From cave suites and caviar menus to cryotherapy and sunset cruises, Olivia Palamountain unleashes her inner goddess on a twinned visit to Santorini and Mykonos with Katikies hotels.
Santorini has always been steeped in myth but I’ll bet the gods never envisaged that the legend would continue indefinitely. Ancient poems now replaced with Instagram reels and glamorous drone footage, if there’s one Greek island that continues to seduce, it’s Santorini.
While we’ve all fantasised about the whitewashed, blue-domed perfection of this island, I must be honest: the buzz of a million influencers and the endless honeymoon and proposal videos had left me jaded. But no matter how many pictures you’ve seen, nothing can prepare you for the outrageous beauty of Oia, a town that drips atop Santorini’s soaring volcanic caldera like brilliant white icing on cake.
It’s here that you’ll find Katikies, an exclusive hotel that makes up part of the mosaic of cave houses carved into the rock, perched perilously close to the island rim.
The flagship property of the Katikies group and the first in its portfolio, it’s this hotel that has defined the spirit of the group and continues to inspire its mantra of “hospitality that captures the essence of legendary places”.With its quintessential Cycladic architecture, all brilliant white organic curves, swags of fuchsia bougainvillaea and an endless panorama of the navy Aegean, arriving at Katikies is like stepping straight into that engagement video – you know, the one that made you cringe and vow to stay single forever.
Call me a pushover but I was sold in seconds. Oh, to hell with it! More than just sold, all I wanted was to grab the nearest dude, get him on one knee and have endless posed pictures taken of us – me in chintzy Dolce & Gabbana resort wear, him in crisp linens – a sparkling rock on my finger and a smug smile on my face.Katikies will do that to you. But it will also do other things. You’ll marvel at the intricate labyrinth of suites snuggled into the cliff, each of which is unique but connected by the same gleaming, rustic-luxe aesthetic and complete with a private terrace; lose yourself in dreamy reverie drinking in the sapphire sea (and lashings of superlative, local wine) from various terraces; blush at the charm of the attentive staff, who greet you like dear friends, and gasp as you slip into any one of the three infinity swimming pools for refreshing respite from the Mediterranean sun.
The one thing I wouldn’t recommend is coming here on a diet. The food is sensational, so don’t be shy. Days begin with Katikies’ signature breakfast, a mezze of homemade pastries, squares of spanakopita, fresh-pressed juices and steaming coffee, plus a generous choice of sweet and savoury à la carte options. I loved the all-day “tsibologima” menu (Greek for nibbling), with its creative take on local delicacies – coils of octopus, moreish feta and tomato salads and zingy gazpacho – and there’s a sushi and caviar menu too, ideal for grazing with a glass of beading champagne at the dedicated bubbles bar.
Elsewhere, Santorini offers some top-class restaurants, including the atmospheric Selene, set in the confines of an 18th century Catholic Monastery, where nuns still reside next door. If you’re in the habit (sorry) of exploring further afield on holiday, this restaurant is a must.
A hymn to island fare, the tasting menu is a journey into the soul of Greek cuisine, imaginatively repurposed and precisely executed by superstar Michelin chef, Ettore Bottrini. Dionysius would be proud.
The same chef presides over Katikies’ in-house fine-dining restaurant, so you can experience a version of his cuisine closer to home. We all know a stay on this island doesn’t come cheap – lead in prices for Katikies Santorini start at around €1,105 per night (fabulous breakfast included, phew) – but if that price is a little spicy for your tastes, the group has five further hotels on the island, all 0f which sing with charm.
Gorgeous Katikies Garden, for example, rings in at a much friendlier €550 per night, and is centrally located close to the island’s nightlife hub. Katikies Kirini, meanwhile, (€960 per night) is home to a dazzling new spa, serviced by luxe Aussie skincare brand, Grown Alchemist. All treatments have been designed bespoke for Katikies; I experienced a customised “Regenerator Facial”, which involved top-to-toe wizardry – actives combined with specific application techniques and tools, lymphatic drainage, cryotherapy and pressure point foot massage. It left me levitating. Pull yourself away from paradise and the Katikies’ Club will design your leisure time with the expertise of a graceful concierge and all the toys of a millionaire playboy.
From elegant voyages aboard one of the group’s fabulous superyachts, sunset cruises and pampering spa days to wine tastings, archaeology excursions and private yoga classes, there’s so much more to Santorini than just its looks.
You can even charter a yacht to take you to Mykonos to visit another Katikies property – or take the ferry, which is what I did. The Greek archipelago is ripe for island hopping and I was intrigued to see how the group would translate its ethos further afield.Katikies Mykonos is perched above on the sun-kissed beach of Agios Ioannis and carries the same stamp of understated elegance as its Santorinian sibling, but with a distinctive Mykonian flavour.It stays true to the portfolio’s principle of legendary locations, repurposing traditional architecture to create this multi-tiered hotel, cut into a hillside and singing with charm and style.Situated far enough from Mykonos’ infamous party hub for tranquillity but close enough should you fancy raving, the hotel is the perfect base to design your own experience.With the renowned beach clubs not yet open on my visit (Skorpios et al), my inner night owl conceded to the respectable veneer of a 30-something-year-old woman with the serious job of enjoying sensational hotels.And I’m glad it did. The mood here echoes local design narrative; not only is it a masterclass in white-washed minimalism, punctuated with pops of blue and natural wood, but it nails that distinctive luxe yet breezy atmosphere.
Each suite is different, even within comparable room categories (I preferred the smaller, less glitzy ones located higher up the property), and comes with a private terrace, some with their own plunge pool.Interiors are pristine to the point of clinical in certain rooms and well suited to bright summer rays, moody skies perhaps a little less so – but we’re in Greece, so all good.A shimmering infinity pool crowns the main sun deck, adjacent to the excellent Bottrini’s restaurant (the superlative chef who presides over the whole group) but explore the property and you’ll be rewarded by further sun terraces, a bar and another pool. There’s a petite gym too, and a banging little boutique slinging boho wares at beefy prices.
The attention to detail across the Katikies portfolio extends to curated playlists – chilled out, ambient beats neatly deployed across each lounge area that encourage a mood of sun-kissed abandon. Travelling as a group? New for this year are Katikies Mykonos Villas, splendid stand-alone properties on a quiet side of the island (€990 per night).Not only does each villa have its own pool and benefit from the Katikies concierge, but you’ll also receive the same signature breakfast, complete with local goodies, delivered at any time of the day. Get in.
According to Greek mythology, the Cyclades were once nymphs, turned into rock by the sea god Neptune when they pissed him off. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, as they say, – and with Katikies as their new hero, who’s laughing now?