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Santorini’s Volcanic Personality

Architecture, The Design Hotels Book, Guide

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Words Zsuzsanna TothImages Robbie LawrenceDate 15 August 2020

Sun-bleached, low-set houses frame intriguing narrow streets before opening onto breathtaking views that often open—quite suddenly—onto crystal-clear waters…. This is the unique destination of Santorini (officially known as Thera—an island that today enchants those in search of both adventure and minimalist living alike.

The history of the island, however, is pretty much the opposite of calm, as it emerged from one of the biggest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. “Volcanic” is indeed the collateral adjective whenever an island in the Aegean Sea is mentioned. But despite the common beliefs, Santorini’s foundation wasn’t a volcano. The island’s base consists of Mesozoic and Early Cenozoic-aged marble, still visible from Thira, the southeast part of the island, which, until about 1600 B.C., was part of a larger archipelago.

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Each villa has a private plunge pool

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Overlooking the volcano with stunning views of the island’s celebrated sunsets

A Minoan eruption during the Late Bronze Age forever altered the island’s topography and left a series of islands, including Santorini, with cliffs that are a beautiful and fearsome testament to nature’s force. The eruption also unleashed a giant tsunami, devastating the neighboring island of Crete and burying and preserving the town of Akrotiri under a thick blanket of ash and pumice much in the way that the eruption of Vesuvius did at Pompei.

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Vora is carved into a caldera cliff

In between and behind entire excavations, new buildings have emerged, melting into the history of the island and each defined by contemporary simplicity and a necessary adaptability. Many are built with volcanic materials, such as pumice stone, black and red rock, and volcanic dust, while their shapes vary from domes to cave houses, with some built directly on the edge of the caldera cliff.

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Vora is a handcrafted new construction of private villas

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A minimalistic Cycladic design with custom-made furniture

One such new construct—literally perched atop a cliff—is Vora by hotelier and Santorini native Yannis Bellonias. The hotel, consisting of three villas, was built by hand over four years, as construction machinery could not access the site on the cliffs. Finished in 2018, Villa Alpha, Villa Ro, and the cocoon-like Villa Omikron, reflect the earth tones and sharp edges of its surroundings, and each is mixed with a breath of modern luxury, making them a perfect place to rewind. One might even call them “the calm after the storm”.

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The hotel literally hangs from the cliffs of the island’s famous caldera

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Vora is featured in the Design Hotels Book. The 2020 edition marks an innovative new editorial and artistic direction for the design anthology, created in collaboration with some of the world’s leading photographers. 

Get your copy here

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Santorini, Greece

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Greece, Santorini
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