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Embracing Ethical Hospitality: Veganism, Santorini’s Cultural Delights, and Eco-Friendly Retreats at Ethos Vegan Suites | Artemis Sorotou | Ep 120

Introducing Artemis

In this episode, we’re delighted to welcome Artemis Sorotou, owner of Ethos Vegan Suites. With over 15 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Artemis has traveled extensively and now brings her expertise back to her hometown of Santorini. Embracing a vegan lifestyle, she opened Ethos Vegan Suites, a unique establishment that seamlessly combines vegan principles with warm hospitality.

We’ll explore the origins of Ethos, delve into Santorini’s rich cultural heritage, and discover the island’s attractions beyond its famous beaches. We’ll also discuss Ethos Retreat Imerovigli, an eco-friendly project aimed at providing a serene retreat. Join us as we delve into the world of vegan travel and uncover the wonders of Santorini.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Artemis’s incredible journey in the hospitality industry spans over 15 years.
  • She fulfilled her long-held dream by opening Ethos Vegan Suites in Santorini, seamlessly combining vegan principles with warm hospitality.
  • Santorini’s rich cultural heritage and ancient civilization, go beyond its famous beaches.
  • We delve into exploring ancient cities, museums, and picturesque hiking trails.
  • Her valuable insights into the various activities and attractions available on the island, help guests make the most of their Santorini experience.

Learn more about what we talk about

  • We explore the origins of Ethos Vegan Suites, the challenges Artemis faced, and the inspiration behind the name “Ethos.”
  • The island’s agricultural prowess, exceptional wines, local products, notable wineries, and renowned tomato factories are highlighted.
  • How Ethos Vegan Suites can assist guests in exploring the island and offer guidance on immersing themselves in the local culture.
  • The Ethos Retreat Imerovigli is an eco-friendly project aimed at providing a serene retreat, and the green initiatives are undertaken by Ethos Vegan Suites for a more sustainable approach to hospitality.

Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode

Connect with Artemis

Transcript

Brighde: Hello Artemis. Welcome to The World Vegan Travel Podcast.

Artemis: Hello Brighde. Thank you for having me today.

Brighde: Oh, I am so pleased to have you here because we are talking about Santorini, one of the Greek islands today in the podcast, and I have known about your hotel for several years now. It’s been on my radar since you emailed me. I was so thrilled to have an in, to ask you to be on the podcast to talk about this incredible destination. But before we get into Santorini as a destination, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and how you came to be in the vegan travel space?

Artemis: All right. I’m so happy to be here. I’m so excited. I am local. I was born and raised in Santorini. All my family, have a long history on the island. Even inside the tourism industry, my grandparents used to have the first stall, my father had one of the first restaurants. After I left the island, I travel a lot. For around 15 years, I was traveling and worked in hospitality. I’ve been vegan for eight years now since I had my daughter. She was my inspiration. So together with my husband, Josh Koon, he’s also part of Ethos, he’s the shy one. So together we wanted to build something, to have a stable life, as we used to work in the cruise line industry. So for us, it was clear it should be a vegan hotel, somewhere that; we, the vegan people and non-vegan people, will talk about this goal we have, and feel comfortable, and safe. Then we will be able to offer all the things we learn by traveling and hospitality and make everybody feel welcome. So now we have Ethos and Dream come true and still after one year we are operating. We cannot believe we have it.

Brighde: I invite everybody who is listening to the podcast right now to go into the show notes and have a look at some of the pictures of the hotel because it really is very, very beautiful. So tell me a little bit about, you had this idea and then I’m sure it was a process to get the thing built. I’m sure Covid was a bit of a problem, of course. Where you are now, and maybe a little bit about the hotel.

Artemis: Yes, of course. My pleasure. Originally we were supposed to build Ethos somewhere else on land we had. But unfortunately, the Covid came. My husband lost his job, of course, for two years. Meanwhile, we lost my grandma. Now we didn’t have a lot of options and we were so lucky to have a good offer for the other land. So we sell the land. Since I inherited my grandparent’s house and my parent’s house where all my family was born, my parents, my uncle, me, and my daughter was born in this building where Ethos is. Now, we decided to keep that and do everything to not sell the house and create Ethos here.

So we transfer our idea from the land we then wish to supposed to build Ethos, here. So it is a building that means a lot to me. I have a lot of memories of cooking here with my grandmother, growing up, then having my daughter here. So it’s very emotional for us, even to be daily here. We renovate, the whole building from the beginning. It was a long process, expensive because we wanted to do it not with fast designs to use cheap materials. We wanted to invest and create something nice where everybody will feel comfortable. We made our walls out of clay and wheat. We made our bathrooms from recycled materials and recycled glasses. We have our furniture made by a local carpenter. We have marble tables made by a local carpenter. So I think the aesthetic is elegant, natural and it’s luxury.

Brighde: Beautiful. Well, I have not been yet. I definitely want to go, but from the pictures, it is all of those things. So how many rooms does the hotel have because you have kind of like a couple of different suites or areas? Am I right in thinking that you’re building a second place or something like that? Tell us everything.

Artemis: I’ll tell you everything with pleasure. Ethos is in the town of the Fira. We are in the middle of the center, very convenient location, and have five suites. We have two on the ground floor, where I am now one of them, they’re the original building from 1956 and with the style of architecture, which we kept. These are the two ground-floor suites, great interiors, and bigger space. They have of course private patios and private hot tubs, all of our five suites. Then we have two suites on the first floor, the first-floor suites, as we call them. They’re a bit smaller inside, but still very cozy, and they have their own character as well.

 Also, we have our superior suite. We call it superior because it is the only suite that has access to my private garden, on the terrace, because in the middle of the city, we create a green spot. We made our terrace, as a garden. It was a big process, very hard to do, but we made it. All of the suites are offering the same amenities, the same comfort, and all of them with a hotel.

We do have another project coming soon, hopefully beginning of July. I still cannot believe it because there our dreams can come bigger. We can host more people and we can do more events. Ethos is nice of course, everybody loves the location, but it’s not much that we can do for our guests here. We do organize cooking classes here at Ethos. But now, we have a landscape, we have a big garden, we have an outdoor kitchen. We can share a lot of memories and create memories with our guests. We can sit down, cook Greek food, drink wine, and then do my favorite, share stories of the past. So up there will be four villas with private swimming pools.

Brighde: Wow. Okay. So that’s open in July. A question that I have for the old one, that’s only a year old, do you have a restaurant connected to the place?

Artemis: No, we don’t have a restaurant. I personally cook the vegan breakfast, which is more like brunch as daily I surprise my guests with a sweet option and a savory option. Everything is made from organic basically, and local products. We don’t buy anything. We cook everything here, even our jellies. What’s exciting, I think that it’s every day something different. The guests don’t know, so it’s an everyday surprise. But so far it is working perfectly. Everybody is very satisfied. Even the non-vegan guests. What we do for now is we have some extra services, like we can do a vegan maze platter, with wine. We have some champagne service, small services. What we are planning to do in the new property is maybe organize some private dinners, under the garden. Outside there, it’s a beautiful, nice seawater view, but so far we have organized a wedding, a small wedding of two here. So we do some cooking but upon request.

Brighde: Understood. Understood. Well, all of that sounds incredible. Could you explain a little bit about like where they are located on the island? Is it close to where you get the ferry to come in? I’m not sure if there’s an airport in Santorini. Can you explain the transport getting there?

Artemis: We are very lucky because Santorini has an international airport. JTR is the airport, and now we are having flights from all over Europe, like direct flights even. So sometimes you can check online and find flights from London, Ireland, Madrid, Rome, everywhere straight to Santorini. Of course, there is the option of the ferry from Athens. Also, a flight from Athens is like 30 minutes. From the airport, we are located about 10 minutes drive. Of course, we organize the transfer for our guests. From the port, we are like, 20 minutes. Once they book with us, they get a message that we are at their disposal to organize anything they want.

 We are waiting here to welcome them with a welcome drink and everything. Ethos Vegan Suite is located in the town, where you can walk steps away from the cliffs. The Caldera is famous for its view. All the restaurants and all the shops are steps away from us. It’s a very convenient location. Also, the bus station is here and it’s very easy for a guest if they don’t wanna drive they can just use public transportation and explore the island. We give them all the tips to do that.

Brighde: That’s fantastic. I was imagining, if your hotel suites were, in a more rural area, then that might mean that it’s harder to get around. But from what you say, it actually sounds quite easy. Even though you don’t offer dinner, like in a restaurant form, you are well located for people to be able to find something to eat for dinner if they need to. And I definitely wanna hear your other vegan food recommendations later on. But I’d love to touch on something that you mentioned earlier, which is the fact that Santorini has an international airport, and of course, we’ve all seen the pictures if you haven’t been. I’m sure listeners have seen the pictures of just how beautiful this island is.

It’s very accessible. I know a lot of people can feel a little hesitant about going to places that they think could be like a tourist trap. And I’m sure, there are some places that are very crowded, but what are some of the reasons why people should go to Santorini, even if it’s quite busy at times? Like is it easy to get away from the crowds? Are there some special activities to do? What do you think?

Artemis: As I said, I was born and raised here, Santorini has changed a lot. Yes. I’m not gonna lie. It’s a touristic trap. Yes. Can be, when you don’t have the help or when you don’t have the guideline that we offer as locals here but it’s beautiful. I’ve been all over the world. It’s, stunning. When you have the guidelines on where to go, and what to do, you will enjoy it and you will wanna come back. Unfortunately, it’s overpopulated, over touristic, but with the tips we are giving to our guests, how to explore the island, where to go, and what time to go. It makes it easier. There are a lot of things to do in Santorini. This is why seven days is my recommendation. It sounds a lot to people, but believe me, even seven days sometimes is not enough because when our guests come we give them the secrets, where to go, what to do. There are so many things that they don’t know before they come that they can do. 

We can start, first of all, by taking hiking, long walks and admiring the Caldera and the view, which every day is different. Believe me, I’m 41 years old, and every day is different. Change with the colors, with the sun, with the weather. So this is of course one of the major things, but we have a lot of ancient history. Santorini has everything for everybody. You love ancient history, we have the ancient ruins, prehistoric village, which is amazing to see. It’s very well preserved because was covered from the ashes after the volcano eruption because Santorini is a volcanic island. So we have the ancient ruins.

We have the ancient theater, which is the village after the Ancient ruins. We have two major museums combined with this, archeological places. So even if you love ancient history, here is your place, a lot to see. We go way back. Then if you love wine, we have the best wines in the world because the volcanic, earth is very interesting. In our agriculture, people don’t know, that Santorini produces one of the best quality wines because of the grape and the earth. Also, we produce some very special products like cherry tomatoes, a special cucumber, and white eggplant, which is delicious. We have great long black peaches for the kids, and for the adults to enjoy. We do have a kayak experience around the cliffs. We do have scuba diving. We have bicycle tours. We have pottery classes. Anything you like, we can make it happen.

Brighde: Wow. It really does sound like an incredible place to go and visit. I’m just curious about the climate. I know a lot of the time hotels in Greece, especially on the Greek islands, close during the winter times. I’m sure the summer holidays are the busiest times, but also maybe the hottest. So what is the best time of year to go, assuming, of course, people want to go out and do as much as they can, hiking, enjoying the views, et cetera?

Artemis: For us, we are staying open all over the year.

Brighde: Oh really. 

Artemis: Because Exactly, we are in the main town. We are staying open all over the year. The only difference is that during the winter period from the 15th of November until the end of March, we don’t operate our jacuzzis. Because it’s very hard to heat them up and keep the high standards that we wanna offer to our guests. Also, the breakfast is extra like it’s an extra fee. It’s not like the summer when the price is higher, and you get our wonderful breakfast, but still, during the winter you have the option to order the breakfast and then the rate is cheaper. So we give the opportunity to more people to visit us. It’s like more than 50% off during the wintertime, so it’s something to consider. We are very lucky sometimes we are experiencing November, December, and January, great weather. Okay. You cannot swim, but you can do hiking. A few restaurants are open. You can blend in with the locals, and it’s a completely different experience.

In the summertime, I would recommend the month of May, June, and then September or October. July, August. Yes, it’s busy. Although for us as well, it is the busiest time. We are fully booked for July and August. But I would recommend September, mid-September. It’s nice to come. May, it’s nice.

Brighde: Are the crowds a little bit less during those times as well?

Artemis: The crowds are less, giving you the opportunity to walk through the popular villages. In the summer, you can do it when we advise people to do it later in the night or very early in the morning. We find solutions. Even if you come in August.

Brighde: I love it. I love it. I’m very curious cuz something I really like to do when I’m traveling is, to time my visit to maybe something interesting that’s going on, on the island itself. For example, some festivals, whether it’s a religious festival or a harvest festival or something like that. Are there any special festivals that go on in Santorini throughout the year that people might like to time their visit for?

Artemis: There is no specific time in August. We have some concerts like it’s a month that we have a lot of live concerts, so you get the opportunity to listen to Greek artists, so it can be interesting. This is during the August period. We have our church, when they celebrate most of the time, they do a festivity. They drink wine and they cook, and we are so lucky that most of the time, its vegan food can be giant beans or fava. Very rarely it’s something else. Unfortunately, we have a horrible festival because of the fireworks. They pretend that the volcano explodes, so they throw fireworks, Tourists, love it.

I don’t like it because all the animals, they get scared, including our dogs. We have three rescue dogs. Rather than that, we don’t have anything else really major, like in Athens they do the Vegan Festival, a very popular one in October.

Brighde: Ah, I see. That’s really interesting. Okay, when people book to stay at Ethos Suites, they come and arrive and you welcome them. What activities can you set up for them so that they can explore the island and maybe get an insight into the culture, the history that might not be possible? You mentioned of course, that there are a lot of ruins, but sometimes we need help interpreting the ruins like a guide or something like that. What are some of the activities that you guys can organize?

Artemis: Alright, first of all, I would like to tell you that recently we did, one of the check-in, and the guest said, oh my gosh, this is the best check-in I ever had. Because for us, when the guests come, we have a driver, he’s doing the transfer for us with an extra call. We communicate very well, so we go pick up the guests and escort them. When they arrive at the Ethos, we see how tired they are. Accordingly, we are acting. Also me and my husband Joshua, we are very good to see the needs of each guest because of our long-term experience in hospitality. That helps us a lot. So depend on the needs of the guests. We know how to organize his day and we know what to offer and what he can do.

 Always we offer the welcome drink of course, and then we have a map of Santorini. We gift it to our guests, and there we pointed out everything that they can do, our recommendations, the restaurants, the hiking, everything. And of course, we ask what are their interests, and what they would love to do. As you said, of course, sometimes you need help. So we do have private tours. We do have a private guide if they need one. Accordingly, if they need help, we have people who can escort them, they can talk to them. If some people don’t feel very comfortable doing things by themselves, we organize private tours. I missed to mention, that guests can sail in a luxury catamaran. They take care of our vegan guests and it’s a beautiful experience as well.

Brighde: Is that like a day trip?

Artemis: It’s a day trip. We always work with a company because I trust, I work with the local people that I trust. I know them from school and I wanna be sure that they gonna take care of our guests. So they pick them up from Ethos and they take them to Amoudi Bay, and then they’re sailing from two o’clock until nine o’clock in the night. They eat on board, they do snorkeling, they cook for them, and then they finish the day by watching the beautiful sunset and fruit plate. So it’s a beautiful experience that we always recommend to our guests. I can’t wait to have you and we take you to see yourself. All these things.

Brighde: Oh my goodness, Artemis, I love it and I love the idea of going in the wintertime when it’s cool, but also less busy. It just sounds lovely. A question I have about traveling in the off-season, are a lot of other restaurants closed, and a lot of activities, and excursions during the depths of the off-season?

Artemis: From November everything mostly shut down, but where we are located, there are a few restaurants that they stay open and you can still find nice local food. Also, the museums are open. The sailing, for example, no, or the beach day, the kayak. But still, you can do your hiking, you can visit some local restaurants and you can visit the museums. I would recommend October because still, the sailings are on. Most of the restaurants are open because some of my favorite restaurants, unfortunately, are open only, in the summertime.

Brighde: Got it, understood. So let’s talk about food outside of Ethos because very often something I have noticed when I go traveling, especially to places that are visited by a lot of people is that there are not a lot of vegan restaurants because rents are sometimes very high and the people that want to be able to cater to many people quickly, the quality of the food isn’t good. So I’d really love to get a sense from you about what it’s like to travel as a vegan and eat in Santorini, maybe there are some dishes that you can always order at non-vegan restaurants. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are some really great, vegan-friendly or vegan options in Santorini. So tell us about those.

Artemis: One thing is because I have traveled a lot, before Covid and now. Greece in general and Santorini especially is very vegan-friendly. People don’t believe it, but they are amazed at how good the food is. You don’t have to be in a 100% vegan restaurant, which is what I love. Because from my experience, I love to support vegan companies, don’t take me wrong. But sometimes the food is not the food I’m used to it. Because what I cook at Ethos, what I cook at home, and what I’m used to is homemade cooked food, not processed food, no raw things, like what my grandma used to cook.

 In Santorini, as I said, we have a vegan restaurant, we have 5SENSES, a hundred percent vegan restaurant with great cuisine. Other than that, we have Panigyri, which is one of my favorite restaurants, that has its own garden. They grow their own vegetables. They have a wooden oven, they bake their own bread. So it’s not a 100% vegan restaurant, they have a vegan menu. There are a lot of options that we tell our guests, every village they gonna visit, they have vegan options. Also, in any Greek taverna, as we call Greek local restaurants, you gonna find a few pieces that they’re vegan themselves.

Anyway, like the famous fava beans, it’s yellow. This is vegan and it’s a great meal with great nutrition. We have the boiled Horta, which is wild green. We have vine leaves, we have tomato fritters, we have eggplants grilled, Zucchini, and so many options everywhere. Even vegan ice cream is all over the island. Anything you want, you’re gonna find it. Local Greek food is so good, you don’t have to try anything else.

Brighde: Fantastic. So I’m guessing it’s just a case of going into a restaurant. I’m sure in a place like Santorini, there are lots of menus in English. It’s very easy to ask, for what you want or ask if they have anything. Is that? 

Artemis: Yes. It’s very easy and people now are very used to the weekends on the island. Apart from that, as I mentioned before, we recommend to our guests, you’re gonna visit the village, you’re gonna eat there, you’re gonna meet this person because we know the people. So imagine you come here to Ethos, you meet us, and you feel comfortable. Like, you go to the other restaurant, you ask for this person, and they treat you nicely. So any village you’re gonna go to, we have our recommendations. You don’t have to struggle, you know, in advance what to order. 

Brighde: wow.

Artemis: And hundred percent, our guests follow our recommendations and they’re very happy.

Brighde: Amazing. A question that I have, a few years ago now, when I started recording this podcast, I interviewed a lovely woman who had lived in Athens for several years, she was from Germany. She was talking about the donkeys in some of the Greek islands and how this can be a little bit upsetting to see donkeys being used to carry suitcases and things like that. So how does that sort of all play out in Santorini?

Artemis: Unfortunately, I’m not gonna lie, it’s bad, exist. A few months ago I visit Cairo and the same thing. I visit Jorden and the same thing. Animal abuse is everywhere. We can fight it.

Brighde: Yes,

Artemis: We cannot ignore it. But I cannot say it doesn’t exist in Santorini, it does. We fight. There are people coming from Athens activists, teams coming too. But, you cannot change the world in one day. It exists mostly to carry tourists from the old port. They come on cruise ships. So if you don’t wanna get into it, you have to avoid this place.

Brighde: Yeah.

Artemis: I don’t avoid it. I don’t wanna close my eyes. I see it, I cry for it. There is not much I can do by myself. I try. We sign petitions, everything we can. Another thing is, most of the five-star hotels on the cliffs, use animals not only when they build or they renovate, to carry the materials and heavy things, but also for the luggage. This is why the view is great, but I wouldn’t stay in most of the Caldera with the view. Of course, there are some very nice, they don’t use. I don’t avoid everything. But yes, we didn’t use any animals while building it, of course. It’s sad, it’s existing and I cannot lie about it.

Brighde: Yeah, of course. Before I was vegan, I actually met my partner in Morocco and of course in Morocco, donkeys and mules are used a lot as beasts of burden. I remember when we would travel, we would go from the bottom of the mountain to this refuge. We would walk and we wouldn’t use mules that was right. But I did see plenty of mules being used to bring up supplies and that kind of thing. It’s really sad, that’s quite an obvious thing, but animals are used a lot in agriculture and these kinds of things. I have heard about some great organizations that are doing some work to try to improve the lives of these animals, these donkeys in the Greek islands. So of course that’s a great thing to support. 

Artemis: It’s a great thing to support, but from my experience, because in Santorini we have a huge problem also with stray animals like dogs and cats.

Brighde: Oh, interesting.

Artemis: The problem is that during the summer, the tourists feed them or people that they come just to work for the season. Oh, this cat is cute. Let me have them here for the summer and then they just leave them in the street. We have organizations here, that try to help with this. Don’t take me wrong, I personally like to help and we do help individuals like volunteers. Simple people that they really work in the streets. Sometimes, I don’t trust the big organizations. I don’t know. I like to personally help rescue a few dogs. We have rescue dogs already with my family. If I have time and the money takes money because pre-government doesn’t help. We can sterilize a few of the stray animals. There is a wonderful lady here who is a volunteer, for 20 years or more. Now she’s taking care of all of the stray dogs and cats. Feeding them on winter, rainy, and sunny days. Every day, going around the village and feeding them only volunteers helping them.

No government, no big organizations. Her name is Anna. She’s a great person. All her life is about this. So we personally, quietly, without mentioning big things, we prefer to help people like her.

Brighde: Exactly. I think that’s a great point. It would be a very nice thing to ask your host, this is what I really love about staying in vegan hotels, because I’m very confident that their, vision is going to align very closely to mine, you know, say, oh my goodness, I’m seeing a lot of stray cats and dogs. I’d love to maybe contribute some money to get some spayed and neutered, sterilized here’s a hundred euros, can you get it to a place where it will do the best? And I feel very confident that would be done. 

Artemis: Exactly. We had some guests before, not everybody, they ask about these things. Then we can offer them or bring them in contact so that they can help. We have a wonderful volunteer here as well. A wonderful lady for 30 years is helping a lot. When we take in an animal, small efforts. Slowly, slowly maybe we can change the world. Who knows, one day we will wake up in a vegan world.

Brighde: Fingers crossed for that. Artemis, it’s been lovely to speak with you and to learn about this beautiful destination and the work that you are doing, and the beautiful accommodations that you are creating for vegans and for non-vegans who are interested. Tell us a little bit about how people can keep in touch with what you are doing. How they can book a stay with you in a way that perhaps, they’re not giving all of their money to 

Artemis: Yes, 

Brighde: booking websites, perhaps booking directly. Tell us.

Artemis: We have a website, it’s ethos-santorini.com, that they can see there more. They can contact us directly, we have the [email protected]. They can send us emails, we love talking, and we respond very fast. Of course, when they contact us directly, we give a special rate. There are times that I connect with the guests personally like they can tell me, look, I’m a student, but I wanna come, then I will try my best to accommodate them and give the best rate available.

 Another thing I wanted to mention, and it’s important, I want to say that Ethos, it’s an ancient Greek word, I didn’t wanna forget that, means morality. We have Ethos not only for animal welfare and nature, but we have Ethos towards, our guests. We wanna respect them, like people. Because we know they spend money, they work hard to be here, and we wanna appreciate that and embrace it, and really create memories for them. This is the most important for us, and Ethos is an experience for anybody that can come.

Brighde: Artemis talking to you, it’s very clear to me that you have a lot of experience in hospitality and just really wanna make people feel comfortable. I can tell that you are so professional and that you care so much about this project and helping your guests experience everything that Santorini has to offer.

Artemis: We can’t wait to have you anytime. Of course, I love Ethos, but I also love people. I love our guests. 

Brighde: All right, this has just been so lovely to talk to you. Tell us your Instagram handles before we say goodbye.

Artemis: @ethos.vegan.suites.santorini and then you can see the Ethos Retreat. We need followers because you know what? I care so much about people. I spend time talking here. I don’t spend time on social.

Brighde: Same. Thank you so much for joining us today, Artemis.

Artemis: Thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure. Thank you.

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