Magical! The perfect word to capture this indescribable island! I was amazed by its beauty as we pulled up to the Caldera (crater) with the towering cliffs arriving by boat from Mykonos. It’s a one-of-a-kind place unlike any of the other Cyclades!
Also known as Thira, the crescent-shaped island is a result of a volcano eruption that blew out the center of the island in 1450 B.C. leading to the fall of the Minoan civilization. Many say this destruction gave birth to the myth of the lost continent of Atlantis. The volcano’s eruption created all the majesty this island offers from amazing views and sunsets to archeological ruins to surprising wineries and beaches.
My list of “MUST GO’s” …
Oia – This is the Santorini of the pictures but even more beautiful… houses built into cliffs, Aegean sea blue topped white churches. Pronounced E-ah, it sits on the northwest part of the island. I can’t get enough of this charming town! Wander the streets, explore the boutique shops, take pictures (there’s a photo pop around every turn) then find your spot for sunset and after stroll to a wonderful dinner.
- Sunsets: every day on Santorini is another chance for a dream sunset. Two spots we enjoyed… Sun Spirit is a must with the windmills as a backdrop for your fruity cocktails and Billy Brown playing fun tunes. Kastro is a sweet spot with fantastic appetizers to go with your local glass of wine.
- Dining: Ambrosia & Nectar was our favorite, low-key dining under a pergola with incredible food like local fava, tomatoes & capers, chicken & figs, and coconut cake. (They also have a more upscale restaurant Ambrosia but the menu didn’t look as good.) 1800 Restaurant is a typical Santorinian captain’s house that was built in the middle of the 18th century…enjoy great Mediterranean food on the front porch terrace.
- Ammoudi Beach: we didn’t make it down to Oia’s port but everyone raves about the traditional fish tavernas and swimming here as you look up at the cliffs.
- Ancient Thira dates back to the 8th century B.C. with Greek, Roman, and Byzantine ruins. It sits high atop the island giving you amazing views of the black lava beaches.
- Akrotiri is a small fishing village that was destroyed by the volcanic eruption and preserved under lava, often called the prehistoric Pompeii of the Aegean. Unfortunately, its been closed under construction for several years now but check with your concierge.
- Caldera Islets: a result of the volcano, these little islands sit out from Santorini’s crescent. Take a few-hour boat excursion around the islets with beautiful views, lunch, and even a swim in the Hot Springs of Nea Kameni.
Fira – The busiest town on the island, Fira hangs from the highest cliffs on the Caldera.
As it’s where most ‘cruise shippers’ go shopping during the day, go early evening to walk and enjoy. While there are lots of touristy shops, you can’t beat the town for sunset and dinner! There are tons of options to find a great seat, order a cocktail and watch the sun go down behind the Caldera islets. We had dinner at a cute restaurant Katrin Gallery where our table literally hung off the cliff as we enjoyed fresh local fish and the very friendly staff (note you pay for the view).
Beaches – Black sand, white sand, red pebbles, white pebbles? Thanks to the volcano, Santorini has them all. Most are on the back side of the island so you’ll need to travel from your hotel to get there. Red Beach is worth taking the little walk to see. Our hotel had a beach and restaurant on Perivolos’ black beach which was a great place to spend the day.
Wine – Wineries dot the island and the ‘bushes’ grow everywhere! The dry volcanic soil produces a unique grape. Check out my post on Santorini wine for all the details.
Where to stay? We had 5 amazing nights at Vendema Resort, built around a 400-year-old winery with volcanic stones, in a little town inland called Megalochori. It’s a true Luxury Collection Resort. They also have a hotel in Oia or can you can try Oia’s Sea Captain’s House (they also run Caldera Massage Studio) or Golden Sunset Villas.
This trip is a once in a lifetime … and I look forward to going back again!