Created from a former nineteenth-century Catholic monastery, Katikies Garden features something a little different for Fira, often the first stop for visitors to Santorini: charming Venetian architecture with discernable Moorish elements. Clearly, this is not the traditional design that is associated with Santorini, as the bones of the original monastery remain intact. The contemporary overlay provides the visual contrast and energy. This hidden oasis that overlooks the Aegean on the island’s east side—and Anafi island in the distance—contains just 40 rooms and suites, each with its own private garden or veranda, while some boast a sea view, pool or hot tub. The main pool features the striking caldera views for which Santorini is famous.
Of course, the iconic, original Katikies helped put the town of Oia on the map.
Of course, the iconic, original Katikies helped put the town of Oia on the map of every jetsetter. But Fira is the anchor of the caldera, so Katikies Garden is poised to encourage travelers to rediscover its scenic, social and gastronomic charms. Fira has the island’s highest concentration of dining and nightlife. The capital is a labyrinth like Oia, but more horizontal (fewer stairs). “We don’t build much on the soil, because the ground is too soft,” a tour guide says. “It’s easier to build into the cliff.” He also points out that the town segues from white to color as one walks north.
And color is much in evidence at Katikies Garden, where flowering trees and vines and intricate tile floors turn the gardens into outdoor living rooms. The Venetian influence is represented by alleys and arches. The color green, a nod to the garden theme, is emphasized both indoors and out: Discover plush forest green sectional sofas and bedding, and the formidable emerald-colored stone bars and banquettes in De Paul restaurant. The green theme is contrasted by the red family: Bougainvillea is ubiquitous outside, while blush-hued accent pieces appear inside.
Fira, more than any other caldera town, boasts many fine examples of an indigenous architectural feature: a doorway that seems to float. A simple walk along the main seaview promenade reveals them. Leading to bars and restaurants, these doors, when open, frame the endless blue Aegean, and nothing else. Because the establishments are typically downstairs, arranged in descending open-air terraces, the doorways are like freestanding picture frames.
There’s something about staying in Fira that inspires visitors to sample the whole string of caldera towns. Immediately north of Fira is Firostefani, Fira’s bedroom community, though Fira is now so sprawling that it’s hard to know where Fira begins and Firostefani begins. Even the highest town, Imerovigli, is walkable from Katikies Garden. There are always more glittering pools hanging off the hillside to photograph. Getting to the final town, the northerly Oia, site of the flagship Katikies, requires a car or taxi ride. But then you can see both sides of the Katikies coin.