Last spring, I enjoyed a sublime holiday in Greece. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Hotel Grande Bretagne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Athens
- Review: PHENOMENAL Amanzoe, Peloponnese
- Review: Kivotos Mykonos Hotel
- Review: Canaves Oia Luxury Suites, Santorini
- Review: Grace Santorini (today)
Today (September 5, 2018): Review of Grace Santorini (Greece).
- Location: Google maps
- Address: Imerovigli, Thira 847 00, Greece
- Hotel website: Grace Santorini
- Tip: get free VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Grace Santorini is an exclusive boutique hotel in Santorini, perched 363 meters (1190 ft) above Santorini’s world-famous caldera, offering breathtaking views. Crisp, minimalist and simply marvelous, the hotel skips the ornamentation for vast swatches of pristine white and sea views that stretch to infinity. The 21 innovatively refurbished rooms and suites showcase a contemporary style, combining cutting edge, bespoke design alongside traditional handcrafted pieces whilst the luxurious bathrooms offer double vanity units with marble carved basins and spacious rain showers with mosaic feature walls. Most of the rooms feature outdoor plunge pools while the 400 square meters (4.300 square feet) villa offers a private heated pool and spa. The hotel’s pool is truly spectacular and one of the most photographed swimming pools in the world.
Grace Santorini features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best honeymoon resorts, the world’s most amazing hotel pools, the world’s best hotel breakfasts, the best hotels in Greece, and the best hotels in Santorini.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Greece with my online Greece travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Clinging to the cliffs of Santorini’s famous water-filled caldera, Grace Santorini enjoys a sublime location in Imerovigli on the north coast of the island. Imerovigli is a picturesque village that looks exactly as a Cycladic village should, sprinkled with whitewashed houses, cobblestone alleys, blue domed churches, and idyllic squares. It’s far enough from Santorini’s capital Fira and world-famous Oia village to feel secluded, yet within walking reach of these busy towns if you want to explore their shops, bars and restaurants (a 20 minute hike along the main path to Fira, and a 3 hour hike or 15 min taxi ride to Oia). Imerovigli offers you the best chance to experience Santorini and its famous panoramas without the tourist crowds.
- The village of Imerovigli is also known as “The balcony to the Aegean” since it is built on the highest point of the volcanic crater, about 300 m (1000 ft) above sea level. Consequently, most properties here – including the Grace Santorini hotel – provide dramatic heart-stopping views, which are even better than the already breathtaking views from Oia (where most visitors stay) since Imerovigli is located twice as high. Most of the hotel’s public areas, rooms, and suites offer uninterrupted views of Santorini’s word-famous caldera, the underwater basin of an ancient volcano. The dazzling azure of the sky and sea, sharply contrasting with the whitewashed buildings and black lava rocks, is a sight to behold.
- Right in front of the hotel, on the seaward side, lies the immense Skaros rock, one of the island’s most famous and impressive attractions. This large rock promontory in the Aegean Sea was shaped by volcanic activity, erosions and earthquakes. Skaros rock is of paramount historical importance since it is here that the first Kasteli (fortress) was built on Santorini in the 15th century in order to protect the islanders from pirate attacks. I highly recommend to take the scenic hike to the rock’s top plateau and to take a few Instagram-worthy photos at the incredibly romantic chapel located at the trailhead, just below the hotel.
- Imerovigli and the Grace hotel in particular offer the perfect vantage point from which to enjoy the famed Santorini sunsets. This is a huge advantage as compared to staying in Oia, where most hotels do not have sunset views (this is a simplification as it depends on the time of year). Another plus is that Imerovigli doesn’t have the crowds that gather in Oia as the sun sets. In addition to the benefit of enjoying prime sunset views from your private terrace or the hotel’s public areas, you will also get an extra 2 to 3 hours of late afternoon and evening sun as compared to hotels in Oia (which are often in the shade a few hours before sunset). I you adore the evening light and sunset (like I do), my advice is to stay here, and not in Oia.
- The hotel’s understated design allows the magnificent volcanic seacape to take centre stage as the property cascades down the steep cliffs. The boutique hotel provides a contemporary interpretation of vernacular architecture, fusing Cycladic traditional style with modern minimalism. Inspired by the island’s ‘yposkafa’ cave-like dwellings, the property’s rounded walls and domed roofs are excavated from the rock-face. Staying true to its Hellenic heritage, the hotel’s rooms and public areas feature all-white interiors with brushed concrete floors, reiterating the trademark whitewashed houses of the Cyclades. Subtle accents in turquoise, aubergine or navy are present in certain areas, a colour palette synonymous with Santorini and the Mediterranean.
- The magnificent swimming pool is the largest of its kind in Santorini and ranks among my favorite hotel pools in the world. Located on the hotel’s mid-level, it offers bathers mesmerizing views across Skaros rock and the caldera beyond, the ultimate transporting experience that defines every holiday in Santorini. Featuring a jagged outline echoing the zigzag paths that cross the island’s sheer terrain, the shallow pool is large enough to swim laps. It is surrounded by a row of well-cushioned double loungers on one side, while a dinner terrace is located on the other side, albeit at a lower level, giving the pool a real infinity edge. You can also enjoy a cocktail or take a light meal in style at the poolside bar area at any time of day.
- The 21 guest rooms and suites come in 9 categories, ranging from deluxe rooms to a huge villa, some of them featuring private plunge pools. They are located on various levels of the steeply terraced property and are all perfectly positioned for breathtaking views of the caldera and the sunset. During my visit, I stayed in a superior suite, which came with a huge private terrace and a plunge pool with fabulous caldera views. Inside, the suite featured a softly furnished living room area, a separate cave with a kingsized bed decked out in crisp white cottons, and a small but stylish bathroom with shower, one sink and toilet. Modern amenities such as WiFi, iPod and dock, satellite plasma TV, and DVD player were all present inside the room.
- Grace Santorini’s top accommodation is the so-called ‘Villa‘, one of the largest and most magnificent hotel suites in the Greek Islands and ideal for small groups. Two exquisite bedrooms, complete with king-sized beds and their own bathrooms with personalised bathrobes, look out towards a panoramic view of Santorini’s azure blue skies, sparkling ocean and of course the legendary Santorini sunset. The Villa’s open-plan kitchen is fully equipped and pre-stocked, with a private chef available on request. The Villa also has its own spa – with Hammam (steam bath), Jacuzzi and a treatment room. The Villa’s outdoor, double-level seating areas and sun decks overlook a private heated swimming pool, firepit and gazebo.
- Grace Santorini features just one restaurant, called Santoro, which serves breakfasts, lunch and dinner. Meals are served on the restaurant’s cliff-top terrace (which comes with jaw dropping views), in the airy dining room if the weather is not cooperative, or in a private poolside candlelit ‘cave’ if you prefer. Although the hotel proudly prizes its food – Mediterranean fusion cuisine created by local chef Spiros Agious – I was underwhelmed at dinner (more on that below). In contrast, the four-course Champagne breakfast was beyond exceptional representing an indulgence of tempting gastronomy and offering a wonderful alternative to the all-you-can-eat-breakfast buffets in most other high-end resorts.
- Although the property is quite small, it does feature a well equipped gym and a dedicated yoga and Pilates studio, where you can enjoy complimentary sessions daily, available on a first come first serve basis (qualified instructor are also available for private session). Next to the gym and the yoga studio is also a lovely boutique store, selling locally designed, hand-crafted clothing, accessories and jewellery. The shop also offers objets d’art through its collaboration with the Museum of Cycladic Art in Athens. Repeat guests receive a gift containing two statues of Cycladic figurines.
- Although you can watch the sunset from all of the hotel’s public spaces and rooms, the best spot is the outdoor terrace of the 363 Champagne Lounge, one level below the intimate lobby. A wide selection of Champagnes and cocktails paired with light canapés provide a truly unique indulgence as you take in the legendary Santorini sunsets. I highly recommend the Grace cocktail, a subtle blend of apple juice, pear purée, lemon juice and premium vodka with a hint of lemon grass.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
This utterly romantic hotel, one of my all-time favorites, comes close to absolute perfection. The location, views, service and overall decor will blow you away. Yet, there are some things that you need to know before considering a stay here:
- Santorini can be extremely hot in summer, and the hotel terraces do not provide a lot of shade. Although umbrellas are present, they can often not be deployed due the windy weather.
- Several stairs from the car park to the hotel and steep steps within the property itself make Grace Santorini unsuitable for anyone with limited mobility. However, most guests choose the hotel for this very reason: its location offers 180 degrees unobstructed breathtaking views of the Caldera and the magical sunsets.
- The main pool and some of the rooms on the lower level are located right next to the popular hiking path to Skaros rock. Tourists passing by look directly into the main hotel pool or your little private whirlpool and terrace. Some of them even enter the hotel to take a picture along the pool (although the hotel has security guards in place most of the time to prevent this from happening). So, if possible request a room away from the public path, or you may find yourself disappointed because of the total lack of privacy.
- The hotel touts its fine dining offering and its chef, but unfortunately, I was not impressed by what I was served, especially given the astronomically high rates that are charged. I do not mind paying a lot for exquisite food, but my experience at Santoro restaurant left a sour taste in my mouth, since the portions – albeit tasteful ands nicely presented – were too small, leaving me hungry after dinner (and I am not a big eater). There are several excellent restaurants nearby though.
- Some of the lower-end room categories (which are still very expensive) don’t have a plunge pool and are quite small. Of course, you can always hope for an upgrade, but as a small and well-known boutique hotel, Grace Santorini operates the majority of the summer period with a 100% occupancy and is most of the time not able to accommodate requests for room upgrades. I recommend to book at least a suite category for more space.
- Contrary to some of the other high-end hotels in Santorini, the main pool is not heated. While this is a blessing in the hotter summer months, the water is cold – too cold – in the spring and autumn months. In addition, the plunge pools – which have the size of hot tubes – are filled with lukewarm water, so they cannot really be used as genuine Jacuzzis.
- Rightfully enjoying a reputation as one of the best hotels on the island, Grace Santorini is also the most expensive hotel in Santorini. However, you should know that going in as room rates are well above 1000 euros per night in the summer season. Yet, some of the charges unpleasantly surprised me, for example a 15 euro tray charge for delivering food at your room (something which is complimentary at most other Santorini hotels) or a shared one-way airport transfer for 75 euros per room (or 100 euros for a private transfer). The airport is only 15 minutes away, and a shared transfer (same service) can also be booked for 25 euros per travel party via Santorini Transfer.
- Unfortunately, the resort does not have a dedicated spa. That said, wellness treatments (by third-party therapists) are offered in the yoga room or the privacy of your suite upon request.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Dinner: 6/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: not applicable
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8,6/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury resort like Grace Santorini (and receive many free perks).
- Save money: enjoy complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, complimentary one-way private airport transfers, welcome amenity of bottle of champagne, fruit and chocolates, early check-in, and late check-out).
- Room tip: If you book a deluxe room, request a room away from the public path.
- Room tip: For the ultimate romantic experience, book a suite (and not a deluxe room). The VIP Suite and Grace Suite are stunningly beautiful.
- Room tip: When you travel in group or have money to burn, consider booking Santorini’s most spectacular accommodation: the Villa.
- Try to visit Santorini outside the high season, not only to avoid crowds and excessive summer heat, but also to avoid paying premium prices on room rates.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Santorini is spring and fall when the weather’s warm and the crowds are few. Like all of the Cyclades, Santorini welcomes the most visitors during the summer, so you’ll need to make your reservations at least two months in advance to travel then.
HOW TO GET THERE
Grace Santorini is located a 15 minute drive from Athinios Port and Santorini (Thira) National Airport. The latter is a very small and unpleasant airport, served by most European charters and some full-service and low-cost airlines in tourist season (click here for a direct link to their websites), but has no direct overseas connections.