|Review: Mystique Santorini|
|View all: Reviews • Travel Talk|
When I first started earning and redeeming points for travel, there were a few aspirational hotels that left a particularly deep impression in my mind – those select few luxury retreats that made me go, “This is why I need the points!”
You know the type I’m referring to. The Ritz-Carltons of the world. The St. Regises. And then… Mystique, a Luxury Collection Resort, Santorini, a stunning cliffside resort situated in the picturesque town of Oia on the northwestern tip of Santorini.
Back in the days of the old Starwood Preferred Guest program, Mystique had been designated as an “all-suites” resort, and required a truly exorbitant number of points for even the base-level rooms. However, with the introduction of Marriott Bonvoy, there was a brief period in which the portfolio’s top-tier hotels could be booked at the incredibly generous rate of 60,000 Bonvoy points per night.
This wasn’t an opportunity I was about to pass up, so I snagged three nights at Mystique for a total of 180,000 Bonvoy points – a steal considering the usual cash rates of €700+ per night. I had chosen dates on a weekend in May to coincide with my 25th birthday, which made it all the more special, and it’s fair to say that I was buzzing with anticipation as we flew from Istanbul to Santorini by way of Athens.
Mystique is located just outside the town of Oia, which is quite some distance away from Santorini Airport. Unfortunately, the island isn’t the most efficient in terms of public transportation, with taxis being the dominant mode of transport.
Upon arriving in Santorini, Jessy and I realized that our options to get to the hotel consisted of either a €35 taxi ride or a €40 private car, and we went ahead with the latter option because it’d be a much more comfortable ride.
(For what it’s worth, the hotel had also quoted me €40 for a one-way airport transfer, but we had hoped to negotiate something lower at the airport. We could’ve arranged for some cheaper shared transport with other travellers going to Oia, but unfortunately we weren’t able to find anyone else to split the costs with.)
That price point left me feeling a little miffed along the 30-minute car ride, but those feelings instantly faded away as soon as I stepped out of the car and cast my eyes upon the lights of Mystique glistening in the night. It was difficult to believe, as the Mystique staff member who greeted us helped us with our bags down the cobblestone stairs, that this would be our home for the next three nights.
Since Mystique is built into the Oia cliffside, your transportation can only bring you to the curbside drop-off point, and from there it’s a climb down 2–3 storeys’ worth of cobblestone stairs before you arrive at the resort proper. While this is a key feature of the resort’s character, it’s something worth considering if you aren’t in a good enough physical condition to handle a few storeys of stairs every time you need to leave the resort.
My surroundings grew more and more surreal with every downward step, until I found myself face-to-face with the entrance to Mystique. This place had captured my imagination so vividly so long ago, and I couldn’t believe I was really here.
(Since we arrived at around 10pm that night, I stopped by the next morning to take some photos of the resort during the daylight.)
The check-in desks at Mystique are housed in one small room, and we were eagerly welcomed to the resort by Dimitra, who would take care of us so wonderfully throughout our stay.
Of course, I had reached out to the resort beforehand to request a suite upgrade for my special occasion, and Dimitra was delighted to confirm that we had indeed been granted a two-category upgrade, from the base-level Vibrant Suite we had booked to a larger Wet Allure Suite that also had a private hot tub on the deck. Music to my ears.
Dimitra also brought out a few packages that I had gotten shipped to Mystique in advance of my stay, including a birthday card that my dad had sent from China. In addition, she provided us with a map of Santorini and introduced us to some local attractions around Oia, and even offered to make a birthday dinner reservation for me.
Suffice to say, between the generous suite upgrade, the reliable handling of my mail, and the proactiveness in ensuring I enjoyed a wonderful birthday here, my first impressions of Mystique were exceedingly positive.
After the formalities were complete, it was time to head to our room. Dimitra walked us all the way, guiding us along the stone steps towards our living quarters.
As it turns out, we had been assigned the suite at the very westernmost end of the resort’s winding stone walkways, so it was quite a trek to get out there – from the lobby, we had to turn left, go underneath an archway, climb a staircase, traverse the top of another archway, up a few stairs, down a few stairs, and then finally make our way across a single sloping path that would lead to Room 45, the Wet Allure Suite perched all the way at the very end.
Needless to say, I had the utmost respect for the hotel staff members who hoisted our bags on their shoulders all the way up and down the stairs and brought them to our suite!
Let’s head inside and take a look around first, and then we’ll come back out to explore our private patio.
Each of Mystique’s 45 rooms are all different in some way, so I can only speak for the Wet Allure Suite, Room 45, that we had received. As you enter, the suite opens up immediately in front of you, with the bedroom at the far end preceded by a living area and stone archway that acts as a partition.
Of course, the key feature of all of Mystique’s suites (and indeed, most of the fancy accommodations you’ll find on Santorini) are the whitewashed rustic walls, carved out of the Santorini’s famous caldera. Walking into the suite for the first time, you can’t help but place your hand gently against the pristine white surface as you take stock of your surroundings.
The interior furniture is arranged in a similarly minimalistic style. The couch and side table are both carved out of the stone, along with two cute little coffee tables in the shape of circular stones.
The side table houses a small storage space underneath, which can be used to store your bags. There’s precious little storage room in Mystique’s suites as a result of the unique architecture.
Opposite the couch is the television, with the pantry and minibar contained within the cabinet below.
Also on this side of the wall, you’ll find another set of more spacious cabinets, which you can also use to store your belongings. All of the room’s other amenities, like the lockbox, laundry kit, and hairdryer, are stored here as well.
In the corner is a foldable luggage rack, along with two small stools that are more decorative than functional.
Through the stone archway and we arrive at the “bedroom”. The king bed and two side tables are the only items of note, standing out against an entirely white backdrop.
Indeed, here at Mystique, there’s no contrast at all between the walls, floor, and ceiling – everything is simply coated in a layer of white, which can be somewhat disorienting at first, and it took me a little while to get used to my surroundings.
At nighttime, without the sunlight pouring in, the room looks even more as though it’s straight out of a dreamscape.
Room 45’s bathroom is accessed through a door on the right side of the suite. I actually thought the bathroom was the least impressive part of this suite, since it’s a pretty nondescript setup with two sinks, a toilet, and a shower.
Moreover, because of the cave-like setting and the lack of ventilation, the bathroom would inevitably get wet whenever we took a shower, and the glass doors weren’t fully water-tight ether, which meant that a fair bit of water would end up splashing on the floor.
Overall, it’s a long way away from the best hotel bathrooms out there, but then again, that’s only a small negative side effect of Mystique’s unique surroundings, and I didn’t think it took away much from the overall experience.
Let’s venture back outside and check out the real highlight of the suite, and indeed all of Mystique’s suites: the private patio with stunning views of the Santorini caldera.
There were a variety of seating options in this relatively small space. There are two sun chairs with cushions…
…a large daybed carved into the rock…
…a single seat, also carved out of the rock surface…
…and two chairs situated right against the edge, which were ideal for having breakfast on our balcony.
Of course, the real highlight of our Wet Allure Suite is the private whirlpool, which was just about large enough for two occupants.
The water temperature was just right during the daytime, but slightly on the cold side during the evenings – we were told that we could call a Mystique staff member to adjust the temperature, but we never got around to it.
Since our suite was located at the westernmost end of the resort, our views of the Aegean Sea were slightly obstructed by the caldera cliffs themselves. Nevertheless, we were still treated to a breathtaking view of the sugar-cube houses dotted across the Santorini cliffside. I certainly can’t think of many better views to wake up to on your 25th birthday.
Shortly after waking up and pinching myself that this was real, Jessy and I headed down to Charisma, the hotel’s main restaurant, for breakfast. As a Titanium Elite member within Marriott Bonvoy, breakfast was included in my stay, and could be enjoyed at either the Charisma restaurant, the Captain’s Lounge restaurant, or on our own private balcony for a €10 delivery charge.
Breakfast is entirely à la carte, and you can order as many items as you wish off the delightfully extensive menu, which includes standard breakfast dishes, a dedicated Greek breakfast menu, and a selection of healthy items as well. I’d like to think we tried out all of the highlights over all three mornings.
The breakfast menu read as follows:
My personal favourites included the strapatsada, a Greek scrambled-egg dish with tomato and feta cheese…
…the smoked salmon with champagne (yes, they do serve bubbly for breakfast!)…
…the Greek rice pudding…
…and the Eggs Benedict with salmon and avocado.
Of course, we also treated ourselves to a wide array of morning beverages, including fresh Greek coffee, a variety of juices, and a glass of bubbly to go with our salmon.
It was a truly indulgent breakfast in every sense of the word, and it’s undeniably one of the greatest highlights of staying here at Mystique as an elite member.
If you choose to eat breakfast at Charisma, the front row of seats are always the first to fill up, since they have the best views. Arrive early if you want to snag one of these seats!
We were a little late to breakfast on the second morning, so we headed up to the Captain’s Lounge instead. The breakfast menu is entirely the same, although it gets a little quieter up here, since fewer guests are competing for the seats with the killer views.
By far the most amazing breakfast experience, though, is unlocked when you get breakfast delivered to your patio. For a very reasonable €10 charge, staff members will hoist your gargantuan breakfast order up on their shoulders and hand-deliver everything to your suite, allowing you to eat and drink in the absolute peace and quiet of your own balcony.
I mean, just look at that! Straight out of the Condé Nast magazine, isn’t it?
Sitting there, with the soft Santorini wind and sunlight against my face, alternating between coffee and champagne as I enjoyed a hearty strapatsada, was one of those storybook occasions that only come around every so often when I’m travelling, and I could do nothing besides trying my best to absorb it fully while I was in the moment.
I’ll also quickly touch upon the dining options here at Mystique: the main restaurant, Charisma, serves Greek cuisine for lunch and dinner as well, while there’s also a separate Japanese restaurant called ASEA perched up at the top of the hotel. Alas, as you’d expect at a luxury resort like this, both restaurants have some pretty steep pricing, so Jessy and I were content to fill up on a huge breakfast in the mornings, before eating dinner elsewhere in Santorini.
So, the Wet Allure Suite and the à la carte breakfast are both downright dazzling here at Mystique. How does the rest of the resort compare?
Well, it certainly did not disappoint in the slightest, although you do need to be willing to put in a fair bit of work to fully explore it. That’s because Mystique’s cliffside setting results in a network of stairs and pathways criss-crossing each other, connecting the various restaurants, pools, and amenities with each other, with the guest suites spread out evenly along these paths.
You definitely need to spend some time learning the lay of the land at first, and you’ll enjoy a very comprehensive workout as you’re navigating the stairs as well.
Let’s first make our way to the hotel pools, both of which are located adjacent to the restaurants. The main pool is right next to Charisma, and has a delightful infinity edge overlooking the waters of Santorini.
There was plenty of suntanning equipment set up next to the pool. The pool isn’t very large, so most guests simply take a dip before going to relax on the sun chairs.
Then there’s another pool located by the Captain’s Lounge, higher up in the cliffs. This one is slightly larger, though still not nearly large enough to swim any laps. We didn’t see any guests using this pool, since the views weren’t as good and the poolside equipment was also less plentiful.
(By the way, if you’re lucky enough to snag an upgrade to some of Mystique’s best rooms – the Secrecy Villa, Mystery Villa, or Holistic Villa – you’ll even have your own private swimming pool all to yourself!)
Mystique also has a few other facilities for guests to enjoy, including a small fitness centre tucked away at one of the lower levels. You’ll need to navigate quite a few signs and staircases to find it.
It’s a very small space, with only the bare minimum in terms of workout equipment. That was fine by me; after all, I didn’t come here to Santorini to spend all my time in the gym (or any time at all, if I’m being honest).
The same path leading to the gym also branches off towards the spa facility, where you can enjoy a treatment or two.
Ultimately, though, by far my favourite thing about Mystique was simply walking all around the stone paths and admiring the resort from all angles. It’s such a unique resort compared to everywhere else I’ve stayed at, and I spent a solid few hours simply wandering around the grounds, sitting down in the various sun chairs and taking in the dramatic beauty of the resort and the surrounding landscape.
I took particular note of this small dining area at the very end of a rocky outcrop, where you can in fact book a romantic dinner just for yourself and your companion, and you’ll be served by a dedicated waiter sitting all the way out here on your own.
If I’m ever back at Mystique (and I do hope to be), I know I’ll be treating us to one of these private sunset dinners.
The beauty of Mystique Resort had left me awestruck all those years ago when I first started collecting hotel points, and now that I was here in the flesh, I couldn’t help but smile to myself, realizing that it was all worth it, a thousand times over.
Finally, I have special praise reserved for the outstanding service demonstrated by all the staff at the hotel, especially Dimitra, who went out of her way to ensure that I had a wonderful stay on my birthday.
In addition to helping me make birthday dinner arrangements, she also informed them about my special occasion, which led to the restaurant treating me a complimentary surprise dessert.
Already in a great mood, I was even more blown away when we returned to the resort that evening, and found an entire birthday cake prepared for us in the fridge! Now that’s going above and beyond, and Jessy and I enjoyed several helpings of the delicious chocolate cake over the remaining few days of our stay.
Lastly, our flight wasn’t scheduled until 9pm on our date of departure, so I asked for a 4pm late checkout as a Titanium Elite member. Unfortunately, late checkout isn’t guaranteed at resort properties, and on this occasion the hotel weren’t able to honour the request, since they had a guest arriving around 2pm who was booked into my Wet Allure Suite.
However, the Mystique staff went one step further and gave me the keys to the “Captain’s Room”, which is an additional room that’s located right next to the Captain’s Lounge, which guests can use, on a first-come first-served basis, to relax and freshen up if their room isn’t quite ready yet or if they’re departing on a late flight. What an amazingly show of hospitality!
This space consisted of a king bed, a small table, and a bathroom with a shower (which was in fact a lot bigger and better to use than the shower in our Wet Allure Suite). You could even come outside and relax by the pool next to the Captain’s Lounge too, and that’s exactly what I did for an hour before it was eventually time to catch our taxi back to Santorini Airport.
I’ll also take this opportunity to touch upon a few things that we did during our time in Santorini. Honestly, we didn’t want to spend too much time outside of Mystique, so we only ended up using a few hours every day to actually wander around the island.
We mainly spent the first day exploring the town of Oia, which is right on Mystique’s doorstep and is easily walkable within a few hours’ time. Even though it was only May, the town was already starting to get overrun by tourists, so I really couldn’t imagine what it would be like to visit in the height of summer.
Of course, there’s a very good reason for Santorini having become the tourist trap that it’s known as today: the iconic white and blue-domed houses sprinkled across the cliffside as far as the eye can see. They’re an absolute joy to behold, and I couldn’t help but pinch myself as we walked around and remind myself how fortunate I was to be celebrating the big 25th in such a picturesque setting.
Some may say that Santorini is one of the world’s more overhyped tourist destinations, but I think it was important that I visit for myself and see what the fuss was all about, and I can’t deny that I very much liked what I saw (aside from the hordes of tourists who had the same idea as me!)
Jessy and I hiked the steps down to the natural harbour at the very western tip of the island to peer into the clear blue waters. As stunning as the view from Mystique is, the resort doesn’t actually have any access down to the coastline itself, so I was glad to be able to take a seat on the rocks and dip my toes into the Aegean Sea.
We treated our second day in Santorini as a lazy beach day, taking the bus out to Perivolos on the southeastern side of the island to visit the gorgeous black sand beaches.
Mystique has an arrangement with its sister resort, Istoria Hotel (a member of Marriott’s Design Hotels brand), where Mystique guests can use Istoria’s facilities when visiting the black sand beach. We gladly took them up on that offer, spending the day sunbathing on Istoria’s stretch of the beach and making conversation with some fellow travellers who had posted up there as well.
Finally, on our last day in Santorini, we embarked on the well-trodden hiking route between Fira, the main settlement and capital of the island, and Oia.
It’s about a three-hour journey that’s best enjoyed along the downhill trail from Fira to Oia (rather than the uphill trek in the reverse direction).
Not only were the views of the Oia’s adorable white houses permanently etched into my memory, but so too were the views along this hike of the Aegean Sea. I found myself utterly transfixed by the perfectly mirror-like surface of the water as we slowly conquered the gruelling three-hour trail back to Oia.
As I made my way across the steps and through the archways, passing by the lobby and climbing up the cobblestone steps for a final time, I couldn’t help but feel genuinely sad at having to leave – certainly a far stronger emotional reaction than I’ve ever gotten when departing a hotel. Mystique had treated me to an unforgettable birthday weekend, and I definitely harbour aspirations of returning here to rekindle those memories sometime further down the road.
With its signature cave-style suites, commanding views of the Santorini caldera, and a highly impressive à la carte breakfast, Mystique is a wonderfully unique hotel within the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio – the kind that, even at its steep Category 8 prices, more than justifies redeeming your hard-earned points for an experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.