Luxury is a tired word in the world of travel and hotels. Once, like “art” or “beauty”, it may have seemed objective, easily illustrated by white gloves and bell boys, reassuringly recognizable, usefully uniform. However, as the world shrinks and becomes fully accessible, the idea of “luxury” suddenly is less clear. There appears a dilemma – should it accommodate the expectations of the traveller, or immerse them in the reality of the particular corner of the world that is being experienced? And, more importantly, how does a hotel define its own ideas of what constitutes luxury.
Nowhere in Greece is this dilemma more acute than in Santorini. As a destination, Santorini attracts discerning travellers from all over the world; each looking for the ultimate Santorini experience, most having dreamed of their holiday for a long time. Expensive hotels abound, each boasting luxurious accommodation, multiple pools, and stunning views; expectations run high.
The challenge for any Caldera hotel is to offer an experience of luxury that is in harmony with this majestic, volcanic, cliff-built setting. Often, traditional manifestations of luxury are impractical, impossible or simply out of step with the surroundings. So, on an island with numerous high-end, exceptional hotels, all boasting the same stunning view, what makes a hotel “a place like no other”?
This is exactly the question the owners of The Vasilicos Caldera Heritage Suites came to face when transitioning from private residence to boutique hotel four years ago, and below is their story.
A heritage worth building on
Formerly the hideaway of a passionate art collector, The Vasilicos Caldera Heritage Suites was built by an artist-architect, Makis Kostikas. Kostikas, using expert Santorinian builders and traditional techniques, extensively restored a constellation of hyposkafa, the cave-like structures sculpted into the volcanic Caldera rock. In keeping with the structural design, the house was furnished to reflect the owner’s own eclectic taste – vintage pieces mixing with the work of local artisans and a few well-chosen design items; nothing surplus, everything made to last.
Beautifully designed, well built, and tastefully furnished, the property became a busy summer house, all its guests sharing one thing: their appreciation of the experience of craftsmanship; culture and art lived in the everyday. This heritage became the cornerstone of The Vasilicos. The property was to transition to a hotel in terms of functionality but remain a house in spirit; a warm, beautiful, eclectic house, meticulous in its attention to detail and personal comfort, a celebration of the little luxuries that make life beautiful - “a place like no other”.
Beauty…and the eye of the beholder
Artistic craftsmanship, personalisation, and detail
These pieces range from custom-design furniture, to staff uniforms, keyrings tailor-made by internationally-acclaimed Greek jewellery designer Dolly Boucoyannis, and site-specific ceramics by Despina Xenaki. Such small touches of art and design, found even in the most unlikely places, bring a whole new level of luxury to every aspect of The Vasilicos experience.
The second tenet of luxury is to be found – simply enough - in the traditional concept of hospitality. Guests visiting during the property’s summer-house days still talk about the care with which they were welcomed by their good friend, their needs anticipated and their comfort prioritised. As a hotel, The Vasilicos could be no different.
For the owners, hospitality means two things: personalisation, and anticipation.
From the provision of small necessities that make the difference, to little luxuries that show intention, this approach to hospitality is apparent everywhere; from the extensive pillow menu, to handmade soaps and the best natural Greek toiletries. The Vasilicos Vlychada Beach bags are so stylish they are bought as a souvenir, while a collaboration with world-renowned Atlantis Books in Oia has installed a carefully curated Greek-themed capsule library in each room. Little things that turn the suite into a haven and a beautiful hotel into a personal paradise.
In this spirit, The Vasilicos offers a further level of personalisation that is rarely found even where white gloves abound. High notes such as the luxury of having your terrace turned into a private restaurant for a Caldera Candlelight dinner. Or having the chef liaise with you directly for the menu. Or a complimentary room service breakfast with no need for an alarm. It is the little comforts, the small things, that ultimately imply extraordinary luxury.
A guest, truly!
In the backdrop of all this, the final touch of luxury, discreetly yet intimately woven into the experience of staying at The Vasilicos: the ambience created by the team. Young, energetic, and passionate about what they do, they are very much the beating heart of The Vasilicos, and their personalised attentiveness is the crowning touch that brings together this rendition of luxury hotel experience. Invested in the hotel, it is a point of personal pride for them that you also come to love The Vasilicos as they do.
Bringing it all together: The Vasilicos Experience!
Imagine waking up in an airy, cool, room in one of the sugar cube caves that dot the Santorini cliff-side, your head on a pillow similar to the one you favour at home, crisp white sheets rustling as you stretch luxuriously. Imagine opening the doors to see the view you have travelled so far to see sprawled out in front of you, in all its photogenic glory. Laid out on your private terrace, breakfast is a feast of expected staples, local delicacies and a daily surprise to say ‘we thought you might enjoy this’. Maria arrives with your eggs just as you take your first sip of coffee, checking in on yesterday’s Caldera cruise; today is perfect for lounging by the pool. Presently the chef will pop down to discuss tonight’s candlelight dinner – more fruit salad?
The day progresses lazily, and instead of lunch you decide on a Hungry Traveller experience – The Vasilicos daytime wine-tasting session. Four wines, four mezze - Artemis, the in-house sommelier, has created the perfect armchair culinary tour of Greece, and perfect preparation for a Mediterranean midday nap.
When you finally decide to venture out, a wealth of experience, born of years of holidaying, all the carefully distilled insider knowledge of the island is laid at your feet, ensuring that you get your holiday right the first time round.
And when you leave, you will always be escorted to the door. A detail? Of course, but for this hotel, detail is the key to everything! Start your The Vasilicos experience now by clicking on this link.