After reading a post from fellow blogger Joanna regarding her love of the Greek Islands we felt compelled to make the short trip ourselves. One post especially regarding the island of Santorini just left me lusting to visit the island also. You could say that she inspired us…
Unexpectedly, we found an amazing deal for a week during the shoulder season of April/May – it was just impossible to pass up. Interestingly we never realised that some of the Greek islands close during the winter months and do not really reopen until May. However with temperatures ranging from 18-28 degrees we were happy, especially when the UK was experiencing -1-+15 degrees.
At the risk of jumping on a bandwagon Santorini has fast become one of my favorite islands. As many of you know I like to find hidden gems, explore places many have not, but this was just too good an opportunity to miss out on.
Santorini is magnificent, it literally ticks a huge amounts of boxes.
- Beautiful black sand beaches of Kamari and Perissa,
- Historic Roman & Manoian ruins of Akori and Theresa.
- One of Europe’s most dangerous dormant volcanos
- The dramatic, awe inspiring cliff town of Fira
- The traditional greek village of Megalochori
- The classic greek white buildings
- The backward yet quaint island of Thirassia
- The beautiful end of the island town of Oia, with its draw of dramatic sunsets
There is so much to see and do, the island easily kept us entertained for a week.
Let me concentrate on my favourite elements
Fira – Many visitors do not rate Santorini’s capital, as it is the busiest part of the island and is always compared to its more beautiful sister town of Oia. We however saw a different side to Fira, as we wandered its maze of internal streets from shops to residential pathways. At times simply choosing on a whim which street to take next, in all honesty we would never be able to retrace some of those journeys as they were so spontaneous. Fira’s real draw however is that it follows the dramatic caldera edge and is built into the cliff edge itself. From the sea it simply looks stunning, however the walk from the bottom of the town all the way to its conclusion of the neighbouring village of Imerovigli. The walk alone through cobbled streets and miniature stair cases is worth the trip to Santorini alone, it is in all respects a balcony to the Aegean sea and the volcano that resides in front of it. Every step provides different postcard scenery, be it the famous white washed buildings, the maze of lanes or the inspiring caldera views over the ocean. A quick stop in one of the hundreds of restaurants, bars, galleries is a necessity simply to breath in the beauty that resides there.
Santorini’s most prized asset is the town of Oia that runs a similar course at the far north of the island. It too has the dramatic caldera views, winding streets and beautiful views. Its private villas and houses are no doubt the most exclusive and expensive of the island, again built into the Caldera’s edge. Oia’s architecture contrasts the blue ocean with a range of pastel colours giving a different perspective from its big brother Fira. The main street runs from its traditional windmill at the far north to its beautiful orthodox church at the south. We found Oia to be much smaller than Fira and more remote, however it draws in the crowds everyday for the iconic sunsets, which take my word for it are special!
Moving away from these two special towns are the tourist hotspots of Perissa and Kamari which both house beautiful long black sand beaches. In all honesty these are not main draws to the island however do offer cheaper accommodation to the rates of Fira and Oia. We actually stayed in Perissa, and found it very pleasant with easy access to supermarkets, bakeries and some cheaper alternative eateries. I wouldn’t have wanted to be there in high season however as I could see it becoming very busy and reminiscent of european destinations like Benidorm, Cavos or Faliraki.
The historic draw of Akrotiri, a Minoan Bronze Age settlement is something not to be overlooked. Reminiscent of the story of Pompeii, this settlement was excavated from the lava fields of the volcano’s most devastating eruption. This eruption wiped out the Minoan people, destroyed the island’s original form and is rumoured to be the event that sunk the city of Atlantis!. Even if you’re not a history buff, this excavation of prehistoric settlement is incredible to witness. The other historic site is the Roman ruins of ancient Thera, that sits atop of one of Santorini’s highest peaks. It’s not as dramatic as the prehistoric city but its location does yield some incredible photographic moments.
The volcano itself is only accessible by sea, as it sits in the middle of what was once a fully circular island, now surrounded by sea filled caldera. Don’t underestimate this volcano as it sits so peacefully on a relatively flat island, it’s been a killer of whole civilisations and continues to be a source of seismic activity even today. As we were out of season the only way to visit was a tour on a traditional sail boat. It was however a tour worth taking, after harbouring up in a beautiful turquoise inlet and hiking to its crater. The island itself is made up of a number of contrasting lava & ash fields that surround the crater, if you are lucky you can see the sulphur steam rising. The highlight of the volcano for us was actually the spectacular views of Oia and Thira from the sea. The trips next destination is located a short sail to the the other side of the volcano to its hot turquoise springs. A quick dip is of course essential. The tour continues onto the separate island of Thirassia, where the inhabitants live cut off, traditional and authentic lives. There is little to the towns that are scattered across the island, however it feels more authentic and there is very little tourism at all. The climb from the port to its summit is a lengthy one and takes dedication, however I really appreciated the old word of Thirassia, as it was a huge contrast to that of Fira.
On the topic of traditional, authentic Greek live, a village many would miss would be that of Megalochori. A single street runs down this village and only local cars are allowed, making the village inaccessible to the hoards. However parking to the north and walking the old cobbled streets, seeing the humble Greeks that reside there, and the beautiful unspoilt buildings is an unmissable experience. Megalochori’s maze of lanes can lead you atop of residential houses, into hidden gardens or to around corners that hide a number of shrines or churches.
We found a number of other highlights which included an array of fallen windmills, the lava cave diving, the mouth water cuisine (including Greek traditions of fresh seafood, Spitroast lamb, Souvlaki, Gyro, Moussaka to name a few), the notorious red beach, local bakeries and the friendly locals.
As you can see I could probably go on all day trying to adequately describe the beauty of this magnificent island. It really does make you feel like like you are part of something special. The only way you’ll really know is to visit yourselves – so what are you waiting for?