At the beginning of June I started to crave the smell of the warm sea breeze and the Greek food at the same time. So the only possible solution to this was to start thinking about beach holiday in Greece, right? Unfortunately planning beach holiday at the beginning of the summer for destinations in the south of Europe is not the best idea as most of the hotels are already sold out and the flight tickets are crazy expensive. I have decided to check the websites of the local travel agencies because it seemed like the only reasonable thing to do. I have to say that I am not a big fan of organised trips and I have been successfully avoiding these for many many years.
After few weeks of intense search I was lucky and found a great last minute offer for Santorini. I didn’t hesitate a minute and booked it straight away.
Santorini is a Greek island in the Aegean sea and consists of a group of the following islands: Thira, Thirassiá, Asproníssi, Palea and Nea Kaméni. The only inhabited, apart from Santorini, is Thirassiá which you can reach by boat but can stay only for a few hours. I have been told that the residents of this island don’t want their home to be turned into another Santorini so any hotel constructions are not allowed. I have managed to find only one accommodation option on Google and that are Zacharo rooms that actually offer pretty amazing views.
All these islands are an active volcano and its current layout was created after a huge explosion that happened around 1500 BC. From the original island remained only craters (current islands) that settle in the sea.
Santorini, so called Thira is the southernmost island of the Cyclades and lies about 300 km south from Athens.
Where to stay
If you just won the lottery (congrats!) and are looking for the most beautiful place to stay then it will be Oia for sure. This tiny town can be found on the northern part of the island and is full of cute tiny white houses and churches with blue domes that you can see on any postcard. There is not a problem to spend around 1 000 euro per night. For this you get stunning room with your own pool, terrace and incredible views. The only downside of staying on this side of the island is that there are no beaches.
If you don’t want to spend that much then I would recommend , tiny village on the eastern part of the island. There is two kilometer long beach with black volcanic sand and pebbles. Along the sea is long promenade where you can find loads of restaurants, bars and cafés.
Another popular resort is Perissa that is separated from Kamari by Mesa Vouno rock. There is a regular boat connection from Kamari to Perissa, the boat leaves from the Hook restaurant (in Kamari) and one way will cost you 6 euro.
I was pleasantly surprised how well the island is served with buses. I stayed in Kamari and the first bus leaving to Fira (the capital) was at 7 AM. At Fira you need to swap the bus if you want to get further. So going from Kamari to Oia, you need to get to Fira first and then find another bus leaving to Oia. One ticket costs 1,60 euro and you buy it on the bus. The buses run even after midnight but in case you get stuck somewhere, just order a taxi +30 690 679 4316
What to eat
Greek cuisine is one my favourite! The most popular is probably gyros pita that you can get for 2,50 euro so it makes a great budget meal. It was so good I ate it every day! If you never had this deliciousness then note it’s made of pita bread that is stuffed with meat, tomatoes, tzatziky, fries and red onions.
Other meals to try:
- Moussaka – minced meat baked with potatoes, zucchini, aubergine and bechamel sauce
- Pastitsio – pasta baked with minced meat and bechamel sauce
- Souvlaki – chicken or pork meat on a stick served with chips
- Fried or grilled calamari
- Sea food
- Gemista – big tomatoes and peppers stuffed with spicy rice
- Stifado – something like a goulash usually made from lamb
- Greek salad
- Fava – bean puree
- Tzatziki – starter made from Greek yoghurt, cucumbers, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic
- Baklava, kataifi – traditional desserts made from walnuts, puff pastry and honey
WHAT TO DO IN SANTORINI
Walk to the archeological site of Thira
Remains of the ancient city of Thira can be found of the mountain Mesa Vouno, 365 meters above the sea level, that separates Kamari from Perissa. We went up from Kamari and there are two ways you can follow. First is the serpentine road that gets a bit busy with cars and motorbikes and the second that we followed was though the mountains. Just get to the beginning of the serpentine road and on the right side you will see a sign and path leading towards the mountain. In the middle of your trek you will find small church with a cave where you can cool down for a bit. At the top you need pay around 4 euro and then you can admire the amazing views together with the remains of the Hellenistic temple of St. Dionysia and many other remains of houses, theatres, schools, temples, etc. The Spartan colonists came here and started to build the city in the 9th century BC.
Visit the stunning Oia
Going to Santorini and never visiting Oia would be like you have never been there. Be prepared that it will be packed because every day the huge cruise boats bring thousands of tourists to come just for a day. This is also making it the most expensive place on the entire island. But it’s stunning! Expect narrow white streets with houses built in the traditional Cyclades style. Oia is also the most popular spot for watching the sunsets.
Swimming in Ammoudi Bay
Right under Oia is located Ammoudi Bay with only few sea food restaurants and a tiny port. They prepare amazing fried calamari that we tasted in Katina’s taverna. This place is apparently also great for sunset watching and if you head left along the rocks just after few minutes of walk you will find a spot for swimming. It’s not very comfortable, people just sit on the rocks in their swimsuits or swim in the crystal clear water. It’s great for a quick dip and if you can bring your water shoes. Rocks can be quite slippery and can really hurt your feet.
Sunset in Thira
Many people go to watch the sunset to Oia but we opted for Thira, had a drink in a bar with a view and then walked towards the Imerovigli village. We found great restaurant Vanilia where they make the best Greek salad (yes! even Greek salads can have a different taste) and asked for the table on the terrace. The view on the sunset from there was amazing!
Trek along caldera from Fira to Oia
Caldera is a large volcanic crater in the middle of Santorini and at some spots it reaches a depth of 400 meters. We started our trek in Fira in the early morning hours. It is about 10 kilometer and took us 3 hours which didn’t really felt that long because you just constantly admire the amazing views. If you decide to do the same make sure you have plenty of water, hat, good shoes and a thick layer of sun cream.
That we wanted to do but unfortunately didn’t have enough time:
Open Air cinema in Kamari
There are few cinemas in Kamari but the prettiest one is located at the main road right before arriving to Kamari. Movies are projected here from May till October, entrance is 8 euro and you can also order a drink at a bar. Wonder what movie they will play tonight? Check the website or look for the posters on the beach promenade.
Not far from Akrotiri village on the southern part of the island is the famous Red Beach that is considered to be the most interesting and magical beach on the entire island. The beach is dominated by the red colour of the mounds and in contrast with the bright blue water it creates a combination that will absolutely amaze you. Before you go there, it’s good to find out if the beach is not closed. From time to time there are landslides and stones falling.
There are few wineries on Santorini but the most popular one is called Santo Wines and lies 4 km south from Thira. Santo Wines was founded in 1947 and is a very popular spot for organising weddings. More than 300 thousand tourists come here every year.