Istoria Hotel, Santorini
Travel has long been an inspiring source of storytelling, with holidays providing a memory bank of anecdotes. The Istoria Hotel (which is Greek for story) on the volcanic island of Santorini has its own fascinating tale to tell. It began life as a mansion and stables for legendary Greek socialite Christina Tassou, whose father was a horsekeeper for Greek royalty. A night at a palace ball led to Christina catching the eye of the King of Jordan and her disapproving father's drastic response was to send her to live in Istanbul. The king travelled across Europe in pursuit of her affection to no avail and it was here, in Santorini, where Christina finally settled.
She later moved to Italy and the Istoria mansion was left vacant for a number of years, before husband-and-wife hoteliers Antonis and Kalia Eliopoulos stepped in. Drawn in by Christina's colourful life, they were also wowed by an unseen corner of Santorini. Overlooking the charcoal-black Perivolos Beach on the south-eastern coast, Istoria is about as far away as you can get (both in location and appearance) from the classic whitewashed villages Santorini is known for – but it's no less magical. Instead, Cycladic minimalism runs gloriously throughout the resort, its design careful not to detract from the glittering Aegean Sea views and soot-hued sands inherited from the island's volcanic nature. Elements of black can be found throughout the resort in its pillows, umbrellas and the stone used to construct the main swimming pool – the largest one in Santorini.
Christina's spirit has also survived in the equine references littered around the resort, from the leather bridles and stone water troughs to the vaulted ceilings of the former stables. You can even follow in her hoof-steps with horse rides on the beach, an experience complemented by a plethora of thrilling water sports. Away from the limelight of postcard villages like Oia and Fira, Istoria is nestled in one of the island's quietest corners – no wonder Christina loved it here so much. But that is just one reason why it's such an exciting chapter in Santorini's story. Now, you can write your own.
Istoria Hotel, Santorini
Istoria comprises just 12 suites, with each one named after the word for 'story' in several languages – Tarina (Finnish) and Recit (French) are just a couple. Six have been converted from Christina Tassou's former stables.
Inside, every suite's layout is distinctively different but each one has elegant curved archways and ceilings, while the walls are coated in blush-coloured plaster that really embodies the resort's island location. The furnishings and linens are similarly muted, adding splashes of chocolate-brown, clay and beige to your room, while the bathrooms are stocked with toiletries by Greek brand Korres. Every suite is also accompanied by an outside space; depending on which room type you pick, you'll have a balcony or courtyard, some which also feature a plunge pool or hot-tub. Some rooms also have beautiful sea views.
Istoria's one restaurant, Mr. E, is led by celebrated Greek chef Alexandros Tsiotinis. The restaurant itself is named after owner Antonis Eliopoulos and like the resort's overall modern outlook, Alexandros Tsiotinis' inventiveness shines through in a menu filled with reimagined Greek gastronomy – think traditional taverna food with a contemporary twist.
Breakfast is a fresh mix of salads, yoghurts, porridge and eggs, washed down with coffee, smoothies and fresh fruit juices. Afternoon snacks you can get poolside or on the beach include mouth-watering soft-shell crab souvlaki and duck gyros, while bar snacks come in the form of halloumi croquettes, smoked aubergine salad and more. For dinner, several Greek classics are taken to a new level, such as seabass fillet, froutalia (Greek omelette) and Santorinian salad. Nearly all the dishes feature fruit, vegetables and herbs from Santorini or a nearby Greek island, like chloro cheese, avocados from Crete and artichokes from Tinos.
You won't be able to resist the black slate beauty of Istoria's stunning infinity pool – at 30m long, it's Santorini's largest pool. Beyond, the resort has direct access to the black sands of Perivolos Beach. There, you can relax on a lounger with a good book, go for a stroll or channel your inner Christina Tassou and saddle up for a charming horse ride along the coast. If the azure waters of the Aegean Sea are tempting you, Istoria's comprehensive water sports centre will have you covered with everything from windsurfing to water-skiing and canoeing. The nearby Mediterranean Dive Club in Perissa means you can explore underwater caves, lava formations and drop-offs in the waters surrounding Santorini.
Santorini really is an island that begs to be explored, however. There's a wealth of hiking trails which web its volcanic landscape and encapsulate some of its tiny remote villages, chapels, churches and ancient ruins. Some walks take you to clifftop villages like Imerovigli, Skara and Pyrgos – the sunsets from these are utterly spectacular. Santorini's picturesque villages are easily explored without needing to lace up your walking boots, too. The island's capital, Fira, is a beguiling warren of shops, restaurants and cafés and ancient Thera marks the ruins of a city first settled by the Dorians in the 9th century. You'll probably recognise the sugar-cube buildings of pretty Oia from the likes of Instagram and its stylish whitewashed streets are dreamier in real life than what you've seen on social media. The option of professional photography tours mean you can capture the island like an expert.
Istoria also offers you the chance to wander further than Santorini's shores. A catamaran cruise can take you to the hot springs of Palea Kameni, or hop on your own private yacht to explore the Cycladic islands of Ios and Koufonisia. For something truly special, see Santorini's iconic sunset and epic caldera views from up high in a helicopter.
Tucked away from the rest of the resort, Elios Spa is an intimate cocoon featuring just two treatment rooms. Elios means 'sun' in Greek and the spa's philosophy channels the sun-kissed nature of the Cycladic islands, with its menu of wraps, facials, massages and other treatments revolving around an organic array of herbs and ingredients from the Greek islands and wider Mediterranean.
Yoga sessions also take place twice a week at sunrise, looking out over the cerulean waters over the Aegean Sea.
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