The Greek islands are all about romance. When the sunset floods the sky with hues of orange and red and the blue Mediterranean Sea playfully splashes surf over your face… romance is in the air… in fact… it’s everywhere!
Santorini is an island which is the remnant of a volcanic eruption. Pretty little towns are situated along the lip of the caldera. Any and every post on Santorini will surely feature the blue domed churches, the azure sea and the white washed houses. Santorini has these and more. Go here for… Wine tasting tours… picnics on the beach… wandering through archeological sites… or simply to relax and do nothing!
Where to stay?
Most guide books and travel sites will say ‘You must stay in Oia!’. There is no denying that Oia is the prettiest town in Santorini and has stunning views of the sea as well. It really does not have any ‘budget or back packing’ accommodation, but plenty of options for mid to luxury living. Want to feel rich? Book yourself in one of the plush ‘cave suites’ with a pool that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. If you are single or a romancing couple and are fine paying the extra dollars for a couple of nights in Santorini (you can skimp while staying at the other islands!), Oia is the place to stay. Oia is the most popular town on the island. However, if you are young at heart but slightly higher in biological age or have toddlers, Oia may not be best choice. The town is on the ‘face’ of the caldera, which means that there are lots and lots of steps to climb. If you don’t like troubling your knees, there is the option of hiring a donkey – but that will trouble your behind!
The other towns to stay, which seemed appealing to us were Imerovigli and Firostefani. Santorini in a ‘C’ shaped island and these two towns are closer to the centre of the ‘C’ and offer plenty of budget options. Imerovigli is also called the ‘Balcony of Santorini’ by a lot of locals and was our choice. We booked ourselves in Nataly and Katrin’s B&B – the cutest little B&B in town!
Watch the sunset…
It seems that the whole world has come to Santorini to watch the sunset! Again, the most recommended place for this is Oia, which is great, but we found a better places, thanks to suggestions from a few locals in Milos. Our choices to watch the sun go down, in order of preference, are as follows:
Amoudi Bay: The sunset loses all its magic when hordes of people are going crazy clicking the sun…and clicking themselves with the setting sun! Not many tourists flock to this location – it’s popular with the locals though. It is quiet and you can ‘live’ the romance.
Amoudi Bay is towards the end of the caldera lip, downhill, beyond Oia. You need to have your own conveyance to get here – the last mile downhill is fairly steep, so be careful. If you would prefer to watch the sunset while being on the edge at a height, there are a couple of restaurants just before the descent to Amoudi Bay begins. Come well in time, grab a table (or dunk yourself in the pool), order a glass of wine and watch the reds and oranges paint the sky as the Sun goes down.
Imerovigli: Plenty of restaurants to pick from – choose one with the view that you like (all of them will have the sunset view)! This is second on our list as, being in the centre of the island, it lets you see the island light up to the left and to the right while the sunsets right before you.
Oia: While it’s third on our list, it maybe the first one on yours if you like lots of buzz and enjoy watching the locals and tourists go by. Plonk yourself on one of the city walls and have a good time or gracefully seat yourself in a restaurant/local taverna and engage in sweet nothings….or better still…soak yourself in the swimming pool (if you are staying in Oia) and enjoy the glow after sunset!
Cheers… wine tasting at it’s best!
There are over 20 vineyards in Santorini, mostly in Megalochori area. You can either hop from one to the other, or have your fill in one place of your choice. We chose to visit Boutari vineyard, which was highly recommended by our B&B host.
Boutari was a great experience, walking through the vineyards and cellars followed by watching a short feature film on the history of Boutari and wine production in the island of Santorini. The most unusual thing about the vineyards in Santorini is that the grape vines, Assyrtiko Grapes, do not need support – they simply grow on the ground, coiled like a basket. Also, they do not need any irrigation and get all the moisture from the sea surf – interesting trivia!
Our favourite wine was the Nykteri. Grapes for this wine, traditionally, were harvested at night and a lot of vineries still continue with this traditional method.
Swimming in the sea…
Santorini has over twenty beaches, pebbled, red, black….take your pick! We really could not explore more than three beaches within the limited time that we had and it is the Akrotiri beach that we would recommend. The sand is bright red owning the high iron content (don’t forget that Santorini was the result of a volcanic eruption). You would need to scramble a bit to get here, but its worth it. A couple of shacks that will let you grab a drink if you choose to come out of the water.
We had heard raving reviews of the ‘Black Sand’ beach as well… but never ended up visiting it!
Hungry? Rush to the Greek Tavernas…
The Greek Tavernas are a delight for sea food lovers – food as fresh as it can get! For us veggies, worry not, there are a fair bit of options in Santorini. Every restaurant will serve a Greek salad – this was my absolute favourite. Then, there is Tzatziki – a yoghurt and cucumber based dip and the usual cheese, pasta and pizzas. There are also options for vegetable based fritters in most restaurants. Vegetarianism will not keep you away from sampling local food!
Two cents from my end… Some tips…
- Rent a transport: While there are local buses, they are infrequent. Rent a car/scooter or an ATV. Considering the steep slopes of the island, we would recommend a car or an ATV. Speak to the renting company in advance and ask them if you can pick up the vehicle from the port or the airport.
- Getting to Santorini: The island has an airport. If you book flights well in advance, they are the most convenient way to get here. If you missed that bus, book the ferry tickets at least a few days in advance, especially if you want to visit in peak season.
- Summer is HOT: Santorini, by virtue of being a volcanic island, is warmer than most of the other islands. Carry your hat and a sunblock.
- Fresh produce: Buy sun-dried tomatoes and capers from the farms – fresh and cheap. Typically, these bottles are not sealed well – be careful while you pack them.
- For the early birds: Watching the sunrise over the Agean Sea is as pretty as watching the sunset. If you can get yourself to wake up at 5:30 am on a vacation morning, I can assure you that the sunrise will be worth the effort!
- Organised Tours: If organised tours is what you like, do explore the wine tasting tours, visit to the volcano crater and archeological site tours.
As always…send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!
Let the travellers’ tribe grow!