The Greek island of Santorini is rightly famous for its volcanic cliffs and views of its sea-filled caldera, beach resorts, whitewashed buildings with blue domes, and spectacular sunsets. One thing you may NOT expect to find there, however, is one of the world’s coolest independent bookshops: Atlantis Books.
Hidden down a flight of stairs on the lower floor of a traditional cave, Atlantis Books is a real treasure den for bookworms of all countries, crammed full of books in nearly every European language. The shop specializes in philosophy, travel writing, and literary fiction, and the story of its creation is almost as entertaining as the ones it sells.
This literary h(e)aven is the charming brainchild of friends Oliver and Craig who, at a time when bookstores were disappearing from the high street, one drunken evening dreamt up an idyllic little bookshop to be opened on the island on which they were vacationing. Whilst most of us would have shelved the idea as soon as we had recovered from our hangover, the two boys returned to the UK to complete their studies, and, after enrolling their friends from all over the world to lend their skills and enthusiasm to the project, headed back to Ia immediately after graduation, determined to turn their fantasy into reality.
Flickr photo via yuankuei
Having populated it with heaps of books, a dog, a cat, and a boat docked to their terrace (how perfect does that sound?!), in the spring of 2004, the ever-growing group of friends opened Atlantis Books below Ia’s castle, directly facing Santorini’s trademark sunsets. One year later, they relocated to their current spot at the heart of the village, where the team continues to sell international literature in the original language – including old books and collector’s editions – and to organize numerous events, from author readings to film screenings, live gigs, and bonfire parties.
The young entrepreneurs also set up their own publishing venture, Paravion Press, which prints postcard-sized limited editions of world classics, to be mailed on to loved ones after reading. With an eclectic catalogue currently featuring short works by James Joyce, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, or Rudyard Kipling, each booklet is sold with its own envelope, perpetuating the ideals of travel and exchange on which the shop was built.
Flickr photo via Alma Ayon
But what makes this unique bookshop even more special is the way it is run: intended not only as a store but also as a base for the owners’ visiting friends and as a writing studio, Atlantic Books relies on volunteers to keep trading and houses its transient staff… inside the shop itself! Rows of wooden bookshelves compete for space with bunk beds, a concept inspired by the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris.
Like its Paris older sister, Atlantis Books is occasionally looking for temporary staff to help out for a minimum of 3 months. So if you fancy a long holiday on picturesque Santorini or some time off to write that novel you’ve been planning for ages, this might just be the retreat you need!
* Tips for visiting Santorini: Although stunning all year round, the island is best enjoyed in shoulder season, when the crowds are gone but the sun lingers behind and prices are discounted. If you’re inspired by Atlantis Books, why not time your visit to coincide with the bookshop’s September Caldera Arts & Literature Festival?