The Greek island of Santorini saw great success in respect of measures taken against Covid-19 this past season, especially in terms travel. I talk to Iconic Santorini, proudly named Greece’s Leading Luxury Boutique Hotel at the World Travel Awards in 2019 and Best Small Hotel in Europe 2020, about safe ways to explore the Greek islands, the implementation of measures on the island and in hotels and the effect of travelling on wellbeing.

As an introduction, can you tell us a bit about the background of Iconic Santorini?

The former Icons Santorini Hotel was acquired in February of 2013 and when the new owners visualized how the existing property could be improved, they actually looked to the past. Most of the accommodations once served as handmade cave homes until the 1950’s and a few of the original chimneys still dot the property. Some of the water storage cisterns were converted into romantic indoor plunge pools and the Iconic Suite once served as the village bakery of Imerovigli which still features the original well-preserved wood oven.

After an extensive renovation to all accommodations and public areas, followed by a full refit – Iconic Santorini, a boutique cave hotel was born. To honour the history and Cycladic architecture, architectural and design firm of A&T Kontodimas, located in Athens was selected to lay out and execute the restoration. Brothers Alexis and Tasos Kontodimas are renowned for their work on private estates and quickly understood the opportunity to produce a very special hotel. Working closely with ownership and senior members of the operations, their specific objective was to capture the authentic feeling of a traditional Greek residence.

Instead of numbers, letters of the Greek alphabet were used to identify each residence. A traditional key box is used to display the keys and in keeping with the theme, each has a metal tag etched with the corresponding Greek letter. An all-white colour palette was selected to maximize the feeling of space and cleanliness. It includes touches such as white televisions and remote controls, white telephones and all white soft goods accented with colourful Greek details.

Each of today’s 19 enchanting Greek-style residences capture the spirit of the caldera where traditional cave accommodations combine the finest contemporary amenities and authentic Greek styling.

Who would be your ideal guest and why would they choose Iconic Santorini?

Visiting friends of Iconic Santorini seek the ultimate in relaxation, be it a romantic retreat or those seeking an escape from the stresses of daily life. Our haven of tranquillity affords unparalleled serenity in a unique residential setting where visitors can wind away timeless days while being attended to according to their individual preferences.

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What sets your hotel apart from other hotels on Santorini?

The Iconic family warmly welcomes guests as visiting friends in a serene residential setting, giving the feeling they are visiting the home of a close Greek friend. Our romantic haven of tranquillity is situated on the rim of the volcanic cliffs at the highest point of the caldera in picturesque Imerovigli village. Our inspired local chef visits the market each day and compiles a daily menu based on the freshest available ingredients. Visitors are encouraged to pass by the open kitchen to see what is being prepared for the day and learn a thing or two about chef’s recipes, passed down through family generations.

Do you think that travelling has a positive effect on wellbeing?

Absolutely, our visitors often share with us that taking a break from the routine of daily life greatly contributes towards their mental and physical wellbeing.

What makes your luxury suites unique?

Offering a choice of accommodation options, authentic handmade cave residences are tucked into the cliffs, all providing designated terraces with spectacular views of the Aegean and historic volcano below. Lavish amenities provided standard throughout include all-natural 4-layer beds for a heavenly sleep experience and lavish bath products for the ultimate pampering.

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There’s lots to do on Santorini Island – what would be the ideal day for a guest at your hotel?

Our experienced Guest Services team are proud ambassadors of Santorini island, pleased to compose itineraries of activities and sights based on the preferences of our visitors for truly unforgettable memories. This lovely island features some wonderful opportunities for a number of activities and our visitors typically enjoy caldera sailing and boat tours; wine tours and tastings; museums; hiking; adventure sports and helicopter tours. There are also those who arrive with many plans only to remain at the property for most of or even the entire duration of their stays. A typical day on site would include a delightful breakfast overlooking the caldera after a later start to the day; sun bathing while taking in the property’s dramatic setting and sublime infinity pool; sampling the delicious authentic cuisine and perhaps indulging in one of our soothing massage treatments.

According to The Kiwi Collection, Iconic Santorini was voted the most romantic hotel in 2019; can you tell us about your Iconic Santorini Romance Packages for lovers?

The dreamy haven that is Iconic Santorini presents an idyllic escape for long-lasting memories with the one you love. Our visitors are always treated as individuals and we are pleased to put together romance packages based on their specific requirements, be it an appropriate choice of residence category; desired amenities; whether they prefer an indoor or outdoor plunge pool (some choose both); special dining preferences and private excursions.

For those who visit Santorini for the first time, what local dishes do you recommend to try at your Pergola Restaurant?

The local chef takes great pride in his heritage and insists on freshness in honour of his family’s age-old recipes. His traditional tomato keftedes (fritters) made with Santorinian cherry tomatoes is a must, as is the fava bean dip, saganaki cheese, our delicious souvlaki and you can’t go wrong with a hearty moussaka dish. As chef visits the market daily, seafood is always right off the boat so an octopus dish or a fresh grilled fish will also not disappoint.

One of your luxurious features is your iconic, delicious all-day breakfast – what makes your breakfast so unique?

Our delightful breakfast has become a real talking point, served to the personal terrace outside each residence, visitors can opt for the day’s surprise offerings or rather order exactly what they feel for. The best part of the Iconic daily breakfast is that it can be savoured at any time throughout the day, a true luxury for those seeking a late start – especially honeymooners and romantics.

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You have many awards and accolades; can you share some of your achievements?

Among a string of industry accolades received since opening, in 2014 the property was listed among Tatler’s 101 Best Hotels in the World, the 25 Best New Hotels by UK Times and Smith Awards mentioned the hotel in their Top 10 Best Newcomers. Iconic Santorini also held the World Travel Awards title of Greece’s Leading Boutique Hotel from 2014 to 2017 and more recently, was named Best Boutique Hotel on a Global Level in 2018 and Best Small Hotel in Europe for 2019 at the prestigious Haute Grandeur Global Awards.

Considering the current pandemic and quarantine measures, are you currently open for visitors? What measures do you consider in the hotel for the safety of your guests?

The island of Santorini saw great success in respect of measures taken against Covid-19 this past season. The authorities certified our operation for the successful implementation of all pertinent steps and in most cases, our efforts actually exceed the already high national standards in Greece. We proudly partnered with the Central Clinic of Santorini, offering highly-trained medical, nursing, paramedical and administrative staff at their 24-hour facility which provides state-of-the-art equipment and health services.

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Only residents of Iconic Santorini are granted access to the property and visits from outside guests is strictly prohibited. Each of our Greek-style cave residences are located a safe distance from each other, featuring personal sun loungers and table seating on personal terrace areas. The property’s layout and abundant open spaces make it a very good choice to seamlessly implement effective social distancing, such as the much-loved Iconic breakfast which is served outside each unit.

How can our readers contact you and follow on social media?

Iconic Santorini can be found on the website and on the following social media platforms using the @iconicsantorini handle: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.