If I asked you to picture Santorini in your mind, you’ll probably imagine the iconic image of white buildings with their blue domed roof’s, overlooking a sparkling sea at sunset and you know what, that really does summarise the beauty of this island.
I recently visited Santorini on holiday with my partner and from the moment the island came into view in the plane window, I knew we were going to be in for a treat; it is simply breath-taking.
The crescent shaped island of Santorini was formed thousands of years ago, when a huge volcanic eruption caused a large chunk of the island to disappear beneath the sea, leaving behind a crater, or Caldera. The centre of the volcano is on the island of Nea Karmeni, in the middle of the Caldera. It can be accessed by one of the many boat tours that leave the main island every day.
Santorini is a relatively small island in comparison to many others in Greece (only 18km long and 12km wide), but there’s an incredible amount of things to see and do.
There are a couple of great ways to get around the island. Firstly, the local bus service; we took the busses pretty much everywhere! It’s just so easy, convenient and is a really cheap mode of transport (you can get just about anywhere on the island for just a couple of Euro’s) and you can catch a bus to all of the main towns and attractions.
The other great way to see the island is by hiring a quad bike or buggy. We hired a buggy for 24 hours; it cost 40 euros and was one of the best days of our holiday. It was so nice to have the freedom to go where we wanted and off the beaten track. The scenery around the island is to die for and it’s easy to find a spot to pull over and have the perfect panoramic view (the main road from Fira to Oia was a particular highlight with incredible views over the coast line).
The perfect spot for sunset
Now I’ve seen some pretty spectacular sunsets around the world but none of them really match up to the stunning beauty of Santorini’s sunset. It’s incredible, magical, simply breath-taking. Imagine a sparkling gold coin slowly sinking beneath the horizon; the sky changes from warm shades of orange and yellow stunning hues of red, pink, blue and purple; just wow.
There are a few places to see the famous spectacle but for unrivalled views, our favourite place was Oia. The crowds do tend to gather quite early, lining the cobbled hilly streets that look out over the Caldera, so you’ll need to get in place relatively early to bag a good spot (or book a table at one of the restaurants on that side of the town for an incredible view whilst you dine). But I assure you, it’s completely worth the wait.
An ancient history
Being a volcano, Santorini has had a turbulent history. There’s no better place to learn all about it than Akrotiri. Excavations began in 1967 and what they found beneath the layers of volcanic ash was an ancient Minoan city, buried following an eruption in 1613 BC.
The site is housed under a huge metal building to protect it from the elements, but as you walk around it’s clear to see where houses and roads once stood; this is a fascinating place and I would highly recommend it.
There are several beaches on Santorini including the blue flag beaches of Perissa and Kamari. You’ll find a great range of seafood restaurants, cocktail bars and shops along their promenades and they’re a great place to spend a day relaxing under the warm sun.
The smaller beach of Exo Gialos near Fira is a peaceful haven. There’s a lovely taverna right on the beach and if you’re buying food and drink from there, you’ll be able to utilise one of their sumptuous sunbeds or giant bean bags. Then there’s the famous Red Beach, so called because of the red sand and surrounding rocks caused by years of volcanic action; it’s incredible.
Towns and villages
The two main towns are Oia and Fira, but there are many other lovely places to wander around or grab a bite to eat. Spend a morning exploring the narrow streets of Megalochori, one of the most traditional and beautiful villages on the island. Head for the main square, grab a cup of Greek coffee and spend an hour relaxing under a vine clad pergola, whilst you admire the beautiful Cycladic architecture.
Santorini is famous for its wine production, and it really is big business here. The volcanic soil and climate give a deliciously unique taste to the local wines. As you tour the island, you’ll see how the vineyards are laid out a little differently to those you’d see in many other countries; the vines are grown in circular ‘basket like’ patterns close to the ground, so they can trap moisture at night.
Choose one of the many wineries dotted around and take part in a spot of wine tasting. Santorini wine is bursting with flavour and body, and you won’t taste a tipple like it anywhere else in the world.
Santorini really is a stunning island and it’ll give you a real taste of traditional Greece. The people are warm and inviting, the food is mouth-watering, the scenery is spine tingling and there are many incredible experiences to be had.
If you haven’t experienced this sparkling Greek jewel before, I would highly recommend a visit there; I’ll certainly be going back again. You can also find out lots more useful information about Santorini in our destination guide.
Have you been to Santorini before? Were there any highlights of your trip?