This year has been one of those years where I decided to have a “Just Do It” mentality, grabbing every opportunity I wanted by the balls and just getting on with it. I’ve wanted to travel for the longest time and I can remember year after year thinking “one day I’ll do that!! I’ll just pick a destination, save up, pack my bags and I’m off!!!” So January 2017 was going to be the beginning of it all. I had done a few solo trips before just out of curiosity and the feeling of pure freedom and relaxation got greater each time. I came to realise this was my thing and I should definitely do it more often because, to be honest, it gave me a break from my usual routine at home which can get mind numbingly monotonous. I’m also a total sun worshipper and winter is one of those seasons that I absolutely hate with a passion!! The darkness, cold, rain and snow almost irritate me for the 7 or whatever length of months it goes on so my plan is to follow the sun as often as possible
I had already been to Santorini the year before with two friends for my birthday and we had an absolute blast but only stayed in Kamari and visited places like Fira and Akrotiri for the day. On the last day of that trip, we had a late flight so decided to visit Oia for some lunch. We ended up at the Andronis Boutique Hotel and that was it, I was sold!!! The views, atmosphere and constant feel of luxury were exactly what I was looking for and that’s where I was going to be for my next visit. So here is a litlle run down of how my first full-on solo trip went.
FLIGHTS & ACCOMMODATION
Oia is in the North of the island and boasts some of the most breathtaking views and sunsets imaginable. The prices are a lot higher in this area as it attracts every tourist from every corner of the world, though you can find cheaper accommodation if you search hard enough on booking.com. So, my search began as soon as I got back from my last trip and I spent endless hours/months on the booking.com app excitedly searching for my cliff side villa. I came across one that caught my eye and I was dead set on booking it so I clicked the link and it was sold out for the entire month of June 2017. To be honest, I panicked so I began stalking the villas on social media @katharosvillas_santorini (as you do) to check if some dates would come up…Nothing!! So I did what any normal human being would do and traced their number and website https://katharosvillas.reserve-online.net/ and got in touch with them shamelessly begging for my 10 days of bliss in their beautiful bright white secluded seaside villas. Email sent, offer made and one week later my dream holiday was being booked. I was ecstatic and quickly started getting my savings together.
My trip was booked for 9-19th June but I arrived on the 8th of June and I’ll be honest, flights were a nightmare to find as I wanted to fly from Southampton but a 25hr flight at £800+ was just not going to work for me, I might as well have flown to Australia for that!! I flew from Heathrow which cost about £200 one way but my flight back was to Southampton (cost £132), so I kind of got what I wanted. I’d say book your flights sooner rather than later to get the best deals and book them as soon as you see a great deal. I booked my flight there and my flight back separately and it worked out cheaper that way for me. I used skyscanner.com and there were plenty of options available. I had to arrive a day early as I would have lost 1 day at my villa and that was not an option either. I stayed at another apartment close by on the 8th as my flight only arrived at about 11:30pm. For its location, the place wasn’t very “Oia” by any standards but I went straight to bed and was ready to leave the place by 8am the following morning, the word “basic” doesn’t cover the description of that place. Anyway, here it was, 9th June and I was anxiously waiting for a phone call or email to tell me they were ready earlier than my 2pm check-in. By 11am my miracle email came and my transfer was ready, I don’t even think I remember saying bye to the owners of the apartments, I was just ready to get to my little piece of paradise.
I was greeted by Alessandro who picked me up and made me feel more than welcome as our destination was only a 7 minute drive away. As we approached the driveway, I knew I had booked the right place, I immediately felt at home. It was quiet but there was very gentle house music playing from the reception.
As I got out of the car Francesco came out and was ready also very welcoming too and began to cater to every need from getting my bags where I wanted them to making sure my villa was equipped with absolutely everything I needed. As I was being given the orientation, I wasn’t sure whether I had been given the right place because it was far more than I expected. Two bathrooms, two spacious floors, the roomy kitchen and of course the private pool…is this the right villa? It was and I honestly couldn’t have been happier. What I loved the most was that this was a family run business and it definitely felt as though there was nothing to worry about and I immediately began to feel at ease.
All paperwork done and it was time to indulge in some relaxation. With the option of a private pool and a private beach just 5 minutes away, I really didn’t know where to start. So as it was so early, I made it my mission to find out where the supermarkets, bars and restaurants were. I didn’t realise how close everything was, 10 minutes at least and the uphill walk wasn’t too bad as I took it as a bit of exercise. But before I could leave I was already being pampered with pre-birthday treats by Francesco.
I had briefly mentioned to him during the orientation that I was there for my birthday and he made sure the celebrations began immediately. I was treated to a bottle of Santorini wine and the most delicious homemade cheesecake. It was those little moments of thoughtfulness that made my stay extra special, everyday was something different and the pampering didn’t stop there.
I took a walk into Oia and the nostalgia of it all quickly came back. The quaint little shops, stray cats, Instagram models, the smell of gorgeous Greek food from the selection of restaurants, little luxe boutiques and of course the insane views. I decided to walk the entire length of this row and eventually went back to have a cocktail and book my table for the next day at Andronis Boutique Hotel.
Now that I was familiar with the the area and had found all amenities, including my all important Bombay Sapphire Gin, I made my way back to the villa, chucked on a bikini and basked in the sun right until my first sunset only to be surprised with this wonderful delicious sparkling french wine.
The following day, I stayed in and just enjoyed my own company, unfortunately I’ve become very good at this and it’s slightly addictive. If anything, this trip had a lot to do with discovering my true self and kind of re-learning who I was so I really had to bring out the best in me, for me and share that with everyone I was surrounded by. Another thing I wanted to do was at least meditate for 10 minutes or do a 30 minute yoga practice everyday. There was a shell of a building next to the villas and I asked if I could use it for my practice, I soon found out that was theirs too and I could use it at any time. So I was set for the week and could fully enjoy my stay at my little home away from home.
I spent the majority of my stay at the villas as I knew everything I needed was only a stones throw away and also Alessandro and Francesco were always available to help at absolutely any time. I made friends with most of the other guests staying and we spent many evenings either sharing a glass of wine or just having a chat watching the sunset and talking about the dreaded flight back home.
I was keen to find out if there were any restaurants closer to the villa and soon discovered there was a gorgeous little place called Katharos Lounge that was to the right of the villas but I had absolutely no clue that Amoudi Bay was just a ten minute walk away too. I chose to eat mostly at Katharos Lounge as it was closer and more convenient for me, I can be quite a lazy little lady on holiday. The food there was gorgeous and the menu was perfect if you wanted a light bite or a unique cocktail to watch the beautiful sunset without the crowds. This soon became one of my favourite things to do and the staff were beyond amazing. I’ve added some info about them and my experience there in the Restaurants and Bars section below.
ACTIVITIES AND DAY TRIPS
I had a few activities planned for my trip, one of them being scuba diving, a catamaran day trip and the other, if I felt like it, was the wine tasting. I’m not too keen on Greek wine but I was going to give this a shot and see if they could change my opinion on it. Last year we did the usual stuff, sunset catamaran cruise, the outdoor cinema, watching the sunset at Akrotiri but this year I decided to do something that was completely out of my comfort zone, something that scared me. So I stayed up all night watching all the things that could possibly go wrong on YouTube, so wise. If the clever octopus was going to come and get me and take my mask off, that was just going to be it!!
I booked with Atlantis Dive Centre, simply walked in and asked for a date and time and thats basically all you have to do. Just a heads up when you are in the beginners group, do take a snack with you as you will be waiting for a while for your turn to dive. Eat a good breakfast, definitely take a bottle of frozen water or juice with you and don’t forget your sunscreen. (http://atlantisoia.com/diving-snorkeling-santorini/diving-courses-santorini/
None of the horrors I had seen on YouTube happened by the way, in fact the entire cast of Finding Nemo were all I saw minus Frank the Octopus. The sea life is great and so was the dive. Our diving instructor was Raid and he was the most patient man I’ve ever met considering there were two non swimmers in my group and he somehow taught them how to swim in an hour and confidently managed to get them to do two dives which was amazing to see. He was definitely what we needed and I strongly believe he was a merman in disguise. It was finally my turn to dive and as confident as I was in my swimming abilities, this was completely foreign to me, I had to put all my faith in Raid’s hands. We were only meant to go a few meters down but he signalled to ask if I wanted to go any deeper, I gave the ok sign and it was pure bliss from there onwards. I finally got the hang of my breathing, thanks to my yoga 5:5 breath and I just let everything go at that point. It was one of the most beautiful things I had ever done, I wish I had done it earlier in my life but I was so happy I had done it that day and I would definitely do it again.
If you fancy doing any of the other activities then simply search online and the majority of the companies will come up. They are all based in Oia so if you’re staying there, you can walk into their offices and simply book on the day.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Once you get to the centre of the village, everything you need is right there. Luxury shopping, exquisite restaurants, sunset cocktail bars and everything else in between. You can enjoy the views from just about anywhere as the entire walk from end to end in Oia offers a glimpse of the Caldera, Tharassia island and much more.
If you’re looking for slightly healthier food or drink options, then the VitaminBar which offers freshly made smoothies and salads is the place for you. It’s near the taxi rank which is quite easy to find if you ask anyone. You can see the smoothies being made on my instagram page @thelivingcherub and they’re absolutely delicious. They also serve healthy snacks and salads to takeaway so if you’re on that all essential meal plan, this place is the one for you. There are other juice bars but this one was by far my favourite.
Andronis Boutique Hotel is my favourite place to eat and have some cocktails in a quiet and stunning environment, I do love a bit of fine dining and this place delivers all of that for me and the views are to die for!! If you fancy getting glammed up and wearing your heels out, this is the place to go and you will get a 5 star service every single time whether you are there for cocktails or a full on A La Carte slap up meal.
This is also very much the Instagram Influencers spot so if you’re looking to take some really amazing pics this is the place to go. The romantic atmosphere of this place is beyond dreams, perfect for couples looking for something out of the ordinary, even I, the lone traveller got a lovely rose from the gorgeous Greek God looking member of staff simply for being there.
My photos do nothing to show off the architecture of this place either. You honestly have to go there to experience it to know what I’m talking about. You can see more images on my Instagram pages @thelivingcherub or @thelivingcherubstyle. Here is all you need to book for a meal or you can simply walk in and reserve a table:
Katharos Lounge was my kind of chill out spot. Firstly it was the convenience of having a beautiful sunset bar right at my doorstep, it was also how relaxed and welcoming all the staff were, including the owner. The gorgeous Vida was always so sweet and made sure my birthday was celebrated in the sweetest little ways possible. The menu catered to everyone and had vegan and vegetarian options which is always great for the health conscious traveller.
The cocktails were gorgeous and my favourite was the one pictured below, a combination of cachaça, passionfruit, red chilis and cayenne pepper. Just delicious!! The best part of this restaurant was how romantic it was and the sunset was just to die for. Perfect spot for lovers and also those wanting a quiet but vibrant environment.
Paradox Thai is another restaurant I visited. I had spotted it from the taxi the night I was being dropped off from the airport and immediately began salivating about my meal there. The food was delicious and the settings were just beautiful, I could people watch in peace!! I ate there a few times and the food did not disappoint at all. If you love Thai food, this is the one to visit. You have to book a table here as it’s pretty much booked up all the time.
Tel: +30 22860 71675
SUPERMARKETS AND SHOPPING
There are a wide selection of supermarkets and grocery stores. My favourite one out of all was Proton as they had good food options, good wine selection and seemed to be the only store to sell Prosecco which is essential when watching a sunset.
For all your clothes shopping the walkway in the centre is where you will find all boutiques and jewellery stores. Prices are quite high as they support mostly local designers and they will sell the typical beautiful grecian style of dress but you can find a few bargains here and there. If you’re looking for foreign designer clothes then you just go ahead and catch a flight to Athens but you may feel a little out of place with all the brands on as the dress sense here is totally relaxed.
Overall, my birthday trip here was what dreams were made of and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay. I was looking for a place where I could feel at home, yet have the same comforts as a hotel but without the restrictions of one. I was looking for comfort, privacy, peace and quiet, a touch of luxury and a convenient location where I could have the luxe of Oia’s hub and a beautiful private beach right at my doorstep.
Katharos Villas was perfect for me, not only for what the place looked like, but also the passion and hardwork Enzo, Francesco and Alessandro put into this place and also how kind and generous they were towards all their guests. It’s worth every penny you spend staying here as what you get back is far more valuable. You get memories, you build long term friendships and an absolute unforgettable experience. I will be returning soon to Katharos and I know for sure it will be the same beautiful place I left it as. If you’re looking for the perfect holiday then don’t hesitate to book at all, It’s definitely worth it.