up and down the twisting four foot-wide road, past the jewellery-boutique-like reception of Hotel Chromata, and, five minutes later, down past the open reception of On The Rocks Hotel. End of the road is the super-luxury Iconic Santorini.
What makes this super-luxury? Where else are you offered a choice of Caran d’Ache, Mont Blanc and Peugeot pens to sign the register? Where else on this island are no others allowed to come? The pool and the restaurant are hotel-guests only, and although they do have 19 rooms – understatement for the styles of lodging – they try never to have them all occupied, and if they can upgrade you they will. Somehow, they have managed, from day one, back in 2013 when the current Chilean owner bought the place, to fill as many as they want, at the rate they definitely want, with no branding, no affiliation (Mantis Collection merely handles SEO and replies to TripAdvisor).
Andreas Nauheimer, the long-time Hyatt operator who now, as owner’s representative, put this super hotel together is obviously a visionary. He wanted Iconic Santorini to be different, and it is. Perched cliff-side high above the Mediterranean, he knew guests would not get down to the water so he brought it to them. All rooms have outdoor seating with blue-tiled tables the colour of the sea. All rooms have indoor and/or outdoor plunge pools – I was in Psi (all rooms have Greek-alphabet names), the Cliff Suite, with a nearly-private terrace and jacuzzi, and a totally-private enormous indoor plunge pool, big enough for swimming and at least suitable for the Dom Pérignon that some Middle Eastern guests order as soon as they arrive by private jet. Nauheimer also, cleverly, brought in a bubbly Argentinian, Marcela Alfaya, as GM.
Nothing is too much trouble for this dynamo, who is not happy with OTAs because bookings are all so anonymous that she cannot personalise a visit beforehand. She also hates the fact that people booking via an OTA are not always aware that the gorgeous Iconic Santorini does not accept any child under 14 and it is, frankly, absolutely unsuitable for anyone with the slightest mobility or breathing challenges. From Psi, for instance, it was 133 steps up to Reception and the public ‘road’, for which read ‘mountain path’. Most of the treads are bearable but, from Psi up to the next level, the treads were over 11 inches (yes, there is a lovely bijou Cybex gym but, honestly, with the hotel’s infinity pool plus rooms’ plunge pools and all those steps, not surprisingly no-one except me ever seemed to use it). Two more points about this truly unforgettable hotel. The 19 staff who, apart from baking and laundry, make the whole thing work, 24/7, are one reason people come back again and again. Another is the food…BUT BEFORE EATING AND DRINKING, SEE A VIDEO OF SEMI-CAVE PSI, THE CLIFF SUITE, WITH ITS WHOLE-ROOM INDOOR POOL