What To Do In Santorini
Where To Go, What To Eat, Plus Archaeological Tours, Wine Tastings, And A Yacht Cruise In The Cradle Of Western Civilization
Katikies Club Ambassador; Kirini Santorini
For Alexandros Garagounis, it’s always been about philoxenia, the Greek word for “hospitality.” Growing up on the Macedonian peninsula in northern Greece (“one of the most historic places in the country,” he notes), Alexandros remembers “feeling attached to tourism, and wanting to show people the true meaning of philoxenia. "In Greece, hospitality means to become friends with a stranger—to open your house and your heart, and to create a unique experience for every single visitor to this country.”
That passion led Alexandros to earn a degree in tourism in Thessaloniki; to learn five languages— “to have more opportunities to share that hospitality,” he explains—and, in 2004, to move to the popular tourist destination of Santorini. Three years later, he began working for the Katikies group of luxury boutique resorts and villas, first as a concierge, then in various roles in hotel management. When, in 2013, the brand founded the Katikies Club (formerly the Klepsydra Club), a private concierge service for guests of their hotels, Alexandros leapt at the chance to get back to what he loves best—connecting with visitors, and introducing them to Greece. Today, he serves as the director of the Katikies Club, and the dedicated guest ambassador for the Kirini Santorini hotel.
The Kirini Experience
As Alexandros explains, his goal as an ambassador of the Katikies Club is “to create unique experiences that are specially designed for our guests, and that can’t be found anywhere else in the island.” These might include VIP bookings to the most sought-after restaurants, private winery visits led by a sommelier, and luxury sailing trips with routes tailored to the guests’ interests. He also works to develop a relationship with guests to ensure their stays are top-notch, and is ready with suggestions for everything from must-do hotel activities (“with its cave-style pool and healing treatments, our A. Spa should be first on the list,” he enthuses), to the perfect spot to catch Oia’s famous sunsets. But above all, he says, it’s “meeting people from all over the world that makes this the most interesting profession on earth.”
The Magic Of Santorini
Even after calling Santorini home for so long, Alexandros is still under the island’s spell, and can see how quickly it works its magic on all who visit. “That breathtaking moment when a traveler faces the caldera and takes in the magnificent view, with the white houses on top of the volcanic cliff—that’s what makes them come back again and again,” he says, adding that “the sunsets, romance, and unique natural beauty” are also clearly part of the appeal. There are also plenty of surprises on the island, he reveals, including “hidden gems like Venetian castles and labyrinthine villages that make you feel like you’ve journeyed back in time.”
Explore Magical Santorini With Katikies Club Ambassador And Local Insider, Alexandros Garagounis
From sailing around a caldera to learning how volcanic soil makes for great wine, Alexandros Garagounis reveals his favorite ways to experience Santorini.
Sip And Savor
Learning About Local Wines
A dry Mediterranean climate and rich volcanic soil have helped make Santorini wines “a journey of senses and aromas,” says Alexandros. Though vines have been planted here for centuries, today there are about 20 main producers on the island, many of which guests can visit for tours, tastings, and chats with the winemakers and owners. Founded in 1903, and currently overseen by a fourth-generation winemaker, Estate Argyros (Episkopi Gonia, Thira; +30-22860-31489) has won international awards for several of its releases, and is a particular favorite of Alexandros’s. Visit to learn more about indigenous varietals like assyrtiko, which yields a crisp, mineral-style white wine, and vinsanto, a Santorini-born drink that became popular during the rule of the Venetian Empire.
The vineyards and winery at Estate Argyros. Photo courtesy of Kirini Santorini.
Back In Time
Wander Through History At An Important Archeological Site
You can’t visit Greece, the birthplace of Western civilization, without a trip to an archeological site, and luckily, Santorini boasts an important one. Like Italy has Pompeii, Santorini has Akrotiri (Thera; +30-22860-81939), an ancient Minoan Bronze Age city that was buried in volcanic ash sometime around 1627 B.C. Known as Akrotiri of Thera (the ancient name of Santorini), and said to be the inspiration for Plato’s story of Atlantis, the town was, at its high point, very prosperous, and today, you can see evidence of that in the remains of the homes, pottery, and decorative objects that have been uncovered over the years. Most notable are the stunning frescos, which feature elaborate and intricate scenes painted in rich mineral pigments.
The Akrotiri archeological site on Santorini. Photo courtesy of Kirini Santorini.
Check “Caldera Cruising” Off Your List With A Signature Santorini Activity
“Sailing around the Santorini caldera and its volcanic islands in an extravagant Riva Rivarama is the chicest way to discover the area,” says Alexandros. Based in the town of Fira, Caldera Yachting (Fira; +30-22860-23000) offers several different cruises that showcase the beauty of the region, including a daytime journey with stops at several beaches, a light house, the hot springs, and the old port of Ammoudi. A sunset itinerary starts in Ammoudi, then heads along the Caldera for a vibrant natural light show, before docking in Vlihada for a delicious dinner. Private trips in traditional kaiki boats, sailboats, catamarans, and luxury motor boats can also be arranged, as can day trips to nearby islands of your choice.
A romantic sail through the Santorini caldera. Photo courtesy of Kirini Santorini.
Dress To Impress With Santorini-Inspired Style
Visual beauty is taken to another level on Santorini, where, as Alexandros notes, “the combination of natural light with white-and-blue buildings turns Santorini into a real heaven on earth.” To keep up with the aesthetics, visitors are often dressed to the nines in their most stylish island wear, be it a chic caftan or impressive piece of bling. Pick up some of the latter at Poniros (Oia; +30-22860-72260), a jewelry designer with three boutiques on the island, including two near the Kirini. Pieces from the Volcanic Flower collection—inspired by Santorini’s black volcanic beaches and blue Aegean waters—or from the Akrotiri Collection, an homage to the archeological site’s famous frescoes, make for elegant souvenirs from the island.
Poniros Jewelry. Photo courtesy of Kirini Santorini.
Seafood And Sunsets
Enjoy Two Of Santorini’s Top Draws At One Lovely Place
When asked what makes Santorini so special, “the sunsets” and “the seafood” are among Alexandros’s first thoughts. One of his favorite spots for both is Sunset Tavern by Paraskevas (Ammoudi: +30-22860-71614). Opened in the early-1980’s by a fisherman, Paraskevas, and his wife, Margarita, it is the first fish taverna in Ammoudi Bay, the main port of Oia. Full of good cheer and rustic charm, the place is beloved by all in the know—including many visiting international chefs—for signature dishes like lobster spaghetti, traditional fava beans, and feta-stuffed eggplant. Naturally, the fresh fish and seafood are replenished daily, and prepared to perfection.
Preparing the daily catch at Sunset Tavern. Photo courtesy of Kirini Santorini.