Santorini. That famous crescent-shaped island in the southern Aegean Sea, southeast of the Greek mainland, perched high up on the edge of its cliffs with its white concrete houses fashioned after traditional Greek architecture. is undeniably one of the most romantic getaways in the world today. However, there is no need to go all the way to Greece to experience what Santorini has to offer. A new luxury resort development in Santiago, Ilocos Sur simulates the look and feel of Santorini.
Vitalis Villas sits on a terrain much like Santorini’s, and it boasts the most exclusive of luxury accommodations in the northern Philippines. Its dove-white concrete houses with wave-like details and accents in blue are perched on the mountain cliffs overlooking the South China Sea, well protected by the calm waters of Santiago Cove in Sabangan, Santiago, Ilocos Sur.
While the UNESCO World Heritage City of Vigan continues to be the most popular destination in the province, Vitalis Villas is an idyllic paradise waiting to be discovered. This dream sanctuary combines the highland charm of steep mountain cliffs with the cobalt-blue sea and powder-like white sand of Santiago, a unique combination like no other. The good thing about it is that it is just a 45-minute drive from Vigan, and it is even closer due to Santiago’s proximity to Manila.
The resort is a multi-level complex of 68 one-bedroom and two-bedroom villas that follow the natural terrain of the area. These private villas are very spacious, cozy and comfortable and come equipped with modern conveniences: luxury orthopedic king-or queen-sized beds, wall-mounted 40-inch LED TVs, twin-sized sofas, and a toilet and bath with heated toilet seat. They also come with mini kitchen and dining areas complete with cooktop oven with range hood, microwave oven, refrigerator, coffee and tea station, and a full rectangular dining table with chairs. All units have a veranda, with sloping stairs that lead down to the picturesque infinity pool framed by The Clubhouse Snack Bar which, since the resort’s soft opening last year, has been serving as the main dining facility. When construction on the resort is completed, full service restaurant and coffee shop will add a variety.
The infinity pool, built on perhaps the most picturesque spot of the resort complex, offers a spectacular view of the sea, where guests can take a relaxing dip and enjoy delicious sips and bites while watching the breathtaking sunrise and sunset. Not many resorts can boast having both amazing sunrise and sunset views, but Vitalis Villas can proudly lay claim to that.
While guests bask in the glorious view that The Clubhouse Snack Bar has, they can enjoy daylong buffets, from breakfasts of Vigan longanisa and daing na bangus, among others, while lunch and dinner offer a combination of local flavors and international favorites.
The Bar with the kitchen manned by graduates of the Center for Culinary Arts Manila (CCA), has international appeal with its selection of such as pizza and pasta. Recommendations include the Katuray and Anchovy Pizza, All-Meat Pizza with Bagnet, and Sabangan Shrimp Pasta. The day’s catch also appear as Uni Pasta, Seaweed Salad (fresh local seaweed and tomato slices), and Pork Belly with Karimbuwaya, a local cactus-like herb added to the marinade. Boodle Fight trays of Ilocano staples are also offered for group dinners. They can enjoy Aligue Rice, Pinakbet, Kamatis, Mangga at Sibuyas, Inihaw na Pusit, Manok at Baboy, and Leche Flan.
To complement the setting, the restaurant also has Greek favorites such as Pita Bread with Tzatziki (a Greek appetizer), a taste of the Greek-themed main restaurant that is being set up. A seafood-themed restaurant is also in the pipeline.
There is much to enjoy here. The resort has an entertainment room, a fully equipped fitness center, library, zipline, cable chairlift, and wakeboarding facilities. For other water sports activities, such as jetskiing, paddle boating and kayaking, guests can use the facilities of the adjacent Vitalis Resort & Spa, its sister resort with 27 picturesque rooms and a 900-meter stretch of fine sand beach that is surrounded by acres of natural woodlands. Sunset cruises with a service of cocktails and cheese can also be arranged for guests wishing a romantic sunset experience.
Named after Macario Vitalis, an Ilocano artist who made it big in Europe, Vitalis Villas is within easy reach of Ilocos Sur’s many points of interest: Bangui Windmills, Bantay Bell Tower, Sta. Maria Church and Sta. Maria Falls, Baluarte Zoo, Pagburnayan (where local folks make burnay or clay pots the traditional way), and, of course, Vigan and its famous turn-of-the-century architecture. Trips to abel weaving home-based cottage industries (where Abel Iloko fabrics are woven using traditional looms) and local fishing villages can also be easily arranged.
Accessible via the integrated North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), Vitalis Villas is just a six-hour drive from Manila. Promising a thousand and one thrills, the Santorini of the North is definitely worth taking the trip. It’s like being in Greece without even leaving home.