There are those iconic postcard images we’ve all glanced at one time or another, formed of opalescent skies, gentle haze and crystal seas, which are conjured in the mind at the mentioning of ‘paradise’. For me, that place had always been embodied by the Grecian sun-kissed island of Santorini. Crisp white villas topped with royal-blue domes, perched romantically on cliffs, and peering dizzyingly over the azure Aegean Sea hundreds of meters below. The hotel I’ve long lusted after has ever been the hyper-picturesque Katikies in the town of Oia (northern-most Santorini), a snaking labyrinth of immaculate whitewashing, breezy luxury, and care-free bliss. My experience there has revealed a slice of secluded, heavenly perfection, intimately nestled amidst secret white coves, overflowing with charming personality, and totally dedicated to the faultless service of guests. The active traveler is truly spoiled here…
Before the 4-part Active Escape Review of Katikies, some reflections: when considering the peaceful quiet which pervades this oasis of calm (installed amongst an otherwise bustling and touristy town), its suddenly clear that no children are permitted at the hotel, likely because they wouldn’t survive the sheer stair climbs! There are no rails or safety measures – everywhere you turn, there’s a perilous drop to the plunging sea below! This all instils a permanent sensation that almost verges on vertigo, but the sheer beauty of the place quickly eradicates any fear. You’re living a postcard existence whilst here…
When I travel abroad I’m often guilty of spending too little time at the hotel into which I’m booked; there’s just so much exploring to be done, and I often don’t want to miss out on anything – which can sometimes lead to a hectic, stressful schedule. I awake with the words ‘achieve’ and ‘produce’ etched into my mind. However at Katikies, I wanted nothing more than to laze permanently at the hotel and explore every one of its seemingly infinite terraces! Of particular beauty are the Caldera views in the evening when the sky is painted with soft pastel pinks and blues or fiery oranges and reds changing every night instilled a sense of breathless calm impossible to recreate elsewhere.
SECTION 1) THE FITNESS ACTIVITIES
Walking up and down the hundreds of stairs that form the veins of the hotel is, on its own, a proper leg burner. However, to up the intensity, there are plenty of activities around the island helping you to keep fit or get fitter!
– Gymming: There’s a super comfortable private gym at their sister hotel (Kirini Suites, a mere 5 minute walk away) which is kitted out with beautifully sculpted top-end Technogym weights, cardio equipment and the mirrored Kinesis machine. You’ll find the same facility offers wonderful treatments including assorted massages and treatments at their adjacent A-Spa.
– Stair Climbing! This may sound like a breezy, leisurely activity – trust me it is not!! 350 steep stone stairs descending to the sea is surprisingly tough on the quads, but then walking back up in midday sun is the real killer! On one particular occasion as I was powering up the last batch of steps, battling fatiguing legs, when suddenly I had to run for cover as a stampede of donkeys came ploughing down the steps as you can see in the images below!
– Hiking / Runs: Setting off from the Hotel in the North, I embarked on the epic hiking trail, trekking south towards Fira. It’s a breathtaking hike with varying views of the volcano, the sea and the Caldera. It took me circa 2 and half hours completely depending on how quickly you walk. It could easily take 4 or 5 hours. Avoid walking midday as it’s just too hot and if you do use sunscreen 50 at least! On your way you’ll view some beautiful grecian churches set on panoramic view. Tip: wear some serious hiking shoes as the terrain is loose and unpredictable. Sunscreen and water are a must!
– Infinity Pool: not content with just one iconic viewpoint, there are actually three infinity pools at the Katikies, each with completely different atmospheres about them. None are for the purposes of ‘swimming lengths’, but are more for ‘wellness’ and relaxation. The one on the highest level is surrounded by a few day beds, and are frequently occupied by guests sipping cocktails. It has more of a party feel to it, reminiscent of Ibizan character. The second pool is super secluded and often I found it to be completely deserted, but no less beautiful! The third pool, the largest of the three and located on the lower-most level (pictured immediately below) was my favourite for reading. I’d jump in the pool and read alongside 4 or 5 other guests who all shared the fabulous idea to read in the cooling pool whilst occasionally looking up from the page and relishing in the Aegean breeze. NB, reception has a huge library of holiday books to borrow!
SECTION 2) THE HOTEL FACILITIES & HIGHLIGHTS
– The Rooms: I had a beautifully appointed room overlooking the Aegean Sea, which all rooms have! Each time someone checks out, a decorator comes along to re-paint the walls and floor with crisp white paint, leaving the rooms in pristine condition all season round. Mine was no exception; a wonderful bed, an extremely generous bathroom, and a private balcony with its own daybed; for those seeking seclusion, it’s perfect!
– The A Spa: Located 2 minutes away by car, it’s suitably tranquil, blending Zen minimalism with Aegean colours, and throwing in some natural, plant-based Caribbean products. There are 3 beautiful Spa Suites and a seemingly endless menu of treatments to occupy the holidayer seeking pure ‘wellness’.
SECTION 3) THE FOOD:
– Breakfast: Ah, the breakfasts. Every morning, it threatened to destroy my healthy eating. You wander into the buffet corridor and are greeted by row after row of delicious Grecian cakes and sweets, sat alongside fresh croissants and pastries. The little ice-cream devil permanently installed on my shoulder would say ‘Go on, you’re on holiday, one or two little cakes won’t hurt’, then my healthy fitness guru on the other shoulder would say ‘you don’t need it, look at all the delicious fresh fruits and berries. Why don’t you order a delicious egg white omelette with some organic vegetables?’. I would quickly remove myself from the buffet sit myself down and hear myself order a coffee and omelette, the presentation of which is almost michelin – full in flavour with ornate decorations of peppers, asparagus, spices, and sprinklings of feta cheese. There is in reality a wide array of healthy food, and the chef is on hand to whip up anything more bespoke. Then there’s the view whilst you eat…
– The Restaurants: There are 4 places to eat, with 2 restaurants (Seltz and Mikrasia) and 2 poolside bars. The daytime menu is super varied, and should be able to satisfy any palette. I found there were plenty of delicious salads for me to sample each day, loaded with fresh seafood. When the catch of the day is from 20m to your right (and 300m down), it’s worth ordering! Whilst this institution is part of the ‘Leading Hotels of the World’ group, the lunchtime value for money is awesome. The below pictured fresh prawn salad comes in at 18 Euros which you’d struggle to find in London, not to mention the view and freshness!
SECTION 4) THE SERVICE & ROUND-UP:
Without doubt, Katikies is a venue for the ultimate in secluded relaxation. The staff ethic is world renowned for being warm, friendly and relaxed – I can absolutely vouch for that, and think it’s a dynamic that emerges from working in paradise. You can’t help but make friends with them all! Little touches and details make it a truly special experience, for example whilst you’re lying in the hot sun you’ll find you glass is silently and mysteriously filled with ice, lemon and lime every so often. That said, you’d expect as much, as there’s no escaping it, the cost for accomodation is monumental. It tops even the loftiest of the French Riviera or Amalfi Coast establishments. It is awesome, and you can most definitely unwind to your maximum here whilst pursuing a life of healthy eating and regular exercise amongst some true natural beauty… but you won’t be doing it because of the overall value for money. It’s an indulgent treat to be savoured, but is also an unforgettably unique experience of Aegean wellness which I’ll keep with me for the rest of my days!