Santorini is a place where the blues of the sky and the sea come together in its bluest best, the white houses are the whitest, the green leaves are the greenest and every other colour you find is at its truest. I can be certain that every one of us must have come across a postcard photo of Santorini and wished to be there and it is no surprise that this small island keeps making to everybody’s list of ‘Must Visit Places on Earth’.
I had the pleasure of visiting this island and I tell you, the speculations that Plato’s Atlantis was inspired by Santorini can be acknowledged if not believed. I am not fond of the sea or beaches but I will give due credit to this place. It is just so beautiful that I was in love. In Santorini, you get beaches, hills, cliffs, villages, vineyards and not yes, an active volcano. It is 45 minutes away from Athens by plane and 5 hours by fast ferry.
Officially called Thira, Santorini is a fragment of what remains from the real place that once was before the volcano that erupted 36,000 years ago. It is believed that the volcano wiped out the entire Minoan Civilization and broke the ancient island into 5 small islands, two of which are inhabited in the present day. The biggest island is called Santorini.
The island is not big but not small enough to be able to cover on foot. Therefore, it makes sense to rent a car or an ATV or one can also use public buses to get around. Most of the beaches are on the Southern part of the island and they are unique because of the black volcanic sand and pebbles and amazing cliff backgrounds. The most popular beaches are Kamari, Perissa and Red Beach. But Santorini is more famous for the whitewashed villages perched on the rim of the caldera and overlooking the sea and the volcano, the villages of Oia and Fira (capital of the island).
A trek of 10 km from Fira to Oia reveals the best of the views in the whole island and I mean ‘breath-taking’ views. The pebbled paths, the small churches, tiny villages, the sea, the volcano and plenty of wild flowers, we get it all. And then at the end of the trek, you see a fantastic picture of Oia flaunting itself. I remember taking a photo and thinking that it looked like those we find on the net and brochures and I’m not a good photographer (you see). Fira and Oia are in the west part of the island, Oia hanging at the tail-end. These two villages are undoubtedly the most popular with tourists and can be quite crowded but there is nothing to be frightened about because with a little bit of patience, you won’t miss anything.
For a quieter place in Santorini, one can go to Pyrgos village. There are some shops and restaurants, but it is far lesser touristy. Pyrgos is situated at the highest point in the whole island and is home to around 500 inhabitants. It is a proper traditional village with its small white houses and a church at the top-most and there is even the ruins of a Venetian castle and fortress. A drive up to Prophet Elias Monastery is something one shouldn’t skip. The whole island is exposed from this height and it’s a great place to see the sunset.
For a better insight into the history of the island, visit the Archaeological Site of Akrotiri where an ancient Minoan town has been unearthed from beneath the volcanic ashes. The advancement and the wealth of this civilization is evident in their multi-storeyed houses, drains, paintings and their vessels. The site isn’t as magnificently presented as the past was, so a visitor can easily get bored and unimpressed without a guide.
One of the other favourite thing that we did was wine-tasting at sun set while enjoying a wonderful view of the smaller islands and the caldera. The active volcano is accessible by the public and a trip there and its hot springs is a nice outing and a unique experience. There are plenty of tour operators offering rides and guides to the volcano.
Santorini is the ideal holiday destination with something to offer for everybody and I cannot imagine how anybody wouldn’t want to visit this island again. I am so attracted to Santorini for its beauty no doubt but mostly because of its laid-back nature which I found very contagious. Even in the crowded paths and restaurants in tourist infested areas, I could enjoy a kind of quietness and calmness which I absolutely miss.