You could make a case that Santorini is too beautiful for its own good. Or at least that was my impression after being nearly flattened by a stampede of tourists on the marble-paved streets of Oia, a winding village that attracts Instagrammers the world over. Traveling to this island is not for the faint of heart, especially in the summer months, when it is more crowded—and much more expensive—than its Aegean neighbors.
Yet there is nowhere in the world quite like Santorini. Forged by one of the most violent volcanic eruptions in history, the island is a geologic wonder of spiraling cliffside, black-sand beaches, and endless blue waters. What you need to truly enjoy all this dizzying beauty is a good base, a perch from which you can take in the best while avoiding the rest.
Enter Grace Hotel, Auberge Resorts Collection, a 21-room seaside sanctuary along Santorini’s western coast, which opened in 2008 and was revamped this spring. (Last month, it was named the best resort in Greece—and the second-best in the world—by Travel & Leisure.) Despite its tiny footprint, just a few gorgeous white blocks jutting out of the volcanic crater, the miniature resort is now home to a major cocktail bar and restaurant that allows hotel guests, and visitors, to taste the best of modern Greek cuisine while feasting their eyes on panoramic views of the Aegean.
The restaurant, Varoulko Santorini, is run by Lefteris Lazarou, the chef behind the famed Varoulko restaurant in Athens, the first in Greece to be awarded a Michelin star. Like at his first restaurant, the cooking is quietly ambitious, but the setting here is much more relaxed, more pool bar than palace, with tables secreted into shady stone alcoves. Above the restaurant is the hotel’s 363 Lounge, whose cocktail program was designed by Thanos Prunarus, the founder of the Athens bar Baba Au Rum, generally regarded as the top cocktail joint in the Greek capital.