From the stunning views of Oia traditional houses carved into the steep hillsides of the caldera, to the management’s attention to detail and the quaint décor of Apollon House, Chelidonia was the perfect experience of the Greek isle of Santorini. Romantic and removed from any noise and bustle, the house easily became our home during our stay.
We stayed June 19-25, 2009 and there was a persistent haze that made the sunsets less than world-famous, which worked out for us as these villas do not have a view of the sunset. You do need to walk elsewhere for sunset views. But we really came for the surreal houses and the town itself, so Chelidonia was ideal. Apollon house actually appears in very famous shots of Oia, we caught it on Google’s travel channel at one point, after we had returned from our stay in paradise.
With this house being the last one on the cliff’s edge, there is no one walking past your house or your room. The two umbrella-ed terraces - one facing the houses and the other mostly-private terrace facing the caldera - offer the best of both worlds in terms of breathtaking views.
On the second terrace, it is you, stone seating with woven mats and cushions, beautiful flowers and the caldera. From here you can see all the way to the village of Imerovigli, and Fira in the distance beyond, watching the boats sailing past far below. The only souls around this terrace are wandering cats, and guests in the Aspaki house above Apollon on the cliff but we rarely saw anyone and, heck, no one is really looking anyway.
The main street is plenty far enough away up above and to the left that tourists are not close enough to be noisy or problematic in any way. The house and main terrace are visible from the street, where throngs of cruise ship tourists look longingly down at us perched on our terrace, wishing they were us.
Looking out from the ever-breezy terrace you also have a view of the path to Armeni port, where donkeys come up and down daily. We could hear the bells on the donkeys every morning, one of the great and unique sounds from the house. The only other distinct sound (other than occasional planes flying to Athens) was that wonderful sound of happiness as evidenced by clinking silverware and wine glasses and Greek music wafting across the crescent from the many tavernas. It was fantastic, day or night.
The house itself is true blue and white Greek inside and out. None of that off-white stuff that seems to be an unfortunate trend. The stark whitewashed cave stands out from the brown cliffs in a way that is quintessential Greek island design.
Even the path to the house is breathtaking. It is a 91-step trip on a switchback staircase from Oia’s main street down to Apollon House. The steps took about two minutes to climb up on the rare occasions we didn’t stop to take more gorgeous pictures at every camera-worthy turn. Good exercise for all the pastries we ate at the Patisserie! (Try the delicate ‘mille feuille’ - holy moly!!!!!!!)
Lest you think we stayed on our terrace the whole time (and we could have)… Walking through the blue doors, you are welcomed by carved archways and a clean, spacious Living Room area, with the kitchenette on your left and the bathroom on your right. In this common area: a dining table for two, two couches, a stocked bookcase, and Oia-related images and wall hangings. There is an air conditioner but we prefer real air from the windows, and the perfect temperature around 70F at night. No television, no telephone, no computer. Perfect!
Bedroom: The king-sized bed is perched on a carved-out-of-the-stone headboard and boxspring in an area with curved ceilings and recessed areas for a mirror/dresser and large closet. Adorable.
Kitchenette: It is so tiny that it is a one-person operation, and that makes it cute as can be in our eyes. A mini-fridge, hot plate, coffeemaker, functional kitchen items. Plates, cups, utensils, towels all provided. Good for those meals you bring back for dinner on your terrace by lanternlight.
Bathroom: This is a small but functional room with very basic shelving and what seems to be a new sink (and a basin for rinsing the bathing suit after those cliff jumps). We are not ones to fuss so we made do just fine but some people might be bothered by the stall shower with no curtain, outdated shower fixtures, a door that doesn’t close all the way due to the warping from humidity, but frankly the small window out to Oia is just about the best view from a shower we have ever had!
And of course the universal Greek toilet experience that Americans especially must get used to: you do not flush toilet paper in the toilet. You do your thing, and dispose of toilet paper in the wastebasket which they change daily. This is true on the islands, in restaurants, at museums, in Athens, etc., it is not a joke. Don’t be That Dumb American who clogs the toilet because he was too skeezed out to put his paper in the wastebasket. It’s just the way of life, and the pipes cannot handle the paper. Get over it and respect this request and both you and the sewer system will survive just fine.
Thankfully, bathrooms here were cleaned daily along with clothesline-dried towels and general tidying up. We very much appreciated the cleaning staff as well as the young man (possibly the owner’s son?) who carried both suitcases at one time, allllll the way down the 91 steps when we arrived and alllllll the way up the 91 steps when we left, and out to the taxi area as well. Tip the luggage carrier! No bellhop will ever work as hard as these guys. Especially if you’ve purchased Santorini wine bottles and 30 olive oil soaps for coworkers, and they’re weighing your luggage down in the hot sun.
The staff also respected our privacy. Although we never had a set schedule, somehow our flowers were always watered and our towels were always fresh and our kitchen was always clean and our sheets were always changed, even though we never saw anyone around doing any of these things. They took care of us in every way, from arranging for a car to pick us up at port, to recommending local spots and restaurants.
The proximity to Oia sunset spots and shops was just fine. The walk to Amoudi Harbor is a good one, including the 91 steps up to the main road, along the main road to the switchback steps leading down to the harbor. 242 steps, to be exact, though coming up is loads harder than going down and took about 20 minutes. Even the owner at Chelidonia recommended taking a cab there and back. But we like the walking, and again the views are spectacular. We made the trip up and down several times during our stay.
The scene at Amoudi Harbor is so quaint and relaxed, we loved it there. We ate at the Sunset Taverna and Dimitri’s and enjoyed our food at both places. Though we admit to being surprised a couple times when we ordered something innocent such as “small fried fish” and suddenly there was a plate of whole minnow-type fish that had been lightly battered and you are supposed to eat in their entirety. Popping them in your mouth like french fries, as Linda Ellerbee once wrote in a book about Oia. We thought they tasted like New England clam bellies or a bit like a soft shell Maryland crab. But in America fried fish is just the fish meat in batter, not the head, tail and whole shebang! So sometimes we didn’t get what we were expecting, and the seafood was pricey on the island, which we thought would be the opposite.
In any case, Amoudi Harbor also has a swimming area and an island cliff to jump from. The coolest thing here, is that that path to the swimming hole actually requires you to walk right through the tables at the tavernas. In your bathing suit and towel! There are people eating 100 Euro lobster pasta, and here you come sloshing through after a swim, it’s completely the way of life. The swimming hole is worth walking the path. There are rock steps and a thick rope line leading you into the cool water. From there you swim 50 feet or so out to the little island, upon which is another abandoned little church carved right into the island. You climb the rock and jump from the ledge, about two stories. Make sure you clear the rocks below! We would not have known about this great spot if the Chelidonia owner hadn’t pointed it out to us from the reception house.
We had both beautiful sunrise views and starlit snacks on our terrace, a perfect little interior in which to relax and rejuvenate, and all the privacy we could want, like Oia was our very own. Chelidonia Villas was fantastic, and Apollon House made our Santorini dreams come true. We recommend it highly for a romantic getaway surrounded by history, culture and breathtaking beauty. It was heaven on earth, in huge part due to our little white cave on the little island of Santorini.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Chelidonia is a family run set of carefully restaurated traditional dwellings on the caldera cliffs in the heart of Oia, Santorini. We offer panorama and privacy for individual travellers who contact us directly. We are proud to have been recommended by the New York Times as the preferable accommodation to stay on Santorini island. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Chelidonia Villas Hotel Oia
- Chelidonia Hotel Oia
- Chelidonia Villas Santorini/Oia, Greece