First-Timer’s Guide to Santorini, Greece

For too long I’d scrolled through social media and been tormented by friends travelling through the Greek islands. My only visit to this Mediterranean nation was as a backpacker in 2005, when I revelled in the culture, kebabs and affordability of Athens for a week. Aside from the couple in my hostel room who got intimate most nights, I adored Greece and vowed to return when I got the chance. While I made several trips to Europe in the following years, Greece never quite happened. It was in fact only earlier this year that a friend’s wedding in London prompted a five week trip across the continent with my boyfriend. It was game on, Greece! 

If you regularly read my blog, you’ll know we found a seemingly excellent route from Italy’s Cinque Terre to Santorini but our flight was diverted at the last minute. We instead spent the night in Athens and caught the eight hour ferry to Santorini the next morning. We arrived exhausted, mid-afternoon in the middle of May. In one direction were extraordinary views of the Aegean Sea, and in the other was a parking lot filled with taxis and travellers moving towards a single road up a rocky, barren hill. Our four night holiday had become just two full days, but we met our driver, checked in to our villa and opened a bottle of wine. Let the holiday begin! 

overview

Santorini is the largest of a small group of Greek islands called the Cyclades, about 240 kilometres (150 miles) southeast of Athens. The island is just 20km (12 mi) long, almost a crescent shape with the caldera (volcanic crater) on western side. The three main villages of Fira (also called Thira), Imerovigli and Oia are in the island’s north and on the western side, hence have “caldera” views. The resort-style beaches are on opposite side in the south, with archaeological sites also in the southern half. Santorini has a local population of just 15,000, but numbers swell during the peak summer season (June – August). 

 Oia: a Mediterranean fairytale, even on a cloudy day
Oia: a Mediterranean fairytale, even on a cloudy day

Did you know Santorini isn’t the island’s official name? It was given to the island by the Venetians in 1153, who arrived and saw a chapel for Saint Irene (Santa Irini). The name stuck, but the island remains Thera on all official documents. The capital Fira is a variation of Thera. 

what to do

the views

Sweeping views of the Aegean Sea and the distinct architecture are arguably the number one reason people visit Santorini. From the whitewashed buildings of Fira and Imerovigli to the more colourful townscape of Oia, seeing these villages against the backdrop of the water is unforgettable. Appreciate the different views during the day, sunset and at night when the pools shine turqoise. You can take in the views poolside, over drinks or a meal, while hiking or on a cruise (more details below). Be forewarned – the majority of Santorini is rocky, barren and doesn’t appear on postcards. 

 Imerovigli: watching sunset from our villa on our first night was magic!
Imerovigli: watching sunset from our villa on our first night was magic!

hiking trails

If you’re feeling energetic, there’s a range of walks on the island. The rocky but flat path between Fira and Imerovigli is an easy 45 minutes (no shade) and you can continue north on the more challenging path to Oia. The total walk from Fira to Oia is 10km (6 mi) and takes around 3 to 4 hours. Bring water and sunscreen as there’s little shade unless you retreat to a cafe. My boyfriend and I were still fatigued from hiking in Italy, so we just did the short Fira to Imerovigli section on our first day.

Those who are more adventurous should head to Skaros Rock, accessed from Imerovigli. We didn’t have time during our trip but the hike takes around two hours, and is reportedly challenging at times due to steps and some climbing to reach the top. Only about half the groups we saw from our villa during our stay reached the summit. Bring sunscreen and water, and possibly snacks if you’re going to stay out there. 

 Hiking: views on the trail from Imerovigli to Fira
Hiking: views on the trail from Imerovigli to Fira

ancient sites

Take a history lesson and visit Santorini’s two archaeological sites, Akrotiri and Ancient Thira. Akrotiri is in the island’s south-west, near Red Beach. Entry is €12 or there’s a combined pass with other attractions for €14, although there are some free admission days throughout the year too. Read more here. Ancient Thira is on the top of Mesa Vouno mountain, in the south-east side of the island near Pirassa Beach.  Entry is €4 or you can also get the combined pass. Click here for more details. 

caldera cruise

We lost a day in Santorini because of our flight diversion, but otherwise I would’ve been cruising! While there are mixed reviews online, a work colleague who’d recently been to Santorini highly recommended my boyfriend and I see the island from the water. There are a few companies offering tours of the caldera and hot springs before finishing in Oia for sunset. One for next time! 

 Amoudi Bay: viewed from the top of Oia
Amoudi Bay: viewed from the top of Oia

amoudi bay (oia)

If you cruise the caldera, there’s a good chance your vessel will end in the port of Amoudi Bay at Oia. But you can also walk or drive down from the village and enjoy fresh seafood or a drink. I’m told this is one of the best swimming spots in Santorini. We only had time to gaze down at Amoudi Bay from Oia, and my heart broke a little. I told myself there’ll be other islands. 

beaches

I love the water and desperately wanted to be beachside after a mostly chilly month in Europe. You’ll find Santorini’s most popular beaches along the eastern (non-caldera) side, near the Ancient Thera site. There’s Kamari Beach, and then the resort-like strip of Perissa and Perivolos with sun beds lined up on black sand. We spent several hours lazing by Perivolos Beach but the water was too cold for me! It wasn’t busy, however it a cooler day during the shoulder season.

 Perivolos Beach: more resort style, with plenty of dining and bars opposite
Perivolos Beach: more resort style, with plenty of dining and bars opposite

Less for sunbaking and more for sightseeing are Red Beach and Black Beach. We followed signage while quad biking to reach the parking area for Red Beach, which is then a five minute rocky walk to a viewing area before another 10 minute walk to reach the beach itself. I don’t recommend the path for the frail or elderly. Black Beach is also in the south of the island, however we relied on Google Maps because there was no signage. We gave up after making a few wrong turns. 

 Red Beach: more for sightseeing than sunbaking
Red Beach: more for sightseeing than sunbaking

wineries

Being wine lovers, my boyfriend and I weren’t going to miss the chance to drink Greek vino! We booked a tour of Santo Wines weeks in advance and added on six glass of wine tasting and a food platter for sunset (€38 each). The walking tour was around 30 minutes and we learnt about the island’s unique grape growing method, where vines are woven into a basket shape to protect the grapes. Our group then watched a short video about Santorini’s history, which was interesting if a little cheesy. The best part was sitting outside and simply admiring the caldera views with my boyfriend while we enjoyed our enormous trays of wine samples and local produce. 

The wine itself was average and we weren’t tempted to buy any, but the overall experience was magical. Bring a jacket for when the sun goes down and also some spending money, as there’s a sizeable store selling pasta, olives, tomato paste and other produce. Our hotel arranged transport which was €20 return for the two of us. 

 Santo Wines: the six glass wine tasting & food platter
Santo Wines: the six glass wine tasting & food platter

shopping

The biggest collection of shops I saw were in Thira, but they were very touristy. Sometimes that’s fun though! There are plenty of stalls selling dresses, shoes and hats plus standard souvenirs. I was much more interested in the stores in Oia, which looked more artsy. 

food

 Pita: stuffed with fava at my request on Perivolos Beach
Pita: stuffed with fava at my request on Perivolos Beach

Visiting Santorini is like an immersive in the Mediterranean diet, albeit with more wine. Local highlights include:

  • fava: a dish made from split peas, similar to Indian dal or hummus
  • sesame stick: breadsticks coated in sesame seeds
  • capers: edible flower buds from the caper plant 
  • olives: and luscious olive oil

Seafood lovers will be in heaven and there’s no shortage of cheese or salads either. During our three night trip, we had everything from beachside pitas, grazing boards and wine, to fine dining with caldera views. The latter was a brilliant coincidence, as our accomodation Kapari Natural Resorts (see “where to stay” below) boasted one of Santorini’s top restaurants. It was too cold to sit outside, however we spent several hours enjoying three courses and a bottle of white wine recommended by the in-house sommelier. The bill came to just €110, including €45 for the wine. Excellent value – but be sure to book ahead! 

 Kapari Wine Restaurant: my dish of fava, capers and tomato
Kapari Wine Restaurant: my dish of fava, capers and tomato

drinks 

 Kapari Natural Resort: complimentary wine and fruit
Kapari Natural Resort: complimentary wine and fruit

Everyone we spoke to (hotel staff, other guests) recommended a different bar but they can be tricky to find in the village mazes. In the end, we just drank whenever and wherever the mood struck us. The warm days called for Mythos beer while we drank local white wine at night. 

As mentioned under things to do, head to Santo Wines and do wine tasting at sunset. This was one of the most memorable experiences during our three night stay. If we’d had longer, I would’ve spent a day simply reading and drinking while occasionally looking up at the sea.

where to stay

There are three main options if you’re visiting Santorini for the first time:

  • Fira (Thira): the island’s capital and the biggest of Santorini’s three towns. Good for shopping, nightlife and central location. Closest to the airport and port. 
  • Oia: the northernmost and second largest town. It’s artsy, colourful and boasts Amoudi Bay. About 30 minutes (15km/9mi) drive from Fira.
  • Imerovigli: the smallest of three villages, but walking distance (45 mins) from Fira. It’s more like a cluster of cliff-side villas and restaurants than a town, although you’ll find a convenience store and some cafes at the top. In my opinion, it’s the most romantic of the three. 
 Kapari Natural Resort: incredible views in Imerovigli
Kapari Natural Resort: incredible views in Imerovigli

Here are some crude analogies if it helps. For those familiar with the Indonesian island of Bali, Fira is like touristy Kuta, Imerovigli is like the romantic and relaxed Seminyak while Oia is like the artsy and further away Ubud. For those who know New York City, you’d call Fira midtown, Imerovigli Chelsea (close by but less hectic) and Oia would be the East Village or Soho (further away but distinctive vibes). Feel free to dispute these or make your own suggestions in the comments section below! There are other towns to stay in of course, however if you’re visiting for the first-time you probably want to be centrally based with the greatest number of amenities and attractions.

 Kapari Natural Resort: the bedroom and bathroom in our enormous cavern-like villa
Kapari Natural Resort: the bedroom and bathroom in our enormous cavern-like villa

We splurged for the final leg of our Europe trip, staying at Kapari Natural Resort in Imerovigli for €330 (AU$510) per night. The price included a delicious buffet breakfast with made to order dishes as well, which we enjoyed outside overlooking the caldera. Our villa was spacious, cool and well equipped. The kitchen had a stove, kettle and refrigerator although no tea or coffee was supplied. The cavern-like style meant there were few windows, so we couldn’t see the caldera unless we stepped outside. Staff greeted us by name when we arrived and gave us a brief overview of the island and facilities. They continued to welcome us back each evening. 

We booked through boutique hotel website Mr & Mrs Smith which secured us free hotel transfers and a bottle of wine and welcome platter. The hotel’s pool was very small (but we soon saw this was the norm) and cold, but again, it was mid-May. Next time, I’d try find a villa with views from our room or stay in Oia for something different. 

 Map: supplied by our ATV company (click to enlarge)
Map: supplied by our ATV company (click to enlarge)

getting around

It’s easy to walk around Santorini’s villages, but the winding paths can make trying to find a specific location difficult. This is especially the case in Imerovigli, where the nearly identical white properties and low-lying walls can feel like a maze. As mentioned, Fira and Imerovigli are walking distance while Oia, the beaches and archaeological sites will require transport. Your options are buses, taxis and minivans although we only saw cabs around Fira’s main square. We were quoted €40 for a return trip from Imerovigli to Oia in a minivan, which seemed outrageous for a 15 minute journey. We declined.  

Rather, the best way to get around the island is to hire a quad bike (or “ATV” as they’re called locally). We arranged ours through our hotel for €56 for the day, which included a few Euros for insurance. There were cheaper bikes but we paid more for a sturdier option. We rode to the southern tip of the island, checked out Red Beach, had lunch on the eastern beaches before heading to Oia in the late afternoon. It was a memorable day, although the weather turned cold and rainy at the end. Be warned there’s no gas station in Oia so fill up at Imerovigli before going further north. 

getting there

 Santorini Airport: not exactly the paradise 
Santorini Airport: not exactly the paradise 

You can reach Santorini by ferry or plane. We attempted to fly and could see Santorini from our window (check out Getting from Italy’s Cinque Terre to Santorini) but ended up Catching the Athens to Santorini ferry instead. Our hotel included transfers from the port (about 20-30 minutes) and to the airport (about 20 minutes). I can’t speak to catching taxis or buses except to say the port was very busy. 

Santorini Airport is very basic. There’s a cafe inside but after clearing security, you’ll have a kiosk and plastic chairs with one lonely person in passport control. The day we left, our flight was delayed two hours because airport workers were on strike. 

money

Greece is part of the European Union and therefore uses the Euro (€). We paid by cash and credit card, only using an ATM once (there was one at the top of Imerovigli next to the convenience store). Santorini isn’t as cheap as you might assume. For example, I got a manicure and pedicure for €45 (AU $70) while my boyfriend got a 60 minute massage for €60 (AU $95). As mentioned, transport can also be expensive. 

language

English is widely spoken but be polite and learn some Greek. My head was already filled with French and Italian, but our waitress at Athens was kind enough to teach me the following: 

  • efcharisto (ef-ka-RIS-to): thank you
  • parakalo (parra-kar-lo): you’re welcome/ please
 Greek lesson: I got some tips from our waitress in Athens
Greek lesson: I got some tips from our waitress in Athens

other tips

  • Don’t expect all of Santorini to look like the postcards. The three main villages are small and beyond them, you’ll find mostly barren rock and the occasional industrial area.
  • There’s not much privacy either. You’ll be able to see the rooftop, paths and balconies of almost every other property around you from your doorstep. 
  • Dress codes are very relaxed. Think maxi dress and sandals for ladies, while guys will be fine in button-up shirts and shorts even for higher-end places. Leave the heels at home.
  • There’s no shade and the sun will radiate off the white buildings. My boyfriend and I can handle sunshine but we got seriously burnt on the return leg of our Imerovigli to Thira walk. 

I didn’t want to leave Santorini, and losing a day of our trip meant we barely saw Oia. The weather in mid-May was also too cool at times to lay by the pool. If we had more time, I would’ve climbed Skaros Rock, cruised the caldera, dined at Amoudi Bay and explored the beautiful art stores of Oia. But I’m grateful we made it to Santorini at all! It was 12 years since my first visit to Greece but I loved it just as much. And I guarantee there’ll be a third visit, although I’ll head to different islands and stay much longer!

QUESTION: Have you been to Santorini? If so, what’s your best tip for first-time visitors? 

How to Get From Cinque Terre to Santorini

They say half the fun of a holiday is planning it and I completely agree. Pondering destinations, gushing at hotels and restaurants, weighing up attractions… all against the backdrop of counting down to your departure date. But the excitement can wane when you hit a logistical glitch. Something you thought would be simple becomes a Rubix cube of combinations, dead-ends and frustration. My boyfriend and I had a five week trip to Europe earlier this year, and Italy’s Cinque Terre and the Greek island of Santorini were both essential destinations. We planned to visit them as late as possible into our holiday to try get the warmest weather. How hard could it be to get from one Mediterranean paradise to another? We were about to discover it could, quite frankly, be hell. 

We’d mapped out a rough itinerary while in Australia that would take in the UK, Scotland, France and Cinque Terre so it made sense Santorini would follow. But a few quick Google searches revealed there was no easy route between the two places. Cinque Terre’s nearest airport is Pisa (150 kilometres/93 miles) but the airlines are limited. My boyfriend and I broadened our search to Florence (200km/125mi) and Venice (270km/168mi) airports without any luck. We reluctantly looked at backtracking to Nice, France but didn’t work either . Not a single airport had a direct flight to Santorini. In fact, we couldn’t even find connecting flights with a journey time under 12 hours or costing less than AU$500. At one stage, we even considered flying to Santorini via Barcelona, Spain and spending the six hour layover in the airport lounge. 

A month before our holiday was due to start, it was time to tackle this dilemma. My boyfriend and I sat in our kitchen, post-gym on a Sunday morning armed with laptops, notepads, smartphones and pens. We were like a pair of code breakers during World War II, trying different combinations of trains and planes from Italy to anywhere in Greece. Blogs and travel forums didn’t have any answers. While we could theoretically stop in Athens or Milan, they were significant detours that would cost us precious nights in Santorini. But tea, toast and and three hours later I yelled out “I’ve cracked the DaVinci code!”

The breakthrough was discovering a direct train from Florence to Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport. From there, you could catch a direct flight to Santorini which took just over two hours. The fares were reasonable. The times worked with our itinerary, and in fact, we’d get a night in Florence which I’d never been to before. We booked everything in the following hour and a few months later, we made our way from one paradise to another.  

This route isn’t the quickest way to get from Cinque Terre to Santorini, but it gives you maximum sightseeing with minimal transfers and backtracking. 

Here are the full details:

1. Cinque Terre – Florence 

We were staying in Monterosso, the biggest of Cinque Terre’s towns, so we looked for trains departing here. Using the excellent ticketing website Loco2, we booked:

  • Monterosso to Pisa Centrale (Intercity train 651): departing 9.07am, arriving 10.17am (1 hour, 10 mins) 
  • Pisa Centrale to Firenze S.M (Regional Veloce 3114): departing 10.32am, arriving 11.32am (1 hour)
  • Total time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
  • Cost: €18.30 each (Monterosso to Pisa €9.90, Pisa to Florence, €8.40)

Unfortunately our first train was delayed 15 minutes, meaning we missed our connection. However, we caught the next Pisa to Firenze train which left 20 minutes later.  Our tickets were still valid and conveniently, we didn’t have to change platforms.

 Monterosso Station, Cinque Terre: Our train to Pisa was delayed 15 minutes so we missed our connection.
Monterosso Station, Cinque Terre: Our train to Pisa was delayed 15 minutes so we missed our connection.

2. Overnight in Florence 

I considered any sightseeing in Florence a bonus, but this walk-friendly city was easy to get around and lots of attractions were open until 9pm or later. We reached our hotel around 2pm and stayed out past midnight. Check out my post One Night in Florence for full details.

3. Florence – Rome Airport

Our late-night sightseeing in Florence meant we slept five hours before our early train to Italy’s capital Rome. As mentioned, we found a direct, high speed train from Florence to Fiumicino Airport which arrived three hours before our flight. Again, we booked using Loco2:

  • Firenze S.M. to Fiumicino Aeroporto (Frecciargento 8401): departing 7.38am, arriving 9.55am
  • Total time: 2 hours, 16 minutes 
  • Cost: €27.50 each

If you need breakfast at Firenze station, Moka Cafe has healthy and allergy-friendly options including vegan croissants and paninis, quinoa salads, fruit salad (“macedonia” in Italian), yogurt and rice/soy milk drinks. There’s an impressive bookstore open from 7am too with English books and magazines, plus a busy cafe. Click here for the station’s website. 

 Moka Cafe, Firenze Station: vegan croissants, soy milk and the New York Times. 
Moka Cafe, Firenze Station: vegan croissants, soy milk and the New York Times. 

4. Rome – Santorini

Spanish airline Iberia (in partnership with Vueling, pronounced ‘velling’) was the only carrier we could find offering direct flights from Italy to Santorini. Vueling is a budget airline, so the usual precautions of checking baggage limits and bringing your own food apply. If you’re particularly tall, consider booking extra legroom. My boyfriend is 175cm (5′ 9″) and his knees hit the seat in front of him. We booked directly with Iberia: 

  • Rome (FCO) to Santorini (JTR): IB 5403, departing 12.50pm, arriving 3.15pm
  • Total time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Cost: €125 each, which included 23kg checked baggage per person.

Looking for lunch options at Rome airport? I had a delicious, make your own salad (“insalate”) for €11 with quinoa, chick peas, tomatoes, carrot, dill seeds and olives at Bistrot (Terminal 3, section C) . They also sell focaccia by the kilo. Seriously.  

 Vueling Airlines: the only carrier we could find with direct flights from Italy to Santorini.
Vueling Airlines: the only carrier we could find with direct flights from Italy to Santorini.

but then…

We boarded our flight and the plane took off on time. We were both tired but couldn’t wait for four nights of Greek island luxury! I actually wrote most of this post on the flight and then the plane began to descend. I could see Santorini from my window. The ocean looked incredible! 

But clearly, the travel gods had never intended our journey from Cinque Terre to Santorini to be easy. I could practically taste the olives when the plane suddenly shot up, making my stomach lurch. My boyfriend and I looked at each other worryingly. It wasn’t a good sign.

 Santorini, Greece: the plane suddenly shot up shortly after I took this photo. 
Santorini, Greece: the plane suddenly shot up shortly after I took this photo. 

The pilot announced it was too windy to land in Santorini, so we were diverting to the capital Athens. It was already 3pm so even if the weather improved, our chances of a Greek island sunset that night were gone. Our hearts sunk. We’d worked so hard to avoid having a layover. Where would we stay that night? How would we get to Santorini? Would we get there at all? We’d been in transit for nine hours on five hours sleep. All that planning. All that pride. Pointless.

Our plane finally landed in Athens and we sat on the runway for at least an hour. Then, the pilot made a jawdropping announcement. We were going back to Rome.

Find out how we eventually got to Santorini and stay tuned for my travel tips for the island!

QUESTION: When have you nailed (or failed) travel logistics? 

Cathay Pacific Lounge, Hong Kong

I’ve slept at airports, freshened up with baby wipes and on one unfortunate occasion, flown in day-old clothing without a toothbrush. Flying is not glamorous (at least, not the kind I do) and no amount of hot towels from stewards, mid-flight underwear changes or hand sanitiser is going to avoid that grimy post-flight feeling. That sensation is only compounded if you’ve got a connecting flight. 

Airport lounges are the perfect antidote to the polluted plane feeling. Hot showers, free-flowing alcohol and food choices beyond “chicken or vegetarian pasta?” – it’s heavenly. My boyfriend and I flew from Perth, Australia to London last month with a total flying time of 22 hours. We had a four hour layover in Hong Kong and were keen to access Cathay Pacific’s lounges. What a treat it turned out to be! 

lounge entry

If you’re flying First or Business class with Cathay, you’re in! Cathay’s Marco Polo Club members with Silver, Gold or Diamond status can also access lounges. OneWorld Emerald and Sapphire members are also eligible and can bring a guest. The OneWorld alliance includes Qantas, British Airways, American Airlines and Malaysia Airlines – so if you have regular lounge access with one of these airlines, you should be fine. We had access through my boyfriend’s Qantas Gold membership. View full admittance details on Cathay Pacific’s website here.

‘The Pier’ lounge

Hong Kong International Airport is huge and there are multiple Cathay lounges among its 80+ gates. A friend recommended The Pier lounge, near Gate 65. We discovered it was the newest of Cathay’s lounges, with renovations completed in 2016. It was by far the biggest too.

There are multiple areas to base yourself, all connected by a single walkway. I’ll start with the most important thing:

the Bar

This is self explanatory, but my personal highlight of any lounge. The staff were opening a bottle of champagne as I approached which I took as a good sign. I had three glasses of Moët, while my boyfriend enjoyed a few Jameson Whiskeys and the new Betsy Beer, brewed especially to be consumed at 35,000 feet. Granted, he was drinking it at ground level. But it tasted good!

 The Pier Bar: if only my liquor cabinet at home was stocked this well!
The Pier Bar: if only my liquor cabinet at home was stocked this well!

Showers

Cathay’s shower suites put my own bathroom to shame. The basin had a full line-up of Aesop products including cleanser, toner, facial moisturiser, hand wash and lotion along with shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the shower. There was a hairdryer, cotton buds and a shower cap, but the real treat was soft, soothing music. The rainfall showerhead was sensational and I made a note for future home renovations. 

 Shower suite: it was better stocked than my own bathroom and had music too.
Shower suite: it was better stocked than my own bathroom and had music too.

Noodle bar

 My breakfast! Noodles and dumplings from the Noodle Bar, with Moët.
My breakfast! Noodles and dumplings from the Noodle Bar, with Moët.

After a shower and champagne, the Noodle Bar was my next stop. It’s a large space with diner-style seating, offering three noodle dishes and three dim sum, each with a vegetarian option. I ordered vegetarian rice noodles and vegetarian dumplings, and added some Szechuan peppercorn oil I’d spotted among the condiments. Wow! It made my lips tingle! Also on offer was self-service congee, fried rice and stir-fried vegetables.

Food Hall

This area serves Western foods including a variety of breads, paninis, salads and cold cuts. We were there at 9am so there were also hot breakfast items like baked beans and hash browns. I was full from my noodles and dumplings so didn’t sample anything, but it all looked good. 

Tea house

Fancy an exquisite tea brewed to a precise recipe? The Tea House is your place. Order from the extensive and descriptive menu and collect when your buzzer goes off. I had Pu-erh (fermented Chinese tea) served in a heavy, dark teapot. There were also invigorating juices, pastries, Earl Grey cookies and red bean paste dumplings. This venue could’ve stood alone in a capital city and done a roaring trade. 

 The Tea House: an exceptionally tranquil and calming space with a large range of tea.
The Tea House: an exceptionally tranquil and calming space with a large range of tea.

Relaxation zone

This area is at the very end of the lounge. It’s essentially a place to sleep, with long chaise lounges and dimmed lighting. It was very quiet and I wasn’t sleepy, so I tiptoed out back to the bar. 

 Lounge area: watch planes take off and land (with a cup of luxury tea).
Lounge area: watch planes take off and land (with a cup of luxury tea).

Runway view

By 10am, I was showered, champagned and full of carbohydrates. There was nothing to do but sit, relax and wait for my connecting flight. There’s an area adjacent to the bar where you can snuggle into large leather lounges and look out directly onto the runway. There are USB ports built into the side tables so you can stay connected too. I wrote most of this blog post sitting in this area, stopping occasionally to watch a plane take off. 

 Lounge area: when you just want to sit and have some solo time.
Lounge area: when you just want to sit and have some solo time.

other lounges

On the return leg, we went to The Wing lounge (near Gate 3) as we had less time and it was closest to our gate. It was much smaller by comparison but still offered runway views, spring rolls and champagne. 

 The Wing: the Tech Zone has comfortable, compact pods. 
The Wing: the Tech Zone has comfortable, compact pods. 
 The Wing: I didn't eat anything but there was an assortment of food available. 
The Wing: I didn’t eat anything but there was an assortment of food available. 

In both lounges, the spaces were clean and staff were polite and helpful. The Pier especially seemed immaculate, perhaps due to the renovations. I felt as fresh as could be expected in transit. Next time I’m travelling through Hong Kong, I’ll be sure to stop visit The Pier again. Whether you want whiskey, wellness or wi-fi, it’s set a new standard for meeting travellers’ needs. 

QUESTION: What’s the best airport lounge you’ve experienced?