Greek paradise, found: If you stay in one Airbnb this year it should be here
2020 was the year that travel forgot.
As we move into 2021, the road to recovery for travel is still bumpy, but the end is definitely in sight. Global mass vaccination programs and the return of strict lockdowns means that hopefully, we'll soon be able to start adventuring again.
Pre-COVID-19, I was fortunate enough to spend five weeks in Brazil and even managed to visit Croatia and Greece later on in the year once travel restrictions were lifted where I live in the U.K. and it was deemed safe.
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In all honesty, Greece had never been on my list of places to visit. I went to Corfu once while Interrailing around Europe as a student and that's it. Then, when I was struggling to find somewhere suitable for my 30th birthday in October, Greece was one of the only destinations that looked stable enough to risk booking a trip to.
At the time, the U.K.'s travel corridors were being updated on a weekly basis, sometimes more frequently, so booking trips in advance was a gamble. Being on the U.K. travel corridor meant no quarantine was required when returning.
Though I had my heart set on the Greek island of Santorini, there were no signs of it being re-added to the U.K. travel corridor list — so I decided on the mainland instead.
Related: Can I travel to England? Everything you need to know about the country's quarantine program
I had spent an unforgettable four days near Glyfada, just south of Athens, and was ready to head into the capital for the weekend and do some sightseeing when a miracle happened.
On the last night there with two of my best friends, Sophie and Jonny, a friend who lives on Santorini messaged to say that the island was going to be re-added to the travel corridor list. Without a second thought, I booked a flight from Athens (ATH) to Santorini (JTR) for the following afternoon.
Related: 10 things nobody tells you about Athens
Swapping out a weekend of sightseeing in Athens for a 48-hour stint in paradise on Santorini was the perfect ending to my birthday celebrations.
Santorini is one of the most picturesque and popular tourist destinations among the Greek islands. Usually a port of call for huge cruise ships, I was looking forward to experiencing all the island had to offer without it being overrun by hundreds, if not thousands, of snap-happy tourists in Jesus sandals and khaki shorts.
I'd heard through the grapevine of an Airbnb that was up on the highest point of the island and was an absolute must-stay. A quick check on the Airbnb app and I was able to book a last-minute two nights there.
Officially an Airbnb, Santorini Sky feels a lot more like a five-star hotel. I can't wait to tell you about this magic jewel high up in the skies of this blissful island.
Before you even get to your villa, this is the view you are greeted with:
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Immediately I knew I was somewhere truly special.
Putting the "sky" in Santorini Sky, the view makes you feel like you're on top of the world. Sometimes — on the rare occasions when the weather isn't so good — Santorini Sky even finds itself above the clouds. Quite literally in the sky. Part of what I love so much about flying is the feeling of height and looking down at the earth below. The awesome sense of perspective this place gave me was so similar.
Related: Life after quarantine: 8 things about flying I'm most looking forward to
I would never, ever, ever get bored of waking up to this view every morning. I mean, how could you?
Think of your favorite luxury home design magazine mixed with some of your favorite hotel interiors — that's Santorini Sky.
The minimalist, bespoke attention to detail exudes an effortless luxury that's almost humbling. I will certainly be taking inspiration from this place when renovating my first house.
The open-plan living space included a kitchen equipped with all the essentials, as well as a comfy couch that converts into a double bed. The room opened up even further to the outside, blending into one harmonious haven in the sky.
The bedroom was equally pleasing to the eye, both in terms of the design and the view. The sliding doors again combined the inside with outside. Heaven.
On the other side of the sliding door was the bathroom — and not just your average bathroom.
Related: 19 hotels you'll want to book just for the incredible bathtub
The attention to detail in the bathroom was stunning. Just look at that marbling!
The pièce de résistance for me was the outdoor shower. A genius design quirk that I've never come across before in all the Airbnbs and hotels I've stayed in.
If showering outside is not for you, then the inside shower came with water and power just as good.
The Apivita products in the bathroom were locally made and smelled so good that I ordered some for home as soon I got back to the U.K. Now, whenever I shower, the scent takes me back to paradise for a few seconds.
Santorini Sky's villas are equipped with loads of brilliant extras, like a yoga mat, and have all bases covered. Other items of note included branded robes, some light reading about Santorini and Greece, and a Marshall Bluetooth speaker. The bonus of having everything you need already there is that there'll be more room in your suitcase to pack local treats to take home.
We talk about amenities a lot at TPG, and Santorini Sky really gets full marks in that category.
Now, to the outside. If you're anything like me, this will be where you spend most of your stay. When I wasn't sleeping or in the outside shower, I was on my private terrace.
There was a shaded area that doubled as a working space or a spot for breakfast-with-a-view before a day chilling by the plunge pool or discovering the island.
Related: The 11 hotel breakfasts we'd order for every meal if we could
If you like to explore, the team at Santorini Sky can sort you out with quad bike hire, no problem. I highly recommend it! I whizzed around half of the island in a day and it was amazing.
If you're more the rest-and-relaxation type, then the team can arrange for resident therapist Marina to give you an unforgettable massage in the comfort of your own villa. I came back after my day of touring the island on a quad bike and was welcomed home to her waiting for me, massage table at the ready. Her massage style was like nothing I've ever experienced before.
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After over an hour on the table, I felt rejuvenated, rested and relaxed — a nice change from the usual sluggish post-massage feeling I usually experience. Instead, after an hour with Marina, I was ready to head out for a final evening meal in Pyrgos, the closest town to the villas.
As you can probably read from my face, this was the best massage in the best setting I've ever experienced.
Each villa also has a plunge pool and the two bigger properties have larger pools. All pools are heated, which is a welcome feature as temperatures can drop given Santorini Sky's altitude — especially toward the end of the summer.
Every aspect of a guest's comfort is considered, even down to the cushions which are tied to the loungers' frames to stop them blowing away.
As the light of the day starts to fade and the golden hour sets in, Santorini Sky is at its most magical.
It really doesn't get much better than this.
One last one.
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Once the mesmerizing sunset show was over and night set in, it was back to the pool to gaze up at the starry skies while sipping on a glass of local wine.
My stay at Santorini Sky confirmed my belief that everything happens for a reason. My original plan for my 30th was to head off to somewhere exotic like the Philippines or South Africa and hire a villa with some friends. Then along came COVID-19 and the rules and regulations narrowed my options down to Greece.
Lo and behold, I ended up with a last-minute whirlwind 48-hour stay at Santorini Sky, which left me feeling almost renewed.
It was the perfect location to rest and relax after months of uneasiness and anxiety caused by the pandemic and before heading into a winter that promised more coronavirus-related doom and gloom.
The nostalgia I feel remembering this trip that was only a few months ago fills me with a sense of contentment and peace that I cannot wait to experience again as soon as I can go back. My newfound love for Greece is such that I have even started learning the language!
Sitting on the tarmac at Santorini Airport just as the aircraft's engines started to roar, I vividly remember getting goose bumps as I reflected on what was one of the most unforgettable 48 hours of my life.
Santorini Sky is, without doubt, one of the most magical, awe-inspiring places you will ever stay.
In total, there are six villas, each with its own plunge pool. There are also two larger villas on each end of the strip, numbers 1 and 6. These have a second, larger pool that's just about big enough to do a small lap. These are more expensive per night but well worth it.
In low season, you can expect to pay 199-349 euros ($240-$424) per night and in high season 349-599 euros ($424-$727) per night. All room rates include a delicious breakfast delivered to your door from a local cafe.
Head to the Santorini Sky website to book.
τα λέμε σύντομα, Θήρα (See you soon, Santorini).