"An Instagrammer's dream - we'd go back in a heartbeat!"
Unlike the majority of newlyweds today, Hannah and Richie didn't wait around before jetting off on their dream honeymoon.
Santorini had long been on their bucket list, so their post-wedding getaway was the perfect opportunity to tick the idyllic island off.
As Hannah runs her own business, the couple chose the relatively short distance destination over the likes of Bora Bora and the Seychelles, conscious of sacrificing those extra travel days. A non-stop flight direct from London (where they live together) to the island was just the ticket.
They spent one week in Oia, just before the busy summer season really kicked in (generally June, July and August), enjoying the fabulous restaurants, and embarking on a hike or two around the picturesque isle.
Here's how they got on...
As Hannah and Richie live in London, they flew out of Gatwick airport direct to Santorini, travelling with Thomas Cook. The flight was just under four hours. "As predicted, it was not ideal for your honeymoon," says Hannah, "but it is one of the only airlines that fly in to Santorini and the only other option is fly to Athens and get a seven hour boat …. No thanks!"
Hannah and Richie stayed in the Santos Maris Oia resort (www.santomaris.gr), which they describe as "magnificent and utterly luxurious". The coastal village of Oia on the northwestern tip of Santorini was recommended to them for its stunning sunsets and delicious food, and Hannah discovered the resort through months of research, "Instagram stalking" and online reviews.
"It was flawless," says Hannah. "It has the best sunset views in the whole of Santorini and everything from the staff, to the décor in the room is just out of this world."
The couple's favourite aspect of the resort was its proximity to the local main town; five minutes away by foot, but enough that they feel too exposed immediately after leaving. The food was another high point - the hotel's fine dining restaurant 'Allios' is regularly visited by non-hotel guests due to its great reputation and beautiful setting. "The breakfast was fit for royalty," says Hannah, "and the service by the pool was world class - you were never without a fresh towel, bottle of water, and they even came around every hour to offer an aloe vera massage, a very nice touch."
The couple opted for a deluxe sunset Seaview suite, consisting of a large balcony with a private pool, "and truly magical sunset views".
"I thought the décor to be very Swedish inspired, fresh, relaxing and minimalistic," Hannah notes. "The grounds are immaculate - an Instagrammer's dream - with white and stone walls with scatters of bright purple and pink flowers perfectly manicured. The room was kept beautiful every day, and they gave us stunning Greek blankets and body lotions as a gift when we were leaving. The hotel is the top end of what you pay for Santorini but you will not be disappointed, we would go back in a heartbeat."
Santorini provided Hannah and Richie ample chance for adventures. "We went on a rather challenging hike from the town of Fira to Oia where we were staying," Hannah explains, "I have never seen such breathtakingly beautiful views. You walk along a cliff side, taking in scenes of the Volcano known locally as the caldera - the line of luxury resorts along the way were great to snoop at! We read loads of tripadvisor reviews which said it can take up to four hours if you are stopping regularly for photos. We did it in 2 hours 15 minutes, and believe me I take more photos then most, so if you are moderately fit it is a great morning activity."
They rented a 4x4 and drove around the entire island for the day, which Hannah says was "slightly terrifying when your husband thinks he’s a formula one driver on the narrowest of roads!" They drove to the highest point of the island, as well as to the Black Beach; "The Black Beach was the only place I didn’t really enjoy," Hannah says, "it was a little sixth year holiday vibes, and felt so unnatural to the rest of the island which is of course full of tourists but not spoilt at all. I believe the black beach is a much more affordable option, but I wouldn't recommend for a honeymoon."
"Unfortunately, it was too windy the day we had booked a semi private boat cruise, but this is a must if you visit Santorini," advises Hannah. "You can book a semi private cruise for £160 per person, which gives you six hours visiting the volcano, swimming in the hot springs and mud baths, a snorkel in a tropical cove, a three course BBQ with local wine, finishing up to watch the sunset out of sea. We were devastated we couldn’t go, but we will be back!"
Hannah and Richie agree they enjoyed some of the finest food we have ever eaten in Santorini, and were absolutely blown away by the restaurants. The highlight for them both was the three Michelin star restaurant 'Lauda', in the town of Oia .
"Lauda is not cheap by any means," notes Hannah, "in fact we agreed it was the most expensive food bill we had ever seen; however, it was worth every single penny."
"With every course you pay for they give you another dish on the house, it is the gift that keeps on giving. The fish, the meat, the vegetables, the dessert, everything we tasted was perfection. We had a number of cocktails too which the staff recommended, and they were divine, and the restaurant also had a very impressive wine list. We enjoyed a bottle of rosé from a small town called Bandol in the South of France, it was so nice, we ordered two bottles online after! Lauda is a once in a lifetime culinary experience, be prepared to spend the same as a couple of nights in a country hotel in Ireland, but remember it is your honeymoon you only do it once, so get saving!"
On the flipside, Hannah says they're favorite lunch time spot was a little more purse friendly. "It was a traditional Greek fast food restaurant called Pito Gyros," says Hannah, "I had researched the best gyros on the island, and lucky for us it was only a 5-minute walk! We ate there four times, and the gyros which are a great size portion were a very pleasing €4! So we figured it all evened out with Lauda!" If you go, Hannah says be prepared to queue; Pito Gyros is no longer a well-kept secret but an absolute hot spot on the island.
Other highlights: Ammoudi Bay fish tavern ("the atmosphere is incredible and it is one of the only restaurants actually down on the water. Without a doubt I had the best prawns I have ever eaten"), Sunset sangria bar ("a real hidden gem")
For Hannah, it was the sunsets over Santorini that really made it an extra special destination. "Every night we would find a different spot to watch it, and it really is so romantic, perfect for honeymooners."
A huge highlight of the trip for the honeymooners was the private candlelit dinner that the hotel organised for them on the balcony of their suite: "They sent us off for an hour before dinner to watch the sunset, and when we came back our entire bedroom was laced with candles and lanterns, and they had a playlist of love songs playing on our balcony - proper cheese but what more could you ask for on your honeymoon! We watched the end of our sunset with our private waiter listening to Ed Sheeran and sipping on a beautiful local Rosé… Bliss!"
"You can do Santorini well no matter what your budget," says Hannah, "as mentioned we had €4 lunches right up to three michellan star prices, so do your research and plan where you want to spend your money in advance. The best thing is you can walk to dinner/lunch every night so you need not worry about taxis and there are plenty of cost friendly excursions to go on."
Hannah lays out her top tips for couples travelling to Santorini for a romantic trip:
- Avoid wearing loose mini dresses - "it is always a little bit windy and I learnt the hard way on my first night! You will spend your time trying to protect your dignity so bring an array of maxis, tighter minis, or ideally shorts and a dressy top. Be prepared to wear your hair up most nights, forget the curler and straighteners as the wind is too much to wear your hair down, and do not wear lip gloss! Additionally, I found myself being one of the only lunatic women to brave stilettos, I felt it was sinful to wear flats on my honeymoon, however my mentality changed after the second night! Santorini is extremely hilly and lined with cobble stones, a wedge might work but leave your wedding shoes behind honeymooners!"
- Book restaurants in advance - "it is a very busy island so get organized to avoid disappointment. I would also advise making a later reservation then you normally would as Santorini is not a party destination, the bars are quiet and close early, and so if you go for dinner at 7 you can be rest assured you will be in your bed by 10. Great for honeymooners, but after a few nights you are kind of ready for a bit of fun!"
- Google how to find the blue domes before you go – "this is the most iconic photo you can get on the island, but the exact spot is tricky to find!"
- The shopping is amazing - "they have some beautiful fashion boutiques and the jewelry is out of this world. My favorite shopping was in Oia, the boutiques have amazing international designers as well as some impressive Greek fashions. They also have beautiful pottery and homeware stores, we made a few purchases and they wrap everything in bubble wrap for you, so it is easy to pack. "
- Donkey rides seem to be a big tourist attraction - "I really did not like the look of how they were treated and so we decided not to take part. We also beat them up a hill one day and so again if you are moderately fit give the donkeys a break and get some exercise!"
- Don’t be afraid to venture off the main streets - "there are some incredible restaurants and bars slightly off the beaten track, as local waiters or your hotel staff to get some authentic Greek recommendations. We enjoyed a beautiful meal in a restaurant called Lefkes, it was much more rustic then the typical pristine white and blue restaurants, but the food was exceptional and reasonable."
"It is hard to describe the feeling you get in Santorini, I have never seen so many people in love in one place," says Hannah. "It is full of honeymooners, or proposals and you can see why, it is by far the most romantic place we have ever been."
"Richie and I enjoyed it as much as each other as there is plenty to do, neither of us are sun worshippers and so lying out from 9am to sundown is not for us, we like to be busy, but Santorini is the perfect mix of relaxation and discovery."
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