Imperfections per-say are what make Santorini so uniquely stunning. Rather barren, Santorini is characterized by its volcanic geography where little greenery grows and limited colours paint the natural and architectural aspects of the island.
Santorini is perhaps most famously known for its caldera, a reminder of the violent volcanic eruption that sculpted the island as we know it and remains the only sunken caldera in the world. Atop the gigantic cliffs that surround it, beautiful villages of white and blue have been constructed. Blue dome churches and whitewashed cave houses provide the traditional architecture of Greece, with pops of pink blooming from the Pink Bougainvillea flower that pleasantly sprawl throughout the white cliffside town.
The sunrise is remarkable. Something about watching the sun awaken the day fills me with a certain happiness. Every morning I woke at 6, made myself a hot cup of coffee with a splash of Baileys, and relocated with a big blanket to one of my villa’s pool chairs to admire the rising sun. Each morning it never disappointed. There’s something about the sunrise that I absolutely adore. Maybe it’s the promise of a new day, and on vacation, a new adventure! Or maybe it’s the fact that rarely do people actually watch the sun rising. Either way, the beautiful colourful morning sky, a warming cup of caffeine, and a big cozy blanket is my favourite way to wake up on vacation.
If you’re in the market for a relaxing vacation, Santorini is the perfect place for you. Aside from the main centres that grow busier as the night progresses, most of your days will be spent unwinding and relaxing. Even the excursions are tailored to a more relaxing vibe than other places in Greece and around the world.
After exploring the island for a week, here are my recommendations!
Best way to get around and explore:
- ATVs are a popular mode of transportation around the island, but not for their off-roading abilities. Rather, their compact size and easy to drive capabilities make them the perfect island exploring vehicle to maneuver through the busy, steep, and narrow streets. Parking can also be a pain in the donkey, as it is more of an anything goes game. Cars line the streets and people look to park in the most obscure manners leaving just enough space for the streets to function around them. ATVs and electronic scooters are therefore the perfect mode of transportation because of their small fit-almost-anywhere size. There’s also something mesmerizing about the freeing feeling of driving coast-side, wind blowing through your helmet hair, while cars honk at you to drive faster but you simply don’t care — just kidding, kind of. Cars will pass you because ATVs are slower machines. Try to hug the side of the road when it is safe to let those cars in a rush maneuver around you. Don’t forget to take your time and enjoy the views – Santorini has some spectacular scenic spots!
Best Authentically Greek Experience:
- Donkey Ride – The first time I ever visited Santorini was on a cruise for approximately 6 hours. I saw the lines of donkeys making their way up the caldera and immediately fell in love. I wanted nothing more than to ride one up the caldera’s edge, but unfortunately, there was simply no time. Five years later, I finally got my wish — and it was worth the wait! The donkey rides start at the bottom and they take you through the winding path up the cliff — such an authentically Greek experience!
- Catamaran Tour – see the island’s noteworthy spots, eat Greek and drink like a Greek, enjoying the day under the sun! Sunset Oia catamaran cruise was the perfect sailing adventure. Opting for the sunset tour over the morning sail, we sailed to the different beaches of Santorini and viewed the volcanic hot springs. Enjoying refreshing swims along the way and even more refreshing beverages, the excursion was the epitome of relaxation. Upon reaching Red Beach, our crew barbecued chicken and pork off the back of the boat and mustered up a feast fit for the Greek gods. As the sun began to set, we sailed back in haste with the other tours at our side racing to see the famous sunset at Oia. The sky, alike an oil painting, was splashed with hues of blue, orange, yellow, and gold. Just as quickly as the colours illuminated the horizon, they were gone, replaced by the twinkle of the night’s sky. A beautiful sight to see at sea.
- Before booking your day on the water, check the weather! Although Santorini is a fairly dry climate with little rain, during the summer months heavy winds can be quite normal! Always best to try and book a calmer day when on the water.
- NOTE: the hot springs are quite muddy and can change the colour of light swimsuits. If you want to bathe in the springs, wear swimwear you aren’t afraid to get dirty or dark patterned suits so the discolouration won’t be as apparent. Also, most people are surprised by the smell of the springs as the sulphur emits a pungent odour. Don’t be alarmed, this is natural but can be quite unappealing to some with sensitive smell receptors.
Best 2.50€ Gyro:
- Nick the Grill – Best cheap eats in Santorini! Located in Fira’s Main Square.
- Taverna El Greco – This place may not be the best looking aesthetically but man do they make good souvlaki, hands down the best I’ve ever had.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ABOUT THE ISLAND
BEACHES: The beaches of Santorini are pebbly and hot on your feet when heated under the sun’s rays — wear your flip flops to the waters edge. There will be a steep decline into the water and when it is windy it will be wavy. You will have to pay for chairs or loungers unless you bring your own/ something to sit on. Usually the restaurants will allow you to sit in their loungers if you spend a certain amount of money at their establishment so on the days we ventured to the beach, we had an early lunch at one of the boardwalk restaurants and spent the rest of our day on their loungers. However, I would be remiss if I did not warn you to stay far away from Taverna Perissa! The food was among the worst I’ve ever tried, the host/greeter was aggressive, rude, and extremely off-putting, each meal was brought out at scattered times to the point where one person would finish their meal and the other person’s would just be arriving (you simply could not wait for each dish to have come out as you would be eating extremely cold food) and the overall experience was the utmost unpleasant from start to finish.
AIRPORT: The airport is tiny and inefficient. When you arrive, you will sail through, but when you are leaving, it won’t be a pleasant experience! Plan on arriving no more than a couple hours before your flight — the airport doesn’t have a lot of seating and everyone from several flights are packed in a small waiting area standing, sweating, and anxiously waiting.
What a week! From ATVing, to sunset chasing, to donkey rides, and saying our sad goodbye, leaving this island after a week of relaxation and rejuvenation was quite sad indeed! Already looking forward to my next greek adventure. Santorini is most definitely one of the most beautiful, precious, and prized destinations in the world — I would highly recommend anybody to visit if the opportunity arises.
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