It’s considered to be one of the most romantic places in the world, and it didn’t disappoint – Santorini is incredible. We had three days on the island as part of our honeymoon, and it was just magical.
The best part? Without question, the view. Oh my god, the view. One thing that I just wasn’t expecting was how HIGH the island is along the caldera! One morning we were relaxing in our room when we saw a helicopter fly by… below us. It was amazing.
Santorini is not a big island – you can drive from the top of the island to the bottom in less than an hour (if you dare). We rented a quad bike, which is a very popular way to get around, and honestly it was amazing. The weather was stinking hot while we were there (in August), but feeling the sea wind in your face while zooming around was incredible. The process for renting a bike was really easy – there are rental places all over, and they even let you park the bike there overnight.
So what is there to see on Santorini? Fira is the largest town – situated right on the edge of the caldera, midway along, it has an incredible view of the caldera with the volcano in the middle. Fira is very touristy – expect hotels galore, typical overpriced restaurants, a bit of a nightlife and plenty of kitschy shops. That’s not to say it isn’t charming – the winding alleys are filled with interesting finds and friendly locals. A shopper would be in trouble here.
The Old Port in Fira is located at the base of the cliff, and you can either walk down a steep switchbacked path (although mind the donkey-riding tourists taking the traditional way up to Fira) or take a cable car. We walked down (man did it stink – donkeys have a ripe smell!) and took the cable car back up, which was a good option in the heat! There’s not a whole lot down there to see, but just take a look at the colour of the water (although you can’t swim here).
Our very favourite thing that we did in Fira was go to the rooftop cinema (which was showing – what else? – Mamma Mia). Sitting in the amazing Aegean breeze whilst sipping a cocktail and looking out over the lights of Fira was pure heaven on earth.
Imerovigli is a small town situated at the highest point on the island, and is about a 20 minute walk up the coast from Fira. We chose to stay there – not knowing a whole lot about it – because it was a bit cheaper than staying right in Fira, and allowed us to book a room situated right on the very edge of the caldera with the most incredible view. In fact, unlike in Fira, many of the rooms in Imerovigli seemed to have a caldera view.
Imerovigli was our favourite place on the island. There were tiny winding pathways and staircases crisscrossing the cliff face, and no matter where you went, there was the glorious view on one side, and the quinessential whitewashed Santorini architecture on the other. The sunsets from this gorgeous location were INCREDIBLE. The common wisdom is that Oia is the best place to see the sunset on the island, but I didn’t think it held a candle to Imerovigli.
Imerovilgi lacks the same amenities as Fira, being much smaller, but it has the necessities – a small supermarket, car rental place, pharmacy and many restaurants. We had dinner one evening at an open-air restaurant right on the cliff edge. The food was incredible – traditional, locally produced dishes – and the staff were so welcoming and fun.
Just in case I haven’t sold you yet on the charms of Imerovigli, here are a few shots of how it looked once the sun went down.
OIA & AMMOUDI
Oia is located on the northern-most point of the island, and is considered to be the most romantic town. It’s where you should go if you want to see those round, blue roofs that pop up in almost every photo of ‘Santorini’ (the roofs belong to churches by the way). We had a good time walking through streets, which were a bit wider and more open than those in Fira. The shops lining them were also of the higher-end variety, and there was a few lovely galleries. Oia is absolutely swamped with tourists at sunset, because – as mentioned – it is thought to be the best point from which to view the sunset. Expect plenty of restaurants advertising ‘sunset views’ (for a premium, of course).
A short drive down from Oia is the fishing village of Ammoudi – it essentially sits right below Oia, at the base of the cliffs. While this tiny village was once unknown to tourists, it is now slightly overrun. The fresh seafood is very overpriced, although still tasty. If you continue walking through Ammoudi and along the cliff path, you will come to a not-so-secret swimming spot where the brave jump from a 5 metre monolith into the incredible blue-green water. Oh, that water – it is heaven. I didn’t make the jump, but I spent blissful time floating on the water that was so clear that you could see every fish below you.
Kamari is a beach town located on the east side of the island (the side without cliffs, where the island slopes down to meet the water). It lacks the beautiful views of the other side, but there is an upside – you can swim here. The beach is a black pebble beach with gentle, warm water. Wooden paths are set up so you can walk between the sunbeds without burning your feet. The sunbeds belong to the restaurants and cafes lining the beachfront, and to use one, all you need to do is order a drink (oh the hardship). Waiters will bring your drinks right to you on the beach while you relax. Convenience is the name of the game at Kamari.
Known as the ‘black beach’, Perissa has smaller, finer pebbles than Kamari, and is bounded on one end by a rocky outcrop extending right to the water’s edge. Perissa is a bit of a party beach in the evenings, with plenty of beachfront bars. The beach goes on for miles, with plenty to see and enjoy.
THE RED BEACH
We were keen to check out the Red Beach, which, thanks to the volcanic rock that the island of Santorini is made of, is actually red. The beach is quite difficult to get to – you park, walk perhaps a kilometre or so through coastal cliffs, and climb down onto the pebble beach which is crazy hot, but lacks the helpful walkways of Kamari beach. There are very few facilities – the toilet block was filthy and broken down, and there was just one very overpriced cafe to get a bottle of water from. There was a couple of rusty sun-lounges, but they were about 20 euro each to rent. It is probably worth visiting the Red Beach to see its unique colour – but only just!
While we managed to get through quite a few things during our three day stay on Santorini, there were a few things we missed out on that we would have loved to see. In particular, the archaeological sites near Akrotiri are meant to be great, and we would have loved to have spent some more time in Oia and taken a boat out to the volcano. However, we wouldn’t change a thing about our trip (except to make it longer), because we loved every minute! Oh – except for one teeny tiny minor thing – I won’t go in to detail because its gross, but if you are just dying to know, google ‘toilet paper santorini’ …. ;)