…and we are back. Apologizes to all followers for our absence, but we were busy with our work and making traveling plans for 2015.
If you’ve browsed through travel brochures featuring Greece, you’ve surely seen photos of Santorini. Even if you google Greece, first thing you see is the scenery from Santorini’s caldera.
Santorini is the island that you just can’t miss. This southernmost island of Cyclades is actually a flooded volcano. Today all that remains from a former volcano (Santorini caldera) is a lagoon with three islands around (Santorini being the main one) and two in the middle. They are all volcanic origin so only two of them are inhabited (Santorini is the biggest of them). Since this was a volcano, Santorini is steeply rising towards the other. This constructed some 300m high cliffs overlooking the other islands.
The picture below shows how Santorini was shaped before the eruption of volcano (the red line). The islands colored in yellow are the islands remaining today.
We came to the island by ferry to port, situated in the lagoon, under the cliffs. When the ferry enters the Santorini lagoon, the first things you see are the red cliffs with white villages on top. The view is incredible, so we would recommend occupying the best photo spot on the boat.
When the ferry docks, be ready for lots of people in a very small port. We were there in mid season and it was still quite crowded. It’s hard to imagine how it must look like in high season. It must be really hard to even move with your bags in the port. Our transportation took us up the steep and winding road 300m higher. From there, everything depends on your wishes…
The romantic side of the island
It may sound strange, but it is hard to find a word to describe it. Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli and Oia (in the order from the most southern to the most northern one) are the villages you want to go, if you’re looking to spend some romantic time on the island. These are also the white villages on the cliffs that you see from the ferry.
I was looking for words that best describe them and even though all are superlatives they still don’t do this villages justice. Everywhere you look there are small white churches with blue rooftops, narrow isles filled with small shops, restaurants with balconies and most of all the breathtaking views on caldera. They say the pictures speak thousand words:
You can imagine we didn’t manage to articulate more than “Ooooh” and “Aahh” on every step through this villages.
All four villages have lots of luxury accommodations with private pools and breathtaking views, overlooking the lagoon. Rooms and apartments are so confusingly arranged, that it is sometimes hard to tell, where one balcony ends, when you are standing on someone’s roof, or how to get to specific apartment. Everything in these villages is neatly arranged and freshly colored. There are lots of stairs separating apartments and balconies. If you are situated in one of these apartments or rooms, you see everything and everyone. It is almost impossible to get an accommodation with total privacy. But this also has its charms. In the morning you see staff wondering around, carrying breakfast to guests. When a couple in our village opened a bottle of champagne (at breakfast), the whole village started to clap and cheer.
If you’re looking for a village with best views, head to Imerovigli (it’s just 15 minutes walk away from the main Fira). It has the best views on caldera and it still remains quite tranquil and far less visited than Fira and Oia.
These villages are not recommended for families with small children, unless you can imagine riding a stroller down those steps or carrying a baby. So guys, if you have kids, the best thing is to choose the other side of the island by the beach.
If you’ve ever heard about Santorini, you’ve surely heard about Oia. It is situated at the far end of the Santorini, above Ammoudi bay and is directly facing west. It has beautiful narrow streets and everything in neatly arranged. There are a lot of restaurants there with the view included in their prices.
We visited Oia in the morning, when there weren’t as many tourists. Villages were almost deserted at the time and we had it all for ourselves. Around noon Oia becomes packed with people from cruise ships and it’s impossible to shoot a good photo without other people in it. The same thing applies for Fira, bellow which cruise ships dock.
Below Oia, there’s Ammoudi bay. Footpath is leading down from Oia and you can descend down to it. You can also see donkeys, taking people up and down, but be humane and do not torture poor animals. If it’s too hot for you to walk the stairs up and down, imagine how it can be for poor donkeys carrying you on their back. Use your legs, it won’t hurt. You can drive with a car or motorbike down as well. Ammoudi bay is a small port that has five fish restaurants, with fresh fish. If you like fish food, you should definitely try one. We tried one of them and it was delicious.
The best way to explore the island is by renting you own wheels. There is a bus network, but we preferred renting a scooter (there are many choices, so you can rent a car or a 4WD as well).
The other side of the island is flat and there’s were you’ll find some great beaches.
The small towns of Kamari and Perissa both have black sand beaches. If you prefer pebbles, go to Perissa. If you like sand, go to Kamari. We visited and enjoyed both. You can rent a deckchair or just set your towel anywhere you want (the choice we picked). Both towns are tourist towns with many hotels and apartments, beach front restaurants and small shops, where you can lose yourself for hours.
Want more colors? There is also White beach, accessible only by boat. We didn’t visit it, but we saw a hop-on hop-off boat that links all three colored beaches. All colored beaches are the result of volcanic activity in the past.
Since Santorini is treated as romantic island, we decided to position ourselves in such accommodation. We had quite some trouble to find good accommodation with a view for affordable price, but at the end we made it. We found it at Irini’s villas in Imerovigli: lovely room with private hot tub on the terrace for very affordable price 60€ per night. Or at least, that’s what we thought.
Later, when we were reading comment on Booking platform, people were complaining, that Irini’s villas didn’t have such accommodation and that although they made a reservation, didn’t get room with private tub. This kinda made us worry. Our fears came through. First when we came to Imerovigli, we had some trouble to find our accommodation (very confusing as we wrote before). Once we found it, we got an old apartment with a very small terrace. No hot tub. Apartment was old and dark (which usually doesn’t bother us, if we don’t pay for something different) with no sign of large terrace and private tub. We went to see the manager. Her reaction was curt with an excuse, that we couldn’t reserve such a room since they don’t have it. Of course she didn’t want to hear about refund and she didn’t have any other free rooms. We made a mistake that we didn’t have any details of the exact room that we reserved and they removed it from booking in the meantime. We later figured out that they probably removed the pictures from booking. com because of missleading advertising. At the end, we didn’t have any other choice but to stay in given apartment and give up.
This was the only bad experience on Santorini (in whole Cyclades) that we had.
We have seen almost the whole Greece so we can confirm that Santorini really is something special and unique. We can see why people choose it for their honeymoon. The villages on the cliff have a special charm, offer breathtaking scenery, where you could just sit and observe. The beaches with the black and red sand are hard to see anywhere else.
The other thing Santorini is famous for is its sunsets, but that’s a whole different story, for some other post. 🙂
And the final verdict would be: if you are near Cyclades (or even, if you are not) Santorini is a must!