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'Boutique cave' resort to debut atop the Greek island of Santorini

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Passengers on cruises of the Greek islands start doing double-takes when the snow-capped cliffs of Santorini come into view. Snow capped? As you get closer in, the snow turns into hundreds of whitewashed buildings running down the hillsides, seemingly built on top of each other.

Look at the very top of the thousand-foot-high cliffs, and you might spot the new Iconic Santorini hotel looking down at the bluer-than-blue waters filling a huge crater left by an ancient volcanic blast.

Set to open in April 2014, the Iconic Santorini is billed as “a boutique cave hotel” – meaning its 22 rooms are high-ceiling caverns notched into the cliff. Packed with luxury items like oversized CocoMat all-natural bedding, flatscreen TVs, JBL sound systems and the like, some of the rooms even have their own pools.

Says a spokeswoman for the property. “Guests can spend their days browsing around Santorini's street markets, museums, blue-domed churches and vineyards, but chances are most of them will spend leisurely hours enjoying the amenities of Iconic Santorini itself -- the cliff-top infinity pool and taverna, the gym and spa that make it the perfect setting for romantic getaways, honeymoons or relaxing escapes.”

Iconic Santorini is managed by Hospitality America, a hotel management company presently operating 15 hotels with four more in development. The new property is a member of the global Mantis Collection.

Rooms at the new resort start at 475 euros (about US$649) a night including breakfast and poolside snacks and all taxes.

Historical note: The Minoan island of Thera was once a moon-shaped island about eight miles wide. But some 3,600 years ago it was transformed into the shape of a crescent, with its whole left side gone, when a giant volcano blew its lid right through that dot in the Aegean Sea. Seawater filled the gap left by the blast, creating a lagoon about twice the size of the Las Vegas strip. Sheared off by the explosion, cliffs a thousand feet high were left edging three sides of the lagoon.

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