Experience Fira, Santorini
The Manager of Katikies Garden In Fira Shares His Favorite Restaurants, Bars, Beaches, And More
Hotel Manager, Katikies Garden
Athens-born Tsiarkas was snapped up by the Katikies brand a year before the summer 2019 opening, which was part of an auspicious Cycladic brand expansion that included the debut of the new Katikies Mykonos.
"In terms of convenience," he says, "there’s nothing like Fira, but until now, the capital—with its easy access to the funicular—didn’t have a five-star hotel. Now it does."
The 40 accommodations at Katikies Garden sit within a former monastery with Venetian and Moorish architectural features.
This aesthetic stands in marked contrast to the sun-bleached, stark look of the original—and classically designed—Katikies to the north, in Oia. And Katikies Garden has the luxury of space to contain both a Champagne bar and a wine bar, the latter all the better to enjoy Tsiarkas’ favorite local wine, Assyrtiko.
A Different Katikies
The most coveted suites have sea views and private pools in true Santorini style. But the similarities end there. According to Tsiarkas, Katikies Garden places a premium on discretion.
"Most of the hotels on Santorini face the caldera," he says, "which doesn’t afford much privacy"—a nod to the fact that a caldera’s hotel’s stairways, outdoor corridors and even roofs may be used by the public to move around the vertiginous villages. "And our guests can enjoy the sunrise without sharing it."
Discover Fira And The Rest Of Santorini With Christos Tsiarkas, Hotel Manager At Katikies Garden
To Tsiarkas, the ultra-convenient position of Katikies Garden allows guests easy access to bars in town and the attractions of several the caldera villages within walking distance.
Don’t look for street names: In Santorini, look for signs, and ask locals. The turquoise tablecloths and commanding clifftop setting of Remvi help to identify this premier restaurant just past the north end of Fira (Firostefani; +30-228-602-8200). A hike to Imerovigli should be rewarded. At Volkan on the Rocks (Imerovigli; +30-228-602-8360), grab a table on the railing to enjoy breakfast with spectacular views. Menu items include traditional spinach and feta pie, pancakes, and a variety of egg dishes and hot meze like grilled haloumi cheese with tomato, basil and pesto. For a more substantial meal in the same village, Blue Note (Imerovigli; +30-228-602-3771) offers friendly service and perfectly grilled octopus. If you make it as far as Oia, Seagull (+30-228-607-1676) is beloved for its prawns, souvlaki, and meze platters and its iconic blue dome views.
Blue Note in Imerovigli boasts views to match its excellent cuisine. Photo courtesy of Drew Limsky.
Right in the center of Fira is Palia Kameni Bar (+30-228-602-2430), which locals like Tsiarkas refer to as "P.K." As its clifftop location is nothing short of magnificent, get there well before sunset as it tends to fill up. Chroma Champagne Bar and Sushi at Chromata Hotel (Imerovigli; +30-228-602-3227) is available only to guests of the Katikies group of hotels, so Tsiarkas advises guests to take advantage of the VIP access to this small, beautifully positioned venue. Nibble on sushi with your bubbly as you admire Skaros rock. And save a night for Katikies Garden’s own Seltz Champagne Bar & Restaurant. Of course, there’s always the tempting option of the hotel’s De Paul Antique Wine Caves & Restaurant after a day of sightseeing. Tsiarkas notes that the wine caves date from the 17th century: "They have been completely preserved and look exactly the way they did back then."
Palis Kameni cocktail bar occupies a commanding position in Fira. Photo courtesy of Drew Limsky.
Beautiful Beaches In Santorini
As Santorini’s magic relies in part on its varied coastlines, many of its most appealing beaches are best accessed by boat. Tsiarkas recommends booking boat passage and private transfer through the Katikies Club, the brand’s dedicated online concierge system. South of the caldera, the black sand beach at Perivolas is a fully developed resort area, lined with tavernas and bars. The swimming is safe; the clear water has a unique dark emerald cast. And for a truly pulchritudinous experience, head down the switchback stairways from Oia to find Amoudi Bay. It’s a little fishing cove with a few places to get in the water—and a stunning landscape of white boats anchored in cyan blue water, sharp red cliffs, and white cave houses that look like frosting on top of a cake.
Breathtaking Amoudi Bay. Phjoto courtesy of Drew Limsky.
Scenic Towns And Villages
Santorini’s caldera is best experienced on foot. Heading north through Fira is to watch the transition of whitewashed architecture with subtle color accents to homes and churches in solid amber, yellow, and peach. Just north of Fira is the tiny village of Firostefani, with its narrow pedestrian main street. Keep walking to discover breathtaking Imerovigli, the highest caldera town. If you’re feeling adventurous, descend through Imerovigli toward the water to take the winding trail along the rock outcropping that terminates in dramatic Skaros rock. To see more of the island, hire a driver to see the ruins of the ancient Bronze Age settlement of Akrotiri (+30-228-608-1939), which was buried by a volcano’s ash in the 16th century B.C. And of you want to see the splendor of Santorini from the water, Tsiarkas suggest a private cruise of the caldera, arranged by the hotel.
Set off from Fira on foot to explore the colorful architecture further north. Photo courtesy of Drew Limsky.
In Fira, getting lost is part of the fun, but somehow you always seem to find yourself back at the White House (Fira; +30-228-602-3620), a local institution for gauzy men’s shirts and women’s apparel.Drakkar (Fira; +30-228-602-1678) is another hotspot for stylish casual and cocktail wear. Another landmark, this one in Oia and this one for the mind, is Atlantis Books (Nomikos St., Oia; +30-228-607-2346), surely one of the world’s most famous and beloved independent bookstores. It’s packed, tiny, and magical, full of nooks and eccentricities—it even has beds in the eaves so the bohemian staff can live in the shop. There are books of local interest, and works by Virginia Woolf, Raymond Carver, and David Sedaris prominently displayed.
Gauzy Grecian fashions at the White House in Fira. Photo courtesy of Drew Limsky.