Santorini – where there are more donkeys than taxis, more wine than water, more steps and streets and more churches than days of the year. But most of all, it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever had the privilege to visit, and one destination that I would return to in a heartbeat.
Santorini’s exquisite beauty stole my heart entirely. It also helped that it was marginally calmer than the other two islands, and it gave me a chance to recuperate some energy before Ios (whoop whoop!)
And although the nightlife may have been slightly less crazy, that wasn’t the case for our daytime schedule, which was jam packed with adventures galore. So, rather than swooning over the island for another few paragraphs, take a look at my island highlights!
Fira is a must for anyone visiting Santorini, but as the main town on the island, it won’t be difficult to miss! Like Mykonos, the town is at the top of a hill, and its cobbled streets have an enchanting feel to them that is almost indescribable, but it is the caldera itself that really captures the imagination. For those not up on their Greek geography, the caldera (meaning ‘cauldron’) is the term given to the cliff-face, which was shaped by a volcanic eruption, and offers incredible sea views, as well as views towards the other two uninhabited volcanic islands that make up Santorni. We ate dinner overlooking the caldera on our first visit to the town of Fira, before enjoying a little bit of shopping and experiencing the local nightlife.
As I’ve mentioned before, the nightlife wasn’t quite as buzzing in Santorini as in Mykonos or Ios, but the Tropical Bar (overlooking the caldera) did a rather amazing happy hour, made even better by the fact that all of the bars on the islands freepour their drinks, resulting in slightly generous measures!
Volcano, Hot Springs and Donkey Day
When I said that Santorini was jam-packed, that was no word of a lie – in fact, all of these activities happened in one day! Setting off on our tour of the island, we took a drive to its highest point before continuing on our journey to Santorini’s red sand beach, via Akrotiri, a Bronze Age settlement destroyed by a volcanic eruption. All of this was pretty much a whistle-stop tour, but well worth seeing before we departed for our sailing trip to Santorini’s volcanic islands.
In case you aren’t aware of the geography of the island, what we know and recognise as Santorini is actually the island of Thira, and this combined with Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni make up Santorini in its entirety. Boarding a boat in Thira’s new port, we first visited the thermal springs around Palea Kameni, where we enjoyed a natural mud mask to rejuvenate our skin; before visiting Nea Kameni, to climb a volcano which last erupted in the 1950s.
So, after a dip in some hot springs and a visit to a volcano, what is the natural way to round up a hectic day? On a donkey, of course! Rather than returning to the new port, we disembarked the boat from Fira’s old port, where we had the choice of climbing the 500+ steps, riding a cable car or taking a donkey to the top of the caldera (into Fira). We opted for the donkeys, since they sounded like the most fun of all three options, and whilst everyone was a little terrified as we teetered on the edge of the caldera, it was possibly the most fun of the entire holiday.
Cast you mind towards those gorgeous postcards that you see from Santorini, with hazy sunsets, pristine buildings and blue-domed churches. That’s Oia village, and it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Strolling along the main street, numerous little passages lead to incredible views over the caldera, perfect for photo opportunities.
We visited Oia with our tour group, and I was slightly disappointed to find that, although we had time to explore the caldera views, our sunset location did not have those incredible views of white buildings and churches, but we were told that it gets pretty hectic at these locations, and our tranquil sunset location gave us the chance to enjoy some snacks and wine, as the sky lit up with warm amber tones. Simply idyllic.
Atlantis Books, Oia
Oia is renowned for its view, but that’s not all the village has to offer. Tucked in a little nook of the main street is Atlantis Books, a treasure trove of a bookshop that houses everything from the British classics to Homer’s Iliad. It’s rated the number 1 bookshop to see before you die by Jeremy Mercer at The Guardian, and it’s not hard to see why.
Atlantis Books was set up in 2002 by two like-minded individuals who shared a passion for books. They believe that you can only truly understand books if you sleep among them, so there are mattresses within the bookshop for the students that work in the shop throughout the year.
I was desperate to buy something from the shop, so sought out a beautiful copy of my favourite book, The Great Gatsby. But as I took it to the till, one of the staff gave me the perfect treat for the literature nerd inside me. Reaching into an old first aid box, he produced a first edition copy of The Great Gatsby, on sale for 6,000 euros (it would have been 100,000 euros with the dust cover). He even let me hold it!
Thalassa Hotel, Kamari, Santorini
Finally, it would be impossible to give you an overview of my time in Santorini without a mention to my gorgeous hotel in Kamari village. We stayed at the Thalassa Hotel, a hotel situated right on the edge of a black sand beach, with stunning sea views and quaint little white cottages in traditional Greek style.
The Thalassa Hotel had, without doubt, the best swimming pool of anywhere we stayed on holiday, which was our first stop on the day that we arrived in Santorini. Our little cottage had all of the amenities we required, and it made for the perfect base from which to enjoy the sights of Santorini. As for the village of Kamari itself, this can best be described as the ‘family’ side of Santorini, with a strip of traditional restaurants lining the sea front, and a number of hotels perfect for anyone who wants to explore Fira and beyond. If I was returning to the island, I would definitely stay in this area.
Stay tuned for my final post on my very last destination – IOS BABY!