We booked directly with the hotel as it was cheaper than any booking site. And what a great place Villa Ilias was.
The hotel organised our private taxi transfer from the airport. We found out on our return that shared transfers are available, though only a little cheaper. Despite arriving after reception hours at 23:30 (reception is 8am till 9pm) we had a warm welcome and brief tour of our apartment. One of the joys of a night arrival here is you get the real welcome when you wake up to your first view of the Caldera and the surrounding vistas the next morning.
The Villa is on a cliff side 5 minutes uphill walk North of Firostefani centre. Perfectly situated between the smaller village of Imerovigli, 15 minutes walk uphill, and the more vibrant city of Fira, 20 minutes downhill. To be honest if you are on a cliff side in any of these locations you are likely to have a fantastic sea and/or caldera view from your accommodation. You also have views out to the East coast, it really is a stunning location. Because of this these three settlements, along with Oia further around the coastline, are the highest profile and thus highest priced holidays on the island. It's referred to as a holiday on the Caldera side as they overlook the Caldera. What attracted us initially to Villa Ilias was its location just away from the lively Fira but close enough to access it, it's views, the reviews and it seemed to present very good value for money when doing a date/price search compared to other properties offering similar features.
WHO GOES HERE:
It's a great mix of people. Not just a honeymooners or couples experience, though there are weddings happening all the time. Families go too. All different nationalities. And as it is the norm for people to stay just a few nights, if you stay longer you get to meet lots of characters over breakfast and hear their stories. A welcome evening also takes place a couple of times a week where you can get to know each other, if that is your thing. Equally if you enjoy your own company, no one will try and get in your way. Indeed there are "no music" signs by the pool and this villa has emphasis on providing peace and tranquility, if you are after lively times you will not find them here.
Those of you that will have done Greek Islands before will have noticed, if you had checked weather websites, that forecasts never seem to go above 30 degrees. Cool for Greek Islands in July? Why? Because of the wind. It's windy, pretty much constant. If it does drop and to be fair it did during our 7 night break, then you'll get your 40 degrees. Not so bad in the beach resorts of Kamari and Perissa so do go there to spend some meaningful time in water, because you won't spend much time in the hotel pool high up in the cliff resorts. There are around 16 rooms, yet only 6 sunbeds? That simply would not work were it not for the the weather conditions high up in Firostefani. And also Santorini is a place people come to and spend maximum time getting out and about the island and seeing it, more than any other similar Greek Island I've been to. But don't worry, you'll still get a tan, be needing sunscreen but perhaps a jacket or long sleeves at night.
We were on effectively 3rd floor, room 6, a direct Caldera view room. Most expensive because of a fantastic view direct onto the Caldera and of the village side to both left and right. Access to pool via side stairs one floor down. Main door to room was also patio/French door onto balcony. Reasonable size bed though it was hard, and despite it being a premium room I'd guess it was as small as many of the others given previous comments. It had everything you'd need though. Fridge freezer, sink, basic cutlery. Bathroom was small shower only, but sink had complimentary toiletries. Cramped toilet. Hair dryer. Towels were good and included a separate set for the pool. Flatscreen TV with free to air channels, only around six, notably Euro News and BBC World News. Also had DVD player. Air conditioning was good, easy to use, though not really needed that much. Walls were a bit thin, you could hear the footsteps above, plumbing when showers in use, though only one full blown argument (in another room not ours!) provided some comedy. Seriously though, thin walls won't ruin your holiday. This is small room living in Santorini! Finally rooms were kept spotless clean, random cleaning times as the hotel is constantly turning over rooms so heavy sleepers always be prepared for a visit!
Breakfast is provided in the main reception area and outside it. Which is across a cobbled street from the hotel. I say street, cars don't drive down it, it is the main walkway, down to Fira or up to Imerovigli. Self service Buffett. Plenty of Tea/Coffee choices. Three fruit juice drinks. Good selection of cold food, including fruits, eggs, cereals, bread and toaster, savoury pies, pastries and cakes, cold meats. Lots of it home made and varied daily. Outside of breakfast there is no drinks or other snack facilities, apart from a small free Buffett at the welcome evening.
Owner and all of his staff were welcoming, polite, friendly, attentive to our needs and any queries. Could not have asked for more.
It's a big part of our vacation, we do use TA a lot for research, so that is a good start point. What I would say is here there is widespread use by the restaurants of Certificate Of Excellence 2014 plaques issued by TA, which shows the rating. Displayed usually on the walls next the menus. You won't see any on display less than four stars. Our use of extensive research has actually been hit and miss so I would say look out for these plaques and go with your gut feeling. In Santorini we never found any really bad or really good experiences. Everywhere we went was just fine. Firostefani has enough places to feed you for a week, just. And they all have tremendous views. Whilst we did eat in Fira you are just as well staying local. Average two course meal for two with drinks was around 50 Euro. Santorini is big on wine, lots of wineries and wine tours available. House White was therefore better than your average holiday island, but red is not big here.
Everyone talks about going to Oia for the most spectacular sunsets. Well they are just as spectacular in Firostefani and Fira. For the crazy rammed bus journey to and from Oia just before or after sunset that we were warned about we decided not to bother. You really won't miss anything.
THINGS TO DO
There are no entertainment facilities at the Villa apart from DVDs and a library. As for Santorini. Well there is plenty of information on TA. But briefly, walk down to Fira to catch buses to the five main locations elsewhere on the Island. Or a combination of doing a couple of bus trips and hiring a car for a day will be get you to see everything. Then there is the Volcano and other islands you can visit. Check out the "things to do" section. I feel a week here is more than enough. More than this is fine if you are sun worshippers. But if you are stay in Kamari or Perissa where there are beaches, lower winds, and hotels with larger pools as they have more space. Not much sun worshipping seen on the Caldera. Pools were minute in a lot of properties and seemed to exist more for picture postcard reasons than for swimming reasons.
No room problems with bugs. I always get mossie bites but didn't get one at all here. I did use spray the first night but didn't bother after that.
I wont bore too much here as tipping is such a personal thing. Suffice to say if you are happy trying different restuarants, you are less likely to connect with staff and tipping becomes less of an issue. If you remember each others name, tip more, then they will save your caldera view and get you the same drink every night. You probably get what you pay for and have a greater enjoyment. But only if that is your thing. It's not a big thing here generally though so rounding your meal up to around 10% is probably the norm if you are looking for a figure.
Do try your Greek greetings and use of Yamas instead of cheers,though you won't have a barrier as everyone speaks good English, and some of the larger restaurants are multi lingual.
FLIGHTS, AIRPORT and TRANSFERS
Travelled with Norwegian Air out of Gatwick. Flights on time, pleasant service on board, thought its unique selling point of free WiFi was not working on the way out. Clearing customs and bags at Santorini was the quickest ever through an airport. On the way back it was a different story, check in rather crowded but otherwise painless. Duty free prices at the airport were not cheap and selection on offer was small so we didn't bother. Do pre book private or shared transfers to/from the airport as taxis on the island seem to be at a premium at peak times.
We had a great time. The Villa met expectations, though it didn't exceed them. We didn't spend as much time poolside, down to the wind conditions. Not a bad thing because this is a spectacularly scenic island. I have never ever seen so many people taking pictures, everywhere you look. Clambering on rooftops. No such thing as a bad picture. It's just amazing. Because of this it is a bit of tourist trap. Prices reflect that. But fair play to Villa Ilias. It is a well run very comfortable place to stay and given what it offers and where it is it delivers great value for money.
I hope I have covered everything, if not I am sure others and the forum will help you enjoy a great stay in Santorini.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Damigos family has been a part of Santorini history for over a century. Villa Ilias is the former residence of one of our ancestors, George Ilias Damigos. It is built on this specific location to capture breathtaking views that are unique only to Villa Ilias and perched 1,000 feet above the Aegean Sea and the most famous volcano in the world. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Expedia, Ebookers, TripOnline SA, Odigeo, Booking.com, Traveltool, S.L.U., Hotels.com, Evoline ltd and HotelQuickly so you can book your Villa Ilias Caldera Hotel reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Villa Ilias Hotel Firostefani
- Ilias Hotel Firostefani
- Villa Ilias Caldera Hotel Santorini/Firostefani