Superlatives are hardly in short supply when it comes to Santorini. Historic ruins, beaches of multihued sand, and postcard views—including the caldera, an ancient volcanic crater turned serene expanse of sea—make this island one of the most popular romantic destinations in the world. From the caldera’s base, it’s a steep climb up 400 stone steps to Oia, a whitewashed village at cliff’s edge. But whether you arrive by donkey or by car, your efforts are rewarded the moment you step onto the bougainvillea-lined path that leads to Perivolas hotel.
The origins of this now-glamorous hideaway, however, are decidedly homespun. In 1969, Greek naval captain Manos Psychas and his wife, Nadia, began converting a series of 300-year-old cave dwellings formerly inhabited by fishermen and farmers into a white-capped family retreat. In keeping with the traditional architecture of the area, local craftsmen helped the couple create curved white walls that echo the cave structures, along with built-in platform beds nestled into alcoves, private stone terraces, and windows with views of the sea.
Over the years, the Psychas family compound morphed into the present-day 20-suite hotel. Although the hotel’s façade maintains a relative uniformity—and Nadia’s handwoven textiles appear throughout—no two suites are alike. Vaulted skylights illuminate intimate living areas, reclaimed nautical lamps serve as reading lights above the beds, and antique wooden tables once used for rolling phyllo dough in the kitchen are repurposed as desks.
Against the dazzlingly white interiors, pillows and bedspreads in shades of fuchsia and violet pick up on the hues of the island’s flora. The effect is both restful and energetic, a seamless transition from the ways of the past to the visual luxury of the present.
*Adapted from the June 2013 story by Jennifer Fernandez entitled "The Great Escape."