My husband and I loved Kapari and Santorini. Having done a lot of research prior to our trip to Santorini and Greece, I wanted to share some notes on what I learned:
* On Santorini as a destination:
We were flying in from California and had only 1 week in Greece. We decided to spend 3 nights in Athens to see it and 4 nights in Santorini. In retrospect, we could have done Athens in 2 nights (1 full day) and spent an extra day in Santorini. There is so much to see and do on the island that one needs at least 3-4 days in oder to do some activities and also get some relaxing time at the resort / by the pool. We learned that the average stay in Santorini is about 4 nights because of the way flights work - there are only a few of them going to / leaving the island every day and for US connection flights, one has to spend a night in Athens on the way there and back. Some European destinations have a direct flight - we saw direct flights to Paris, Finland and London when we went to the airport. Most of tourists come to Santorini for the day in one of the cruise-ships (which is a big reason to avoid staying in Phira), while other islands like Mykonos I'm told see more chartered flights and longer stays - about a week at a time. In short, plan around your flights for a minimum of 4 nights if you want to enjoy the place - believe me, you won't want to leave! And also, get to the airport early. It's the smallest and most disorganized airport we have seen - an oversized bus station of sorts - serving large 3-4 flights at once with only 2 checkin lines per flight and one baggage checkin area for 500-600 people.
* On when to go:
I had to be in Europe at the end of May, so we tacked the week in Greece at the end of May. We had 3.5 days, of which 2 days were sunny and warm (in the low to mid 70's) and 1.5 days were freezing, windy and cloudy - it was still a gorgeous sight from the caldera with the most dramatic sky I'd ever seen, but I stayed on our porch wrapped in a bathrobe and two towels since I hadn't brought a jacket or a windbreaker. Our new Greek friends told us May is a crap shoot, while September is still warm but without the crowds that spill out on the island from the cruise ships. While we were there there in late May 2012, there were on average 1-2 cruise ships docked in the bay in front of Phira. We are told there are up to 7 cruise ships docked in Santorini in June-August. In May, we saw tens of buses and huge crowds in Phira and Oia, which are only several square miles in size. I don't even want to imagine what happens when 5-6 times that crowd descends on the island at the height of the summer.
* On where to stay - Oia(pronounced "Iya") vs. Imerovigli vs. Phira (sometimes written as Fira):
When I originally researched resorts in Santorini, I had a few criteria in mind - 1) nice rooms with caldera views and nice service, 2)pool (which in retrospect was not that important, especially in May when it can stil get a bit chilly. Plus, all the pools are really the size of large bathtubs given the real estate limitations), 3) price and 4) avoiding crowds. When looking at Oia the prices were insane - we have stayed at four star US resorts for cheaper than the lower end of the price range for pool hotels in Oia. After reading the reviews for Imerovigli and Kapari, we decided to book there. And were were so glad we did! Imerovigli is just as pretty and scenic as Oia and our most beautiful photos were from the area around our hotel. Imerovigli is also the eagle's nest of Santorini - it sits at the highest point and offers gorgeous sunset views with far fewer crowds than Oia, where we were told to go 1 hour before sunset so we could jostle for a "picture spot" in the crowds. Instead, we were able to enjoy a private sunset view of the caldera while sipping wine and head to dinner right after. Imerovigli is also a beautiful 15 min walk to Phira - and by walk, I mean you take a meandering path right through all the houses and resorts - but it's far enough away from Phira to not attract many walkers from the cruise ships. Most of the cruise tourists get dropped off in Phira or get bussed straight to Oia, which during the day feels like Disneyland.
About Oia - yes, it's pretty and cute, but we couldn't wait to get out of there an hour after we arrived and took some pictures. The crowds were insane - I felt I was in San Francisco's Pier 39. Because of the layout of the towns on the cliffs, all the hotels are on a sort of terrace with the main walk above them and some paths around and through the hotels. So imagine hundreds of tourists walking above you and taking pictures of your hotel with guests sun-tanning or hanging out. It feels like a visit to the zoo. The best part about the island is that you can rent an ATV for $40 / day and go see the whole island, top to bottom, in a day, stopping at each place for at least an hour. So you can visit Oia and the wineries and be at a beach in 20 min, without having to stay in Oia.
* On Kapari overall:
Kapari surpassed our expectations. My husband and I try to stay in a Four Seasons hotel, if there is one available. The service, restaurant and setting of Kapari were as high as those we have experienced at the Four Seasons, but with a more boutique feel.
* On Kapari's hotel setting:
It's amazing how much Kapari has managed to accomplish with so little real estate. Every single square inch is optimized. You will find that no matter where you stay on the island, the real estate is tiny and the hotels are right next to each other - you can walk from your room to a path, to anther hotel's entrance in less than 5 seconds. With that in mind, Kapari's design is functionally outstanding and aesthetically very pleasing. It even won an architectural award in Greece. We also lucked out that our room (we had a Vanilla room) had a private patio with chaise chairs. Other rooms seemed to offer a bit less privacy, opening to the pool or one of the paths. However, even with those, the setting is beautiful and you can see the thought put into each detail of the design.
* On Kapari's restaurant (open to guests and visitors):
Our first night we ate at the Blue Note, which is one of the Imerovigli touristy restaurants with sunset views written up in the guide books. We were disappointed. The food was mediocre, greasy and overpriced. The following night we tried Kapari's wine restaurant, which is a gorgeous small restaurant with white table cloths and a modern, impeccable design in a cave with a patio overlooking the caldera. We quickly made friends with Stelios and Alexandra, who were very knowledgeable about Santorini wines and food. We were able to order fresh fish and calamari for the next night - the chef procured the catch of the day from one of the few fishermen who takes his boat out in the early season. The chef got us the freshest seafood and designed some dishes for us - I had the whole fish, grilled to perfection, and my husband got the stuffed calamari, which he still can't stop talking about. To boot, we had a divine clam risotto, which was light and fluffy. Price-wise, the dinner was in line with the prices for fresh fish we saw in Oia and what you would pay in restaurants in the US. However the personal attention, custom dishes and the fresh delicious local food, paired with Santorini wines recommended by Stelios, made it worth every penny.
We came back to the restaurant for the rest of our trip, ordering fresh seafood with the chef the night before. We are told the restaurant starts putting an expanded menu with fresh fish in June, when more fishermen go out with the boats. But if you go in May, speak to Stelios and the chef and they will be happy to prepare some amazing seafood for you. Also, the restaurant serves amazing breakfast - they bake their goodies on the spot and their whole wheat croissants and fresh squeezed orange juice are to die for!
* On Kapari's service:
As I mentioned earlier, the service is world-class, on par with the highest end resorts. The people make it all happen - they are personable (without being overbearing), polite, professional and knowledgeable. We had them book a boat trip for us and the company they work with put us on a catamaran with just 6 other people. We had an amazing time and didn't realize how lucky we had been until we saw all the other boats with dozens and hundreds of people on them. The hotel also rented us an ATV - we picked it up at the hotel entrance after breakfast and dropped it off before dinner, much more convenient than going to a car rental place in Phira. We also experienced a short water stoppage in the morning. Adonis was very fast in figuring out that the local power plant had had an outage in the storm during the night and called us with updates on what they were doing to get the water pumps working again. The staff was on top of the issue and it was resolved within half an hour.
Finally, the quality of the service really came through when we were leaving. Our plane to Athens was leaving in the early afternoon. My husband, I and four other guests were waiting for a taxi to come pick us up. No taxi materialized for over 40 minutes. The hotel staff was calling the taxi company every 5 minutes and was told that the taxi "is on the way and will be there in 5 minutes". The island is not that big (it takes less than 20 min from Imerovigli to the airport), so we suspect the taxis were stringing us along, while picking up other fares on the way. Finally, it was getting close, and the hotel decided to load us all into a van, which they thankfully had nearby. As we were pulling out, the taxi finally showed up - he blocked our way in the tiny alley and refused to budge until he got some passengers. We were being held hostage, but thankfully our hotel guy was very forceful in arguing with the taxi driver and getting him to move out of our way. The van delivered us to the airport on time and the hotel employee wouldn't accept any payment for having saved us.
* On other hotels I saw in Imerovigli:
Just a quick note for those of you researching hotels in Imerovigli. Here's what I saw walking around and observing other hotels.
Grace - looks nice, had a bigger pool than most (the size of three oversized hottubs instead of one), and another bigger pool which looked private. One thing to be mindful there is that some of the rooms with hottubs on the lower levels, including their honeymoon suite, are right above the hiking path to go to the castle. Not many people take that path, but when we did, we were walking eye level with the hot-tubs of those rooms. The honeymoon suite was right in front of a gorgeous white church with yellow flowers, but that's also where people stop to take pictures. I would imagine some of the rooms higher up on the hotel terrace had more privacy than the ones straight on the path.
Other hotels which looked nice were Andromeda (gorgeous landscaping), Astra (has a beautiful private chapel with a patio), Infinite Bliss, all of which are on the lower parts of the terrace below the lower path. The only weird looking one was White, which had kitschy umbrellas which looked like while hoola skirts. As for us, we would come back to Kapari - for its beauty, design and for the friendly and excellent customer service.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The ideal mix’n’match: The distinctive Cycladic tradition meets minimalism! Located in the gorgeous village of Imerovigli, boasting a majestic view of the caldera, KAPARI Natural Resort is an exclusive sanctuary that invites you to experience the most relaxing and enjoyable vacation of your life. A 300 year old, recently restored, complex of traditional dwellings and houses, typical of the islands unique architecture, welcomes you with state-of-the-art personal services. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Kapari Natural Hotel Imerovigli
- Kapari Natural Resort Santorini/Imerovigli, Greece